That's what Eric Ripert said about his learning some "molecular gastronomy" from Richard. That was my favorite moment.
This week was quite clever in that the show kicked off by pairing the three finalists with three very reputable chefs and (in the case of Eric Ripert) legends.I did find it interesting that they chose such a range of chefs. The spotted pig is wonderful, but at war, I'd want to be working with Eric Ripert above all any day of the week.
So the challenge starts out with April from The Spotted Pig, Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. I loved the creativity of having legendary chefs humbled to be sous-chefs. It was so great to see these chefs back to their culinary roots in the guts of the kitchen. Stephanie got Eric, Richard got Dan and Lisa happily got April. I didn't like that anyone got an edge in this. Not that it mattered, but I would have preferred random selection at this stage of the game. In the end, it didn't really matter who the sous-chef was. It was every man for himself in the end.
Richard charted his personal journey through his food (which was creative), however he always has to go for the fireworks and the convoluted dishes using his molecular gastronomy. Now there's a shock. I've said from the beginning that his "tricked out" food is over-the-top and sometimes less is more. I also have said that very recently he has not been at the top of his game.
Stephanie was off to a good start, and their discussing her menu as balanced and simple was a foreshadowing of things to come. That is a simply a mirror of her personality. She truly is calm, cool, and collected, and although she must have great passion, you don't really always see it. She seems nonplussed. It is just rare to see in a chef, and it probably makes for fewer fires in the kitchen.
I never stop going on about how intricate and impressive these menus are, but come on, Richard was using liquid nitrogen and established veteran chefs were in awe. This show really does breed talent, and if you watched the first season, you know that the tasks and menus and chefs weren't like this. That started by Season 2 and progressively got better. What is amazing to me is that the chefs don't flinch when making bacon ice cream using liquid nitrogen, but making a simple ricotta cake is daunting. I never get how most chefs are either bakers or chefs and the twain rarely meet. It is more the homemakers like Martha Stewart or the Barefoot Contessa who do both.
During this task, Richard was frazzled and doing too much. His personality literally personified one of his dishes which was all over the place. He truly is a craftsman and an artist, but you have to keep your eye on the prize.
Now to the meal: Lisa made grilled prawns with a potato chip and a fiery red sauce. I was originally irritated with her choice of Asian, but her food really did look good. She was also in a better mood during this task, so she was tolerable. The judges seemed to like her dish although Tom thought it was a bold beginning. Her dish expressed her, so I have no issue with that. I'm all for coming out of the gate strong. To be fair, it was a liked dish.
Richard's scallop was barely raw and seemed a bit bland. He justified this by saying a meal must progress. Salt and pepper are important. I'm a salt girl.
Everyone loved Stephanie's snapper with white and green asparagus with truffle essence. It was much the best, but there needed to be some criticism. Her leeks were a bit crunchy. The horror!
Lisa's soup was a massive hit. Gail said she could eat bowls of it. That soup dumpling was so creative and I wanted to jump through the screen and eat it. Stephanie's quail looked great, and everyone seemed to like this too. She really is massively consistent.
Richard chose technique over flavor which seemed to be a recurring theme. His dish was all over the place and nowhere. He hadn't shone yet.
As for the main course, Richard didn't render the fat which made his pork belly look like a square of white fat. Lisa's wagyu beef was not cooked enough, and I learned that it needs to be cooked more than American beef because of the fat throughout this type of meat. Stephanie was the star because she was full of surprises. The chefs were terrified of mushrooms and braised pistachios and olives and fruits, but they were all pleasantly proven wrong. They loved her unusual dish.
Richard's banana dessert was a hit as was Lisa's black rice pudding. This was the only place where Richard's playfulness came after the importance of flavor.
Net net: Steph's course 1 and 3 were phenomenal. I think 2 was great too but they needed to make it look like a competition. Also Lisa's soup was a strong front runner. It seems that the only place Stephanie failed us was at dessert which doesn't seem to be a deal breaker for this competition. She proved she can bake a cake in the wedding cake. This isn't a pastry chef competition. Her lamb being phenomenal is more important than rocking a ricotta cake. She also learned from Dale not to doubt herself. If I have one major criticism of her it would be to be a little more glass half full. Lisa is also negative, but in a more angry way. Richard is always very positive, and I respect that he knew he choked here.
Stephanie took the crown which was not a surprise at all. She was excellent, she was a professional, and she was classy. She was also a woman which didn't hurt. Richard was excellent, and I'm definitely a little bummed. He was outstanding in the beginning and he started to fold.
Lisa was never winning this whole competition. She was too negative and too brassy to be Top Chef Hopefully you were happy with the outcome. I won't say goodbye yet because I hear there is a reunion and I can't wait to dish on that.