If you’ve been following my Top Chef posts you know I feel it’s been a long, uneventful, and trying season for the show and me. Our Facebook status would be “it’s complicated.” As the season progressed I was more and more disappointed in the challenges. Looking back I feel the show’s producers should bear much of the blame for this. Many of the challenges just didn’t seem geared to let the chefs’ do much creativity-wise. Which makes the finale all the more puzzling to me. It was awesome!
As with everything this season, they changed things up a bit. The finale was basically a restaurant wars between the Paul and Sarah. Now I love restaurant wars but I’m not sure it belongs in the final. However, they did give the chefs the chance to have their own brigade (yes, pun intended). They brought back some of the chefs from this season, including ones who never made it past the qualifying, as well as two master chefs (maybe they’re on Top Chef Masters? you know they love their tie-ins!) to compete in a quickfire where each prepared a dish to be judged by Paul and Sarah. Paul and Sarah would then pick their four favorites and the chefs who made the dishes would become their sous chefs for the finale. And in this finale they got to keep them for the entire service instead of just the prep work, since they’d be cooking for and serving two seatings in their own restaurant. Luckily they didn’t have to design their restaurants, they were each given a space for the night. With this set-up you knew the food was going to be out of this world. I suppose they had to give them sous chefs for this type of finale since there’s no way they could have done it alone and I think this is a really good idea. It’s a real life setting, very practical and asks the finalists to maintain consistency and quality throughout an entire service.
So Sarah and Paul show up, taste the dishes, and start picking. Since Paul won the last challenge he got to go first. (Speaking of which, the show started off with Sarah saying she’s on a roll and has been winning, but Paul won the last one so that “roll” hit a bump, no? Whoever was editing this season hasn’t been paying much attention.) Paul picks one of the master chefs, Keith, Malibu Chris, and Ty-Lor. Sarah picks Heather, Grayson, Nyesha, and the guy who Tom kicked off for mangling some meat in the qualifiers. Yeah they asked that guy back. Paul picks a James Beard Award winner, Sarah gets the guy who never even cooked anything he sucked so bad. Everyone cringes. Sarah took it in stride and made a really funny comment about how she wasn’t going to let him butcher anything. Good one!
So they all go off shopping and get to their respective restaurants to start prepping. As with most episodes this season there wasn’t much drama and everyone got settled in. Next day they come back and one of Paul’s ingredients has gone bad overnight, the crab smells funky. Not to worry though as he bought some shrimp just to have in case something went wrong. Smart dude. He switches it up and plays through. Both chefs hit home runs with their food. Most of the time you’re waiting for some criticism from the judges but there really wasn’t any. Paul made one mistake on the first course of the second sitting, serving some overcooked custard which he knew was trouble. Sarah had a problem with her pickled beets and polenta in the first sitting but fixed it for the second. In the end it came down to splitting some really fine hairs. Tom commented that the two meals the judges ate were the best ever meals served on Top Chef. Not surprising since the chefs had a staff to help prepare and serve, I just hope Top Chef noticed this was a good thing.
Judges Table was tough. From what we saw on TV it really looked like the first and last dishes went to Sarah but the middle two went to Paul. One really funny moment was when Gail and Hugh disagreed about Paul’s congee. I found it very amusing that Male Gail was arguing with Original Gail. I kept waiting for Tom to tell them both to shut it. It came down to the little things and so Paul was awarded the title of Top Chef based on his near perfect technique, execution, and balance. It was too bad Chicago didn’t get the win. Sarah cooked her ass off and really went outside her comfort zone, which I thought she had to do in order to have a strong chance at beating Paul. Almost pulled it off too. Paul was just way too talented for this season. I think he won 9 individual challenges. Both of them cooked amazing looking food and it sucked one had to lose. In the end I think they got it right but Sarah really did a great job. A very good ending to a somewhat disappointing season.