Thursday, February 26, 2009

Top Chef New York Finale

For this last episode of Top Chef season 5, we go back to the tried and true formula of showing the chefs performing their morning ablutions.

Hosea and Carla in particular are excited about the competition.

Instead of a Quickfire - no loser chefs this week - Carla, Hosea, and Stefan have breakfast on the Creole Queen.

There are high hopes that Baldarama 2009 will involve fisticuffs and someone being thrown overboard, but no such festive hijinks ensue.

Hosea shows his maturity.

After snarfling down beignets and nearly choking on the powdered sugar (c'mon - you know one of them at least coughed a little), the chefs don their whites and meet Padma and Tom.

Tom seems to have narcolepsy this week. He wakes up long enough to give the chefs their challenge.

The chefs must create the best three course meal of their lives. They may use any proteins they like, and dessert is not a requirement. The dishes of all three chefs will be presented - simultaneously - to twelve diners who will all roll their eyes - simultaneously - as Toby Young struggles to make pithy comments for each of the nine dishes.

They get two hours to prep at the Audubon Tea Room and then three more hours the next day at Commander's.

Hosea's not the only one....

Before the chefs leave to start their prep, Padma tells them about their sous chefs.

Think again, Carla....

Why, it's Richard Blais, Casey Thompson, and Marcel Vigneron! Chefs that made it to the top three in the last three seasons but did not win the title.

Because Carla won the last Elimination Challenge, she got to draw the first knife to determine the order in which they chose their sous chefs. Hosea got the 1 so he picked Blais. Can't blame him - I would have picked him too (and did, last season, to win it all). Stefan takes Marcel.

(I think that's the most accurate description of Marcel ever.)

...and Carla gets Casey. I never understood why Casey made it all the way to the finals in season 3, and certainly not why she won fan favorite that year. Over CJ? Over Tre? Over Dale? Oh yeah...she wore a bikini....

But I digress.

The chefs immediately head to the Audubon Tea Room to get started. Balderama is in full swing as Hosea and Stefan squabble over both the foie gras and the caviar.

Here - you can borrow my foot.

Meanwhile Carla wants to make a simple meat and potatoes main dish, and Casey talks her into trying a new technique. Carla's spirit guides must have been napping, because they weren't giving her the "Danger Will Robinson!" alarms they should have.

Stefan has the right approach.

The measly two hours they get for prep is over in a flash and the chefs must pack it up for the night. The next morning, they head to Commander's Palace where they find Tom grinning idiotically over a platter of seafood.

Yup, that's gator all right, and blue crabs, and redfish (no telling when the one fish, two fish, and blue fish are going to make an appearance in this challenge). Tom, still grinning idiotically, reveals the monkey wrench he's about to throw into the chefs' plans: create a passed appetizer using the new ingredient. Rather than drag out that knife block again, this time the chefs eat King cake in order to find the baby toy hidden inside. After a few disgusting seconds of watching the big lummox masticate a huge slab of danish, Hosea discovers the prize. How appropriate.

Hosea gets to choose his protein and assign the other two. He takes the redfish and gives Carla the crab, leaving Stefan with the alligator.

Remember, Stefan is no dummy. He lops the tail off the critter and makes soup with it.

The three hours of cooking is over very quickly and the cheftestants scramble to get their appetizers plated.

The guests start arriving - New Orleans chefs Susan Spicer of Bayona and cutie John Besh of August; chef Hubert Keller; Cat food and frozen pasta salesman Rocco DiSpirito; owner Ti Martin and chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace; musician Branford Marsalis; everbody's favorite Italian, Fabio Viviani; and Toby, Gail, Padma, and Tom. Whew! That's 12, right?

All three passed apps went over well. The diners were then seated and presented with the three chefs' first courses. Carla did a deconstructed bouillabaisse that was well received. Yay Carla! The baldies both did raw fish dishes. Hosea's lacked seasoning, and Stefan's was watery because he had frozen the fish before slicing it thinly. Works for dense proteins, but apparently not for halibut and salmon.

The mains came next. Hosea's fish dish on pain perdu with foie gras foam and 100 other fiddly things on the plate scored high marks (he must have been channeling Jeff for a few moments there). Stefan's squab was the favorite dish of the night. But Carla's Casey-driven sous vide beef was tough; even the delicious sauce couldn't save it.

The Hose takes another opportunity to bitch about his competition.

Quit your bitching already. Remember, this isn't Top Pussy.

Third course comes out - Stefan made dessert, but his ice cream, mousse, and banana lollipop don't impress anyone. Carla originally had wanted to make a cheese tart, but Crazy Casey convinced her to make a bleu cheese soufflé instead. A fricken baked soufflé! And of course Carla forgot to turn down the oven and of course the soufflé curdled and of course serving half a dish was the kiss of death for Carla.

The Hose served venison with some weird carbonated blackberries that Blais made.

Finally, after lots of debate and dissention at the table, the cheftestants and four main judges head back to the Hotel Monteleone for Judges' Table.

Eating what is essentially 12 courses will do that to you, Tom.

First they discussed the overall high quality of the apps.

Gail was disappointed that Carla didn't serve her soufflé. Tom thought maybe she was influenced too heavily by her sous chef.

During the deliberation, it really seemed like Toby was on Stefan's side. He questioned Hosea's choice of making two meat courses, saying that Stefan's meal was better thought out.

When asked why they deserved to be Top Chef, Stefan comments that he was consistent. Carla says she had a lot of heart and a lot of flavor and she thinks her food is good. She starts to get teary and Stefan tries to console her a bit. It's pretty obvious at this point she has no chance in hell of winning this thing. I find myself getting teary too. (Never cry in front of me because I'll start right up.)

And then we get the final verdict:

Unfortunately, it's worse. Hosea is declared Top Chef. Ok, so maybe it is Top Pussy.

At Casa Minx, after a rousing chorus of "bullshit!" Mr Minx turns to me and says, "this is the first time I'm actually angry at the result." I have to agree. Seems to me that Hosea only made it to the top three because he was never actually bad enough to get kicked off the show. He only won two Elimination Challenges, whereas Carla won three and Stefan won four.

Twelve hours later and I'm still pissed off. I haven't been this annoyed since that asshat Ilan won in season two for using all of Andy Nusser and Mario Batali's recipes. But I felt a little better after watching one of Stefan's exit videos. Go on, watch it. Team Euro is amusing.