leave your inhibitions at the door
It’s been two weeks since the Top Chef Final and it’s taken me this long to figure out to write this recap.
The build-up to this was so suspenseful – I really had no idea who was going to win. One hand was Brooke, who lost in the final a couple years ago, who has coaxed the best out of ingredients to make dishes in many different styles. She got eliminated a couple weeks ago, but came back strong in Last Chance Kitchen to storm her way back into the finals. On the other was Shirley, whose used consistency, drive, and focus to make the final with her twists on Chinese cuisine.
When it came to the competition, it was just as you would expect – a super tight match between these two titans of the toque. A back-and-forth affair that had you guessing who would win up until the very last second.
Let’s get to it…
They were to serve a progressive four-course meal at one of the dining rooms at the Secrets Resort. Which, if you’ll recall in my last recap, is nothing like Desire – at least I don’t think it is and I’m still waiting for my invite from either one to visit. All of the other chefs came back so Shirley and Brooke could each choose two sous chefs. After a random knife draw/coin flip, Shirley got to pick first. A third chef was assigned to them.
Casey – who she picked first because she was sure that Brooke would choose her. So she wanted to block her.
Katsuji – who figured Shirley picked him because of his familiarity with Mexican cuisine
Jay – who is the chef de cuisine at one of her restaurants
Sheldon – When Shirley chose Casey, Brooke said she was shocked she didn’t take Sheldon because “the guy’s a beast in the kitchen.” Yup.
Sam – Who as a really strong chef and good teammate. Plus I’m sure she wanted some eye candy around.
Chris – who is chef de cuisine at one of her restaurants.
I was really glad that they got to have one of their own chefs working with them so there’s no excuses for not getting a team they could work with. In preparing the menu, Brooke wanted to choose the best possible ingredients and go from there. Shirley was focused on cooking to her strengths – Chinese cuisine.
The Winner: Brooke
– Most of what I said in the introduction is complete bullshit. There was no suspense before the show – it was clearly Brooke’s competition to lose. She kicked ass in last week’s episode, so she was on a roll. As for the suspense in evening’s courses? Also BS. Based on reactions, it’s pretty clear that Brooke’s first two courses were superior by a long shot. The third course was basically a tie. Brooke’s dessert got messed up badly and Shirley’s was excellent, but it couldn’t have made up the difference.
– Also bullshit? My not knowing how to write about the show. I’m a busy man…
– Also not a surprise – Brooke chose her team well. Don’t get me wrong, Casey and Katsuji are great chefs. But choosing Casey first so Brooke wouldn’t get her and Katsuji to pander to the cuisine were not good decisions. Brooke’s decision to go with letting the ingredients speak for themselves was also a smart move.
– It came down to the second course – Brooke’s was considered one of the best of the evening. Shirley’s ramen wasn’t special and the noodles were too chewy.
– She wanted to re-create the memory of when Top Ramen came to China. WTF?? If you’re going to imitate a ramen, you gotta go with Nongshim’s Shin Black Ramyun Spicy Pot-au-feu variety.
– I’ve seen a bunch of commentary elsewhere that Tom’s vote counts for more and that he’s really favored Brooke. That may be true but it was pretty clear – at least here in the final – Brooke deserved the win.
– I know it’s about the two competitors, but I would’ve liked to have known what the sous chefs added. We know Sam made the garlic chips, and Jay did the broth, but what did Katsuji do besides grunt work?
– There was one shocker – neither of them picked Emily to be on her team. OK, that’s BS too.