Sorry about the delay, between work, travel and a really poorly-timed migraine headache, Top Chef wound up getting the short end of the stick. This is a shame because we are now down to the last two All-Stars, and this stellar season of Top Chef draws to an exciting close. I’ll be doing an abridged version of some major points for each of the final three chefs, along with the dishes and the random thoughts.
Blais – Good for him. He officially becomes the only chef in show history to face the judges twice with the title on the line. He has never been told to pack his knives and go. Of the reality shows I cover, he joins Sandra from Survivor and Eric from The Amazing Race as the only ones to go to the end each time they played. And Blais managed to do it without ever being satisfied with anything he ever prepared.
Keep this in mind; the elimination challenge this week was to cook a very personal dish for a famous, accomplished and somewhat intimidating chef. Blais got Wolfgang Puck and Austrian food. Who even knows how to cook Austrian food? Even the Austrians struggle with that. Of course, all I know about Austria is that they usually do well in Olympic skiing, birthed Mozart and were part of the alliance we fought in World War I. However, Blais managed to make a goulash that made Puck remember his childhood. Even more impressive, he made strudel despite not ever making it before. Remember this – on Top Chef, the chefs do not have any recipes, or access to learn of any, at all. Blais made a dessert for the first time, one very personal to one of the best chefs in the world, without knowing how to actually make the dessert.
This competition is his for the taking. Just the way it was in Season 4. He failed to take it that season, choking badly in the Finals. This season’s theme is basically coming down to be either history repeating itself for him, or a really nice redemption story of the best chef to cook on the show.
And I am totally going to at least one of his restaurants when I go to Atlanta this spring, and I hope that after all the glowing things I’ve written about Blais this season, that I can get some free strudel out of it.
Mike – I find it interesting to see how returning reality All-Stars shows are often dominated by teams that were the least successful on their original season. Case in point – Boston Rob on All-Stars (and Amber didn’t exactly dominate Australia), Parvati on Micronesia, Danielle on Amazing Race, and now Mike. It’s almost as though they are hungrier than the All-Stars who went deep or to the Finals on their original seasons.
Mike was the guy on his season that boasted a lot, but never really put it on the plate. This is something we have seen this season from time to time as well. However, it is interesting that he got called back to All-Stars when so many others who performed better were not. Either they turned the show down, or Mike is a much better chef than we had previously witnessed.
I think it is the second choice, and these Bahamas episodes are proving it.
He did get a little lucky during the Quickfire that Blais really would up making the task easier for Mike. As Antonia rightly said, assigning Mike the “one pot” challenge was all well and good in a vacuum, but in this case, instead of tying down to an ingredient, it opened up the whole kitchen to him. Mike got a second break when Blais took away Mike’s utensils as the extra twist, instead of one of the other options. Mike used the pressure cooker as his one pot, so he really had no major use for utensils at that point. Making him try to open a pressure cooker one-handed would have been difficult.
In the elimination, Mike got the easiest task, but that is a double-edged sword. Fried chicken is easy to make, while Austrian and Japanese food present a real challenge, and as Blais said, required them to understand a culture. However, this works against Mike in one way – it was too easy. As a result, he tried to get too fancy by cooking the chicken sous vide before frying it and it did not work.
Mike is cooking with great confidence and is not afraid of Blais at all. This Finale should be quite interesting.