Well gang, we finally made it. Unless Bravo decides the extend tonight’s episode to next week for a sudden death round of blindfolded kumquat julienning, we will finally crown the Top Chefs of Top Chefs.
This finale is all business. We start things off with Richard lamenting about how he wishes that Mike had lost because he’d rather go up against Antonia. Mike is raring to go, confident that he can beat Blais, and Richard is concerned because Mike came back to the Bahamas as a stronger chef creatively, which used to be Richard’s advantage.
There is no Quickfire this week. Instead, Padma and Tom explain to the chefs “your last challenge contains no twists or turns…we want you to create for us the restaurant of your dreams.” It is going to be a four-course tasting menu showdown for the title.
Back at the suite, Richard and Mike argue about who is the underdog. I wasn’t sure who to believe less…Richard, because he is so obviously NOT the underdog, despite what the voices in his head tell him or Mike, who so obviously thinks that he is the best thing to slice bread since…well…sliced bread.
Then they turn to the most obvious conversation that they should be having – who among the rest of the cast are they going to choose as their sous chef?
HA! I wonder how Tom and Padma sleep at night with the blatant lies they just told?!
While the finalists stew over their Top Chef All-Stars Losers Sous-Draft, Padma informs the rest of the cast that they must whip up an amuse bouche for Richard and Mike which will decide who will be working and who will be playing on jetskis.
Did anyone notice that Marcel was wearing sunglasses in the kitchen? How is it possible that he became more of a tool in the off-season?
TWIST # 1: The first twist is that we told you that there wouldn’t be any twists! BOOM!
TWIST # 2: And you have to try 16 different amuses in a blind tasting, and select your three favorites, who will be your sous chefs. So much for keeping this one straightforward.
Watching Mike and Richard sniff their way through the dishes to try to figure out which one belongs to Marcel and Jaime is hilarious. At least Jaime thought ahead and didn’t make something involving scallop…that would have been a dead giveaway.
Spike’s snarky comment about having jetski reservations couldn’t have been more perfectly edited timed, as he is Richard’s first pick. Here are the teams:
Team Blais: Spike, Angelo, and Antonia
Team Mike: Tiffani, Carla, and Jai…BWAHAHAH!! Excuse me…let me compose myself….and Jaime.
The chefs have an hour to plan and five hours to cook for the judges and 70 guests. Richard names his dream restaurant “Tongue & Cheek” and Mike goes with “Restaurant Iz.”
As the chefs start menu planning with their teams, I’m glad to see that neither chef compromises their vision for their restaurants. I’m so sick of hearing about how someone went home because they let their sous chef bully them into doing something they didn’t want to do. No excuses this time.
The guys didn’t give me a lot of snark-fodder while they worked – both Mike and Richard were running a tight ship. Mike actually seemed to be more in control than Richard, but given some of Tom’s comments later in the show, I think that may have been editing.
I’ll save you some time and sum up the confessional commentary:
Richard: I blew it before, and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to do it again.
Mike: I AM ALL THAT IS CHEF!!!
Editing or not, Richard struggled with indecision a little more than Mike, particularly with his extra amuse course and his dessert. I know… I was just as shocked as anyone to see Blais second-guess himself. He just couldn’t decide which Flip Burger milkshake he wanted to replicate. Should it be Cap’n Crunch ice cream or foie gras ice cream? Should he include the amuse course, or scrap it? It’s almost enough to make a guy pull his hair until it stands straight up. Permanently.
The judges split into two teams, meaning two rounds of tastings. Richard makes a genius move by utilizing one of his sous chefs’ greatest strengths: Spike is still “the craftiest mother-bleeper who has ever been on this show” and Richard employs him as both front-of-house and spy during the tasting. Spike’s recon work turns out to be a game changer.
Tongue & Cheek (#teamblais)-
Amuse: Raw oyster with crème fraiche pearls and salsa verde
1st course: Raw hamachi with fried veal sweetbreads, garlic mayonnaise, and pickled celery
2nd course: Pork belly, black cod cutlet, bone marrow, beets, Brussels sprouts, and kumquat
3rd course: Beef short rib with mushrooms, red cabbage marmalade, and celery root horseradish puree
4th course: Cornbread with foie gras ice cream and whipped mango
Restaurant Iz (Mike)-
1st course: Spiced beet salad with mozzarella, truffle, and chocolate vinaigrette
2nd course: Halibut with kumquat marmalade, cauliflower puree, and pancetta crumbs
3rd course: Braised pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce, roasted cabbage, and turnips
4th course: Rosemary caramel custard and pine nuts with citrus, celery, and apple
Tom drops multiple “best I’ve had on this show” comments about Mike’s food, specifically the halibut and the pork. While no one was that excited about his first course of the beet salad, everyone was impressed and perplexed by the chocolate vinaigrette, but his dessert was improperly executed and had textural issues.
Richard’s food all goes over well, especially his amuse, hamachi, and black cod dishes. The short rib lacked creativity, but was perfectly executed and extremely tasty. Unfortunately, the crumbly texture of the foie gras ice cream turned off all of the judges during round one. I can’t say I blame them…I’m an absolute sucker for foie gras, but that looked like cat food. Fortunately, Spike’s fedora was hovering behind the table and gives Richard some food intel about the judge’s reaction, and he tweaks the dish for round two.
We rush through round two of the tastings, with little detailed commentary from either side.
This is just a big ole’ love fest. Both chefs get a lot of praise, deservedly so. I would kill to have had a seat at those tables…the food looked fantastic. Padma asks the chefs to sum up why they think they deserve to win top chef.
Mike: (paraphrased due to slight rambling) “I wanted to cook for you and show you what I’ve become and who I am…my wife supports me, this would mean the world to me, and I’ll probably break down if I keep talking.”
Sidenote: Am I the only one that did a double take when Mike said that he is married?
Richard: “This is the biggest professional moment of my career. For me, it would mean my own restaurant…<pauses to compose himself>…As chefs, sometimes you have to do things because of money and finances* and this would give me the opportunity to do what I want to do as a chef.”
Back in the stew room, it becomes another “no you’re going to win”, “No, seriously dude, YOU’RE going to win” compliment-off. In walk the family members, sans Richard’s uber-pregnant wife, and everyone hugs and kisses.
So here we are. It all comes down to this. The judges were split between the dishes, awarding each chef two of the four courses. I’m going to stop pretending that you all don’t know what happened, because if you live in Atlanta, the cat is probably already out of the bag.
RICHARD BLAIS FTW!!!!!!!!
I’m going to toss aside any semblance of objectivity, and say that I’m ecstatic over this. The tone of this post would have probably been very different had things not worked out this way. This is how it should have gone down. Not just because Richard is obviously the better overall chef, but because I live in Atlanta and that $200K that Richard just won will give me the chance to eat his food that isn’t served on a bun.
Congrats Mr. Blais. You earned it.
Notes & Quotes:
If you didn’t stay up to watch the live post show, you missed some seriously amazing stuff. Everyone, particularly Mike and Jen C, was HAMMERED. Mike was about 7 cocktails deep, eyes half-cocked, while Jen was heckling Andy Cohen and breaking wine glasses from off-camera. Granted, Cohen is insufferable as a talk show host, but he runs the network, so what are you gonna do?
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” – Richard
“I mean, the one person that you don’t want is Jaime. Not just because she’s Jaime, but because she’s slow.” – Mike I
“I’m gonna beat Richard, I’m a better cook than he is. Period.” – Mike
“I tasted that before I tasted Richard’s” – Tom
FANTASY TOP CHEF UPDATE: I WON!!! 69-55!!!
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog
- Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast