Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reactions to Top Chef Las Vegas Finale Part II's Michael! Who, if my very scientific survey of my Facebook friends is any indication, wasn't exactly the fan favorite, though it seems like most people agree his cooking was good enough to win. But then again, whose wasn't?

The chefs woke up on another gorgeous day in Napa to meet Padma, looking pretty gorgeous in yellow (though I still can't get into the bangs). She explained to them that their final challenge would consist of three courses. For the first course, the chefs would cook a meal using all the ingredients in a "mystery box." For the second, they'd cook anything they want, with anything in the kitchen. And for the third...the dreaded dessert.

Of course, they'd have help. The entire crew of eliminated chefs showed up and, in a twist on other seasons, the final three selected from the knife block to determine who would sous for them that day, during prep, and the next, leading up to service.

Bryan must have been psyched, choosing Ashley for prep and Jennifer (!) for day two. Michael was pleased, too, with a very blonde Jesse ("a workhorse") and Eli. Kevin, well, not so happy. He was cool with selecting Ash for day two, but not so cool about working with Preeti of the pasta salad on day one - and it showed, when he gave her very few tasks, most of which involved cutting vegetables (and she wasn't really coming through on even that).

They all got through day one with few scrapes, after having learned that their "mystery box" included the unlikely mix of Pacific rockfish, Dungeness crab, Meyer lemon, kabocha squash, mastutake mushrooms, and anise hyssop. There was a little complaining about how disjointed the ingredients were, but I'll have to take the chefs' word for it, since, East Coast girl that I am, I've never had most of those ingredients.

In the morning, the chefs are expecting - and dreading - a twist. In one of the sweeter moments all season, that twist turned out to be the arrival of their moms, who were both very nice and very proud. The rest of the twist: add a new first course, making four courses total. This new dish was to be something based on a favorite childhood meal.

Everybody made great food, with nice stories, though none of them felt like they'd hit it out of the park. Michael overcooked a cake, Kevin undercooked a pork belly (but he liked it). The judges considered some of Bryan's dishes underseasoned (though Toby's palate shows its Britishness, as he's all about Bryan's "restraint").

In the end, Michael took the title, though as Kevin said, it was clear that any one of them could've won on any given day. There were hugs and tears all around - even from Michael, who was all (to paraphrase), "See, Padma, even tattooed robots have a 'cry' setting."

A few random thoughts:
  • Man, Napa is pretty. Isn't it just radiant?
  • In this episode, the sous chefs weren't given anywhere near the screen time they were in past seasons. I wonder if that was by producer design, or by contestant design? Did the chefs learn from past finalists mistakes (ahem, Carla)?
  • Is there an Atlanta curse? Not that Kevin is anything like Richard Blais in terms of food, but they're both really well-liked professionals...and both kind of choked at the final hour. Blais more so than Kevin, but still. What's in the water in the Dirty South?
  • Love the baby pics. Apparently I am soft.
  • Speaking of soft, I'm still wondering if there's room in Top Chef Town for two sets of boobies. Because Padma's giving Gail a run for her money.
  • Did anyone else think that the "why I deserve to be Top Chef" spiels were a little weak? It seemed like everyone's answer boiled down to, "I love food." Well, so do I, but I'm not putting on chefs' whites anytime soon.
So, what did you think? Was Michael the rightful winner? Who's up for fan favorite? How'd those meals look to you? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.


JordanBaker said...

I always hate the "why I deserve to win" spiel on every show. Unless your answer is "because I'm the best chef/designer/designer/stylist/survivor/whatever here, you dense em-effers," then it's an absolutely irrelevant appeal to emotion.

For avoiding that trap and giving fairly generic "I love food!" answers, I really respect all three of the guys.

And I, of course, am ecstatic about Michael winning. I'm doing my happy dance on everyone's bewildering negativity about him.

Anonymous said...

The finale was a letdown. According to the judging, it seemed that Michael took one course, Kevin took one, and Bryan took two - so I was surprised at the result. I got an email from a friend, who is a Top Chef fanatic, that she "hates top chef because for the second year in a row the evil person wins." Well, we all know it's not a personality contest, but I get where she's coming from. PS- I understand snickering about Gail and Padma's anatomy and why you and others migt do that - but can't you create a facebook page or something for that? Talking about grown women that way on a foodie forum is just, demeaning.

theminx said...

Anonymous...funny...we're grown women, too.

Kristine said...

Although I wasn't rooting for him, I'm OK with Michael winning, because he backed up his cockiness. Not as upset as I was at last year's outcome. Tom put it well, that any one of them could have won on any given day. This year it was not a case of who "should" have won.
p.s. but Gail's still winning.

Anonymous said...

Just because you're women, doesn't make the snickering ok, IMHO, but maybe you're doing it with respect or a wink. Whatever. More important things in the world to be disgruntled about, for sure!

MCWolfe said...

I didn't care for Michael, not because he lacked cooking skills, but because he acted like a dick most of the time. I can live with him winning (even though I would have been much happier with Bryan or at least Kevin). He was rewarded for being a risk taker, plain and simple. Good for him. I just felt sorry for their mom as she was hugging Michael but looking at Bryan. It made me tear up a little.

There was a good chat with the Volt boys on yesterday. They have a new website - - that looks interesting.

LouC said...

After watching the finale, I wonder how many of Michael's deadpan comments to the camera were meant to be funny, and not obnoxious. Because it was very funny when he said he wanted to win so Bryan wouldn't. The other contestants talked about his sense of humor.

I just hate the editing monkeys and how they confused us about the judges' comments.

And some of the twists were extremely unfair. (Sous chef knife draw, I'm looking at you.)

Finally, apparently Kevin and his wife split up just before he went to Napa. I wonder if that's why he was a bit off.:(

Laura K said...

After interviewing all three finalists I can say I have a new perspective on Michael. He was just adorable. I was the twenty-first interview of the day and he did not seem impatient or tired or anything but delighted to talk to me.

Bryan and Kevin were exactly as they appeared on the show. No surprises there.

Now - let's please stop bringing back the eliminated chefs for the finale and also stop the "why I should be the winner" speeches.

Devoted fans deserve something fresh in season seven.

Cliff O'Neill said...

I, too, think the "why I deserve to win" speech nonsense is about as idiotic as the "interview" segment of a beauty pageant. And that's pretty idiotic already.

I was cool with Michael winning. And, Laura, I'm so glad he was a good interview. It makes me like him more now.

And as for certain anonymous commenters, there's a reason I refuse to allow them on my own blog. I believe it's self-evident.