Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sock it to Us!: The Top Chef D.C. finale recap

Season 7 of Top Chef will be remembered for many things.
Tiffany’s late dominance (and shocking eviction). Kenny, the man of a thousand self-aggrandizing nicknames. Frenemies Angelo and Ed and their ongoing (sexual?) tension. Pea-Puree-gate and all its ramifications.
One thing it won’t be remembered for? It’s eventual winner.
With all due respect to Kevin, did anyone see this coming? Ever?
If, 10 years from now I am still doing these Top Chef recaps (shoot me now) I will need a Wikipedia search and a Google image search and some sort of deep brain stimulation to remind me who Kevin was.

But hey, he did seem to cook his heart out last night. And he obviously had the (stealth) skillz. (Look at that perfectly executed rouget and cuttlefish noodles, above. That is no joke, people.) So congrats to the champ.

Anyhow . . . . when last we saw our 3 finalists, they were being summoned back to the judging chambers. (Yes, even you, Ed.)

Out marched past champs Hung, Michael V. and smug twit Ilan—they will serve as the sous chefs for the final meal.

Knives were drawn and everything worked out according to plan.
Kevin got his old buddy Michael V.
Ed got saddled with smug twit Ilan.
Angelo got fellow Asian (in his mind) Hung. Or, as Angelo put it: “In Asia. In the finals. And I get Hung. This is the trilogy.” (I’d like to attribute this bit of nonsensical wisdom to the delirium brought on by his mysterious ailment. But, of course, Angelo always talks that way.)

The challenge is to make the meal of your life, in four courses.
The first course is a vegetable.
The second course is a fish.
The third course is a protein.
And the fourth course is, yes, the dreaded dessert.

But here's the twist: Eric and Tom will be going to the Singapore market and picking their proteins. (Can they make a reality show out of that?)
“I hear monkey is in season,” says Tom mischievously. (Oh you.)

Tom asks our host Seetoh if he has any words of wisdom for the chefs:
“Sock it to me!” says Seetoh. (Either American TV has just hit 1967 in Singapore and this is what he considers to be a very hip Laugh-In reference or it’s some sort of sake pun. . .)

Back at the hotel, there’s lots of male bonding. Except Angelo feels “like garbage” and goes to bed. Poor guy.

“So who’s going to win?” asks Ilan.
“I think I will,” says Ed nonchalantly.
Kevin might have had some sort of rebuttal, but he was too busy picking his teeth to respond. (These guys do realize they’re being filmed, right?)

The next morning, Ed and Kevin are alone at the breakfast table. There's a sad empty place where Angelo is supposed to be.

“He got hit hard with whatever it was,” says Kevin. 
“Whatever it is,” says Ed optimistically.

And here, by the way, is a reason you can root for Kevin whole-heartedly.
Kevin truly, genuinely wanted Angelo to get better.
“I just hope he’s going to be alright,” he said. And I believed him.
Ed, on the other hand, was secretly tickled that Angelo was illin’.
“I thought it would’ve been cool if it was just between me and Kevin,” he admitted. (And again I ask: They do realize they’re being filmed, right?)

So Angelo is very, very sick. So sick that he looks like this:

 (Yes, I realize it looks like a bad actor pretending to be sick, but that's really what he looked like.)

And a doctor came to the hotel, carrying a little black doctor’s bag, just like they do in the movies.

Let’s call him Dr. Gloom and Doom.

“I give you a 20 percent chance of cooking tomorrow,” he says. (But on the bright side, he also gave Kevin a “12 percent chance” of winning Top Chef.)

So two-thirds of the finalists head back to the judging chambers, where Tom and Eric present them with their proteins.

We have rouget, cuttlefish, black cockles, and slipper lobsters for the fish.
And pork belly and duck for the meat.

Off to the market for food. For now, Angelo will stay in touch with Hung by phone.

As for Ed, he thinks Angelo should just man up.
“$125,000 are on the line. Tell your body, ‘f**k you’ and get out of bed!”
Oh Ed, you’re so tough. . . .when you’re talking about someone else’s crippling stomach flu.

At the market, Hung is communicating quite nicely with Angelo.
Michael is having a hard time playing second fiddle to Kevin (or anyone), but they’re getting along.
Ilan is being a smug twit (TM) and trying to tell Ed how to make his corn veloute.
“You are my sous chef, actually,” Ed reminds him.
Ilan looks taken aback. (The last guy who talked to Ilan like this almost had his head shaved in the middle of the night!)
“You tell me what to do,” he says snippily.
Oh, this is going to end well.

In the kitchen, Hung takes all the foie gras, which irritates the other chefs and confuses me.
Didn’t Hung buy the foie gras, at Angelo’s request?
Isn’t foie gras kinda . . .expensive?
Isn’t it a bit unreasonable to assume that someone is going to share their loaf of foie gras?
But Ed sees it as more Angelo subterfuge.
“Even though he’s sick, I have to watch out for Angelo.”

Meanwhile, Angelo really lucked out, because if there’s one chef who can do the work of two men, it’s Hung. He’s a madman. And he’s talking this shiz personally.
“Careful, my porkbelly!” he gasps at one point. “I mean, uh, Angelo’s porkbelly.”

Back at the hotel, Angelo gets a shot in the place where the sun don’t shine.
Being sick on national TV is not humiliating at all.

Dr. Gloom and Doom tells him that he should be “better in 3 to 5 days. Maybe a week.”

This guy’s getting on my nerves. Couldn’t they have brought in a fake doctor like Dr. Oz?

But the next day, the doc is back and he’s got some good news!
Lots of fluids and Angelo is cleared to cook! (Padma must’ve paid him off.)
And we’re off!

“Now it’s time to jump into my cape and be the chef that I am,” says Angelo. That metaphor died halfway through that sentence, but I get the gist.

In the kitchen, Ed makes the rookie mistake of letting smug twit (TM) Ilan handle the dessert.
Really? You’ve got four courses to make and you’re letting your sous chef basically take over a quarter of them?
Ilan goes for a sticky toffee pudding cake with salted whipped cream, which is
a. Not Asian
b. Not very sophisticated
c. Not Ed’s idea

Dinner is served. The kitchen is, as always, a very tense place.
Ilan, rushing around, shouts to Ed: “Come on! Let’s go! Don’t you want to win Top Chef?” Hate.

Angelo barks some orders at Hung.
“Oh, so now you’re not sick anymore?” says Ed, as if this whole fever/puking thing had been some sort of elaborate ruse.
“Sick of your attitude,” says Angelo. (Why don’t these two just screw and get it over with?)

Later, there’s some sort of brouhaha involving “white trash tongs” that is actually more baffling than the foie gras incident.

But the food, well, what can I say? It’s great.

Angelo’s bouillabaisse is silky and flavorful.
Kevin’s pork is cooked to perfection and his Singapore Sling is proclaimed the “new national dessert.”
Ed’s corn veloute is prepared perfectly.

The quibbles are small:
Angelo’s sour cherry palate cleanser was ill-advised.
Kevin’s veggie terrine was a little safe.
Ed’s sticky toffee pudding was pedestrian. (And not made by Ed.)

Back in the kitchen, they’re all tasting each other’s food and realizing that the competition is stiff.
“Don’t double dip!” I scream at Angelo. But it’s too late. The damage is done.

“That’s the second best food I’ve ever seen cooked on Top Chef,” says Michael V.

At the judging table, Ed has the lamest excuse ever for his dessert.
“I was going to do a lemon curd,” he explains. “But I could’ve screwed it up.”
(Thank goodness Ed isn’t a doctor: “I was going to try to remove the tumor. But I could’ve screwed it up.”)

The judges hash it out. They admit that it’s almost too close to call.
But they keep coming back to Ed’s lame dessert and Kevin’s delicious one.
“Literally, it was a fruit punch,” says Gail of Kevin’s Singapore Sling. “It punched you with fruit.” (Gail is really feeling her oats now that she has her own show.)

Could it be that Ed’s dessert was his downfall?
We’ll never know for sure.
But. . .congratulations Kevin. You are Top Chef!
“I am?” says Kevin.
“He is?” say a million Top Chef fans at home.

“So Mr. Kevin is Top Chef,” says Ed. “I’m happy that he won.”
Translation: I’m happy that it wasn’t Angelo.

“I’m the first African American winner of Top Chef!” rejoices Kevin.
One million Top Chef fans at home: “Kevin is African American?”

And there you have it. Kevin wins. And congratulations to Selma McDougal of Sheboygan, Wisconsin—the only person in America to win the Top Chef office pool.


BrownBalto said...

You nailed this one. Good job. Are you tackling Top Chef Desserts too? I do hope so!

vpowers314 said...

My daughter and I did indeed say, simultaneously, "Kevin is African-American"?

I found my way here via James Wolcott and I am already a big fan. Can't wait to read your project runway blog tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Kevin was a huge surprise (as you said, on 2 fronts: 1 that he's Top Chef; 2 that he's African American). He sure seemed like he should have won yesterday but before that? He was one of the Also Rans. I love your blog. 2 or 3 weeks into this season, I was pretty much done with Top Chef but I kept watching just so I could read your Blog. I even tried watching Project Runway so I could read those entries (but I couldn't make it through even one show). Thanks for giving me something to look forward to on Thursdays, Max!

P.S. Have you been to Jesse Sandlin's (from Season 6) new restaurant? It's incredible!

hello candidate said...

"Selma McDougal of Sheboygan, Wisconsin" - brilliant!

Cliff O'Neill said...

Insanely late.

Ilan hate.

What done Angelo ate?