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Top Chef: Chicago, Finale – I’ll Say It, I Choked


Fourth Course

It is Steph’s to lose right now as long as she doesn’t fumble in the fourth quarter.

Lisa: Dan wants to know what her chip issue is as we have more chips here. Dan also thinks it is a minor critique on a really exciting dessert. Zagat thought it tasted wonderful. April didn’t think it worked at first, but it kind of grew on her.

Richard: Dan thought it worked and that he was playful throughout and pulled it out at the end. Eric thought it was a focus on flavor and then playful.

Steph: Zagat didn’t think the cake was special. April thought it was moist, but Eric thought it was unrefined.

Gail says she was waiting for this dinner for a long time and that they all won at this stage. OK, send everyone home. We have three Top Chefs this year! Tom says that we have seen them grow and come to know them. Richard is the intellectual. Lisa sticks to her guns and tries to be herself. Steph puts a “homey” spin on everything. The chefs come out and get applause and Padma thanks them.

Commercials – The Happening looks pretty freaky, but Night has lost the benefit of the doubt after the last two films.

Judges Table. Padma found everything delicious. Tom thought it was great, but there were some missteps. GONG!!! In walk the Final Three. I wonder if Richard has ever been before the judges with Lisa before.

Tom asks Richard for his First Course concept. Richard was looking for an explosion of flavor to wake up the palate. Padma thought it lacked seasoning, and Richard is surprised. Lisa was going for “intense and bold” and Tom thought it was very hot. Lisa wanted it to be. Ted liked the chips. Steph is told by Gail that her presentation was great. Padma loved the richness; it was not like a heavy clam chowder.

Richard is asked what he would change about the second course. He thought the foie gras was perhaps indulgent. Gail thought the dish was muddled and lost integrity. Richard is starting to get nervous now. Lisa is told that the soup was awesome and that there was much slurping at the table. Steph says that she infused the shells and quail bones in the broth. Wow. Ted liked the quail. Tom gives her flack about the crunchy leeks. Steph is shocked.

Richard says he went for minimal with the meat and Ted thought it needed to be seared for crispiness. Richard thought it would lose integrity. Tom tells Lisa that her steak was not as good as it could have been because you cannot treat it like an American steak. If you keep it rare, the fat never gets activated and it becomes chewy. Gail gives props for the sweet sauce. Steph is happy with her third dish. Ted thought it was one of the most creative things of the night. He has never seen braised pistachios before and now wants to see more of them. Tom says that this dish reminds him to keep an open mind and that she is full of surprises.

Richard makes the banana thing all the time and loves it. Ted liked the ice cream and it was well done. Padma reminds everyone about the repeat banana dish. Padma loved Lisa’s dessert. Ted had issues with Steph’s dish. He thought the banana cream was unnecessary and was a miss.

Padma asks for any last words. Steph says that Dale told her not to second guess herself and she did with the dessert. Apparently, that banana cream was a last minute addition. She says that she is what a Top Chef should be.

Lisa was struggling a bit with the menu but she thinks she deserves to win and has the great qualities you need to win.

Richard pauses and says, “I’ll say it. I feel like I choked a little bit.” Padma asks where. He says that he over-thought his menu and it wasn’t his top performance. Tom is very, very pensive at that. I find it to be a bold move and a wise one. Richard has to see the writing on the wall and what he did was remind the judges that he had been awesome throughout the whole competition and that he is a stand-up leader that will take the heat when deserved.

Padma found Richard’s thoughts to be revealing and Gail is shocked. Tom says he agrees with him. He made a few mistakes, the pork being one of them. Gail says that he wanted them to know that he knew and that he is capable of taking it.

Tom says that Lisa and Steph also made mistakes. On the first course, Ted was tight on it but leans towards Lisa. Gail liked Steph and Tom agrees. On the second course, Ted liked Lisa again as did Gail. Tom liked Richard’s plan, but not the outcome. On the third course, Tom thought Steph’s lamb was really good and an adventure. Gail says that Steph knew she nailed it. Ted thought Richard had a great idea. Tom says that this is what Richard was talking about in his choke speech. On the last course, Tom says Richard clearly didn’t choke here. Ted wonders when Ben and Jerry’s and Breyers will come out with a bacon ice cream. Gail thought Lisa’s was fun and interesting and was her favorite. Padma thought it was the best of the night. Gail thought Steph’s dessert wasn’t good.

Ted reminds everyone that they are trying to decide who did a better meal tonight. And I will address this point at the end. In the Doom Room, Lisa says that she thought Steph nailed the first and third course and she got the second and last. We go to the judges with me thinking that there is no way Bravo could have Lisa win this whole thing. Can they?

Padma says that based on the performance tonight she has a preference. Gail says it took a long road to get there, but she is there. Ted mentions that the birds are chirping outside. He is there and Tom is too. This means they had a loooong debate on this. Again, I will mention my thoughts at the end.

Commercials – Puerto Rico has a tourism ad. The least Bravo could do it seems. The Poll results are 60% Steph, 36% Rich and 4% Lisa.

Here we go.

Tom thinks they cooked tremendous meals. They got to this point because Richard was whimsical and playful and outrageous time and again, Lisa had great Asian flavors and was bold, and Steph proved time and again that when they thought they figured her out, she surprised with something out of left field that wowed them. It is now that everyone should know who wins despite the editing drama.

Tom says that the decision was tough, but it is based on which meal you would want to go back and have again. I don’t believe him. Padma gives the win to Steph who is blushing and stunned. I am thrilled for her.

However, it seems that Lisa made the best overall meal. I think that the long discussion was over whether or not they could give the title to Lisa for essentially winning the final challenge and one other throughout the year, while finishing in the bottom six times. I think they wanted to give it to Steph or Richard. Steph’s dessert made it tough to give her the win and Rich totally dropped the ball. I think that past performance should play into the decision making, especially in the finale. Someone like Lisa needed to blow them away to win. However, I can see the other side of the argument. The Patriots dominated everyone this year, but lost to the Giants. Was Lisa basically the Giants in this competition? Does she deserve the win here? It is a debate that will go on, and is the nature of the beast with these shows where it is subjective eliminations. Survivor Jury votes are not up to debate, a team will clearly finish in last on the Amazing Race, and America’s votes are counted on American Idol. We can only trust Tom, Padma, Ted and Gail that they made a factual decision honestly. I only ask this question: If Steph had Lisa’s track record and Lisa had Steph’s track record, who do you think would have won?

Anyway, there are many hugs, with Rich the first to congratulate Steph. She THs that “I won Top Chef! Holy s**t! This is the biggest thing that has happened in my life.” Gail hugs Lisa who THs that she was hoping and thought she had a good shot but when Padma said Steph’s name she said “Oh f**k.” An appropriate way to leave Lisa this season.

Richard is disappointed because he was almost there. He hopes to refocus and the future is bright for him. It is, dude. It is. Steph dances a jig and is excited to bring some estrogen to the Top Chef Winners Club, at least adding to what Ilan already brings. She chokes up a bit as she says that this is what she was meant to do with her life.

That is it, my friends. They said that it couldn’t be done, but Top Chef has been recapped. And by a terrible cook, no less. I apologize for the lateness of the final two weeks, but my schedule has been a bitch. I also thank the various Top Chefs that have graciously added me as a friend in Facebook and I hope to have some contact with you in the future. My only request is that if I get to meet Spike that he gives me one of his hats. I was kidding all along, dude. I love the hats!

Next week: the reunion.

Contact Jeremy at jeremy@realityshack.com.


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