Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Top Chef Seattle - Finale live-blog

It's the last episode of Top Chef Seattle. Our city, our show. Two talented chefs: Brooke from LA and Kristen from Boston. Both cool chicks. Both easy on the eyes. Excited? You could say that.

My money has always been on Kristen. She has a clean style, doesn't blow it on technique, and is laser-focused on the details. If the finale pushes them to do something where they're timed, Kristen will win. She gets in trouble when she isn't under the gun and has time to let her brain meander.

But with no time and ingredient constraints, Brooke will dominate. She came up with some seriously interesting courses this season: Here. Are. My favorites. Let's put it this way; I'd eat at Kristen's restaurant everyday for lunch. I'd eat at Brooke's on a special occasion where I'd order 3-4 courses.

10:00 - here we go. whoa, what? the chefs are already cooking?! looks like the outed cheftestants are sous-ing it. and we're apparently they're in an Iron Chef-esque Thunderdome... Ann notes a Voltaggio presence. Shocker.

10:01 - Brooke background. LA prodigy with the pedigree. Both ladies acknowledging the other as their main competition.

10:02 - team Brooke: CJ, Stefan and Kuniko. Kristen has Lizzie, Sheldon and Josh. Each chef has snapper and scallops for 2nd and 4th course. The rest is up to them. Top scallop, bitches!!

10:04 - Padma's boobs are very excited to be here. First dish coming out shortly. Brooke is starting with a pig's ear and 63 degree egg salad, that's a play off of lardon and frisee salad. CJ's already sweaty and burning the pig's ears. ruh roh.

10:06 - Got the winner's table in there: Stephanie, Paul, , Harold, Elan, Kevin, Michael...the whole crew. First dishes are out. Kristen has chicken liver mousse with mustard, prune, hazelnuts, and pumpernickel salad. Kristen getting rave reviews. Brooke doing pig's ear and chicory salad with 6 min egg, candied kumquats and apricot jam. Pig's ear is a little overcooked, but otherwise good marks.

10:10 - Judges pick a winner each round, first chef with 3 rds win. And Kristen takes the first round solidly from all judges.

10:15 - Next up, rd two...Top scallop! Super fresh, still in the shell. Stefan jokes that he choose light blue for their unborn lovechild's bedroom. Oh, Steffers! You cad.

10:17 - flashback to Brooke talking about her son and her phobias. They are numerous. I'm not gonna make light of those, because they look like they're kinda crippling. But, can we please focus on something else? Is she really just a mom/chef with a shattering case of acrophobia? Gail interviewing Brooke's family to pass the time. Brooke is apparently a cooking savant, at a very early age.

10:19 - Mike V spotting - "I want to be down there." And Ann missed her chance to say "That's what she said."

10:21 - This scallop dishes look beautiful...and here they come. Brooke does a seared scallop over salt cod puree, black currant, mustard seed vinaigrette, juniper, romanesco and crispy speck. the former winners complain a little of overcooked scallops, but the judges aren't even phased at all. Brooke might have a little too much on the plate here. Kristen has a citrus & lavender-cured scallop with meyer lemon, bitter orange and apple. Looks absolutely gorgeous. Kristen is taking this.

10:26 - The Hughnabrow is a sucker for romanesco, and gives the tie-breaker to Brooke. Kristen's plating was perfect...I don't know how you could lose that one.

10:28 - Kristen is doing crispy bone marrow for 3rd. Brooke is going for redemption with some vadouvan chicken wings. Tom explains how each chef's style can work against them. Would anyone every question Tom at this point; the dude is on point with everything.

10:31 - flashback to Josie-gate. Barf. Let's move on.

10:32 - Kristen is a hot chef-bot that cannot be stopped. She'll go to Korea on vacation if she wins.

10:34 - 3rd course is out. Brooke does a vadouvan fried chicken wing with sumac yougurt tahini and pickled kohlrabi fatoush. Looks like a middle eastern BBQ plate. Brooke apologies for not bringing wet-naps. Kristen brings out a celery root puree, crispy bone marrow, mushrooms, bitter greens and barely cooked radishes. Not a run-away hit...we'll see. Kristen pulls it out. 2 to 1. Only one round between her and victory. Brooke is freaking.

10:39 - 4th course...snapper. But first, some messages from the winners. And Elan breaks a lamp. Methinks there are plenty of drinks between courses.

Holy shit there are a lot of commercials.

10:45 - Back to the snapper. Both chefs seem supremely confident in what they're making. Padma interviewing the winners...Elan says he looked fat. We all do, bro. Except for Padma.

10:51 - And plates are out. Brooke has to kill it here. Brooke makes a braised pork cheek with crispy red snapper with collard green slaw and sorrel puree with pomegranate seeds. Kristen brings out snapper with leeks, little gem lettuce, tarragon, uni and shellfish nage. Sounds very coastal French. Gail complains about the leeks, but Hughanbrow isn't phased.

10:55 - we're getting short on time. not enough time to get another course in. hmmm.

10:58 - decision time on 4th course. and here comes the votes...
Gail goes Kristen

Emeril goes...Kristen

oh boy...

Tom time.


She wins!! my girl takes it!!

Aww, I feel for Brooke. No one thinks less of you, woman. You're a stud.

And that's it. Kristen takes the title, the second female to win the prize. Congrats, girlfriend. If you and Stefan don't work out, Ann and I can figure out some sort of girlfriend timeshare program. She'll be cool with it, I swear.

A little Top Chef Seattle preamble

A little backstory before we get to the finale live-blogging...

Ann and I had the opportunity to appear on two episodes of Top Chef this year. Some of you saw us. If not, here's us, post-Stefan&Brooke monte cristo and fig.

We were also in part 1 of Restaurant Wars with the concept food stands at Bite of Seattle. 

It was great to be a part of a show that we've followed for many years, and watch religiously. We were very lucky to know the right people that graciously offered to bring us along. So thanks to Brooks & his wife, Nate & Jenna, and the producers at Bravo for letting us in and not leaving us on the cutting room floor.

Here's some random thoughts I have on the season, based on what we all saw, and what I saw behind the scenes:
  • Kristen and Lizzie had the best dishes at Bite. We didn't have a chance to sample Josie's or Brooke's, and Sheldon had run out of food by the time we got to him, but none of the other contestants came close. 
  • Stefan is a ham. Not that anyone didn't already know this. He joked with us while we waited for his white chocolate & passionfruit lollipops. He splashed liquid nitrogen on the floor next to him and dared us to stick our hands in and do the same. He talked shit about Josie. We asked if he was nervous. "Oh shit, of course not. This is my second time around. I don't even care. I have 5 restaurants and a Ferrari." He also said Brooke and Kristen were very talented. And look who's in the final...
  • Lizzie was probably the nicest chef we talked to. Very sweet and bordering on shy. I'm a sucker for her Saffa accent too. 
  • CJ was the comedian of the bunch at Pike's Place. Bummed he didn't make it farther. Very cool dude. 
  • Both times, Sheldon ran out of food early. I never got to eat any of his food. I was kinda surprised that the judges didn't make a bigger deal about this given in the past, wait times and lack of food have been held against chef-testants. 
  • Padma is probably the most ridiculously beautiful woman I've ever seen in person. She's an effing alien. Her legs go up to her armpits. She has cheekbones for days. She must drink the blood of 7 virgins each night to maintain her perfect skin & hair. 
  • Like every other male who watches the show, I have a major crush on Kristen. She's very striking in real-life. She also served up some really great dishes, especially at Bite. Kristen and her onsen egg have a special place in my heart (and probably in my arteries too). 
  • At Bite of Seattle, we were forced to wait for close to 2 hours, despite being in the second of four groups. The producers did a horrible job managing the crowd. The first group went in and basically camped for as long as possible. When we finally got in, most of the chefs were running out of food. We quickly grabbed dishes from Josh and Lizzie first, then Micah and Kristen, sat down, and started eating. Then the unbelievable happened. We were immediately approached by a producer and his camera crew and had the following dialogue: 
    • Producer "Hi there - So, how many dishes is for you guys?"
    • Me "Just grabbed our 4th from over there. We were in the 2nd group."
    • Producer "Yeah, so we need you guys to finish up and head out so we can get everyone in. We still have 2 more groups to bring in."
    • Me "Well, we just came in not more than 15 minutes ago, and there's people that have been in here for 2 hours already. We haven't even had half the dishes."
    • Producer "Yeah, but we still have people that haven't had anything."
    • Me (in my head) Those sound an awful lot like "you" problems and not "me" problems...if you can't even feed two groups, maybe you shouldn't have let in twice as many people as you needed.
    • Me (out-loud) "Alright, we'll leave."
  • We didn't leave. We just hid over next to Stefan's stand and made jokes with him about the other chefs and Padma. It was rad.

Live-blogging of the finale coming up next. I'm rooting for Kristen, but I feel like Brooke is engineered for a finale, where planning and course-progression are very important. My guess is Kristen will have 2 amazing dishes and 2 semi-clunkers and squeak out a win, but I definitely won't be upset if Brooke wins. Both presented the most consistent talent throughout the season, and I think we all agree they were the two that needed to face off at the end. We shall see...