This was it, people. Another season of Top Chef, come and gone. Not for nothing, but the two guys on top of my week one power rankings ended up in the finals. If that doesn’t make me the foremost Top Chef handicapper on the Internet, I don’t know what does.
This finale really came down to J-Rock’s mega chill mastery of technical innovation vs. Big Sleazy’s laid back Latin flair for lusciousness. Technique vs. flavor, as Padma said during final deliberations. Given the same ingredient, Jeremy would no doubt turn it into a crumble and serve it over a crudo, while Amar would fry it in duck fat, and drizzle with seven-hour bone marrow jus.
This year’s additional twist was that each chef had their mentor as a sous chef — Jeremy had Jean-Georges Vongerichten from Jean George, while Amar had Charlie Palmer, with whom he apparently had a falling out and hadn’t spoken to in two years. I wanted some more details on this fight, because it’s hard to imagine Big Daquiri ever raising his voice, unless it was to give a toast. Their backstory added a nice little tension, where you never knew if the beef had been squashed (FOOD METAPHOR) or if their subtle animosity would explode into full-blown sabotage. It also meant that the bringin’-back-the-eliminated-contestants subplot got short shrift. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, that’s kind of stale, but on the other, it would’ve been fun to shout “SHUT THE F*CK UP, PHILLIP” at the TV just one more time.
Additionally, chefs I wouldn’t have minded getting to know more this season include: Wesley, aka Chef Tomsula, whose awesomely beaten-down slovenliness was only slightly less fun to write about than Cornbread and Peppah. “Chef Tomsula, did you leave your dip cup in the fondue?” Renee, whose peppy brand of self-aggrandizing pompousness might have made her a match for Phillip, had she stayed longer. And Frances, whose glib, broken English one-liners were as fun as Isaac’s, while she lasted. Cue the In Memoriam montage.
Anyway, no need for a power rankings this week, because there were only two people. The challenge was to make a four-course meal for a full dining room at Tom Colicchio’s restaurant, so let’s just take this dish by dish.