This is why Angelo was not at an advantage going into the finale. You might have thought that he would be, because he’d traveled in this region and worked with some of the cuisines that have made their way into that of Singapore. But he truly wasn’t; nor was Kelly at a particular disadvantage, even though she did wind up being eliminated. Nor was Kevin remiss for failing to practicing his wok skills before he arrived, as Padma suggested (I thought he answered her well – he was busier tasting the flavors of the region, which would spark his imagination). As I’ve stressed regarding prior challenges, the chefs are not asked on Top Chef to recreate authentic dishes of various cuisines – such dishes would be mere forgeries anyway. Rather, the chefs are asked to take the flavors and indigenous foods, be inspired by them, and make from them a dish that celebrates them but that is the chef’s own. If one is a good cook, accustomed to layering flavors adeptly, one can adapt and layer new flavors well, too. At Cafe Boulud, Daniel has devoted a whole section of the menu to travel, to dishes inspired by cuisines of the world. Eric Ripert wrote a cookbook about food inspired by a place he was visiting. Any chef that travels finds that the foods encountered along the way make their way into his/her own repertoire…but with the chef’s own twist. A full three or four months after a trip I’d taken to the northern regions of Spain, a dish popped into my head and onto my menu: stuffed squid with Italian kale served over black rice with a spicy tomato jam. I wasn’t surprised. We just can’t help but be influenced by where we’ve traveled and eaten.