Thursday, February 26, 2009

Top Chef: New York, Finale Part 1

Woo hoo! It's finale time! I'm ready for some drama. And as the final four arrived in New Orleans, right away Fabio's mohawk (finally!) started the episode off with a bang. It just wouldn't be a complete season of Top Chef without a mohawk.

When the group met up with Padma for the QuickFire, it was revealed that Emeril Lagasse would be the guest judge for this episode. Clearly, not a big surprise, as he is so closely associated with NOLA. The next announcement, however, was a surprise. The top four would not be competing in the QuickFire. Instead, the last three chefs booted off the show, Jamie (yay!), Jeff (whatever), and Leah (ugh) would compete to get another crack at the Top Chef title.

I was excited, because I was very disappointed to see Jamie go home a couple of weeks ago. I think she's definitely talented enough to be in the top five. However, Jeff and Leah came with their game faces on as well. Jeff especially seemed very confident. The challenge was pretty straight-forward: come up with a dish using one of the signature ingredients of New Orleans, crawfish. YUM! Jeff did something really simple - Crawfish and grits - but it looked pretty tasty. Jamie made a corn cake topped with a poached egg and crawfish cream sauce that looked pretty amazing. She had me at crawfish cream sauce. Leah made gumbo, even though she admitted she'd never made it before. Seemed like a weird decision to me.

Apparently, Jeff's grits must have been pretty unbelievable, because Emeril fell all over himself complimenting him as he named him the winner. Jeff was awarded Emeril's new cookbook (yawn) and was informed that in order to make it to the finale (part 2) he would have to win the Elimination Challenge. Whoa. Good luck with that.

So what would this elimination challenge entail? Well, the chefs are taken to the place where they hold the floats for the Krewe of Orpheus that participate in the Mardi Gras parade. They were then told that later that night they would be catering the Orpheus Masquerade Ball at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The chefs would be required to make two dishes and a cocktail to feed (and water) 100 hungry guests. To up the pressure, there would be not be just one chef eliminated at the end of the challenge - there would be two.

The winner of the challenge will also receive a Toyota Venza! I've never heard of one/seen one before, but the chefs seem pretty psyched about the opportunity.

Don't the judges look cute in their masquerade outfits? I thought so. But back to the kitchen...Carla decides to make an Oyster Stew and a beignet with shrimp and andouille sausage. Yes, please. I will have both. As her drink, she chooses to go with a non-alcoholic option, a cranberry and lime spritzer, as she isn't a drinker. I respect this decision, but I am worried about how it will effect her, as I have grown to like her so much. She also freaked me out with the oyster shucking, but thank goodness that ended up working out okay.

Hosea goes with a duck, sausage and chicken gumbo - which he has apparently been working on perfecting at home - as well as a pecan-crusted catfish dish. He sounded pretty knowledgeable when talking about the gumbo, but his second dish seemed a little boring. His drink, on the other hand, sounded pretty tasty, if overly trendy. He made a blood orange and pomegranate hurricane. Are there any two ingredients that are getting as much hype these days? I think not.

Fabio decided to go above and beyond and make three dishes: a rabbit maque choux (pronounced "mock shoe" according to wikipedia) served with grits, a crawfish and crab pasta dish (sounds very Pappadeaux) and a muffaletta bread (yum). For the record, maque choux is a dish of corn, peppers, tomatoes and onions simmered together in a broth (thank you again, wikipedia). His drink is a bell pepper martini. Not sure what to make of that, but at least it's somewhat original.

Jeff made a pot de creme with crawfish and a fried oyster with sausage. The oyster didn't look like much, but the pot de creme looked pretty freakin' tasty. And his drink (a cucumber mojito) looked even better.

Stefan, who treated the whole challenge with a rather disinterested attitude, also made a gumbo, although his featured rabbit and duck. He didn't seem to have the gumbo chops of Hosea, but knowing Stefan, it was probably pretty tasty anyway. He also made an apple beignet and a black cherry rum cocktail. The rest of the chefs were unimpressed with his attitude, and I started to get the feeling that although his food sounded pretty good, his 'tude might get him tossed.
Once the judges started going around doing their tastings, it became pretty clear that all of the chefs really brought their a-game to this challenge (well, except maybe Stefan). Everyone had at least one dish that blew the socks off the judges (well, again, except maybe Stefan), but there was no, "ew, this is terrible" dish.

The top dishes seemed to be Carla's stew and her beignet (yay, team Carla!), Jeff's cucumber mojito and his oyster (must have been better than it seemed like it would be), Hosea's gumbo, and Fabio's maque choux. Stefan's food was universally agreed to be 'pretty good', but nobody seemed blown away by any of it.

Once again this week, Carla was named the winner! Where has she been all season? She's been totally kick-ass lately, and I am really starting to think she could win this thing. Hosea is also declared safe.

Unfortunately for Jeff, who did quite well in this challenge, he was automatically eliminated because he didn't win. It was really too bad, because he did seem to perform very well. And his cucumber mojito looked scrumptious.

Sadly, the two men of Team Europe found themselves on the bottom this week. Stefan was rapped pretty hard for phoning it in this week, and Fabio was dinged for some relatively minor quibbles about his food along the lines of, "I wish it had just had a little more spice."

I have to say - I think that Fabio was robbed this week. During the tastings, it seemed like people enjoyed his food much more than Stefan's, but I think Stefan's overall performance must have carried him through once again. A finale without Stefan wouldn't have seemed right, but at the same time, he did clearly try to coast this week. Oh well, we'll see what happens when he takes on Hosea and Carla in the finale. I can't wait!

1 comment:

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