This is it. The Top Chef All-Stars finale. The final of the (apparently never-ending) finals. Only two cheftestants remain to contend for the Top Chef title. Will it be Richard or will it be Mike?
Let’s find out!
We begin, as always, where we left off. The two remaining cheftestants discuss the loss of Antonia. They don’t seem terribly upset. At this point, who can blame them? It is the endgame and all. Most of their energy is directed at each other instead.
Padma and Tom amble in to congratulate them and to set up the next challenge. This time, they will need to create the Restaurant of Their Dreams.
But first, we get to reminisce about the past. Richard’s many, many wins are recounted. Mike’s fewer wins (but bigger ego) follow in short order. Basically, the gist is that both cheftestants have a shot. Which they definitely do.
Back to the competition, which is immediately an Elimination Challenge (which makes sense in this final episode). Each of the chefs will need to create their “restaurant” with a four-course tasting menu. The challenge will begin in the morning.
When the morning comes, all (or most — it’s hard to count) of the previously-eliminated cheftestants are waiting in the kitchen, greeting Padma like a kindergarten class on the first day of school. They will be the sous-chefs for the finalists. And then they will complete a challenge in order to be chosen as sous-chefs. Each needs to create an amuse-bouche before the finalists even enter the kitchen. Crazy…
Even crazier? The sous-chefs will be chosen by blind taste test. Mike and Richard will pick their favorite three dishes, and the chosen dishes will indicate the sous-chefs. Everyone wants Jen Carroll. Nobody wants Marcel.
- Richard picks Spike’s ceviche of squid (despite the chef’s jet-ski reservations).
- Mike picks Tiffani and her yogurt thing.
- Richard picks Angelo’s chicken wing.
- Mike picks Jamie’s pork tenderloin.
- Richard finally picks an egg made by Antonia.
- Mike’s final pick is a tropical salsa made by Carla.
No Jen for anyone. Poor misogynstically-inclined Mike has all girls. After one hour to plan, they will have five hours to cook for 70 customers plus five judges.
All too soon, it’s time to cook. This time at least they don’t have to share kitchens. Lots of feverish cooking ensues. Richard’s cooking includes Cap’n Crunch. That guy is weird. In addition to the kitchen, there’s the plating, the wait staff and the wine. The loony Blais kitchen (foie gras ice cream?!?) is smoky with liquid nitrogen, of course.
Tom shows up in the kitchen for the traditional psych-out. He tells Mike no one expected him to get there. He talks to Richard about the pressure and “what can go wrong.” Tom is a mean, mean man.
At Richard’s restaurant, Tongue & Cheek, Spike welcomes the patrons (including Padma and four guest judges) with his hat and a good dose of spying.
- Richard starts with a Raw Oyster with CrÃ¨me Fraiche Pearls and Salsa Verde.
- Then he has Raw Hamachi with Fried Veal Sweetbreads, Garlic Mayonnaise and Pickled Celery.
Then we head over to Mike’s Restaurant Iz, where Carla greats Tom, Gail and the guest judges. There also seem to be some former cheftestants sitting in the restaurant.
- Mike begins with Spiced Beets with Mozzarella, Truffle and Chocolate Vinaigrette.
- Next (after a bit of a delay), he has Halibut with Kumquat Marmalade, Cauliflower Puree and Pancetta Crumbs.
And we’re back to Richard’s Tongue & Cheek, where Richard is feeling the pressure. Hey! There are some cheftestants there too!
- Richard’s next dish is Pork Belly, Black Cod Cutlet, Bone Marrow, Beets, Brussels Sprouts and Kumquat.
- His third course is Beef Short Rib with Mushrooms, Red Cabbage Marmalade and Celery Root Horseradish Puree.
Now it’s time to go back to Restaurant Iz!
- Mike is giving the diners Braised Pork Shoulder with Pepperoni Sauce, Roasted Cabbage and Turnips.
- Then he has Rosemary Caramel Custard and Pine Nuts with Citrus, Celery and Apple.
Finally, one last dish at Tongue & Cheek!
- Richard ends with Cornbread with Foie Gras Ice Cream and Whipped Mango.
Overall, the judges seem rather excited about everything. Except for maybe the desserts. The desserts only get lukewarm reviews. Then it’s time for the judges to switch! That’s a lot of food. And a lot of declarations of desire to win.
Now, it is time for the final Fancy Lounge of Doom! Mike talks a lot. Richard obsesses neurotically a lot. So, nothing new there.
Out at the judges’ table, they begin with praise: “The best food we had in any finale,” according to Tom. That’s pretty darn positive. Padma refers to the subtlety of Mike’s food as almost feminine (I am loving that so very, very much). With only a brief criticism of the custard, Mike has praise heaped upon him.
For Richard, the amuse-bouche starts the praise. They love the first course too. And the second… The beef dish is described as safe but beautiful. They question the two types of foie gras ice cream.
Finally, each judge needs to justify his choice as Top Chef. Tears begin at this point.
While the two finalists wait, a bunch of family members come in to say hi (but not Richard’s super-pregnant wife). Richard offers Mike money. It’s all very lovey back there.
The judges discuss the level of love they had for each course. Gail discusses the pepperoni sauce at length. The various fishes were praised. The desserts are issue-laden. Mike and Richard eventually split the courses.
Finally, a decision is made. And the new, season 8 Top Chef is…
Not a huge shock there, but at least it was a fairly close final. Everyone cries. And Richard calls his pregnant wife on camera. Awwwww…
What do you think? Did the right chef win? Should it have been Mike? Or are you still rooting for someone else? Share your comments below!
(Images courtesy of Bravo)