The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Seattle Episode 17: Finale Part 2

Episode 16

Before I get into this week’s recap, I want to thank you for stopping by.  I hope you enjoyed these recaps as I (most of the time) enjoyed writing them.  And when you’re done with this post, take a look around at some of my other ones!  It’s not like you’re busy or anything like that…


For most of this season I start writing these recaps during the show so that I can post them as soon as possible.  Last week’s came a couple of days late because I was on vacation and the place we were staying didn’t have Bravo.  I had to buy it from iTunes and it wasn’t available until Friday.  Jeez, the lengths I go to for all three of you fans.  This week’s post was delayed for a different reason – I needed some time and repeat viewings to process what the heck I saw.

This was the grand finale of the season where they chose who is the ultimate winner.  Last year, they showed the process of the chefs getting their challenge and then they (somewhat blindly) chose who would be their sous chefs.  The two teams took over two Vancouver restaurants and cooked for 100 or so people, including the judges.  What I didn’t like about that was that there was some time between the tastings and the judges may had uneven experiences with the food.  I also didn’t like how they had to prepare food for a lot of people as it takes away from creativity.  The best dishes are always when they only have to cook small quantities and they were given minimal restrictions.  See last year’s Fit for an Evil Queen episode.

This year they solved the timing issue by having Brooke and Kristen cook Iron Chef-style in front of an audience.  The chefs’ courses were presented side-by-side – everyone was given the two 1st courses, then the 2nd courses, 3rd, etc.  Doing it this way allowed the judges to get a good comparison between the two offerings.  The judges then voted for the best dish of the two and the contestant who got the most votes won that course.   Then, the first contestant to win three courses out of five total was named Top Chef.

Seems like a reasonable format, but here’s where they screwed up –

– We had no idea what the rules were.  As the night progressed, we found out that the second course used scallops and the fourth used snapper.  But we don’t know if there were any other guidelines.

– How did Kristen end up with Josh? All we got was that Brooke went with an all-Los Angeles team and Kristen got “a good group of people.”  Kristen’s dishes all year have been all about intricacy and sophistication.  Josh was Mr. Bacon and Breakfast who seemed a little ham-handed with his food.  I would’ve thought that Kristen would taken John “The Time Bomb” Tesar because of his technical skills.  Or Stefan, who seemed to be her bestie earlier in the season.

We didn’t see any judges deliberation.  They talked about the dishes a little, but they didn’t talk much about why they chose one over the other.  They were just asked, one at a time, who they thought won.

– We didn’t see how all the judges voted.  In the first round, the first three judges asked voted for the same person.  Once they got to a majority, they didn’t bother asking the other two.  I would’ve loved to have seen if the winning chef ( who got the most rounds) also got the most votes.  More on that later.

– False Drama Alert #1  The chefs pretty much knew what they were going to prepare for each course going in the night and I would’ve loved to have seen that thought process.  But after each round, the losing chef said something like, “I’m going to have to pull something special out of my beautiful butt for this next round.”  Nope, don’t believe it. Their menus were pretty much settled, there was no time to make changes.  Whether you believe that they have beautiful butts, however, is up to you and your god.

And the biggest flub of them all…

– False Drama Alert #2  This was a DOOZIE.  The show was one hour long and  the judgment for the 4th course came at around the 50 minute mark.  You pretty much knew that there was no time to show a fifth course being prepared, evaluated, and voted on.  And since one contestant was up 2-1, you could pretty easily figure out she was going to win the whole deal.


The Food

The judges were  Tom, Padma, Hugh, Gail, and Emeril.  All the previous nine winners were at a table, but I’m too lazy to list them out here.

Course #1

– Kristen: Chicken liver mousse with frisee, mustard, prune, hazelnuts, & pumpernickel

– Brooke: Crispy pig ear & chicory salad, six-minute egg, apricot jam, & candied cumquats

Winner: Kristen.  Hugh, Gail, and Emeril voted for her. We didn’t get to hear how Tom or Padma would’ve voted.

Course #2

– Brooke: Seared scallop with salt cod puree, speck, black currant, mustard seed vinaigrette

– Kristen: Citrus & lavender cured scallop with bitter orange, meyer lemon & apple

Winner: Brooke. Gail, Emeril, and Hugh voted for her. Tom and Padma voted for Kristen.

Course #3

– Brooke: Vadouvan fried chicken with sumac yogurt-tahini & pickled kohlrabi fattoush

– Kristen: Celery root puree with bone marrow, mushrooms, bitter greens & radishes

Winner: Kristen. Emeril, Tom, Padma voted for her.  Didn’t get to see who Hugh and Gail would’ve voted for.

Course #4

– Brooke: Braised pork cheek & red snapper with collard green slaw & sorrel puree

– Kristen: Snapper with leeks, little gem lettuce, tarragon, uni & shellfish nage

Winner: Gail, Emeril, Tom voted Kristen.  Who knows who Padma and Hugh would’ve picked.

Overall Winner: Kristen. Three rounds to one, fifth round unnecessary.


Random Thoughts

– Padma was totally animated and not her usual soulless robot self.  Emeril was very friendly and subdued – like he was sedated, as he was all season.  I’ve always had a soft spot for him and thought he did well this season. I’m glad he wasn’t all “BAM!” and “Kick it up a notch!”

– I was totally happy with both of these two in the final.  And I definitely think the better chef won.

– In the three rounds Kristen won, we only got to see three of the votes.  Did she dominate  and take those other two votes?  Or were those other two going to be for Brooke?  Here’s why it matters – Let’s say they went to five rounds with Brooke winning three rounds by split decision and Kristen winning two unanimously.  That means Brooke would’ve won the whole thing with 9 total votes and Kristen would’ve gotten 16 total votes.   Eh, maybe it’s just me that thinks it’s interesting.

– Even if I didn’t look at how much time was left, I new that Brooke’s 4th course wasn’t going to win simply because I could make that dish.   I’m sure it tasted good but, if I could do it, that’s not a $125K-winning dish.  Perfect execution definitely helps tonight and in earlier rounds, but the winner should be something really unique.

– Kristen said she hasn’t cooked for more than 10 people in the past couple years. Is she only a private chef and not in a restaurant?

– I loved this commercial with Eva Longoria.  Sexiest cat food commercial ever.


– In the 3rd round, Brooke went with fried chicken to try to get some redemption and I think it came back to bite her in the ass.  Sheldon and Josh were eliminated when they tried to prove something to the judges rather than do what they do best.

– I think all this talk about this being only the second time where a woman was going to win is a little overblown. I know there are injustices in “the real world” but this is the TV world.  There were just as many women as men who competed and the challenges were pretty fair to both genders.   Am I wrong?

– I’ve never heard of a six-minute egg or vadouvan. I GOTTA try them.

– Brooke looked a little out of her element in those clothes in this promo for Watch What Happens Next.  You can totally tell Kristen used to be a model.

wwhn promo


– That said, I think Brooke’s better looking with a smile and personality that would suit her well in a career as a TV chef.  And obviously she doesn’t have  cameras on her long list of phobias.

– The dishes in Last Chance Kitchen totally blew away the dishes in the actual show. It’s because they were cooking for one person instead of hundreds of people at state fairs.  I know that a good chef should be able to cook for crowds, but I’m hoping they have more challenges that  emphasize quality over quantity.

– There were times this season that I was completely bored with the show and getting these posts out were a real grind.  But looking back I think I might do this again next year.

About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

5 comments on “Top Chef Seattle Episode 17: Finale Part 2

  1. I totally agree with you about the “Fit For an Evil Queen” episode from last year, creativity at it’s best (without having to chisel your ingredients out of a block of ice and shoot a target..?). On an unrelated note, Chef Hugh Acheson responded to 2 of my tweets over the past 2 episodes while live-tweeting. They have been the highlight of my 2013.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 1, 2013

      Nice! The only famous people to ever respond to a tweet from me were Rick Bayless for a huitlacoche suggestion and from Ying Yang Twins, who liked my post on them.

  2. rachelocal
    March 1, 2013

    I felt lost, too, at the beginning. I wanted to see all the “pre” stuff, like picking their sous chefs and what the guidelines were for menus.

    As far as a woman winning not being a big deal, I think it is a big deal seeing as only one other woman has ever won Top Chef. I think there is a male bias in the profession over all–women have to prove themselves almost. In this case, I think the most talented chefs were in the top two. And talent matters more than gender (obviously).

    My random thought: I think Tom Colicchio is in love with Kristen.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      March 1, 2013

      I agree there’s a male bias there (and in a lot of other professions). But in the 4 walls of the show, it was pretty even, wasn’t it? There was equal # of each gender, but are any of the challenges easier for a man vs a women? I guess the breaking the blocks of ice last year… but the actual cooking skills required seemed even. There are more men to choose from at the exec chef level, but I don’t know if that makes a diff. Maybe I don’t get it b/c I’m a guy and it’s always hard for people who benefit from a bias to recognize it’s there…

      And yes, I totally think Tom dug Kristen – definitely for the food, probably for the looks as well!

  3. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Season Finale Part 2: Finale | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2013 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , , .
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