You Take a Napa...
The Final Four head to Napa to compete for the title.
...You don't move to Napa! Oh, Carrie Bradshaw, you're so witty. Well, move to Napa is exactly what we did this week for the first part the season finale. The chefs came back, presumably rested and ready to get their heads back in the game. Jennifer came back with curly hair! And Kevin seems to have brushed his hair down and discovered the world of product. The chefs all meet up at a train station, wondering what is going on. Then comes the train bringing Padma and Top Chef Masters finalist Michael Chiarello. Did we mention Padma is pregnant, and she is positively glowing?! The chefs all wish her an awkward "Congratulations," and she presents the Quickfire. Since the chefs are in Napa, they have to create a dish on the train using the grape. I felt bad for Kevin and his motion sickness, but in some really horrible way I wanted to see if he'd really get sick. I feel like his comment set us up for something that never happened. Wow — I've become so sadistic. Wishing sickness on people?! Jeez. It turns out Kevin's dish just wasn't "grape-y" enough. Bryan made the fatal error of grabbing the forbidden fruit, the Concord grape. Sure, it's a grape, but it's not native to Napa. I ate a dessert at VOLT that used Concord grapes, and it was pretty damn amazing. It appears Jenn's combination of clams and liver was good enough to steal, but, alas, it was Michaell's grape leaf that stole the show. He literally used every part of the grape. Although I've never tasted a grape leaf (I know, I know), my grandmother's are apparently the best, and I challenge Michael to a cook-off! Also, shout-out to my best friend Stephanie who would always order grape leaves late-night at our local Greek-owned diners instead of mozzarella cheese fries like a normal person. Anyway, Michael wins a Prius! Did we mention that Green is Universal?
Onto the Elimination Challenge: The chefs are tasked with cooking 150 portions of two dishes, one vegetarian, the other, not vegetarian, for a total of 300 dishes. By themselves. Yikes! They can also only use ingredients available at a local farmers' market. I gotta say, we didn't promote it as such, but this episode was pretty "Green." The Prius? The use of local ingredients? It's nice to see. Anyway, let's break down what the chefs made:
First, we have Bryan: Bryan rocked it with the goat cheese ravioli, which I'm pretty sure I ate at VOLT as well, and it was exceptional. For his meat dish, he made a glazed short rib. Tom questioned whether it was glazed at all because the judges wanted to taste more fig. They also thought everything needed more salt. What's so interesting is that the comments about salt never really register with me. I'm very sensitive to salt in food to the point where I feel physically ill if there's too much in a dish, and I can probably count on one hand how many times I've added salt to a dish once it was placed in front of me. If I'm at a fast food place and I see that they've just made new french fries, I actually ask that they serve me before they add salt to the whole batch — they're so much better that way. So, although, yes, food should be seasoned correctly, I probably wouldn't mind a little less salt. And, lay off Bryan, judges! He's my favorite (she says in a petulant child's voice.)
Next up is Michael. For his vegetarian dish he made a poached egg. No one brought it up, but I found it surprising that he used an egg in his vegetarian dish, just because I would think the chefs would want to make that dish as Vegan as possible (even though it wasn't required), just in case. It looks like the egg decided not to be perfectly cooked for everyone, which was the dish's downfall. For his meat dish, he made foie gras with turnip soup. Give me a piece of foie gras and I'm a happy girl.
Kevin made a simple carrot and beet dish for his vegetarian dish, which Tom basically called "ballsy." He also made a controversial brisket for his meat dish. It was controversial in that some of the judges thought it was too rope-y, which is exactly what Kevin said he was going for. As a Jewish girl from Long Island (and someone who ate brisket on Thanksgiving instead of turkey), I know my brisket, and I gotta say I sometimes like it a little rope-y, but when something like that is a preference, he probably should have just cooked it as tender as possible.
Finally, we have Jennifer. For her vegetarian dish, she made a chevre mousse dishe that went over very well. For her meat dish, she had to scrap her original idea of cooking the duck and had to confit instead. Tom commented that he liked its "duckiness." When asked if she was happy with her duck as it was, Jennifer admitted that she would have liked to have cooked it how she originally planned. I think she made a mistake there and should have stood by her quick thinking to do what she had to do. Turn the negative into a positive!
Anyway, in somewhat of a surprise outcome, Bryan won! Sadly, Jennifer went home. I thought it was really cute at the beginning of the episode when she was describing the diners at her restaurant recognizIng her and how prod her peers were of her. Although she was probably more inconsistent during the season than she cared to be, she came out swinging and didn't go down without a fight. And remember when you're cooking at this level, it really is nitpicking. I'd be happy to eat at Jennifer's restaurant anytime, and I think she did Chef Ripert very proud. Wow -- I just got really mushy.
Anyway, our final three are chosen, and next week one of them will become Top Chef! Who do you think it will be?
Oh, also, we're having an Ultimate Virtual Viewing Party next week!!! Come to the site during the show (during both East and West Coast airings), and join members of this season's cast, including Toby Young, the Voltaggios, Kevin, and more to Tweet live during the show. I'll also be there to moderate a little, if that matters to you at all. It's going to be HUGE, and I'm very, very excited. You can check out all the details HERE.
Until next week's finale ...