It may take a while before we get a female president but we can now crown one Top Chef. It was a long journey to the last challenge that showed the three finalists stepping up to the plate and knocking out some hits, but still there were a few surprises.
The chefs were to create a four course tasting meal for nine that progressed from fish to poultry, red meat and finishing with a dessert. On day one
Padma introduced them to the best kind of prep help they could get: three well-known chefs who would become their sous-chefs. With first pick, Stephanie chose to work with Eric Ripert who appeared during season three's finale. Richard was paired with Dan Barber and Lisa showed excitement hoping she and April Bloomfield would rock on with grrl power. But on the second day the assistants were no-shows in the kitchen, becoming part of the critical dinner guests and leaving the finalists to fend for themselves.
How bad did you feel when Richard admitted to the judges that he choked? This was hinted at when, at the end of day one, he mentioned he had no dishes completed.
Tom Colicchio noticed that Richard's behavior was a little erratic and unfocused, and his detailed orchestrations of some dishes had to be downsized to make the deadline. But that didn't stop the molecular gastronomist from bringing out his toys and using liquid nitrogen in the dessert. And a high point was the satisfaction that he got from showing something new to Chef Eric.
Throughout the dinner we occasionally got mixed reviews from the diners but almost everyone agreed that Richard's meal was under seasoned and lacked flavor, particularly his first course of Scallops with Mango and Pineapple Vinegar. He combined a gaming hen, foie gras and chicken egg for the second course that was criticized for being muddled and lacked individuality, and pressure-cooking the pork belly for his main course left it soft and without some needed crispness. He got high marks for resurrecting the banana scallops and introducing us to bacon ice cream. Bacon and ice cream - two foods I'd never have considered working well together.
Lisa was ready to kick some butt, however she switched gears by putting her best foot forward appearing calm and collected. Using tried and true Vietnamese and Thai flavors, Lisa had a strong showing leading with Grilled Prawns over a Chili Basil Sauce topped with Potato Chips followed by a Tom Kha Gai Soup with Dumplings that was a unanimous favorite. Her main course of Wagyo Strip Steak was served too rare to activate its natural juices but bounced back with a Black Rice Pudding with Lime and Mango Crème. If only interactive TV could advance to the point of getting us a taste of some of these dishes
Even with a couple missteps, Stephanie's creations were surprising, beautifully presented and wowed the judges. I definitely would have enjoyed an order of Seared Red Snapper over Truffled White Asparagus and Clam Broth that was deemed creamy but not heavy. Her jaw dropped when told that the second course of Quail with Lobster Ravioli would have faired better if the accompanying leeks had been softer. Ricotta pound cake with banana crème for dessert was considered a miss but her main course of Lamb Medallions, Maitake Mushrooms, Braised Pistachios with Blackberry and Green Olive Tapenade took the cake. The olive and pistachio combination was the most unpredictable and ultimately the most original flavor of the evening.
So in the end, I'm happy to say that we got our first female
Top Chef winner. Stephanie not only can whip up a spectacular meal but she'll serve it with a respectful attitude. There were many ups and downs this season but she rose to the top becoming, as a friend of mine called her, the crème de la crème.
" Richard gets points for creatively naming his four courses, in order: You Are Here, Which Came First?, Be the Bacon and You Are Still Here.
" Lisa gained a point for giving Stephanie a pep talk when she doubted her dessert.
" The text poll asked who you thought should be Top Chef. Which group were you with: 4% for Lisa, 36% for Richard or 60% for Stephanie.
" Be sure to check in next week for a few last thoughts after the reunion special.
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It may take a while before we get a female president but we can now crown one Top Chef It was a long journey to the last challenge that showed the three finalists stepping up to the plate and knocking out some hits but still there were a few surprisesThe chefs were to create a four course tasting meal for nine that progressed from fish to poultry red meat and finishing with a dessert On day one Padma introduced them to the best kind of prep help they could get three well-known chefs who would become their sous-chefs With first pick Stephanie chose to work with Eric Ripert who appeared during season threes finale Richard was paired with Dan Barber and Lisa showed excitement hoping she and April Bloomfield would rock on with grrl power But on the second day the assistants were no-shows in the kitchen becoming part of the critical dinner guests and leaving the finalists to fend for themselvesHow bad did you feel when Richard admitted to the judges that he choked This was