The finale. Finally! FINALLY!
Last week on Top Chef: everyone sweats in Singapore and Kelly goes home.
The show opens with a reminder of who's still standing: Angelo, who's practically Asian; Kevin, who is apparently into bloodshed; and Ed, who's won a bunch recently.
Everybody's tired, but not surprised when Padma calls them back to Judge's Table, so they're probably relieved when she tells them that she just wants them to have as much time to plan their final meal as possible.
For the final, the first course is a vegetable course, second is fish, third is meat (proteins chosen by Tom and Ripert) and the fourth course is dessert (nice tie-in with TC Desserts, Gail).
Then, in roll the "helpers" - Michael Voltaggio, Hung, and Ilan. Kevin used to work with Voltaggio and they're friends, so he's hoping for him. Angelo fancies himself a bit of a Hung, so he's hoping for him. And Ed picks first and has to be disappointed when he chooses Ilan. I mean, come on - Ilan vs. Voltaggio.
Ed graciously says there's no reason NOT to respect Ilan. Whew. Big praise.
Everybody else gets their wish, with Hung joining Angelo and Kevin choosing Michael.
Ed's feeling cocky, Kevin says its about his family, including his mom who passed away, and Angelo is sick. Like really sick. Which maybe means that all that sweat was fever, not just Angelo. He "feels like somebody's stabbing him in the stomach" and for the first time in Top Chef history, we see an actual doctor's visit. The doctor gives him a 20% chance of cooking the next day.
And...he's not. But Hung's there and he gets direction from Angelo about what to do in the kitchen. Ed's not impressed that Angelo's body won't listen to $125,000, but I kind of sympathize. Has Ed ever had the stomach flu? Does he really want to cook in a kitchen with somebody who does?
Ripert and his accent deliver the fishy proteins: red mullet (rouget), cuttlefish, cockles and slipper lobsters. Tom follows up (sans accent) with: a whole duck, and pork belly. The first course is to be vegetables, the second is the red mullet and the third is the duck, but the other proteins must be incorporated.
Next up: shopping with the sous chefs, in which Ed has to remind Ilan that he's not in charge, Ilan talks like a blogger ("whatevs") and Kevin lets Michael take the reigns (smart). Angelo delivers his list from bed, but he's got Hung on it, so he's not really that concerned.
Back in the kitchen, minor drama ensues when Hung grabs the whole loaf of foie gras for Angelo, leaving none for Ed. Kevin's still whining about Angelo not being around, saying he "wants to compete with the best." I'm not so sure he should want that, but to each his own.
Kevin's first course is an eggplant, zucchini and roasted red pepper terrine. His second is pan-seared routet with cuttlefish "noodles." The third is roasted duck with duck dumplings and his dessert is a "Singapore sling" with coconut panna cotta.
Ed's first is a chilled summer corn veloute and his second is stuffed rouget with bacon-wrapped slipper lobster and char-grilled cuttlefish. Third is a duck duo with a roasted breast and a stuffed neck. The fourth course, which will be on Ilan, is a sticky toffee date cake.
And we don't find out about Angelo's yet because, well, Angelo's still in bed.
Everybody's got crazy respect for Hung and he's showing off exactly why Angelo is so lucky to have him as a sous - could anybody else have worked that fast and gotten that much accomplished? He's still a machine.
Back at the house, Angelo's still a mess with a migraine, so he lets the doctor administer him antibiotics in the hiney.
Finally, on the third day, Angelo's given the greenlight to cook. Ed's not that psyched about it, as he thinks Angelo's the one to beat, but Angelo is pretty happy. He knows he's behind but seriously: how lucky is he to have Hung?
We finally get to find out what Angelo's serving - and that he drew out diagrams of his dishes while at home in bed. Good for him (I'm feeling sorry for him now). His first course is royale mushrooms with noodles, pork belly and watermelon tea. Second is Asian bouillabaise. Third is a duck and foie marshmellow. And dessert is a "Thai jewel" - shaved ice and coconut milk.
Back in the kitchen, Angelo and Kevin say Ed overcomplicates things, while he thinks their dishes might be pretty but don't always taste good. And everybody's still sweating.
The judges arrive and as the chefs head out to judge's table, they're blinded by the star power, which includes David Chang and Dana Cowin. The chefs introduce their first dishes - the vegetables - and return to the kitchen. We hear that Angelo's flavors are spot on, but his dish needs work. Kevin's dish either doesn't have enough oomph, or it's great. And Ripert thinks Ed's is the best. Tom notes that everything shows a lot of restraint and, well, it's good.
Angelo's concerned about getting dehydrated...and now I'm starting to feel like he's whining.
It's second course time. Kevin's dish is interesting and nicely cooked and the pork belly is good. Ed's is very complicated - it obviously took a lot of effort. Angelo's dish is the one to remember.
The duck course comes out and it is most certainly dressed with the sweat of the chefs. The judges have to know that, too. I'm sure they're all happy that Angelo took those antibiotics.
Kevin's ravioli has good textural contrast and it's cooked really nicely. Angelo's is excellent, though the little drink is extraneous. Padma loves Ed's flavors with the contrast between the greens and duck neck - it has layers of flavors and much attention was paid to the details.
Just before the dessert, Ed realizes he shouldn't have tasked Ilan with dessert. Well, yeah.
So dessert, then: there's more to Kevin's than meets the eye, and it could well be a national dessert. Angelo's is tasty and comforting, but almost savory. And Ed's is good, but lacks a twist. The salty cream is maybe a yes, maybe a no.
Gail's impressed with the desserts overall, saying they might have broken the Top Chef dessert curse because they were all legitimately good. So good for them.
But then...judge's table. As usual for the finale, the judges are a little nicer to start, saying that the meal was amazing. It's a bit of a love fest, except:
Angelo's dishes come with too much instruction. His first course didn't really feel vegetarian, either.
Ed's dessert was something Tom could've eaten at home. His fish protein was confusing and didn't really feature the rouget, which was the assignment. Also, his duck was slightly overcooked.
Kevin's vegetables lacked a little salt and spice - it wasn't really exciting.
Once the chefs are packed back off to the stew room, Gail says she thinks this was "one of our best finales" - which seems like a nice way to say that it's not the best. At some point during this period, Ed and Angelo also realize that Kevin actually might win this thing because the food he cooked was just really good. It is not a welcome revelation.
Back at judges table, Tom says everyone delivered a great meal, but the Top Chef took the most risks and cooked the best meal...and it's Kevin!
One final note: I really wish we'd heard more from the judges about the roles of the sous chefs. In past seasons, that's been a big deal - what the sous did or did not do, how they did or did not contribute. It seems that this year, that might have been relevant. Or not. I just wish I knew.
So...what did you think? Did Kevin deserve it? Should Angelo have stayed in bed? Are you just glad the season's over? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...