The Nice Thing About 'Top Chef'
Jamie explains that, well, everyone's a winner!
This is it, folks. It all comes down to this last blog ... the last episode. I, for one, cannot believe I have successfully written 14 of these puppies. I'll tell you, after about Week 5, I really didn't think I was going to be able to hang. I didn't think I would be able to think of something to write about each week. I know at times I've rambled, but I really tried to do my best when covering the show. I think it's been an overall great season, filled with really fantastic caliber chefs and some really great-looking food. It all comes down to this, though ... the end ... the top three, and they all certainly deserved to be there. Consistently these guys have been on top pretty much all season, so I think it comes as no surprise that they are in the final round, and what a final round it was. I wouldn't want to be a judge sitting on the panel for this round, I can only imagine how hard it must be to pick between three really great talents.
Down to business: No Quickfire, since it's the last episode. Sad for Bryan, because I know he really wanted to win one, but sometimes you just don't win things (this I can certainly attest to). It doesn't matter much though; winning isn't everything, and I do really believe that. After being on a show like Top Chef, I have learned that you don't have to win to be successful. At this point it's all about how you play the game after the show, and I believe that these guys will have no problem moving on to do great things in their careers. That is one of the nice things about being on Top Chef; it really does expose you to an audience you never knew existed. It's an amazing thing to go from being no one to someone overnight, and getting sent things like cookie bouquets, t-shirts, paintings, books, aquarium memberships, etc. Your life sure does change, and I think there isn't anyone who would be prouder then the moms of these guys. I was trying to figure out why the producers decided to have the moms come on as guests, and then it hit me. I think it definitely had something to do with the brothers being on the show together and being in the finale together. I for one felt it was a wee bit cheesy, but sweet, I guess, if you're into that kind of stuff. I can only speak for my mom, who thinks it's the coolest thing ever that I was on the show (hi mom. I know you read, and apparently now comment on my blogs), but I didn't make it to the finale, but I guess moms will be moms. They are proud no matter how well you do. It was nice to get a little back story on the guys from the mouths of their elders, and to see how excited they were for their sons. Also, I loved the twist of the extra course (as if we didn't see that coming) that was inspired by their childhoods. I definitely think Kevin took the cake on that one, but before we get ahead of ourselves...
It is the finale after all, and what would a finale be without some help!?!!? I LOVED the randomness of the sous chefs. I think the brothers got super-lucky, especially Bryan who drew Jen, and Michael who drew Eli. Talk about luck, getting the two other chefs that were in the top six. Then there was Kevin. Poor guy. He seemed to have quite a challenge with Preeti. I can't believe it took her so long to do just two small tasks. That must have been really frustrating for him, having someone who definitely was not even close to being on the same level as his competitors' sous chefs. In some ways I guess it was a bit of a disadvantage for him, since he had to absorb a great deal of the work and had to constantly look over his shoulder at everything she was doing. I'm sure it added an element of unwanted stress to his finale game plan. It was an interesting twist, adding fear of getting stuck with one of the chefs who was eliminated early. Interesting and mean. But hey, I guess that's the way the producers like it. Who am I to say? They needed a good twist and guess this was the best they could think of.
Now, onto the food. First off, I do think this group made a much better dinner then the finalists on my season. I also loved that they had to make a dessert, especially considering that Hosea won last year by serving meat as his last course, and I was impressed with all three chefs' desserts. These guys certainly came prepared, but aside from that, only a few of the dishes really jumped out at me. Plus combined with the fact that I thought the episode was a slightly anti-climatic ending to a somewhat predictable season and I am left unimpressed. There is not a shred of doubt that these guys are incredibly talented, in fact probably the most talented group of finalists yet, but there was a certain something missing for me that I simply cannot explain. I kept waiting for something amazing to happen and it never quite did. As I said before, I loved the idea of Kevin's boyhood dish, and the piece of crispy chicken skin looked awesome, but I really thought the brothers V. failed on that course, Bryan and his notorious under-seasoning and Michael with his gnarly-looking fried broccoli bits. Neither looked appetizing. Hopefully they grew up eating better then that. Poor guys. As for the mystery basket course, I thought it was an odd selection of things to put together (as mystery baskets are... I once got one with mushrooms, delicata squash, pomegranates and Mexican chocolate—That blew), but I would have loved to see the chefs incorporate the crab more. I was really shocked that Michael was the only one that actually put the crabmeat on the plate, as opposed to just in a sauce. His dish was the clear winner in that round for me, and it would have been Kevin's had he not cooked his matsutake mushroom incorrectly, at least according to our esteemed panel of experts. Bryan, what did he make again? I forgot.
As for the main courses, this is really where the chefs had a chance to shine and show their true styles, and I thought all three did a great job expressing themselves. I have to say I really loved Bryan's venison dish. I thought it looked beautiful, had a perfect array of textures, and that piece of meat was gorgeously cooked. Michael also impressed with his squab, though I was confused about his "textures of mushrooms." I almost wish there was a little more explanation of that so I could grasp the concept better, but the idea of a pistachio cassoulet was an interesting play on words and a smart use of nuts. It really showed his creativity and skill. Sadly, my boy Kevin didn't pull through on his entree as well as the brothers V. did. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of all things pork. I wax poetic about bacon all the time, so I get it, but this was one time where I actually did agree with Tom. I thought his dish could have used another element for it to be a more well-rounded entree. To me, it looked more like a first course, not a final course. But, in the end I do have to give Kevin props for really sticking with his style and not being intimidated by the technical skills of the brothers. I can imagine in his position, it must have been really hard for him to stay on his path and focus and do his thing with that kind of pressure around. Plus, dude put bacon in a dessert! Love it. Sweet flavors and bacon are so good together. I'm glad he had the nerve to do that for his final plate. It was actually the one dessert of the three that I would really like to try, but, I am a fan of simple, and I like desserts that play off of sweet and salty, and Kevin did that with his.
So, this brings us to judgment. I haven't watched the ending. Based solely on what I saw, which was about 56 minutes of the episode, I am still tossed up over who I think is the winner. The judges were so split and divided it really is a hard one to call. My gut tells me my pick Kevin didn't win, just based on some of the comments that were made. So I think it comes down to a family rivalry, and because of Bryan's lack of seasoning in two dishes I am going to have to begrudgingly choose Michael. As cocky and arrogant as he may come across, he really is a spectacular cook. He thinks outside the box and constantly impresses, and at the end I think he was the chef who made the most impact in the finale. Either way though, I'm sure all their mothers are thrilled for their boys.
Thanks a ton for reading my blog this season. I really loved reading all your comments and feedback. If you ever want to get in touch, you can find me on Twitter, as most of you already know (@chefjamielauren) or you can e-mail me at work at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps if there is another Top Chef tour this year I'll be able to meet some of you out on the road. Until then, can't wait for next season!