Top Chef 5: "Finale Part 2" Recap

Here we are!  Okay, so Top Chef 5 didn't exactly keep us on the edge of our culinary seats, but at least we did meet some colorful characters, some of whom even made it all the way to the finale.

So tonight we will learn who will take home the title of Top Chef and the $100,000 prize.  Will it be one of the bald rivals, Hosea Rosenberg and Stefan Richter?  Or the underdog chef Carla Hall?

As usual in a Top Chef finale, the chefs are going to have some special assistance in the kitchen: some past contestants.  After a knife draw, the chefs draw knives to see who picks first. Hosea gets to pick and chooses Richard Blais.  Stefan picks second and picks Marcel Vigneron, saying he's a bit of a "tw*t" but notes philosophically, "who isn't?" Carla gets an all-girl team with sous chef Casey Thompson.

The chef's direction for the challenge is simple: cook the best three-course meal of your life.  Dessert, often the Achilles heel of the cheftestants, isn't required.

The chefs have a couple hours to prep in the kitchen, and the battling between Hosea and Stefan continues as they bicker over foie gras and caviar.  Carla's world is a bit more harmonious, but she might be acting as too good of a partner with her sous chef.  She lets herself be talked into a sous vide beef for her meat and potatoes course, even though she's never sous vide'd in her life.  She also decides to go with a blue cheese soufflee for her final course when Casey talks her out of the tart she had planned.

And of course, there is a twist.  Tom Colicchio lets the chefs know they will also have to make a small plate to pass prior to the meal, each chef having to incorporate a new protein: either crab, fish or alligator.  The chefs split a New Orleans king cake to decide who does what.  The chef who finds the baby in the cake gets to choose and then assign the proteins.  Hosea finds the baby, so he choose fish for himself, crab for Carla, and of course, alligator for Stefan.  Stefan has never cooked with it before, so he hacks off the tail and decides to make a soup.

After all the prep, it's time for the meal.  With a panel of culinary luminaries, including Rocco DiSpirito, former contestant Fabio Viviani and judges Tom, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and Toby Young in attendance, the chefs first distribute their small bite.  Hosea's fish on a griddled corn cake is a hit, as is Carla's little spoon of Asian-inspired soup with crab.  Stefan manages to pull off the alligator, as his soup goes over very well.

Things start to change in the first course.  Hosea's sashimi is colorful, but lacks seasoning.  Stefan's decision to freeze his fish in order to make a thin carpaccio results, some judges think, in a watery dish.  Only Carla has a hit with the first course, with the judges loving the flavorful snapper.

For the second course, Stefan's meal picks up.  The judges love his squab and cabbage, thinking it shows his personality and history as a chef.  Hosea's dish, featuring scallops and foie gras with a pain perdu, is also a hit, with Gail saying she can't stop eating it.  Carla's, though, is not as well-received.  Those who have eaten her cooking before are baffled by her choice of a sous vide, sensing it's not her style.

And things go from bad to worse with the next course.  Carla forgets to turn down the heat on her soufflees, and they curdle.  She is forced to send out her dish without a main element.  Stefan also made a dessert course, but his is found to be "pedestrian" and have a dated presentation.  Only Hosea does well with that last course, although his choice to serve venison rankles some who think a final course should be dessert.

In judging, it's sad to say that Carla is clearly out of the running, and she seems heartbroken knowing she lost it without really cooking her food.  Stefan's squab dish is deemed the best of the night, but his first and third course were not as consistent.  Hosea's first course was a miss, and his final course pulled a punch by not being a dessert course, but his overall progression was better.

And since this is about your last meal and not your overall's Hosea who wins Top Chef 5.  

We'll be talking with him on Friday, and the other two contestants over the next few days, so come on back here to find out about all of the final three's opinions on their time on Top Chef 5.

Carla: Shiso Soup with Blue Crab

Carla: Seared Red Snapper with Saffron Aioli, Braised Fennel, and Grilled Clam

Carla: Sous Vide NY Strip with Seared Potato Rod and Merlot Sauce

Carla: Apple Tart Coin with Blue Cheese and Walnut Crumble, Micro Greens, Kumquat Marmalade

Hosea: Blackened Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Roumelade

Hosea: Sashimi Trio of Black Bass, Tuna and Hamachi

Hosea: Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perou, Apple Preserves and Foie Gras Foam

Hosea: Pan Roasted Venison, Chestnut and Celery Root Puree, Wild Mushrooms and Carbonated Blackberries

Stefan: Alligator Soup with Celeraic and Puff Pastry

Stefan: Pan Seared Squab, Braised Cabbage, Schupfnudeln, Foie Gras and Grape Jus

Stefan: Smoked Salmon and Halibut Carpaccio with Micro Greens

Stefan: Stracciatella Ice Cream, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Syrup and Banana Lollipop



- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist.  Check out what I'm cooking this week on!

(Image courtesy of BravoTV)