Season Nine is in the books, after over 17 hours of television. And the reunion still to come! I would rank the season somewhere in the middle of the pantheon of Top Chef seasons – it was a bit too long, and had far too many non-descript contestants. There were too many cook outs, and too many challenges that were just too physical and complicated rather than focused on the cooking. However, it was enjoyable, and produced some of the more memorable characters in show history.
If we look ahead to Season 16 and the next assumed All-Stars, I can easily see our two finalists involved, along with Bev, Edward, Grayson and Malibu. All for varying reasons. Bev’s story was so interesting with the bullying and the confidence issues coupled with some really good cooking. Edward was the king of the quips this year, and Grayson was the queen. Malibu was interesting only for his good looks and creepy paintings – but he is running away with fan favorite voting. Stunning that the good-looking guy is winning a vote dominated by the women and gay men who populate Bravo’s fan base.
We pick up where we left off week as the judges tell Qui-Gon and Sarah that the final challenge is to make a four course tasting meal. They are taking over two restaurants – Black & Blue and Coast and will each get a team of sous chefs. So it is a mini Restaurant Wars to some degree.
Sort of Quickfire Challenge – Some of the past chefs come in, even three from the first two episodes’ play-in round – The Butcher Boy, Vegan Guy and Pressure Cooker Girl – and two master chefs – Barbara Lynch and Marco Canora. They gather to earn the right to be hired help. Malibu shares that he has back sweat. Thanks, and ew. The Butcher is back and is annoying as we remember. There is a great, classic Grayson-Malibu exchange – That’s pretty/you’re pretty. Sarah and Qui-Gon come in to taste and for some reason, Sarah is shaking. Malibu went Asian to entice Qui-Gon, because he just really wants another five minutes of screen time. There is no reason given for the absence of Edward, Lindsay, Bev, etc.
Paul gets the first dish – He picks what sounds like the Butter Soup, Shellfish, Milk and Honey Caviar – That lands him a master chef as Barbara joins his team. Sarah picks Halibut, Green Mussels, Pomegranate – And she gets RILCK monster Nyesha. Qui-Gon’s second choice is The Destroyer’s Buckwheat Noodles with Local Shellfish.
Sarah tries to be cute and guess what Heather made in order to get her. Of course, I have no idea why she was going out of her way to get Heather, other Sarah’s stated desire for a pastry chef. That was all Heather did well this season, one would think she’d be trying to land the other Master Chef available! Anyway, she guesses a gross looking Sweet Scallops with Raisin Sauce dish that she remembers Heather having on her menu. Instead she gets The Butcher. If you recall from Ep 1, Tom awesomely axed that young, cocky guy for totally destroying a piece of meat. He never even got to cook! He almost took out Grayson at the same time – as he was butchering her meat as well. Imagine, Top Chef Texas without Grayson. Scary, right?
Qui-Gon’s third is Malibu’s Lamb, Blueberry Mustard and Crispy Parsnip. Mission accomplished for Malibu. Sarah guesses Heather correctly for her third slot – Chicken with Black Pepper and Buttermilk Dumplings. Lastly, Qui-Gon calls for the dish with Dungeness Crab and gets RickRoss and his awesome beard. Our last chance for just a bit more Grayson is successful as Sarah chooses her Pasta Carbonara with Fried Brussels Sprouts. We know Malibu was aiming to lure Qui-Gon with his Asian meal, well, I think Grayson was doing the same for Sarah with her pasta dish.
So the teams are: Qui-Gon, Barbara, The Destroyer, Malibu and RickRoss vs. Sarah, Nyesha, The Butcher, Heather and Grayson. Sarah notes that it is her Restaurant Wars team but with The Butcher. He replaces Bev – and I am sure she regrets not having Bev for this (and Nyesha for Lindsay is probably a win for her too).
They get six hours to prep, followed by another three the next day. Sarah goes for a German/Italian menu, which she says is out of her comfort zone. Um, Italian? Isn’t that the warm underbelly of her comfort zone? The Butcher tries to make the most of his unexpected bonus 10 minutes of screen time by pestering Sarah to make things he wants to make, in the style that he likes.
While shopping, Qui-Gon grabs some extra shrimp just in case. These shrimp might as well have been called Foreshadowing Prawns, as they came in handy later on after his crab went awry.