This is it guys — the Top Chef finale! Who will win it all? Will it be quietly arrogant Richard, lover of puns, fauxhawks and molecular gastronomy? Will it be fan favorite Yoda, who has overcome her often-horriffic Quick Fire showings with class, poise and the most Elimination Challenge high finishes? Or will it be conspiracy theorist Fleasa, hater of showers, soap and pleasant facial expressions? You all know who I’m rooting for, so without further ado, onto the recap!
If she wins, maybe Yoda can use the money to buy better-fitting pants.
We open this finale still in Puerto Rico with the three finalists sitting down to enjoy a meal and discuss how excited they are to be in the finals. You can practically hear the producer off camera urging them to talk about this, for they’re barely able to muster up the same level of excitement I display when my gyno calls me to schedule my yearly check-up. In truth, everyone just seems really exhausted and ready to get this over with.
As they sit there and stare awkwardly at each other, Yoda gives us the vagina monologues again, and Richard tells he needs to win for his wife and their baby on the way. I’m glad now that Antonia’s gone, he’s stepping into her IT’S FOR MY PRECIOUS CHILD shoes. Fantastic. Like everyone who watches this show, Richard can’t get over the fact that Fleasa’s still in the competition and doesn’t think she deserves to win. As long as both you and Yoda don’t choke, she won’t, so keep your shit together Blais. Fleasa tells us she realizes that Richard and Yoda are coming into the finale with a lot more EC wins under their belts, but the only thing that matters is who wins the last challenge. That is true, but her patented second-to-last strategy still means someone else is taking the crown. Thank god.
With the obligatory final meal finished, the chefs head to meet Scar and Daddy Tom at their final challenge. The final challenge sticks to its simple roots by demanding the chefs each create a traditional four course (fish-poultry-red meat-dessert) tasting menu. Haha, dessert as the final challenge — love it. Squirm, bitches. Yoda is understandably nervous, saying dessert isn’t her forte, while Fleasa complains that she doesn’t have any cake recipes memorized and she doesn’t even like cake. Who the hell said you had to make cake? Someone get this woman a Q-tip — I think the earwax buildup has reached epic proportions again.
“I have to make cake?! This is fucking sabotage!”
There’s another catch besides the dessert surprise. Like last year, each chef will be paired with an established and successful sous-chef. To choose from are April Bloomfield (chef/co-owner of The Spotted Pig), Dan Barber (chef/co-owner of Blue Hill), and Eric Ripert (chef/co-owner of Le Bernardin). However, each sous-chef has a different array of proteins. Orangesicle Eric has hibachi, snapper, clams, sea urchins, lobster, lamb, quail, bacon and caviar (I think, the French accent’s a bit thick and I can’t stop staring at his face in amused horror). Male pattern baldness victim Dan has FRESH scallops, squid, abalone, guinea hen, venison loin, pork belly, duck, foie gras, and cured ham. Finally, April’s chin has chicken, large shrimp, jumbo lump crab meat, some kind of steak, and oysters (another damn accent, this time British).
Scar announces the plan was for the chef with the most EC wins to pick first, but as Yoda and Richard shoot each other looks and begin counting on their fingers, Scar confirms that they are tied at four a piece. So instead they’re going to draw knives to determine first and second pick, with Fleasa automatically getting stuck with what’s left. Richard makes Yoda pull first, and then hilariously gulps gigantically when Yoda pulls the knife marked 1 and gets first choice. She takes Orangesicle, Richard chooses Moulting Dan as his sous-chef (seriously dude, I have not seen someone so in denial over their balding in a long time. I don’t care if you have a crater on the back of your skull. Shave you head), which leaves Fleasa with The Chin. Not that Fleasa minds. She thinks it’s awesome to work with another woman. She says it’s because of “girl power.” I say it’s because of “lesbianism.” As for the details, the dinner will be black-tie only with nine diners. The chefs will have three hours to prepare today and four hours tomorrow before service begins. They’ll be serving head-to-head.
In the kitchens, the final three meet with their sous-chefs to plan their menus. Fleasa immediately decides to go with Asian cuisine, focusing on flavors of Vietnam and Thailand, which makes sense given the judges gave her a bit of shit last week after straying so far from from her specialty. The Chin isn’t too familiar with Asian food so she’s a bit nervous, but Fleasa is brimming with confidence and good will. It’s pretty disturbing. At this rate, Yoda’s going to tell us that “Star Wars” is really overrated and Richard’s going to admit puns are the lowest form of humor. It’s Bizarro-Top Chef.
Be careful not to grate off your chin, Chin.
Richard, meanwhile, has decided his four courses will reflect his “journey”, showing both classic training and his molecular science shit. You know he’ll have developed some douchey name or story to go with that by dinner service. But neither he nor Moulting Dan seem to know what the hell they’re making yet. As for Yoda, she’s just going to focus on her flavor combinations and keeping things relatively simple.
As the sous-chefs are put to work, Orangesicle and Moulting Dan giggle over tasks they haven’t had to personally perform in years — such as filleting a fish and looking in a mirror. This makes Yoda nervous, so she hovers over and micromanages Orangesicle as he’s filleting her snapper (well that sounded oddly inappropriate). She finally relaxes enough to move away, but tells us she thinks she managed to insult him in the process. Seeing as though he’s a respected, award-winning chef, yes, probably. It’d be as if some ANTM contestant had the balls to instruct Tyra on how to smile with her eyes. Of course, Tyra would have immediately bitch-slapped the girl to death. Orangesicle will just mutter about you in French and pout in his super-duper watt tanning bed.
After a short musical intermission, we have 45 minutes left of prep for the day and Richard is ready to break out the toys. Each chef was allowed to make one special request, and he chose liquid nitrogen. He tells us there are probably less than a dozen chefs in the country who cook with the stuff. There’s probably a reason for that. I don’t see many people cooking with dog shit either. Anyway, he plans on using it to make tabasco ice cream (confirming my opinion that nothing good will come from this), and begins doing a few test runs. This attracts the attention of the sous-chefs, who actually stop what they’re doing and come over to observe while Richard tries not to let his raging hard-on knock over the containers.
“‘ello, Guv — I do think the fauxhawk bloke is a bit of a nutter.”
“Oui, oui, ma petite fleur avec le grande menton.”
Checking in with Yoda, she seems to be moving along smoothly now that she’s no longer patronizing Orangesicle. But the real surprise is Fleasa. Not only has she refrained from screaming/mocking/generally being an awful person to The Chin, but they’re getting along fabulously. As Yoda notes, Fleasa doesn’t get along with “everybody” (read: anybody), so it’s a little weird. Fleasa thinks it’ll give her an advantage because she’s happy and relaxed, and she cooks a lot better in this kind of mood than when she’s her normal, charming self.
The three hours have come and gone, so the chefs pack up for the night. Richard seems the most nervous, for he hasn’t been able to complete any dishes — because he still doesn’t know what the hell he’s serving! Instead he’s been merely preparing all the separate components of various dishes he might make. It’s still super early but Richard’s showing beginning signs of choking. Yoda, it may all be up to you. You got this. It’ll be just like “Star Wars.” You’re Princess Leia and Fleasa is… Jabba the Hutt.
The chefs arrive the next morning to find their sous-chefs conspicuously MIA, but they’re not completely alone — Daddy Tom is in the house. He asks them to gather round, Tim Gunn style, and announces the sous-chefs are on strike thanks to their incompetence. Or because the producers ordered it. The final three look ill as DT explains the judges want to make sure their final dishes are their own and not the product of their sous-chefs. With this happy news, DT takes off and leaves them to figure out what the hell to do now.
“Hey — you — camera guy. Get the fuck out of my way.”
Fleasa tells us her menu is going to reflect her personality, and begins listing off adjectives. Big (fine), bold (sure), spicy (okay), sweet (hahahahahaha omg can’t breathe), salty (definitely), and sour (ding ding ding we have a winner). Here comes everyone’s menu;
1st course (fish)
Fleasa- Grilled prawns
Yoda- Red snapper
2nd course (poultry)
Fleasa- Tom Kha Gai soup & dumplings
Richard- Guinea hen, foie gras, eggs
Yoda- Quail with lobster ravioli & quail egg
3rd course (red meat)
Fleasa- Wagyu beef
Richard- Pork belly
Yoda- Lamb medallions
4th course (dessert)
Fleasa- Thai rice pudding
Richard- Banana scallops & bacon ice cream (shit you not)
Yoda- Ricotta poundcake
Richard’s menu on paper looks the most troublesome to me. First, he’s serving pork belly again which could either be a really great or really dumb move. He obviously knows how to prepare it well, having won the EC last week, but I think the judges may be a little sick of pork belly — and it may be too easy to compare this pork belly unfavorably to last week’s if this one’s not as good. But let’s talk about his dessert. As we’ve seen every season, dessert is always a weak point — but this is the THIRD time Richard has made banana scallops. I’d be kinda pissed if I were the judges. And bacon ice cream sounds repulsive. Like butterscotch scallops repulsive. As for Fleasa and Yoda’s menus, neither one seems to have any obvious problems like Richard’s. Well, besides the fact it’s Fleasa cooking hers.
Daddy Tom is in the house again for what is likely the last time (sniff) to check on their progress. He chats with Richard first, which really doesn’t tell us anything other than Richard is about to shit a porcupine. When DT first approaches, Richard kinda tries to blow him off by pointing out he needs to watch the various pots on the stove, and looks annoyed when it doesn’t work. DT asks a general question about Richard’s menu, and Richard responds that it’s “abstract” and basically stares DT down until he leaves. I seriously think he’s in trouble now. Undaunted, Daddy Tom goes to Yoda next. Talk turns to her ricotta poundcake and the fact she’s only made it once before. Daddy Tom doesn’t look too confident in her ability not to poison him, but wishes her luck and moves on to Fleasa — who is still cheerful and tells him everything’s going perfectly. DT wears the same stunned expression I had on my face earlier when we saw Fleasa acting like this, and dazedly walks away.
The same expression he had when the producers suggested Rachael Ray guest judge.
Outside, DT takes a moment to share his thoughts with us. He calls Richard “excited” which is not the term I would use, and is worried that he may be overwhelmed and doing too much. Then again, if he can keep his shit together and pull it off, it should be awesome. He notes that Fleasa is calm and collected, and while she can be abrasive at times, a good chef needs that swagger. As for Yoda, he mentions she’s specifically worried about dessert but it’s her own damn fault for only having tried to make the ricotta poundcake once before. I agree. It’s season 4 people. This is ridiculous.
With two hours left before service, Richard has scrapped the tabasco ice cream plans and is just focusing on his bacon ice cream, hoping he can show the judges that his science shit has a practical function in that it freezes the ice cream so quickly, ice crystals can’t form. Hopefully they can notice that, but I worry they may be too busy gagging on BACON-flavored ice cream. With under 90 minutes left, Yoda decides now would be a good time to make sure her cake’s edible. Yes, good call to wait until it’s too late to do anything about it. She tastes it and announces it’s awful, which prompts Fleasa to chide her that she always says that and wins, and that Yoda should have more confidence in herself. Seriously, did someone read “The Secret” during the hiatus?
We’re down to our final minutes before dinner service, as the chefs scramble in the kitchen and the guests and judges arrive and get seated. The final three then come out to meet nine people they’ll be serving tonight. We have the judges (Scar, Daddy Tom, Gail and Ted Allen), the three sous-chefs (Orangesicle, The Chin, and Moulting Dan), local chef Alfredo Ayala (chef/owner of Delirio), and finally Tim Zagat, the bagillionaire behind Zagat Survey. Marry me?
“My mother named me after a cream sauce. I was either going to become a chef or one of those men who can’t leave their homes without a crane and a flatbed.”
Scar asks each chef to describe their four courses, and Richard is up first. As he talks, the camera pans down the menu and I audibly groan. While Yoda and Fleasa have each written their courses out like a normal person would (i.e. “Sauteed red snapper filet with truffled white asparagus and claim broth”), Richard has gotten fucking cute with his personal journey bullshit that I *knew* he would do. I even mentioned this a few pages ago in the recap — he never passes up an opportunity to do something douchey with his dish names. He’s named his first course “You Are Here”, his second course “Which Came First”, his third course “Be The Bacon”, and his fourth course “You Are Still Here”. Gee, thanks for that. This is even worse than his normal puns. What the fuck is a “You Are Here”? Are you serving hell on a platter, Richard, because that’s what it should be with this menu.
After Fleasa and Yoda introduce their menus (Asian-inspired and clean & flavorful, respectively), the chefs depart for the kitchen to send out the first course. Richard’s purposefully barely-cooked scallops with mango are discussed first, and do pretty well. While Moulting Dan doesn’t recognize the dish at all, most agree it’s well cooked and the mango is a great complement, with the only critique coming from Zagat that it should be simplified a bit. Fleasa’s chili-grilled prawns are next, and while The Chin loyally defends her chef, Alfredo and Zagat find the dish way too spicy. The third fish dish is Yoda’s sauteed red snapper, which is oddly served in coffee cups on saucers and topped by a bit of salad. No one appears to love the dish, but it seems to eek out as the best of the three fish offerings. From what I can tell, It’d put the rankings as Yoda, Richard and then Fleasa for the first course.
Now for the second course. Either there’s a lack of bowls in this kitchen, or serving food in coffee cups became the latest restaurant trend during the hiatus, because here they are again. Scar announces that the coffee cup on their left is Richard’s, and she hesitates before saying “Which Came First”, seeming to find it as ridiculous as I do. Anyway, it’s guinea hen and foie gras, which the judges again seem to like overall but not rave about. Part of the problem is the separate components all seem to merge together, at least partially because they’re jammed in a coffee cup. Up next is Fleasa’s Tom Kha Gai (coconut) soup, which finally prompts a true enthusiastic reaction from the judges — Gail loves it and could eat it by the bucketful. Maybe that’s why her clothes never seem to fit her. Everyone else seems extremely pleased as well. This takes us to Yoda’s quail with lobster ravioli, which makes the judges return to their lukewarm reactions. Ted Allen wanted more of the lobster flavors in the sauce, and DT and Gail melodramatically call out the leeks as undercooked and hugely problematic. So for the second course I’d rank the chefs Fleasa, Richard, and then Yoda.
“Did I just hear the Zagat guy say he doesn’t believe in prenups?!”
Third course time. Richard’s pork belly gets mostly negative reviews as the dreaded s-word (seasoning) rears its ugly head one last time. Almost everyone finds it under-seasoned, and Moulting Dan turns on his chef by saying the pork isn’t crispy enough. The pickled radish is highly praised, but I don’t think that’s going to save a red meat dish. They also have problems with Fleasa’s Wagyu beef, saying the sauce is basically the same one she used for the first course, only sweeter. The Chin critiques her chef by commenting the meat isn’t tender enough, and there wasn’t enough garlic flavors. Gail compliments the cucumber salad that came with the steak, prompting Scar to ask if The Chin made that component because the knife skills are a little too good for Fleasa. Ouch. Turns out The Chin did not make it, so Scar owes someone an apology. As for Yoda’s lamb medallions, they go over fantastically and get the highest praise of the night. Daddy Tom sums up the three dishes as Richard’s needs work, Fleasa’s is pedestrian, and Yoda’s is full of surprises (the good kind). I’d rank this course as Yoda, then Richard, and then Fleasa.
And we’ve come to dessert, with more coffee cups. The diners start off by talking about Fleasa’s Thai rice pudding first and the fact it looks like a swamp in a cup. However, despite its off-putting appearance, everyone seemed to enjoy the taste. Turning to Richard’s banana scallops and bacon ice cream, Moulting Dan says the dish shows off Richard’s playful side, but Orangesicle points out you first have to get the flavors right before you start douchebagging around. No one mentions the fact this is the dessert’s third appearance, or whether the bacon ice cream any good. Yoda’s ricotta poundcake gets the toughest reception as it’s deemed unrefined and just okay. We have very little information on this course, but I’d rank it as Fleasa, then Richard, and Yoda. So if every course is weighted equally, I have Yoda and Fleasa tying for first and Richard as a clear third. Then again, Richard came in the middle every single course, whereas Yoda and Fleasa either nailed it or really missed. The judges may reward consistency.
“Maybe Joe Zagat would like some of this. No, that wasn’t his name! Shit… shit. I’ve really gotta stop blazing doobies.”
Time for the final Judges’ Table this season! The chefs are brought in right away, and Scar takes a course-by-course approach. Starting with Richard’s scallops, the judges tell a shocked Richard that they were under-seasoned before quickly moving onto Fleasa’s prawns. Daddy Tom comments that they were pretty damn hot, and wants to know if that was intentional or accidental. Fleasa says it was completely intentional, because she wanted to show the judges the true way she likes to cook, and that’s spicy. They seem satisfied with that response and turn to Yoda and her red snapper and heap on the praise. It’s worth noting that Fleasa has assumed her normal Judges’ Table stance at this point. Guess “The Secret” didn’t cover body language.
Going back to Richard, Gail asks if he would have changed his second course (guinea hen) in any way. He babbles about the fois gras, which Gail dismisses as the wrong answer when she comments on the way all the components got muddled together in the cup. Again, Richard seems shocked with the criticism. The judges then lavish praise on Fleasa about her coconut soup before DT tells Yoda the leeks in her quail and lobster ravioli dish were terribly undercooked. He’s still pissed about it. Goddamn leeks! Yoda seemed to have no idea the leeks were undercooked, as her mouth drops open in surprise.
And back to Richard again for the third course. Ted wants to know whether Richard considered searing the pork belly a bit more, and Richard somewhat arrogantly replies that “it wasn’t worth it” because it would have sacrificed some of the integrity of the meat — a response which seems to annoy Daddy Tom. The judges briefly critique Fleasa’s steak dish for being improperly cooked a bit (since it was Kobe beef) and with too sweet a sauce before focusing on Yoda and her lamb medallions. Ted tells her it was one of the most creative dishes of the evening, and Daddy Tom seconds that and even thanks Yoda for the dish. If this does come down to a tie between her and Fleasa, it’s this dish that’s going to win it for our girl.
Finally, the judges want to discuss the fourth course, dessert. The judges ask Richard some basic questions about the banana scallops, and give moderate praise for the dish, before Scar hones in on the fact that Richard’s made banana scallops before. Swallowing his tongue, Richard says that was “a different variation” and makes a nervous sound in his throat. Umm, yeah I think that was a total lie to the judges. They either don’t notice or let it slide for now, as Scar turns to Fleasa’s Thai rice pudding and the judges call it delicious. As for Yoda’s ricotta poundcake, Daddy Tom tells her the dish was a miss.
Now that we’ve gone through the judges’ critique of all these dishes twice, Scar asks the contestants if they have any last words before the final deliberation. After a few seconds, Yoda pipes up and says she knows a big weakness of hers is second-guessing herself, but she’s learned from this experience and is what a Top Chef should be. Fleasa tells them she’s confident in her menu and confident they will name her Top Chef because she has the qualities to be Top Chef. Okay there’s confidence and that swagger Daddy Tom mentioned earlier, and then there’s being abrasive. Guess which one this is, Fleasa? On his turn, Richard doesn’t pull any punches, telling the judges flat-out that he choked a little bit. The judges are surprised and Scar asks for clarification. Richard doesn’t back peddle but instead says he over-thought things and knows this wasn’t his best performance on the show. He also looks a bit like he’s gonna cry. Aww. He did choke, it was noticeable way back at the end of the first day of prep, but he’s a very talented chef so this has to be hard for him. Kudos to him for candidly admitting what was apparent. He’s going out in a Blais of glory. See Rich — that pun was for you.
Scar shoos them out for deliberations. Once they gossip a bit about Richard’s choking comments (Gail’s shocked and DT agrees with him), DT declares they should take a poll to see if they agree on the best dish from each course. But instead of giving us any clear information, the judges go over the dishes yet again. I’ll spare you the details — ain’t nothing new here. In the back, Fleasa tells Yoda that she thinks Yoda had the best dish in the first and third course, and that she herself had the best dish in the second and fourth course. I agree from the editing, but dude — Richard is right there! Yoda’s head snaps to look at Richard’s reaction to Fleasa basically saying he never had a top dish, but Richard’s too busy wallowing to really notice. Still, talk about insensitive. I don’t think Fleasa said that to be a bitch on purpose, but she really has no awareness and/or regard for people’s feelings at times.
“Maybe dog shit would have been better than molecular gastronomy…”
Back to the judges, who are now joined by the sounds of birds chirping. Scar says based on the performance tonight, she has a preference, and Gail says the same, adding “it was a long road getting there.” Oh god. Ted thinks that when the birds are chirping it’s time to get the fuck out of there, so he says he has a preference. Daddy Tom hastily agrees before his 5 o’clock shadow gets any worse. Could it really be Fleasa???
The judges call the final three back in for results. After briefly praising each chef, Daddy Tom tells them that the decision was ultimately based on which meal they’d like to eat again. He turns it over to Scar, who hesitates and looks constipated for a moment before announcing that… Yoda — aka Stephanie Izard — is Top Chef! YAY!!!
“Smiling this hard makes my eye wonky.”
The judges come down to congratulate her, as do the other former contestants who had been brought to Puerto Rico. As they celebrate, Fleasa tries to keep her emotions in check, telling us she thought she had a chance there. Oh I’m sure it came down between Yoda and her, and despite all the bitching we’ve been doing here for weeks about Fleasa, she did prove herself in this last challenge. Richard’ s upset as expected, crying to us and staying at the edge of the crowd with a snazzily-dressed Dale. And by snazzy, I mean ass-clown. Is he single? Someone date this boy and get him some help. Those easily offended by crotch-grabbing need not apply.
As for Yoda, she’s thrilled but handles her win with her customary grace and class. She tells us that she can’t believe she won, and it’s amazing to not only be the winner but be the first one with a vagina as far as we know (jury’s still out on the winners of the past two seasons). Part of her prize of course is money to open up her own restaurant, which she supposedly wants to do right here in Chicago. You know I’ll be there when it does. I just won’t be ordering dessert.
“I’m going to get so much ass now!”
So what did you think? Did you want Yoda to win, and based off the final challenge, did she deserve to win? Did Richard’s choking comment affect the outcome at all, and do you think he was brave or stupid to say it? What DID happen to Richard throughout the challenge? Were Fleasa’s comments in the back to Yoda merely insensitive or something worse? And has Fleasa’s improved behavior over the past few episodes changed your opinion of her at all?
See you next week for the reunion!