Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top Chef Season 7 Finale

Hey loyal blog-followers! All seven of you...

We're back for the finale of Top Chef Season 7, with a live blog from Casa de Morrison. In addition to the live blog, we're making din-din for Beth, Ann and myself. On the menu is potato gnocchi with spring veggies and sauteed mushrooms. It's a pretty straightforward recipe from TC finalist Ed that you can find here.

I've been in the mood for seasonal pasta dishes lately, and even though this is a springtime dish, the heavy gnocchi and rich oyster and shitake mushrooms give it a weighty autumnal flavor. We opened a Dundee Hills 2006 Pinot Noir and started cooking. Ann and I prepped the mushrooms, blanched and shocked the sugar and snow peas and asparagus tips, and then made a garlic infused oil that we'd use to sear the gnocchi.

So...mistakes: I skimped for packaged gnocchi. I don't have the time or experience to make gnocchi by hand although that will be an experiment for a rainy Sunday. Packaged gnocchi is just not the same.

We also didn't have the right pan to sear the gnocchi for that crisp edge. And the veggies, while crisp and cooked perfectly, lacked the necessary seasoning. I needed to be a little more liberal with the salt and pepper as well as other spices. Other than those oversights, I think it's a solid dish that just about anyone can whip up in 30 minutes.

We began to speculate on what would happen in the Finale while watching the replays and giving Beth a recap of what had happened during the season as well as a characterization of the chefs.

So, before we get right into the TC finale, here is the final product. Comments?

Top Chef Finale: LiveBlog

Last week, we saw Kelly get the axe, despite the fact that all chefs performed admirably. In fact, all of them made really great food; Kelly's simply wasn't great enough. Too bad...I really like Kelly. She was certainly the strongest female competitor, and I knew it from the first episode. She also held it together better than her male competitors (Angelo's weepy fits, Kevin's hyper-aggressiveness, Ed's grudges).

The episode begins with a recap of the finalists, giving us a glimpse of their varied personalities.

Padma and her publicity orbs inform Ed, Kevin and Angelo that they will come back and draw knives for the final. The final four-courser is a little different this year:
1st: vegetable
2nd: fish
3rd: mystery protein that Ripert and Tom will choose (Tom threatens them with monkey)
4th: dessert

But the knives are for the sous. Hung, Michael Voltaggio and Elan, winners for TC Seasons 4, 6, 2 (respectively). Ann is squealing in delight when Michael comes on the screen. She has a major crush on last season's winner, which I largely ignore.

Cut to the next morning, and Angelo is sick in bed. Queue the 'Whhhaaa Whaaaa' horns. Angelo has by far been portrayed in the most negative light throughout the season. He's kind of opened himself up to that criticism but there's no denying his talent. We'll go ahead to call a moratorium of the Angelo dissing for now. Although he did admit having crabs on national television, for which there is no coming back from.

Tom and Eric show up with the mystery proteins and fish. There's cuttlefish, red rullet, cockles, and slipper lobster. And the proteins are pork belly and duck.

Angelo relays to Hung over the phone that they're going to do a duck and foie gras marshmallow...Wow! Sounds amazing. Hung continues to do the work of two chefs and would probably take any of our season's finalist blindfolded.

Kevin announces his menu. The standouts are cuttlefish "noddles" and the Singapore Sling panna cotta. Impressive. Ed's menu has a duo of duck, and sticky toffee cake. This should be interested.

Angelo is miraculously better. He better bring it, because Kevin and Ed are bringing out their big guns. Wants to show the judges what he can do "under the circumstances." Well, Angelo...I'm afraid that's not gonna cut it. If you've learned anything, the judges don't take those extraneous issues into account. They look at the food like anyone would at a restaurant...they don't care if the chef has a fever.

Susan Finegar sighting!! Ripert! David Chang (of Momofuko fame)! Celebrity chefs have invaded Southeast Asia.

Aside: Ed is becoming a bit of a douche. I know that he's a self-admitted "sarcastic guy" and has had a "bit of a 'tude" but he's now now crossed the Rubicon into super-douche territory. Be humble and gracious. Everyone on TC deserves to be there, but don't spend every waking moment on camera tearing down your opponent. Angelo, on the other hand, who started out with a huge ego, has gotten progressively sweeter and more endearing. Go figure.

The judges are effusive in their praise for the chef's menus, especially the desserts. One of them calls Kevin's frozen Singapore Sling the "new national dessert." And David calls Ed's sticky toffee cake a "F*ck you."

Judging time!!

They start with Angelo's second course...

They do take issue with his cherry shooter as a palate cleanser, citing that it coated their mouths. The marshmallow though seems to be well-received.

Kevin's veggie terrine could have used a little spiciness. He noted that he removed the seeds from the peppers, which accounts for this lack in impact. His 2nd, the cuttlefish noodles with slipper lobster on top looked like it really delivered. The 3rd, duck a la orange, was cooked well. And they all really enjoyed the Singapore Sling dessert.

Ed seemed to fall short the most, out of the three. The corn & fried cockles was well-received, but everything else seemed to be slightly lackluster, in light of what he's been doing lately. The fish wasn't a standout, the duo of duck was the weakest of the 3rds, and Tom took issue with his dessert as well. It's not looking good for Cotton.

Angelo appears to have executed his dishes, despite him being on the shelf during prep. The foie gras marshmallow was definitely the stretch dish, and overall it succeeded, but the fish course was really well conceived and implemented. The mushroom pork belly handmade noodle opener was also strong.

OK! Here we go...

Tom heaps on the praise, citing that the chef that took the biggest risks that also delivered the best meal would win.


It's Kevin! Yay!! I definitely thought Kevin's menu was the strongest and it appears he made it happen, Cap'n! Hurray!! Ed and Angelo are gracious in defeat. Kevin has really been the darkhorse since about halfway. Somedays he really brings it; somedays his dishes fall well short of the others. I felt the same way about my girl Ashley Merriman last season. She could have easily made it to the final. Or gone home the first few episodes. Ed and Angelo, in all likelihood, are better chefs. Kelly probably is too. But Kevin was stood out when it counted the most. He wanted it more than they did too. He's trying to establish himself, whereas Angelo and Ed are already entrenched at their respective establishments.

And with that, we're done. Here's to one the weakest overall seasons of TC, with one of the strongest finales. Looking forward to TC9!! Cheers.

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