Top Chef: Bocuse D’ork
Fear not, dear readers. Although Thanksgiving festivities have made me horribly late to the Top Chef party, I will see this season through, because the finale is going to be far too epic to ignore. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we still have to find out who makes it to the Final Four! (Because it’s really not obvious at all, isn’t it?)
It’s the last episode in Las Vegas, and no one is even mentioning Robin’s absence. I’m disappointed. I thought Eli would at the very least still be complaining about her. Anyway, Bryan wants the money because he’s poor or something, and Kevin’s been missing his wife. But here’s a real shocker – Eli has known Richard Blais since they were 17, and he was the best man at Richard’s wedding! Say whaaaat? This makes me confused. I love Richard Blais, but I despise Eli.
Eli says that if he wins, it’ll be for Richard as well, as it’s like a “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, now prepare to die” situation. No it’s not. You’re here to avenge the loss of Richard? He lost because he fucked up, and then he admitted that he fucked up. Are you saying that Stephanie didn’t deserve to win? And who are you going to kill? Padma? Stop acting like you’re so noble. And, for that matter, stop name-dropping Richard Blais. Just because he approves of you doesn’t mean we’re suddenly going to. There, got that out of my system. Let’s move on!
Padma: “For your last Quickfire in Vegas, you will cook a regular-sized dish for me, and something tiny for this elf I found.”
Padma is waiting in the kitchen with Gavin Kaysen, who won the James Beard Rising Star Award, which Kevin was also nominated for. Poor Gavin looks like a gnome next to Padma. Gavin also represented the United States in the Bocuse d’Or, which is like the Olympics of cooking. Seriously, they show people going crazy in the stands, with horns and scarves and pennants. Also, at the Bocuse, they apparently make food for aliens:
That’s not candy from Willy Wonka’s factory. Those are vegetables.
Gavin won the competition by making crayfish inside of chicken inside of chicken inside of chicken. That sounds redundant AND delicious! I should note that Gavin seems really arrogant and annoying. He describes his dish as “my classic dish,” and then “jokes,” “it only took me four months to learn how to do it.” Shut up, we don’t need a third Voltaggio brother.
For the Quickfire, the chefs have to make their own version of Gavin’s dish: a protein in a protein in a protein. There will be no immunity, but you do get an advantage. The chefs get to work, and thus begins one of the many stupid conversations this episode about Kevin’s “simple” food. Kevin says he’s ballsy because he makes homestyle food for Top Chef, because he believes in his cooking style. Jennifer is confident in her dish, but Michael thinks that Jennifer doesn’t have “a whole lot left to do” in this competition. Is it too repetitive to call him a douche?
Eli serves up an egg wrapped with sausage wrapped with bacon. Michael basically stacked three proteins on top of each other, which was NOT the challenge rules. Jennifer made calamari steak, scallops, and salmon, because seafood is her strong point. After tasting it, Padma smiles at Jennifer and says, “Welcome back,” much to Jennifer’s obvious relief. Hooray!
“This dish isn’t as good as my CLASSIC dish, where I put a horse fetus inside a sausage made from horse meat, shoved it all inside a whole turkey, deep-fried it, and then carved it into a Jack-O-Lantern. And then I set it all on fire. It only took me six years to learn how to make it. Nice try, though.”
Bryan serves up lamb and sausage wrapped in fat, and Kevin made fried catfish with scallop and shrimp. Bryan, like his brother, comments that Kevin makes simple food, but then shows that he’s better than his brother by clarifying that simplicity is okay if you do it correctly. This is why Bryan is the superior Brother Voltaggio, and why I want him to come in second place to Kevin.
Gavin thinks Kevin’s catfish was overcooked and dry, but Kevin begs to disagree. Bryan’s lamb was nice, and impressive that he pulled it off in 90 minutes. Eli’s concept was good, but Gavin conspicuously makes no comment on his actual execution. Jennifer’s dish was surprisingly successful, and Michael is lambasted for making a torrine, not a ballantine. IDIOT. Who gets those two confused?! It was so obviously a torrine (I have no idea what they’re talking about). Michael once again refuses to take responsibility for his own failings and argues that it was not clearly stated that they had to make a ballantine. Not only that, but had he made a ballantine, it would have been as good as the one Gavin made in the Bocuse d’Or. I don’t think I even need to point out anymore how awful Michael is.
The winner is JENNIFER, which is her first Quickfire win since the beginning of the season. Take that, Michael! The elimination challenge this week is huge: the chefs will participate in their own version of the Bocuse d’Or, and will make a presentation platter with one protein and two garnishes. Gavin says that the garnishes should be more than just a vegetable, but they should be intricate – for example, “weaving a zucchini into a basket and then filling that basket with something.” You know, just everyday cooking techniques!
“Kevin sleeps in his underwear, which is so simple and amateurish. I choose to sleep fully clothed, which is more complex and talented. The way Kevin sleeps is how I sleep on my off days.”
The chefs can choose between lamb and salmon for their protein, and Jennifer gets an extra half hour of cooking time, which she needs because, as she admits, she’s slower than everyone else. Additionally, they will cook for 12 incredible judges, including Thomas Keller, who is basically God in this world. Daaamn, Top Chef! This season has been pretty incredible as far as judging goes. Padma cautions that everything has to be “perfection.” So no pressure or anything.
Whole Foods shopping! Kevin has nothing planned, so he’s just grabbing shit. When they get home, Michael goes right to bed without planning, because he’s a cocky douche. The other chefs watch the Bocuse d’Or DVD that “Gavin” (or a producer) gave them. They watch it on a very inconveniently placed TV BEHIND the couch, forcing them to sit like this:
It’s surprising that out of the entire production crew of a national television show, no one realized that the TV actually goes in FRONT of the couch.
After the video, Kevin asks for help with how to cook in a vacuum. Why is he trying to cook something in a new way? This does not bode well, since cooking out of your element is often a straight ticket to packing your knives on this show. I am very nervous for Kevin. However, Bryan tells him what to do, and then comments that even thought they’re competitors, he’s not a prick. But then he indirectly calls his brother a prick by saying that Michael probably would not have shared that information with Kevin. I think all of America agrees.
Next morning, they get to work. Everyone is unusually quiet and just focusing on making sure there is PERFECTION. Tom strolls into the kitchen with Thomas Keller, and everyone is awed to be even near him. This makes me imagine if Eli had gone and Robin had stayed, and how incredibly awkward and hilarious it would be to watching Robin serve her food to Thomas Keller. I really wish we could have seen that. Speaking of, this is probably the hardest challenge Top Chef has ever done. Did they really expect Robin, for example, or Jesse, or that disgusting-eared Jennifer to handle this? I don’t think the producers ever realistically imagined any of those people serving a Bocuse d’Or Presentation Platter to Thomas Keller. So why even cast those people on the show?
Thomas: “WORSHIP ME.”
Anyway, Michael is still scoffing at Kevin’s style of cooking, saying that Kevin makes stuff he cooks “on my day off.” Michael, you’re almost becoming a caricature of yourself at this point. However, this episode Kevin is actually trying something new, with the pressure cooker, much to the bemusement of Tom. Since Jennifer has an extra half-hour, for once she actually stops to talk to Tom instead of running past him and acting frantic. Oh, also, Tom announces that the winner of the challenge gets $30,000. Just because!
The judges arrive, and Kevin says that even though the Bocuse d’Or is about super-elaborate presentation, he’s not going to do that. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? Kevin has committed the two biggest cardinal sins of Top Chef: trying a technique you’ve never done before, and knowing what the judges want but giving them the exact opposite. This is nerve-wracking. Could this be the biggest self-destruction ever (act as if you don’t know what’s going to happen here, people)?
The judges are Tom, Padma, Gail, Gibberish Bocuse (the son of the guy who the competition is named after), Alex Stratta, Traci something, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boloud, Gavin, and Tim something-or-other, who was the American delegate to the Bocuse d’Or after Gavin. So a pretty intimidating table.
Kevin describes his dish and slices the meat tableside, while explaining he chose lamb for sustainable reasons. Thomas immediately jumps on this and asks if the lamb does, in fact, come from a sustainable farm, and Kevin looks shell-shocked at getting drilled like this. He assures Thomas that the packaging says it does, but it seems like he’s pretty much just making it up. Anyway, the judges love the meat. However, Thomas Keller says that it’s a little elementary for the amount of time they had. By the way, this whole judging experience is so stuffy and snooty and almost unbearably pretentious. It really makes me wish Natalie Portman would show up and start making some dick jokes.
Kevin: “I have prepared a roasted lamb and — excuse me, Padma, I know the chandelier is shiny, but eyes up front, please.”
Michael is really nervous, but it’s his turn to present. He describes his platter as a Mediterranean-inspired salmon dish. Daniel Boloud asks if there was any direction for the dish, and Michael just responds, “Uh, just Mediterranean flavors.” That is so vague and stupid, and the judges clearly aren’t buying it. Tom jokes, “Where do you get cauliflower and caviar from Mediterranean flavors?” Also, Alex Stratta found a bone in his fish, so Michael is officially fucked, and Daniel says there’s no harmony.
Bryan is running out of time and panicking, so Jennifer helps him because she has that extra half hour. As he’s serving, he notices a few mistakes on the platter, but it’s too late. He made a parsley-crusted lamb loin, some kind of delicious-looking mac and cheese, and something with a garlic chip on it. Thomas Keller is intrigued by the garlic chip and asks how to make it. Bonus points for Bryan! What’s-his-name Bocuse liked the platter, as did Thomas, but his lamb was a little undercooked and “gross.” Everyone seems in agreement that it was a really good dish, but he didn’t have enough time to make it perfect. Tom asks Tim’s opinion, and his one input the entire episode is that he thinks Bryan knows a lot about food. Thanks for that brilliant look into the mind of Bryan, Tim!
Tim: “Um.. well… I think the food tasted… good… and… expensive. Why am I here?”
Eli’s up, and he’s serving a lamb sausage wrapped around lamb loins or something. The lamb was cut with a butter knife, apparently, and it’s also undercooked. They can feel the raw fat in their mouths, which sounds awful, and Thomas Keller laments that Eli ruined a beautiful piece of lamb. Back in the kitchen, Eli reports to the other chefs that it’s really tense and they ask you questions you don’t want to be asked. But as far as we saw, they only asked Eli, “What’s the green sauce?” and, “Are you happy with your results?” HOW DARE THEY ASK THOSE QUESTIONS.
Jennifer serves up her salmon, which she feels is “98% there,” but she’s worried about the missing 2%. The flavors are nice, but the judges don’t feel that it’s “well-thought-out.” Also, the salmon is sort of undercooked for some, while for others it’s cooked perfectly. Gavin says that there wasn’t much vision, but Padma says that the plate was the most visually intriguing for her. Gail refuses to be mean to anyone and says that it’s amazing that they all did this well considering they only had 12 hours from the moment they heard about the Bocuse d’Or until they actually served their dishes.
Padma: “Alex, I know you’re only pretending to look at the dish. If you want to see my tits, all you have to do is ask.”
The chefs come back in, and Thomas raises the stakes by telling them that the winner also gets awarded a spot to compete for the 2011 Bocuse d’Or. They’re all pretty shocked, since, as Kevin says, “It would scare the everloving shit out of you.” While cleaning up, Bryan says to Michael, “This could be the last time we cook together,” and Michael immediately gets all pissy. “Why, you think I’m going?” he shoots back at Bryan. It should go without saying at this point that I hate Michael, but I’ll say it once more, just for good measure.
Kevin says that everyone should be proud of themselves no matter what happens, and blah blah blah these five are all friends and they all love each other. Whatever, let’s break someone’s heart!
Michael: “Hey, Eli, we’re awful!”
Eli: “Yeah, dude! Pound it!”
Padma calls all the chefs in, and Tom immediately grills Michael on his Mediterranean theme. Gail tells him about the bone they found, and the other Voltaggio brother, Bryan, is criticized for having an underdone lamb. Kevin is lambasted for playing it safe and not, you know, weaving a basket out of vegetables or whatever the fuck Gavin wants them to do, but Kevin counters that it’s actually RISKY to play it SAFE. Now I’m just confused. But Tom replies that it was maybe a little too simple for four hours of cooking. Simple, or simply complex? Seriously, I don’t know whether “simple” is an insult or a compliment by this point.
Jerome: “Yes, Padma?”
Padma: “…I love you.”
Eli is criticized for his raw fat (on his meal and his body, I imagine), and Tom says that it was “really undercooked.” But then Tom gets a little sentimental and says that he basically loves all of them. Things get even MORE touchy-feely when Kevin says on the way out, “It means a lot to hear you say that.” Jesus, this is turning into an episode of Full House or something. The judges basically rehash what was bad about everyone, but we all know that Eli doesn’t stand a chance against these four.
So the winner – who gets to go to the finale in Napa, gets $30,000, AND goes to the Bocuse d’Or in 2011 – is Kevin! Hooray! He gets his $30,000 poker chip from the M Resort, and then makes the producers proud (probably with a good amount of prodding on their behalf) by declaring, “The M Resort is my favorite place on Earth!” That didn’t feel scripted at all!
Let’s not waste our time any longer – Eli is sent home to his mommy. Also, he cries. A lot. I feel sort of bad for taking a good amount of joy in his tears.
“I miss my mommy.”
Can you BELIEVE the Final Four? This is simply shocking! I promise I will start working on recapping part one of the finale immediately. Bear with me.