Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gimme an H... Gimme an O

Yeah, I know. I haven’t posted anything in a really long time on this blog. That’s my disclaimer to my wife who is always encouraging me to post stuff. But having found inspiration in last night’s Top Chef Finale, I had to put something up.

And what a Finale it was…

Last season, I was a little bit bored through out. The contestants were only occasionally relatable and the finale was rather constricting. Chose your protein, make a meal, standard progression, yada, yada, yada. Last night, on the other hand, harkened back to the earlier seasons of the show, telling the chefs to make the best three-course meal of their lives. And in the first of two twists, prior season’s runners-up were brought back to serve as the sous-chefs. So welcome back Richard, Casey, and Marcel.

The second twist came with the adding of an appetizer with mystery proteins in the form of red fish, blue crab, and alligator. A King Cake was presented to the chefs, and whoever found the baby would be able to assign the proteins to all three contestants. Finding the baby in the cake, Hosea was able to assign the chefs their challenges taking the fish himself, giving Carla the crab, and leaving the alligator for Stefan.

Working with last year’s runner-up, the talented Richard, Hosea presented an impressive array of meals that were both visually appealing, and apparently very pleasing to the palate as well. Of the four dishes he produced, only one met with any manner of mediocre feedback. But per the rules, the contestants were not required to present a dessert. They were given carte blanche to make and present whatever they saw fit. And using this to his advantage, he made four savory dishes.

Stefan took the curveball of being assigned the alligator in perfect stride. That man has ice in his veins. He produced an alligator soup with the help of season two runner-up Marcel. But his food met with dramatic highs as well as lows. His Carpaccio was frozen to allow for a thinner cut, but gently damaged the quality of the salmon, and Tom noticed. Also, following a typical progression for dinner, he did make a dessert. But for someone who has made very impressive desserts this year, it failed to impress.

Carla…poor Crazy Carla. She came on strong when it mattered, but fell short tonight. She was talked into doing things that she normally doesn’t do and had little to no experience with. A $100k finale is probably not when you want to start winging it. Unfortunately, season 3’s Casey pushed her around, which is not to say she was rude or mean or didn’t work her tail off to help, but she pulled Carla out of her comfort zone, and it probably cost her. The initial idea of a cheese tart gave way to a bleu cheese soufflĂ©, which even if it did work, doesn’t sound good in the least. She cooked it to hot, it didn’t come together, and I applaud her for not serving it instead of sending something out that looked and tasted bad.

If you hearken back to my very first posting about this season of Top Chef, I said that I didn’t think Carla had the chops to win it all. I guess I was right, but I don’t feel good about it. She went a lot farther than I thought she would. She was humble throughout, and she continued to evolve and learn. And whenever Bravo offers a shirt that says something about cooking and “sending out the love”, I’m buying one…especially if on the back it says, “That is my belief, Tom!” In that case, I’m buying two.

But I also picked Hosea to win it all, and he delivered.

Some of the comments on various blogs on the Top Chef site have been very critical of him winning. They said he was mediocre through out, he was this, he was that… Ultimately, people seem to think that Carla should’ve won, almost across the board. To these people, I ask, “What were you watching last night?” The judges have always been clear on this show in all five seasons past that the chefs are judged on that night’s food, and that night’s food alone. And they proved it this year beyond a shadow of a doubt. If people were judged on previous challenges, Arianne would’ve been tossed anywhere in the first three or four weeks. If you disagree with that, consider this; if you are giving merit for previous challenges, Stefan should’ve walked out of there as the hands-down winner last night. Neither of those circumstances makes Carla the winner, as entertaining as she was. She’s a shoe-in for the fan favorite though.

Until next time…