This Is The End, My Friend

This is it, folks. What we’ve all been working so hard for. The day has come.

Unfortunately, the Chicago Tribune likes to spoil things so when I absent-mindedly clicked on Thursday’s front page, the Top Chef winner was smiling back at me with an accompanying story. Just in case you’re reading this and still don’t know who it was, I won’t tell you. And for future reference, avoid all forms of electronic information the day after a finale. Sigh.

Here goes! THE TOP CHEF FINALE!

Last we saw, Lisa was being pissy about getting to the finals. Richard doesn’t care about Lisa being pissy. Stef is ever the level head. She wants to be the first female Top Chef winner. Richard has everything to lose by losing, family situationally speaking. Lisa is happy that she’s in the finale but is smug and a jerk about it… why is there always a smug jerk at the end of this show?

Chefs April Bloomfield, Dan Barber and Eric Ripert (yay!) are waiting for the cheftestants. Create a four course meal: fish to poultry to red meat to dessert. Chef Ripert rattles off the ingredients in his basket with that gorgeous French accent and… I’ve suddenly forgotten what I’m doing… oh, right.

Richard’s wins and Stef’s wins put them in a dead heat to pick ingredients. They opt for the knife block to determine first pick. Stef pulls number one and picks her goods. She picks Chef Ripert, Richard picks Chef Barber’s ingredient basket and Lisa picks Chef Bloomfield – and she’s so happy to work with a woman, “girl power”. Sigh. Go home, Lisa.

Lisa’s doing oysters, prawns, crab, chicken, pancetta, etc. Asian, mostly. Her guest chef doesn’t cook Asian and is feeling surprised at the challenge. Richard is doing scallops, halibut, duck, foie gras, etc. and will be using his molecular gastronomy chops. Stef’s doing hamachi, lobster, quail, bacon, etc and Chef Ripert approves.

Richard breaks out the liquid nitrogen and the other chefs perk up to watch him work. He notes that he’s just shown Eric Ripert something that Eric Ripert had never seen before, and looks like he might pee himself just a little.

This is a really interesting collection of personalities and talents, as far as these finalists go. More interesting than in previous seasons, I think.

Everyone goes home. The next day, they get the curve ball: their sous chefs are not helping, so the finalists are now on their own as Tom says, “to live and die by [their] own hands”. They treat it as if someone has called off work in a normal kitchen and they are forced to go it alone. No panic, no cursing. I’m looking at you, Dale.

Chef Tom comes to ask how they’re doing. Stef and Richard are a little frantic and nervous but have a clear plan. Lisa is almost overly calm, strangely so, and Tom wonders why she’s so mellow since up to that point she’s been a surly, belligerentok, he didn’t use those words.

Richard is making bacon ice cream. I’ve had bacon ice cream and to it I say, Bring. It. On.

Lisa seems foolishly mellow, as if there’s nothing on the line and she doesn’t understand why the others aren’t speaking during their prep.

The cheftestants are plating, the judges are waiting, the glasses are clinking. A Puerto Rican chef is also a judge, as well as the Zagat guy.

First course: Lisa’s prawns, Stef’s seared red snapper & Richard’s scallop with mango.

Someone comments that Richard would do well to understate, Lisa’s chili sauce is too strong and Stef’s dish gets all compliments.

Second course: Lisa’s soup, Stef’s seared quail breast and egg & Richard’s guinea hen with foie gras.

Richard’s is interesting but complicated, Lisa’s soup goes over very well and Stef’s does well but for a few complaints about the leeks.

Third course: Lisa’s wagyu beef with garlic chips and homemade hot sauce, Stef’s lamb medallions with olive tapanade & Richard’s pork belly with mirin broth.

Richard’s is under seasoned, Lisa’s beef is good but the sauce is too sweet & Stef’s is a surprise hit using the words “I love”, Chef Ripert points out.

Dessert course: Lisa’s black Thai rice pudding with coconut, Stef’s ricotta pound cake with fruit & Richard’s famous banana scallop with bacon ice cream.

Lisa’s is yummy, Richard’s gets a minor bit of attention for being yet again under developed, and Stef’s is bland and boring (basically).

The birds in Puerto Rico are chirping and the cheftestants approach for the last time… to the last judge’s table!

Richard is surprised at the critique of under seasoning, muddling and confusion.
Lisa defended the heat and spice of her food by saying that’s what she likes so that’s what she makes. She looks irritated at the comment of the sweet sauce on the beef.
Stef looks horrified that her leeks were undercooked, but takes the compliment of her meat and quail very well.

The desserts are interesting to the judges but for Stef’s, they didn’t like hers. No one has commented on the friggin bacon ice cream! Geez, people!

Last comments, cheftestants? Yes. Stef mentions second-guessing herself on the dessert and that’s why it was a flop. Lisa touts her awesomeness. Richard feels like he choked due to overthinking his dishes. He’s not happy with his performance and judging by the look on his face, feels like he completely blew it. The judges look shocked, as if he just told them he faked the whole thing. All he said is that he felt the pressure, it’s not like he stole ideas or something.

Ted Allen is reminding me very much of Michael Stipe for some reason.

Oh NOW they comment on the bacon ice cream, suggesting the major ice cream makers need to get on that. Which they do and will. But it will suck when they do, so make it yourself.

The judges agree. Lisa is blindly optimistic. Richard looks despondent and Stephanie looks just a little scared (and sweaty).

Chef Tom compliments each one on their style and personality. Then he tells Stephanie that she’s the grand champion. Richard looks like he wants to cry, Lisa looks irritated and cute little Stef just looks friggin happy. Good old hometown Chicago girl makes good. I like it. She has the personality to back it up, and appears to a really talented chef. I’m happy for her. Congrats, Stef, you kept it classy. Richard: see you at Moto someday. Lisa… yeah.

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