Top Chef S09E16: Season Finale

SPOILER ALERT: I’m done with this show. This will be the last Videogum recap of Top Chef, boo hoo, I’m sure, but I am also just done as a person. Everything comes to an end. It was nice while it lasted. Just kidding. It was nice for awhile but then it stopped being nice and now here we are. To put things in perspective, this season started at the beginning of November, 2011. That’s 100 years ago! And it dragged on and on in a joyless, underseasoned slog through the middling-talent swamps. It hasn’t been hard to root for Paul, who seems genuinely nice and talented, but what were we rooting for him against? People on this show are constantly talking about proving that they deserve to be there, and showing the judges that they’re willing to take risks, but I’m not sure many of them did deserve it (and here I am only using the word “deserve” because they did, even though there is nothing about television in general and reality TV in particular that has anything to do with “deserving” things. It’s all a goof!) and even more importantly, it’s not hard to take risks when you have nothing to lose/prove. I’m sure there’s some mild embarrassment at getting kicked off of a national TV show, but let’s also remember, because this show refuses to, that this is not how great talents are discovered or propelled forward. Paul Bocuse didn’t take his career to the next level by winning Le Top Chef radio serial. But even if this is just an entertaining version of The Bachelor With Food, that was fine until it stopped being entertaining. This season was too long. Too boring. Too full of not-so-great-looking food. It felt like punishment, but we didn’t do anything wrong, and we deserve better than this. So goodbye, Top Chef. Pack YOUR knives and go. But first, let’s talk about this season’s finale, I guess. I know this has been a bummer of an opening and hardly encourages you to keep reading, much like this season’s premiere episode’s bum rush of 14,000 contestants should have convinced us to stop watching, but we owe it this much. Just kidding. It’s a TV show. We owe it nothing. But let’s do it anyway.

It’s down to the final two. OR IS IT. There’s every reason to expect that Tom and Padma will announce the return of all 4,900 contestants for a final Quickfire and the top 300 dishes will go on to compete for title of This Is Eternity. But no. It’s just Paul and Sarah. They will be cooking the “meal of their lives at their dream restaurant.” Sure. They’ll be using the kitchens at Coast and Black and Blue, two restaurants that sound like joke restaurants in a Shouts and Murmurs piece about restaurants. Sarah explains that this is the goal she’s had all season, and that she pushed back her wedding (?!!?!?!?!) and that she’s “ready to win Top Chef.” Oh brother. I’m sure this is just a reality TV thing and that I don’t watch enough reality TV anymore, but why is everyone on this show acting like they’re the only ones who came on to win. Everyone wants to win, Sarah. That’s how shows work. Everyone’s “goal” during “the whole show” is to “win the show.” But of course, this is Top Chef, not Top Brainiac. Let’s save the genius for the kitchen, LOLOL JKJKJKJ.

A bunch of our old pals return for one final cook-off to see who will be Paul and Sarah’s sous-chefs. Also two actual chefs who know what they’re doing. Cook cook cook PLate plate plate. They show close ups of the plates and you are suddenly reminded why so many of these people were eliminated. They look like Heathcliffe pulled them out of the garbage.

Paul and Sarah come in and blind taste the food. Each can select four sous-chefs. Right out of the gate, Paul picks Barbara Lynch, one of the pros. He says this could be good or bad, because she’s obviously great but she might bristle under his leadership. Sarah gets saddled with Tyler Stone when she thinks his dish was a secret message from Heather. Haha. TYLER STOOOONE! Remember that guy? Who got eliminated within the first five minutes of PREPPING for the first challenge? What a gem. He interviews that he’s “not intimidated by anyone.” What? Why would you be intimi–what? What a lunatic. He also says that they haven’t even scratched the surface of what he can do. Wait, does he think HE’S in the final? The important thing is that he is dressed for the whole episode like a man prepared to unleash his Gun Kata.

And/or that cartoon Dexter:

Pick pick pick. Chefs chefs chefs. It’s very embarrassing when no one picks the other Ringer Chef. Whoops. Poor Ringer Chef. He has only his legitimate cooking career untarnished by the miserable stain of reality television to soften the blow.

Shop shop shop. This is the season finale so we are treated to TWO exciting shopping montages. Will everyone buy food? Will they high five at the register? America holds its breath. Paul buys some spot prawns, which Barbara Lynch thinks is a dumb idea because you shouldn’t second guess yourself. I’m sure this is just a throwaway moment and will not turn into anything later. (Also, I feel like most professional chefs will tell you that you should buy the best ingredients you can and plan your menu around that, so I feel like this quote from Barbara Lynch was taken out of context, which would be the first time this has ever happened on reality television.)

Can we go back to Tyler Stone for a second? He is the best part of this whole show. He asks Sarah endless questions. He keeps pushing advanced techniques that Sarah doesn’t know how to do and would probably mess up at this critical juncture and calls her old fashioned and insists that he knows best even though this motherfucker couldn’t even finish A quickfire. He shows up to the kitchen in dress shoes and dress pants. TYLER STOOOOOOONE!

Speaking of cartoons, what’s going on here?!

Everyone cooks. Sarah says she’s really taking risks and going out of her comfort zone because you have to do that if you want to be here. Do you? Isn’t the challenge to cook your perfect meal at your dream restaurant? Which is it, Sarah, do you want to win, or do you want to prove that you can take risks, because I think those are two different things. People eat. Their families are there. The judges split into two groups and talk about the dishes as if this is a real close race and it’s ever up in the air about who will win, but frankly I’m not buying it. There are a couple of minor problems with some of everyone’s dishes but come ON. We all know what’s happening here. Sarah’s dad tells her that there’s a bone in his fish. Is that cheating? A) No, of course not. B) Sarah needs all the help she can get. Maybe her dad should cook dinner? (I’m being unfair. Her dinner looks genuinely delicious. But also she is competing against Paul. Soooo.)

Here are the menus:


Chawanmushi, edamame, pea shoots & spot prawns
Grilled sea bass with clam dashi, pickled radishes & mushrooms
Congee with scrambled eggs, uni, kale & smoked albacore
Coconut ice cream, puffed rice, kumquats, mangosteen, thai chili foam & jasmi gelee


Squid ink tagliatelle, spot prawns & coconut
Rye crusted steelhead trout with fennel sauce, pickled beets & gras pista
Braised veal cheek with crispy veal sweetbreads over polenta
Hazelnut cake with kumquat & roasted white chocolate ganache

How long are we going to do this? NO MORE! Paul wins. PAUL!


Congratulations Paul. Sarah gives one of the least gracious exit interviews possible. It’s fine. No one expects her to be gracious, just as no one expected her to win. Paul won $190,000 in cash and prizes. He’s going on three trips paid for by Terlato wines while driving around in his brand new Toyota Gladd Bag. He’s great. He won. He was always going to. It’s over. Goodbye. We did it. Now, at long last, we can sleep.