That’s right, I’m quoting .38 Special. Sue me.
We have our Final Four – Doug calls this the hardest thing he has ever done. And from such an accomplished chef, it pretty much tells you how difficult this show is for these chefs. And at this point – we only have nitpicks separating them all.
Let’s get into it – why don’t we?
Final QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE – Making a great burger. Doug is confident with is Top 25 burger ranking in Food and Wine Magazine. Jen rightfully points out the important detail of meat vs. bun ratio. Burke also boasts about his best in NYC burger. He also thinks he got screwed in the ketchup challenge by Lemony Snicket. And that’s a really odd sentence. It sounded like Doug said he had a shrimp burger in McDonalds in the Far East, but that just cannot be correct. Bot is going old school – in his final attempt to EVER win a Quickfire. Doug’s shrimp burger ain’t working, it’s rubbery. Ah, maybe it was McDonalds!
Sang is the judge. And I wonder if anyone bailed at the last minute because, what would have happened if he didn’t lose last week? Unless it was just always going to be the fifth place finisher. The alternative is that they bumped someone to add in Sang because they liked his humor. If so, then expect to see Sang hosting Top Chef: Condiments any day soon. We flash back to TCM Season 1 and Sang joining Spike and others judging burgers. And here he is again.
Burke – it looks like a totem pole, says Sang. He normally doesn’t like seafood burgers, but this one is juicy and “not off-putting.”
Jen – She put in ketchup and he cringed. However, there was much flavor and her sriraccha ketchup won him over.
Bot – Sang felt the meat was very meatloafy.
Doug – He can’t really taste the shrimp
Sang jokes that he didn’t actually have any delicious burgers. He puts Bot and Doug on the bottom, and Jen and Burke on the top. Jen gets another win – five grand for women and the season lead over Sang for total cash won.
The Sous Chefs had to cook a dish conceived for them by their Masters. Bot’s sous Graeme and his SpikeHawk win the challenge and earn Bot immunity and a spot in the Finals. However, he will go all out in the ELIMINATION CHALLENGE because they are paying tribute to four special LA Unified School District teachers.
Emily Crush – a special ed teacher who inspired one particular special needs student.
Carlos Lauchu- who teaches the AP test to middle schoolers and gets them to pass.
Stacey Joy – a lifelong teacher of fifth grade in South LA who always makes do with no resources.
And Jeffrey Austin- a history and government teacher who tries to teach kids to be strong citizens. They each get assigned a teacher and must cook a special dish for them. The pairings are Doug/Emily, Bot/Carlos, Jen/Stacey, Burke/Jeffrey. Jen is inspired because like Stacey, they each have known their passion since childhood. Burke is going for 60 souffles and Doug thinks that gives him titanium balls for taking on such a challenge upon a challenge. Bot feels inspired because like Carlos he tries to enlighten people with new ideas and flavor profiles.
Added bonus – the teachers had no idea they were the guests of honor. The challenge is judged by Dr. Sweater, Gail, Stone and Alan Richman from GQ. I still say Adam Richman would be much more fun. At least there would be a lot more food.
Doug gets Burke to help him plate and presents roses to Emily, and one to the kid, Camille. He made a super fancy dish for her. Lt. Sweater found it luxurious and felt like a celebration. Gail said it was beautiful, and Stone felt it was a bit rich on rich on rich.
Bot says Carlos inspired him because he teaches kids to change minds and do things differently. Richman felt the texture was so perfect, and Gail felt it was scary how Bot made this relatable.
Jen’s meat is rare. Bot and Doug both know it. She tried to take a simple dish and elevate it, like Stacey does with her classroom. Big Mama Sweater thought the granola on top was good, but the lamb was undercooked. Gail was ok with the undercooked meat, but not all of the imperfections. However, Stacey was overwhelmed. Her mom was a lamb chop aficionado, and she hasn’t touched a bite since losing her in 2010. Damn.
Jeffrey may have expected tacos and bacon as a dish representing him, Burke made soufflé because while Jeffrey mentors and inspires, so did Burke’s profs in culinary school and he still remembers the day he learned how to make this delicate dessert. Captain Sweater found little springiness. Stone admired the chance taken, and Jeffrey really appreciated the challenge and the risk taken on his behalf.
Clearly, Doug and Bot were the winners, and Jen and Burke fighting for survival. Bot wins his first challenge of the season – he overwhelmed them all. It came down to Jen’s undercooked meat and Burke’s risky but unfulfilling dessert. As always, dessert kills on Top Chef and Burke’s gruffness takes a fourth place finish. He had kind words for the chefs on the way out – tantamount to him saying, “kids today” – but still, he respects these guys and knows they are the future. He can now go back to romancing Colombian ex-strippers.
So it is Jen/Bot/Doug in the Finals. Bot becomes the second person in Top Chef history to make the Finals in two different seasons – the first to do so on two different versions of Top Chef. Blais won his second time around – will Bot do the same?
We get 15 minutes of sous challenge on TV this time – but since I decided early on not to include the goings on in these columns, not starting now. I’ll just say that Graeme’s dish won, and he gets 10K, while Paul loses and puts Doug in the hole for the Finals. One hour of non-sous cooking for Doug. Sang will be happy.
• Stone calls out that it is 60 seconds to Burger Time and I flashed back to one of my most addictive video game that I used to play with my mom.
• Doug, upon seeing Sang judging his subpar burger – “He has a great palate…I have no chance. He’s an idiot, but for a number of different reasons.”
• Emily staged a friggin royal wedding to make that little girl happy. A staged wedding!!
• Can we talk about Punk Rock Jen? Which, incidentally, is the newest hot toy for girls this Christmas.
• Has anyone ever combined he words “elevated” and “porridge” before Jen in this episode?
• Listen Carlos, the woman who felt that something robust equals “you in a bowl” – she is not just your “friend.” Who are we fooling?
• Stone to the chefs after the emotional meal – “Go on, get back and clean the kitchen.” HA!
• Extra – High School Gail photos. Watch what happens.
Next Week The Finale – the sous prep a meal to be included in the final menu and the Final Three gets their own sous to pitch in for the win.