So here we are...13 episodes in and it is down to the final four. The final four most of us have predicted since the show started back in August... can't say I am surprised, because I am not. They are obviously the chefs who most deserve to be in the finale, the strongest of the bunch, the creme de la creme, and an exciting part one of the finale it was. First of all, I was super stoked that the Magical Elves (I wonder how magical they truly are, like rabbits in hats magic? Or sawing barely dressed women in half magic?) chose to film in Napa Valley. After living in San Francisco for the past eight years, it was really great to see the wine country showcased like that on national television. If you have never spent any time in the wine country of Northern California, then I am so sorry for you. It truly is one of the most amazing places I have ever been, and what a great treat for foodies. Mentioning wine doesn't even seem to be necessary because it's such a given. Though my tastes tend to run towards the grapes that are grown on the other side of the valley in Sonoma, I still love and appreciate Napa for what it is: gorgeous landscaping, great food, a place to lay back and step away from the hustle and bustle of the city and a perfect backdrop for the Top Chef: Vegas finale.
From the minute we saw the chefs waiting at the train I had a feeling something was up. Since I am fairly familiar with the neighborhood, and was actually given tickets on the Napa Valley wine train once, I had a feeling that was coming, and I can tell you that cooking on moving vehicles or trains, or ships is not easy! I did it for the first time this past year when I spent nine days on an Alaskan cruise trying not to throw up half the time. So I get it — moving and cooking without anytime to adjust? That's gotta suck, if you are one of the unfortunates that suffers from motion sickness. Add to that the pressure of being in the Top Chef finale (not that I would know, well a little, but whatever), having 30 minutes to cook and the possibility of perhaps winning a brand spanking new Prius? And by Prius I mean a hybrid car that is made by Toyota. That can be driven to the Meritage resort and spa while sipping on some Terlato wine, before wrapping oneself in Glad cling wrap and having dinner at Brix. OK OK, I'll stop, but that was some serious promotional airtime going on. Of course the idea of incorporating grapes into the Quickfire was bound to happen. Same reason why they made us use crawfish in New Orleans last season, but I did like how creative the chefs got with the grapes, especially Jen. I have to say I thought the idea of clams, grapes, and liver actually sounded totally vile together, but apparently the judges really liked it, but not enough for her to speed off in her very own Prius. That honor went to Mikey V., who after a nice long break, came back and was still a jerk. Glad to see not much has changed. It was interesting to hear him finally remark on the fact that there was a great deal of sibling rivalry between himself and Bryan and that he basically didn't care if it was his brother, that he would hunt him down, tar and feather him, and then throw him to the wolves just to win Top Chef. But, he did create a nice dish for the Quickfire, and he really was the one chef who embraced the idea of really using grapes. I thought it was a well-deserved win, and I would venture to guess he did too. Kevin and Bryan also both did a solid job and I liked that Kevin did a dessert, which sounded delicious to me, way more than clams and liver (I'm still gagging from that, though I am not a fan of the liver, so this isn't surprising). Oh and let's not fail to mention the reappearance of Mr. Chiarello, because he was SO well-liked on TC Masters and he had me running around like a crazy person when I was on the show. Wow, that man made me very nervous. But that being said, I did have the chance to hang with him over the summer at his place in Napa and I gotta give props where they are due. Man can cook. Um, I think I had some of the best ribs I have ever eaten at his place back in August. I just don't think I ever want to work for him again, because even after 30 seconds I was ready to throw up. One more thing, and I'll insert this here, because I really have been nice all season and haven't had to speak ill of the Padma, but, what the hell was that dress she was wearing at the Elimination Challenge party? That's all.