The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Top Chef California Finale

So ends another season of Top Chef and begins another round of “what the hell am I going to post about now?”

In prepping for these posts on the Top Chef finales, I look back at previous years’ finales to make sure that I’m not doing the same thing over and over again.    I want to make sure that I’m offering you, gentle reader, a new experience that will make you think that I’m not just phoning it in.    That you’re really getting your money’s worth.

Then I remembered – you’re not paying any money for these posts.  

After watching this year’s finale and reviewing my previous posts, I realized I could take last year’s Top Chef Boston post and plug in new names and dishes and you’d pretty much get the same post for this year’s finale:

Challenge –  Open-ended four-course meal with few rules

Help – They got to handpick two sous chefs from the booted contestants. Although there was a little bit of a twist – their mentors were also helping. For Jeremy it was Jean-Georges Vongerichten and for Amar it was Charlie Palmer

Strategy – Last year, Mei chose one of her sous chefs based on their ability to deliver on a dessert course. This time, Amar chose Marjorie with the same notion.   Although it wasn’t that much of a stretch as she was one of the final three.

Competition – It was a very close competition where either one could’ve won it.

Winner – Not who I was personally rooting for, but absolutely no complaints – they both put together a great meal.



I bet I know what you’re asking yourself – if this was so similar to last year, how come it took over a week to get this post out?

The answer – The Jeremy Ford Drinking Game.   As I mentioned in the last Top Chef California post, there was a missed opportunity this season for some drinking fun similar to what I did with Top Chef Texas. Back then, the game was to have a shot every time this contestant named Sarah did an over-the-top “OMG!”   On some nights it got up to 4-5 shots.

For this episode, every time Jeremy said “Bro”, “Dude”, or gave someone a high-five, I took a swig of beer.    As you’ll see, it was a smart move on my part NOT to go with shots.


The Challenge

As a reward, Amar and Jeremy were treated to a meal cooked personally by Tom – the first time he’s cooked in the show’s history

– Crab and sea urchin with finger limes

– Squab, honey-glazed onions, and smoked peaches

– Potato agnolotti with leeks and caviar

– Wagyu beef with lobster chanterelle mushrooms and shishito peppers, aged soy Bordelaise

Tom explained that each dish highlighted an ingredient that he loved. For the final challenge, the chefs had to do the same – serve four courses, each highlighting an ingredient they love.


Amar – with Kwame, Marjorie, Charlie Palmer

 – Seared tuna tataki, habanero coconut dressing, compressed pineapple & toasted peanuts, crispy wild rice

 – Sea urchin risotto with butter-poached lobster

 – Finger limes, jicama & shellfish froth

 – Harissa-rubbed rack of lamb with braised lamb pastilla, date ginger puree & yogurt emulsion

 – Coconut financier, mango sorbet, passion fruit curd, tropical fruit salad, brulee meringue

Jeremy – with Carl, Angelina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten

 – Foie gras two ways pepper crusted with chili, melted with St Germain, served with passion fruit and marshmallows

 – Slow-cooked branzini, freeze-dried fish skin crumbles, herbal lime vinaigrette, squash, tomatoes

 – Duck with roasted maitake mushrooms, smoked chili, buttermilk & lemon

 – Ricotta and mozzarella cheese cylinder with piced fig jam, pumpernickel toast & honey spheres

The Winner – Jeremy



Random Thoughts

– Tom’s meal probably would’ve beat out these two.

– This was a really good matchup in that both chefs had really solid backgrounds in classic European cuisine, but had very unique approaches.   Throughout the season, Amar favored bold, somewhat rustic flavors and Jeremy had refined, bright, technique-driven food.   The finale was no exception.

– Both had missteps – especially undercooked 3rd courses.   Jeremy’s focus on technique led to several additional details that gave him an edge.   I think it came down to the first course.   Amar’s tuna tataki wasn’t very special and the habanero overpowered the dish.    Jeremy’s foie courses – including a torchon that Carl failed at earlier in the season – drew the most raves of the evening.

– Amar’s strategy of picking Marjorie backfired.  The coconut financier she made was too dense and ended up hurting him.

– I was personally rooting for Amar.   He had a terrific backstory of being a Dominican immigrant who had to support his family after his father died.   Plus, having come back to the competition through Last Chance Kitchen made him the underdog.   Jeremy, on the other hand, was your typical white guy who came to cooking after some lost years surfing and playing music.

– Speaking of typical white guy, here’s the count on drinks for the finale

 – Bros – five

 – High fives – three

 – Dudes – three

 – That said, if I included Amar’s use of “bro” in the drinking game it would’ve gotten ugly.    He said it at least twice as many times as Jeremy.

– Amar had falling out with his mentor, Charlie Palmer, and he hadn’t spoken to him in years.    It was a little bit of a mind-screw for him, but not sure if it impacted him.

– I really like that this year there seemed to be fewer editing chicanery – tricks done by the producers to drum up conflict or make the competition look different to have surprise endings.    The only noticeable bit of editing this time around was when Amar was explaining his ideas when there was the mysterious appearance and disappearance of something in Amar’s beard.

Amar beard

It wasn’t there the next time he was on screen.

– There was a commercial for Top Chef Mexico on Univision. Seeing that I don’t speak a lick of English, don’t expect recaps here.




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.

3 comments on “Top Chef California Finale

  1. anotherfoodieblogger
    March 28, 2016

    I didn’t take any notes as I got so wrapped up in watching the finale. I actually shed a tear at the end for Jeremy! Side note: Did you mean to say you don’t speak a lick of Spanish? 😉

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