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Top Chef: Las Vegas, Napa Valley Finale – Emotion You’ve Been Looking For, Padma


Let me get this out of the way, right away.  There was no reality show crime committed here.  Having reviewed several of the fan sites and blogs today, there seems to be a reaction among fans that borders on hysterical.  No matter whom the judges were going to pick, there was going to be a very deserving winner.  And based on both the broadcast, and Tom’s clarification on his Bravo blog, it was clear who was going to win and why. 
 
I know that everyone wanted Kevin to win.  He’s clearly the most popular chef, and deservedly so.  However, when discussing talent in the kitchen, all three of the finalists were equally talented.  Kevin was nicer.  I agree.  BryanBot was boring and Hawk had some serious cockiness going on.  However, as often quoted here, this is a cooking competition.  You want a popularity contest?  Go watch some stars dancing or watch Paula-less Idol. 
 
While watching the episode as it aired, I instantly wrote after they served the meals – “M wins.”  I also wrote down – “Blaised” – next to Kevin’s name.  Because he pulled a Richard Blais, he had his worst performance take place on the Finale.
 
Bottom line, my friends – Hawk deserved this win.  He earned it.  You may not like it, or him, but he deserved it.  In fact, this episode may have been the one that most featured Hawk as a human being.  He saw his mommy.  We looked at incredibly cute pictures of him as a kid.  We learned that this extremely talented and creative chef was a finicky eater.  We saw him give Kevin a heads-up when the big guy’s sauce was bubbling over.  And we saw him cry – thus giving us the title of the commentary. 
 
This season was boring in a lot of ways – 12 of the 13 challenges were won by our Final Three (The lost 13th challenge – by Final Four member Jennifer).  There were chefs in waaaay over their head.  But if you look at it from a different angle, we saw three rising culinary superstars get their start.  I will submit that Jen, Eli and MM all have that kind of potential too.  But Kevin, Brian and Hawk are going to make a lot of noise in this business.  Put it this way, I am nowhere near Kevin’s or Hawk’s home cities, but I am only about an hour and half away from Volt in Frederick, MD.  Expect a call for reservations, BryanBot.  Oh, and I may be ordering that dessert and that venison.
 
Quickfire – None.  This is the Final Three, no need for Quickfires anymore.

Elimination Challenge – Can we even call it that anymore?  How about …
 
Championship Challenge – Make a three-course meal.  First course will consist of a random box. Yikes, hopefully not this box.  No, this box holds the following ingredients:  Pacific Rockfish, Dungeness Crab, Kabocha Squash, Meyer Lemon, Matsusake Mushrooms, and Anise Hyssop.  The chefs must all make a dish from those ingredients.  Second, is a dish of their choosing from Top Chef Kitchen ingredients.  The third dish must be a dessert.  No Hosea-style savory third dishes this year.
 
Of course, because this is Top Chef, there was a twist.  After a visit from their mothers – Bravo gets to save some money as they only needed to fly two moms in for the Final Three – they learn that the new first course is a dish inspired by their moms.
 
One thing on the moms before getting to the dishes struck me.  How did poor Mama Voltaggio handle this?  Not only did she have to watch one of her babies lose to the other, but also she had to endure all of the mindless chatter on the web about her kids.  She had to listen to bozos like me say her one son had no personality while the other one had a poor personality.  That’s a rough position for a mom.  Sorry, Mama V, no offense meant.  As I said, road trip to Frederick is imminent.
 
Anyway – the Final Challenge Meals.  Criticism was rather scattershot during this segment, and there were about 150 judges, so I was unable to properly attribute comments.

First Course

Kevin – Southern Fried Chicken Skin with Squash Casserole and Tomato.  Kevin’s mom used to make this dish.  I guarantee my wife will make a face when she watches this episode.  Tom liked it, and felt the squash tasted like wine, in that there were lots of hidden flavors.  His mom said he never served her something she didn’t like.


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