After being crowned Top Chef, Chef Kish thanked Tom Colicchio for Last Chance Kitchen, and there's little wonder why. In the past, top contenders have been sent home for being the leaders in Restaurant Wars. This time, however, Kristen was able to fight her way back into the finale and claim the Top Chef win. Chef Kish was deemed a favorite to take the top prize after only a couple of episodes, and her determination to win never faltered. To battle back after her controversial elimination was quite a feat and proves that Chef Kish is truly Top Chef.
It looked like Top Chef became Iron Chef when the two finalists, Brooke and Kristen, went head-to-head in a flashy kitchen studio with a live audience. The cheftestants were competing to win the best three courses out of a possible five in order to be crowned Top Chef.
For the first course, Kristen served chicken liver mousse while Brooke went with a crispy pig ear and three-minute egg. The judges gave Kristen the win. The second course was a scallop battle and this time Brooke's hard-seared scallop won out over Kristen's citrus cured mollusk.
With the score tied, Brooke tried to show that she could cook chicken on the bone with vadouvan chicken wings. Kristen's bone marrow and celery root puree won the round however. Course number four was a red snapper battle. Brooke paired her snapper with pork cheek while Kristen went with a simpler preparation using leeks and uni. Kristen's clean, straight-forward approach gave her the third win and the title of Top Chef.
What did you think of last night's finale? Leave your comments below.
A Just Recompense on Project Runway: "Some will disagree, as Top Chef has stolen the concept of 'home visits' from Project Runway (which probably means the Elves merely transplanted their own idea). Problem is: what makes the PR home visits work is Tim Gunn. Top Chef has no Tim Gunn (remember one of the first things Tom said back in Season 1: 'I’m not a mentor, I’m a judge'). What they do have are two finalists with lovely families, and I suppose the producers just couldn’t resist the opportunity to show that off. Not to mention get a trip to Hawaii."
Minxeats on cranky: "Soon enough time is up and Tom is in the kitchen to expedite. And he's a real cranky bossypants in that position. He makes the chefs as nervous as if this were the first time they had ever worked the line, and both Sheldon and Kristen DO work the line at their current jobs. In between fits of crank, Tom tastes all of the dishes."
Eater on welcome back: "I have never been as nervous watching Top Chef as I was last night, while Sheldon and Brooke waited to see who'd come through the double doors. Maybe it's my innate sense of fairness, maybe it's because I've developed this strong emotional attachment to Chef Kish, maybe I realize that the $125,000 prize money could be part of our dowery, but I would have flipped out at this show had Kristen not rolled through. I would have walked away and left Eater without its final two recaps. And God forbid a blog doesn't post about a TV show; the whole system would shut down. But Kristen did not disappoint. She's back, and Brooke, Sheldon, and Kristen make for one of the best final threes I can recall."
Grub Street on where's the product placement? "The three chefs marvel that they’re cooking in craft’s kitchen, but it looks like every other kitchen to me: I see ovens, sinks, and shiny counters. Interestingly, I don’t see any Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Healthy Choice Meals, or Reynolds Wrap. Are we sure this place is legit?"
Chef Sheldon Simeon talks to ATC about his experience on the show.
ATC: It looks like you have become a celebrity in Hawaii. How does that feel?
SS: Everyone has been so nice. It is definitely weird to be recognized in the street and to be posing for photographs. But I was the same way. I mean I have been a fan of the show and I was giddy whenever I saw any of the chefs. I enjoy meeting new people and it has really been fun.
ATC: Were you surprised to see Kristen as the winner of Last Chance Kitchen?
SS: No. Not at all. Everyone knew that she was a frontrunner. It was a surprise when she was eliminated. I had a feeling she would be back.
After a long season in which Sheldon's talent grew more and more apparent with each passing episode, it was a bit of a letdown to see him change his own personal culinary gears and produce a rather lackluster dinner. Not that it wasn't delicious, but there was a bit too much "new Sheldon" and not enough "old Sheldon" in his meal, particularly in his quail with pine nut sauce. The raw fennel in his dessert didn't help things, either.
Sheldon's dream is to have his own restaurant some day, and judging by the mini-celebrity he's seemed to achieved in his native Hawaii, that dream will probably be coming true in the near future.
Great work this season, Chef! We know we'll be hearing more about you in the years to come.
Sheldon and Brooke parted ways in Alaska only to be reunited six and a half months later in Los Angeles for the Top Chef Seattle finale. They head to Tom Colicchio's Craft and find out who they'll be competing against - the winner of Last Chance Kitchen. Not surprisingly, it's Kristen, who beat the pants off the last several auf'd cheftestants, as we see in a rather long-winded montage segment.
The challenge the final three face is to cook a three course meal during service at Craft. They are each responsible for an app, an entree, and a dessert. Brooke starts out slow, changing her mind about her courses every few minutes. Sheldon seems pretty confident in his first two courses. He promises to show a bit of "new Sheldon" because he believes he should demonstrate his growth through the competition. Kristen realizes she over-thinks things and vows to keep it simple, stupid.
In the end, Brooke had issues during service but her three courses were probably the strongest. Kristen's meal had its problems, but ultimately was good enough to get her a spot in the finale. And the new Sheldon wasn't as appreciated as much as the old Sheldon. His quail dish was tasty and well cooked, but didn't show off the flavors he'd made himself famous for over the past several weeks. And his dismissal means that Top Chef will finally get a second female winner.
What did you think about this episode? Please leave a comment.
A Just Recompense on transport, Top Chef-style: "Continuing the theme of weird transportation (the Elves wanted to go with Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but it was already taken, so we got 'Cruise Ships, Helicopters, and Dogsleds' instead. And if that doesn’t have quite the same ring, well, that’s television; it isn’t like they had the $30 mil budget of the movie), they travel by dogsled to an Iditarod training camp. Brooke isn’t afraid of dogsleds. Either that, or the Xanax is still in effect."
Minxeats on scumbag behavior: "Roy [Choi], a Food & Wine best new chef, rose to fame with his fleet of Kogi Korean BBQ Food trucks. He tells the chefs that before he got into cooking full time, he was a real 'scumbag.' But one day, while being a scumbag, doing scumbag things like hanging out on the couch, watching Emeril Live! he happened to catch an episode in which Emeril cooks short ribs. It was a lightbulb moment, and right after that, Choi looked into culinary schools."
Grub Street on looking back: "But! Before that happens, the shit really hits the fan for Josh: His wife calls to inform him — via speakerphone, for the sake of the cameras — that her water broke and she's about to have their baby. Josh is moderately broken up. His kid will always know that dad missed the birth of his child because he was on a reality cooking competition. But chin up, kid: Going through life knowing that your dad chose Top Chef over your birth won't be half as embarrassing as knowing your dad thought an ironic waxed mustache was a smart look in 2013."
Eater on doggies: "The chefs disembark from the helicopter and are surrounded by so many dogs. Oh my God I love pups. Are they cooking for the dogs? I would very much like to see a Quickfire judged by 100 barking dogs. I think Josh would have a good chance of winning. Or do the chefs have to use the dogs as a main ingredient? I do not support kennel-to-table cooking, no matter how local it may be in Alaska."
Top Chef Seattle contestant, Josh Valentine talks about his experience on the show.
ATC: Tell us about FT33. JV: Right now I am the pastry chef. We have been open for about 5 months. We were just named the "Best New Restaurant of 2012" in Dallas. ATC: What does "FT33" mean? JV: It's kind of a restaurant term - "Fire Table 33." We are an open-kitchen restaurant. Thirty-three is kind of the chef's table. It is elevated and the diners can see into the kitchen and watch as everything is plated. ATC: What is the most popular pastry item on the menu? JV: The menu changes regularly because we are very seasonal. Right now we have a peanut butter panna cotta dessert - that one is very popular. Everyone likes chocolate and peanut butter. Probably one of the more interesting desserts right now is the Olive Oil Financier with Juniper Ganache and Apple Celery Sorbet and Compressed Celery with Gin. ATC: Yum.
It feels odd saying goodbye to a Valentine on Valentine's Day, but sadly we must bid farewell to Chef Joshua Valentine. When asked to make a dish that reflected the moment he knew he wanted to become a chef, Chef Valentine remembered reading an article about foie gras when he was 16 years old. He prepared foie gras three ways, but one of those preparations, a torchon, proved to be his downfall. He overreached, trying to make a dish that would normally takes days to prepare in only two and a half hours.
While it was sad to see him go so close to the finale, at least he could get home to his wife and newborn daughter Georgia.
Well, this is getting rather redundant! Chef Williamson has won again! Not only did she win the Quickfire Challenge, but she also won the Elimination Challenge. Using her mother as the inspiration for why she wanted to become a chef, she made braised chicken and quail. Equally homey and complex, Chef Williamson illustrated both the roots of her culinary interest and the level of expertise she has developed along the way.
Heading into the finale, she has certainly shown that she has what it takes to win. Only Sheldon and the winner of Last Chance Kitchen stand in her way.
With only three cheftestants left, the episode had to be padded somehow. The final three were driven to the Eagle Crest ski area, flown by helicopter into the mountains, and then put on dog sleds to finally reach a dog sledding camp. Padma and Tom were already there and told the chefs that they had 30 minutes to make a dish for the dog sled athletes using whatever was in the camp. Brooke and Sheldon opt for halibut while Josh falls back on his favorite: breakfast. It came down to the two halibut dishes, but Brooke pulled out the win because of her panzanella salad.
After returning to sea level, the chefs were treated to a lunch prepared by Emeril and hot LA chef, Roy Choi. During the lunch, everyone talked about the moment they knew they wanted to become chefs. This led to the Elimination Challenge: make a dish that reflects this pivotal moment. They had two and a half hours to prep and cook for the judges, along with the Governor and First Lady of Alaska at the Governor's mansion. With Sam Choi as his inspiration, Sheldon cooked snapper. Josh used foie gras as inspiration and prepared it three ways. Brooke used her mother's cooking as inspiration and made braised chicken and quail.
Brooke's dish took the win, but Sheldon's broth was too salty and Josh's torchon did not live up to expectations. It was a close call, but Josh was sent home to be with his wife and newborn daughter.
What did you think of last night's episode? Leave your comments below.
A Just Recompense on the bonus prize: "To no one’s surprise, Brooke wins. Seems the locals all agreed, as well. “I’m dying to go to Costa Rica,” she says. I don’t know if that’s because a producer is poking her with a sharp stick to get her to be enthusiastic about this product-placement prize, or if she’s always wanted to learn more about Fair Trade coffee – or if she’s just cold."
Minxeats on missing old friends: "This week the cheftestants - Mustache, Sheldon, Brooke, and Lizzie - start the show off by lamenting the loss of dear, sweet, kind, thumb-like Stefan. They miss his good heart, or something like that. Surely he paid them to compliment him after he left."
Eater on culinary destinations: "The chefs are at Tracy's King Crab Shack, 'Juneau's #1 culinary destination.' They are also literally steps from where their cruise ship docked, which is a funny place for a city's most famous restaurant to be. It's as if people land in Juneau to grab something from Tracy's and then immediately leave to eat it, like if the Burger King in the Port Authority was New York's #1 culinary destination, which it is if you are addicted to huffing."
Mary Alice from Charm City Cakes for the Baltimore Sun on babies, but not Josh's: "Sheldon is up next, he’s prepared a green tea & chive sourdough with smoked salmon and pea soup. His dish has some problems. Sean Brock is disappointed how Sheldon actually served the salmon — ripping it up with tongs like it was pulled pork. 'It is almost disrespectful.' he said. Hugh thinks the soup reminded him more of baby food. 'But a good baby, a healthy baby, a well flavored baby.' and suddenly we’re all thinking of soup that is made from babies. Thanks, Hugh."
Foodie Gossip on home sweet home: "The foursome retreat to the Jorgenson House, a lovely bed and breakfast in Juneau. Imagine a cozy country home complete with fireplace and old timey furniture. They do the obligatory “walk around and talk about how nice things are” scene when in a moment hard to describe with words, Sheldon jumps out from a curtain and scares the bejesus out of Brooke. She was genuinely scared, like literally curled up in a ball with tears coming out. Ah...priceless."
Grub Street still doesn't bother to do research or spell check: "Sheldon is smoking pine needles to flavor his asparagus. What kind of example is Sheldon setting? He’s essentially using a forest fire as an ingredient. This is the moment when Smokey the Bear throws a brick at his TV. Sheldon makes a miso out of the crab innards. Brooke goes crab-crazy, turning out crab butter with crab, and topping it off with crab salad and more crab. Josh decides to poach crab legs and make soucatosh(?), which pleases Sean Brock, a southern gentleman and suocautash(?) enthusiast who apparently hopped the wrong boxcar and wound up in Alaska."
Chef Lizzie hung in there for fourteen weeks, usually earning compliments on her dishes. This week, she got to cook fish, a protein that should be in her wheelhouse, especially since her late father taught her how to catch and clean her own. She chose a simple dish, citrus and beet glazed salmon served on home-made sourdough rolls. While her rolls were the best bread of the evening, the fish didn't have enough seasoning to stand out, and for that, she was sent home.
Good luck, Lizzie, in your career. We've enjoyed watching you and maybe we'll see you later in the competition, if you win LCK or are saved by the viewers.
Tom Colicchio wondered about Brooke's decision to poach her salmon to order in the Elimination Challenge this week, and his comments to that effect made her rethink her decision. It was too late to change things at that point in the game, but it didn't matter - her original idea was a great success. The judges loved her salmon and her broth, and the way the bread soaked it up.
Congrats, Chef Brooke, on your second consecutive Elimination Challenge win, and enjoy the trip to Costa Rica!
This week, the chefs competed in lovely Juneau, Alaska, using fresh Alaskan seafood. First, they celebrated crab by using it in the Quickfire Challenge. Sheldon impressed guest judge Sean Brock with his miso soup and pine-smoked asparagus with crab, and got a nifty $5,000 prize to take home.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to use freshly-caught salmon and 31-year-old sourdough starter to feed 200 diners at a picnic-like event called the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. Rather than bake their salmon, three of the four cheftestants made soup, and Lizzie cooked her fish on the grill.
Brooke's dish of poached salmon with broth hit all the right notes with the judges, and they gave her the win and a trip to Costa Rica. The other three dishes had both high and low points, but they decided that Lizzie's salmon didn't have enough flavor to compete with her near-perfect sourdough roll. She had lots of experience with fishing as a child, but it wasn't enough to keep her in the competition.
What did you think about this episode? Please leave a comment.
Minxeatson ill-advised: "Brooke doesn't like boats. She doesn't explain exactly why. She says she has to get over it though because she fears passing her phobia on to her kid. But isn't that what parents are for? To make their kids neurotic? She indulges in a series of umbrella drinks with her compadres and keeps a box of Dramamine handy, just in case drinking on a boat is a bad idea. Ahem."
Eater on the non-foodie member of the lettuce family: "Sheldon is bummed because iceberg is so boring but I would counter that maybe Sheldon is boring and he should shut up. Iceberg lettuce is great. It's what gives Taco Bell soft tacos crunch and stops them from being entirely smooth, frictionless diarrhea igniters."
HitFix on Qsine: "The theme of the evening is wacky, it seems. They eat sushi lollipops and food in drawers. The drawer thing is not working for Stefan, as he has OCD and wants to move everything around. I'm just wondering if the food is any good, honestly. Putting sushi on a stick does not in any way make it better."
Grub Street on Curtis: "Okay, anyway, they walk into the ship’s kitchen (called 'the galley') where they see ... CURTIS STONE! Curtis Stone is one of my favorite people to look at and think about in the context of cooking shows. Needless to say, he looks like an Adonis, although I’m not crazy about his new short haircut — I miss the wind-swept chaos that used to define his personal grooming. Maybe the producers asked him to cut it because of its resemblance to deadly crashing waves? (Lizzie has no complaints and gushes over Curtis’s appearance.)"
Allie is Wired on Quickfire eats: "Padma and Curtis are enjoying some booze on deck. Stefan serves up his offering first. It goes over well. Sheldon gets a 'very nice' from Padma before Lizzie enters with her bacon infused creation. Josh also shows up with a bacon heavy bite. Curtis notes that Josh 'walks like a chef.' Not sure what that means. Brooke offers up a mouthful of scallop nibbly thing."
Entertainment Weekly on proteins: "Because Sheldon won the Quickfire, he'd get first pick at his proteins, and none of the other chefs could choose them. The other chefs joked that Sheldon should choose canned tuna and Spam and other undesirables. But instead of reaching for the emu meat and live sea cucumber, he went for the most standard proteins available: beef tenderloin and lobster."
A Just Recompense on surf and surf? "Brooke takes frog legs and mussels. This raises an interesting question: are amphibians surf, or turf? They’re usually treated like chicken. They breathe air. I call them turf. But she’s not sure. It’s different, at least. She’s stressed because her dish takes seven steps to plate. But she gets the Mussels and Frog Legs with Celery Root and Fennel Puree, Papadums, and Shallot Chutney done. Curtis is impressed with the inventiveness. Tom likes the flavors; frogs aren’t usually that earthy, but she made them earthy. The only problem is the greasy papadums."
Kumomoto oysters with American sturgeon caviar, watercress,
leek, and champagne sabayon from 610 Magnolia
On a road trip from Cincinnati to Louisville, I finally got to taste the food at 610 Magnolia, Season 9 contestant Edward Lee’s flagship restaurant. Lee is about to open his second restaurant, Milkwood, at Actors Theater of Louisville. Check out this video interview from Louisville TV station WHAS with Chef Lee and Kevin Ashworth, who will head the Milkwood kitchen, for a glimpse at the new space and the “comfort food with an Asian twist” it will serve up.
Hungry for more? How about frog legs with fish sauce and bourbon brown butter, which Kevin demo's here.
The night I ate at 610, I was fortunate not only to enjoy a truly spectacular meal but also to meet Chefs Lee and Ashworth. These talented, thoughtful chefs were gracious enough to give me a few minutes of their time – even as they ran back and forth across the street between 610 and the restaurant’s Wine Studio, which reportedly was hosting a private event for Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert. You can find the full story of my evening here.
Sous-vide beef tongue with heirloom baby beets,
wild caperberries, mustard ice cream, and nigella seeds
One thing’s for certain, if I have a chance to taste the signature 610 BLT again at either restaurant, I’m going for it. The “L” in their version stands for liver, as in foie gras, which is combined with bacon ends and red wine to create the most devastatingly delicious paté I have ever eaten. Add some oven-dried tomatoes and aged gouda and sandwich between toasty bread and you have a definite winner! (Recipe here.)
Best of luck at Milkwood to Chef Ashworth and to Chef Lee, who is also soon to be a new father! Fittingly, the baby is due the week of the Kentucky Derby.
Top Chef Seattle contestant, Stefan Richter talks about his experience on the show.
ATC: Going in to the competition, did you feel that you had an advantage?
SR: I think it was a disadvantage to be honest. You kind of dread what is going to happen. The waiting and the stew room, it is really harsh. You see two minutes of it, but it is actually five hours. What do we do? We drink and we bicker. It's very difficult. I knew that going in.