This week, Top Chef taught us trout isn’t a fish, too many patterns are a bad sign, and if you wanna win a reality show, ya gotta have heart.
I vant to eat your zoul.
Now, on with my favorite show. Who will win?!? Will it be the tight-assed Texas cutie pie with bunny teeth and Rachel hair, a receded hairline faux hawked gay guy even gay guys wanna gay bash, a humble not Koren pre op tranny with knife skills of a pro and language skills of a…well…Vietnamese immigrant pre-op tranny? Or will our newest Top Chef be the dude with the trollish early 90′s “soul patch” who cooks seafood, seafood, and Exorcist pea soup barf? After Ilan, any one of these doodoos shines like the top of the Chrysler Building (to quote the ever sexy Mrs. Hannigan from Annie), so I will be one hundred percent more happy than last time. Although I have to admit, my dream going into this episode is for someone to hold Hung down and try to shave his head. My bad.
The episode begins with the four finalists arriving in Aspen after a break. The producers decided to shoot the finale live this year so Food and Wine Magazine wouldn’t have the option of fucking up the end result for us like they did last year. This means that our remaining Chefs have had time to chill with their families, think back on the good times and the bad, and most importantly, they have had a chance to watch clips of themselves unfairly edited together for our general amusement. There has been enough time to ponder their “personas” (and read lots of online recaps and comments), so our beloved Troll Patch shows up…without a patch!! Now he’s just…Troll. Aw. He tells us that since the challenge in New York, he’s won the title of Best Chef Ever Invented in San Diego. Wow. Hey, San Diego, did part of the New York episode get cut off in your city?
Dig a little deeper, San D.
Bunny Foo Foo, Baldhawk, and Troll (aw) get off their respective planes hugging, kissing, and “holy crap you’re so thin!”-ing, and then a calm pervades the air. “Where’s Hung?” He/she’s at baggage claim all alone. Sad horns. No hard feelings! Dung’s the most talented he/she ever, so it’s natural that heshe is being snubbed by the plebs. He finally makes it out to the TOYOTA to meet his rivals and there’s lots of tense “hey, Dung, you look…….more female?”s and “Ouch why’d you kick me?”s. If this was MTV, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” would be pumping in the background while Dung proudly marched up the street with his little bag and his huge ego, but it’s Bravo, so he gets into the TOYOTA with the rest of the finalists and smiles super-awkwardly.
After seeing herself on TV, Foo Foo has decided to get rid of the Rachel cut and move on to something a little more modern: The 30 Something Year Old Beat Poet in Silverlake Split End Bobby Pin Bangs do. The title’s not as catchy, but the do’s just as grodie. Nice work!
Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style called. They said you’re just too over-qualified for the show.
As they drive and drive and drive (seriously, couldn’t anyone closer to the airport donate a few rooms?), everyone’s like “wow Colorado’s so beaaauuutiful!” and Dung’s all “I am.” Troll (aw) tells us something, but all I can hear are patterns.
Make it stop.
Look! It’s a hot-air balloon! Troll (aw) is so excited at the chance to get away from Oz that he grabs Hung’s arm and Hung’s like I know you’re not touching me right now. Foo isn’t too excited about the balloon. She’s just a girl! She’s gonna hurl! They all fly together and drink champagne and Troll(aw) gives a heartwearming speech. No matter what happens, they all made it to the top four….(growl shout) “but there’s still some MONEEEY ON THE LIIIINNEEEE!!” Ugh. Could you shave your personality off? Dung tells us that he’s doing this for his immigrant father and all his family and immigrant immigrant wasn’t born here waaaah can’t talk right me win or I cut you.
Hear to me, Colorado.
Poor Baldhawk tells us that during his time off, his restaurant has closed, he got dumped by his boyfriend, and a friend told him that highwaters went out in the late eighties. He tries to jump out of the balloon but then Foo reminds him he’s still got that strip of hair and some guys don’t even have that and he’s like “I CAN WIN THIS THING!” That Foo’s a real team player. The balloon lands in a deserted valley. Wait. It’s not deserted! There’s Scar! And she’s with the creepy/hot Frenchie Guest Judge who flirted with Marcel last season! RIPEEEERT!!! Everyone’s impressed to be in front of the “badass” Judge, and I am impressed that Ripert found a men’s cashmere sweater zip up with shoulder pads to wear for his appearance today. The French get away with murder, I tell ya.
This show has been brought to you by the Linda Dano Collection on QVC.
The challenge is to take a dead trout and make it sing “How I Love Ya”. They will have to gut the freshly caught fish and cook them on camp stoves, and Baldhawk tells us that he’s just totally unprepared for a challenge like this. You’re lucky for welfare, or you’d be the most practiced chef in the field. Gut it and shut it, BH. As if hearing his diary room whining, Ripert says “Goooood luck. You are goyng to needth it.”
He wathn’t kiddinkz. This challege is a bitch. Twenty minutes to gut, scale, and decorate a fish? I call shenanigans! Baldhawk is pissing his pants and telling us how confused and fucked he is. Oh buck up already, Darlene. Troll(aw) drops his fish on the ground. Ruh-roh. You gave up the patch, you gave up the power. Dung finishes with seven minutes to go, and after preening and gloating and slapping himself on the back like he’s got a tick, he realizes that he left out one major ingredient expected when you’re cooking fish: lemon juice. I grin so violently that the dog looks up at me like I just changed into Mean Daddy. It’s okay, baby! Daddy’s happy! Now stop your whining before I drop kick ya. Foo Foo hems and haws, but she’s the only one who didn’t seem to bone it. Scar comes out of the woods with Ripert and looks totally prepared to eat some nasty ass fish.
Puff Puff Give
Troll(aw)’s dish is the first to be judged. He used bacon fat to render his fish and added red pepper and trout eggs to finish it off. WHAT?? That trout was pregnant? Shame on you, Troll(aw)! Ripert questions his non-usage of a large portion of the fish, and Troll’s like “what? I aborted hundreds of fetuses for you you French fuck! A little respect is in order!”
Foo Foo has scraped the skin off her filet and served it with grapes and corn. The presentation is beautiful, but it’s hard to concentrate cuz Baldhawk is telling us what a loser hack he is and he can’t believe how sucky he is waaaaahhhh!!! Save it, Mary, it’s not your turn yet. Dung’s next! He rambles off the description of his trout and mushrooms, adding and then subtracting lemon juice from the list of his ingredients. Dumbass. Ripert asks him if there’s lemon juice or not and Dung’s all “uh…no I forgot it.” Ripert gives him a dirty look while he eats his bite, and it makes me an insta-fan.
You awful litthle manz.
Baldhawk has also redered his fish in bacon fat (nasty food trend alert) and he has added apples and cayenne pepper. Huh? CAYENNE?!? Ripert is grossed out, and I almost feel bad for Baldhawk as he blushes. Almost. Ripert has to choose the worst dishes, and Troll is leading the pack. His salad was unsalted and his dish was bland. TP, coming off his Best Chef Ever Invented award, shrugs the whole boning-a-fish-dish-when-you’re-a fish-chef thing off. He explains to us that he hasn’t betrayed his seafood roots at all, because no seafood chef considers trout a fish. I had to rewind this part a few times because I couldn’t believe he just said that. Did you hear that phone ringing? It’s a flood of cancellations at Troll(aw)’s SEAFOOD restaurant. Second worst was Baldhawk’s dish, because as Ripert explains, “Ve had it in ze throats.” Best. Criticism. Ever.
Ripert liked Hung’s dish, but he forgot the lemon so too bad so sad. Foo Foo’s dish was not only well done, “it had a soul”. When he says this, Dung gives a sour snotty face. HAHA. He tells us that he tasted Foo’s dish and he doesn’t care what Ripert says, his is more refined. Riiiiight. I know I already said this, but HAHA.The chefs are taken to their hotel of MORE PATTERNS EVERYWHERE and Dung continues on and on about how his dad escaped from Vietnam ARGH. I have never resented someone for escaping from Vietnam til today. Damn you, Hung’s dad!
The next morning. the chefs arrive at a ranch to find that they will be the caterers for a post rodeo ho-down. Oh, this episode is just awesome. First gut a fish, then cook for cowboys. Dung is pissed. His father didn’t ESCAPE from VIETNAM so he could slop baked beans onto tin plates for a bunch of hicks who don’t understand the palate his immigrant mother forced in his mouth growing up. What’s the point in escaping from Vietnam if you’ll be asked to cook something so common?
I hope the cowboys toss him around like a wet noodle.
Baldhawk is psyched for this one. He’s done quite a few cowboys in the past and is comfortable pounding their meat. He’s never dealt with elk specifically, but a Tom’s a Dick’s a Harry. The Elimination Challenge will be to take the primary protein served after a rodeo, elk, and make something fantastic with it. Elk? Dung is furious, as he isn’t “cooking things I enjoy to cook.” Baldhawk is pretty confident with this one, and so is Foo. Troll(aw)’s only response is “it’s not fish.” LOL, Troll. No shit. But then again, neither is trout. They’re out to get you.
He decides to use the shank and braises it in whiskey. Even Baldhawk knows that a meat as lean as elk needs to braise for ten to twelve hours, but he’s thought Troll was fucked many times before and he always seems to pull it out and not get sent home. Hey, that’s how I feel about Baldhawk! These two are like the little engines that couldn’t suck less than the other suckas. Just in case Bravo decided not to turn on mics for this challenge and not tell anyone, Hung shouts at us that he’s searing his pork loin and serving it with a chocolate wine sauce. It may a bit highbrow for cowboys and cowgirils, but he’s there to please the judges, not the simpletons!
Baldhawk is also searing his elk, but to set himself apart from Dung, he will be making a goat cheese and onion tart. Foo Foo will also be searing elk loin. Come on people, the elk’s a huge animal. There’s enough for everyone. She is crusting hers in mushroom and serving it in a smoked tomato butter.
Daddy Tom comes in to check on progress, and Troll(aw) starts by nervously insisting that he’s more than just a fish man and he’s going to prove it by putting everything but the kitchen sink into his meal. When he says that he’s going to braise the shank in three hours, Tom shrugs that “will these people never learn?” way of his that makes us love him. As usual, he doesn’t say much, but on his way out, he announces that due to the enormous level of talent on the show this year, there will be three chefs in the final showdown. OMG! That means that one of the little engines that couldn’t suck more than the otha suckas will be become the little engine that could at least come in third! Fairy tales do come true! Dung is, of course, annoyed that he will be forced to deal with one of these yokels again, but Baldhawk looks like he just peed a little.
You’ve been touched by an angel, girl.
He’ll need all the luck he can get, because his goat cheese tart comes out of the oven looking like a disaster. To compensate, he throws some potatoes and cauliflower in a pot of milk and starts boiling. How the hell are you going to boil potatoes in ten or fifteen minutes? Good Lord. Just smother the tart in an inch of cream cheese and call it a day. Hung, of course, finishes with fifteen minutes to spare, and he spends his time helping his peers and spreading good will and cheer. Just kidding! He gloats!! I understand that it’s down to the wire and why the hell should he help anyone when he’s trying to win?… but is this necessary?
Man, you’re screwed.
Ranch Time! Boy, you really gotta hand it to the cowboy population for sticking to their guns as far as stereotypes are concerned. They’re all in unflattering jeans, boots, plaid, and cowboy hats; and while they wait for dinner, they play horseshoes and lasso tables. As they enter the barn, Dung slides little shots of milk down the long bar at them and starts looping “five dolla” over and over again. He may not respect the country folk, but he knows a business opportunity when he sees one.
Foo Foo’s seared loin with poached pear is up first, and she tells us and Tom that she’s from Texas and knows her elk for the thousandth time. French grandma must be at home tonight feeling abandoned and lonely. In France. Ripert doesn’t approve of her barely cooked elk, but at least she didn’t dress her dish up like Chiquita Banana before she served it.
The cream cheese tart was too much of a mess for even Baldhawk to serve, so he ditched it and used his potatoes and cauliflower with a huckleberry sauce instead. You know what they say, when life gives you lemons, slice them up and use them to garnish your Diet Coke. Lemonade’s gross. Scar likes it, but Gail thinks there’s too much Miss Teen USA on the plate. Hung seems to have forgiven Ripert for not picking him in the Quickfire, and is back to his ass kissy self. Ripert buys it lock stock and barrel, and gives him a gold star and a business card with his phone number on it for making his own lemon confit.
Troll(aw) is nervously doing his usual song and dance. He’s wearing a cowboy hat, barking out the words “whiskey braised” to anyone within a block’s radius, and as an added treat, he’s bringing aroma to the barn. Scar sees a pile of burning green leaves and runs to Troll’s station, but unfortunately for her, it’s just sage. Forgetting that she’s not supposed to approve of strong scents in restaurants that aren’t from the food being prepared, she compliments the lovely aroma he’s filling the barn with. He’s lucky Madonna’s snotty uggo brother isn’t a cowboy. He’d have a fit. Troll takes so long describing the dish that the editors cut it into a time jump montage. Hilarious.
The real people cowboys love it and call it gorgeous, which of course means that the Judges will diss it hard. Gail tells the other judges that his power point presentation was grating, but in all fairness, she couldn’t stop stuffing her face with his dish as she said it. You eat it, you buy it, Simmons!
E. Re-Eliminate Howie
At Judges Table, everyone agrees that all the dishes were good. Unfortunately, someone has to pack up, so they start breaking it down. Scar loved Troll(aw)’s braised shank, but Ripert thought it was too dry and then Gail pipes up about the too many ingredients thing. We heard you the first ten times, Gail. By the way, did you know Foo Foo’s from Texas? Speaking of Foo, her meat was waaaay too rare, but Ripert loved her smoked tomato sauce. Dung was mixing Summery garnish with Fall flavors, which leads Ripert to call his flavor profiles unfocused. They haven’t seen the real Dung represented in his food yet. Baldhawk’s was pretty good and as usual, his sauce was delicious.
The Chefs are called in and Baldhawk’s the first up. His tart didn’t turn out right because there was no cream cheese, and he says that his potatoes and cauliflower boiled in milk plan b turned out better than the tart would have anyway. I’m happy to see a positive attitude in Baldhawk. You don’t need a boyfriend to cook! Yay! You won true independence, and isn’t that the real prize, here?
Scar wants to know why Troll(aw) took half an hour to list his ingredients, why he shaved his patch, and why he was wearing that hideous costume cowboy hat. Troll says that more is more, soul patches are retarded, and why just give em dinner when you can give em a show?!? Scar snaps her fingers and lets Ripert have his say. He questions giving diners the two cheese options. “Why wood you ledd uz jews when it is your jobe do jooz vo uz?” OK, codependent. Troll should have said “the right to choose is one of the amazing parts of being an American, Frenchie,” but instead he clenches his jaw and says “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Since this is the finale (kinda almost), the chefs are given a minute each to perform inspiring dramatic monologues. Baldhawk takes the stage first. His is a story of loss, death, and horrible horrible hairstyles. In the time that he’s been on Top Chef he’s gone from working for one of the top 20 restaurants in the Country in Chicago (well, which is it then? The US or Chicago?) to having nothing. He says that he hadn’t cooked for a year and a half before he got on the show and he has been reborn. Gail and Daddy Tom both nod enthusiastically. Finally! Some heart! Baldhawk’s no dummy.
Foo Foo isn’t as adept with the dramatic flair, so instead she goes the “hard worker” route. When they got a month long break from shooting, she took a couple days off to buy some bobby pins and organize her sock drawer and then she was right back to work. Her restaurant is always clean, she’s always on time, and (Texas French Grandmother) she’s busts her ass day in and day out!! That’s impressive, but not inspiring. You’ve got a week to come up with a life change, Foo. Make something up.
Work makes me tired.
Hung’s is a tale of a little boy who slept in a kitchen while every member of his family dating back to the invention of rice paper worked in the food industry. His passion and his soul is cooking and how could Ripert say he had no soul? “You ate my soul you baaaastard!!!” Then he pulls out a nail file and lunges at Gail.
When we return, Gail has a band aid on her throat and Dung has wiped the blood from his forehead just in time for Troll(aw)’s speech about cooking for cowboys (who like fish), presidents (who like fish) and paupers (you know the drill). He’s an all weather cook, dammit, and he deserves to stay (and cook fish). He explains that he hasn’t really had a chance to show who he really is yet and the final episode will be his chance. Poor guy. Twenty four challenges or so really aren’t enough to show yourself. Number twenty six. He’ll really shine on that one.
And the Tony Award for best performance in a monologue goes to….Baldhawk!! And it’s his first win! Atta boy! Unfortunately, the other little engine couldn’t and is told to pack up his knives and get the fuck out. AAAAWWWWW!! Poor Troll(aw)! He giggles uncomfortably at the cameras and tells us that he never played it safe and if that’s the reason he’s going home, then so be it! Hmmm, I don’t remember hearing “you’re just too forward thinking” in the reasons for his dismissal, but I resist the urge to rewind and give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he is the Best Chef Ever Invented.