And so here we are. Much like in the popular Hollywood movie, The Hangovers, we end up reunited, mostly intact, right where we are supposed to be, with nothing but a hazy collection of memories to remind us of what a wild journey it has been. Wait, no, this show is nothing like The Hangover. And even if it was, that is a terrible description. What, was The Hangover a movie for newly divorced women seeking the embrace of a community of peers? No, this is a reality show about cooking food under hilarious constraints to determine who is the best at doing that. “This turbot-pumpkin puree doesn’t really tell me anything about the elevator it was cooked in.” But before we can say goodbye, there is just one more hilarious constraint under which our final three chefs must cook, to determine who will be the America’s Next Top CHEEEEEEEEEEFFFFFFFFFF (Oprah voice).
If there is one thing you can say about this season finale (I’m sure there is only one thing, this is probably the last sentence of this recap), there is no one to root against. For probably the first time in Top Chef history, everyone in the finale is a chef performing at the top of his
tattoos game. Each of them brings a different quality to the kitchen, and it would be great if all of them could win. Just kidding. TEAR EACH OTHER TO SHREDS. I’m not here to watch people make friends.
To announce the final challenge, Padma and Tom invite the final three: Kevin, Michael Voltaggio, and Bryan Voltaggio, to the set of an orange juice commercial.
The chefs will have to prepare three dishes to be served at a Napa Valley restaurant called Cyrus. One thing I do love on this show is when the chefs are told that they will be serving their food in someone else’s restaurant as if that is a thing to get excited about. I mean, I guess I kind of get it, but also, that is like telling me that I am going to be writing this Top Chef recap in Perez Hilton’s content management system. OOOOOOH. (Hail of bullets.) Anyway, everyone is pretty PUMPED, I’m sure, to be cooking at Cyrus. But they know there is going to be a catch. And there is a catch! There are actually three catches.
The first catch is that each chef is given one “mystery box” that will include the exact same ingredients and all of those ingredients must be used in their first dish. That is a good challenge! It’s weird that they don’t do that type of challenge more often, just forcing the chefs to compete on very even ground. Because as we all know, the most compelling television is built on fairness. Anyway, the second catch is that for their third course, everyone has to make a dessert. That is also a good challenge! It may have taken six years, but it seems like this show finally knows what the hell it is doing. And for the third and final (SPOILER ALERT: NOT FINAL! CLASSIC TC!) catch, the three finalists have to draw knives to determine which two eliminated contestants will be their sous-chefs. It breaks down like this:
Bryan: Jennifer, Ashley
Michael: Jesse, Eli
Kevin: Preeti, Ash
I hope that Kevin is preparing his meal as a memorial to 9/11. And I hope that Bryan is going to use his final challenge to make a statement about marriage equality. Those are really carefully crafted jokes about Preeti and Ashley, for people who have been watching throughout the season. (If Ron had been chosen I would have gotten to use my classic “I hope Michael is going to serve his three dishes on a raft from Haiti” bit.)
They get three hours to prep the night before. Everyone is rushing around, I don’t know. Chef stuff. Kevin is unhappy with Preeti, which seems about right. He interviews that he has 20 things on his prep-list and Preeti is only doing two of them. That is not very many of them! Meanwhile, everyone gets to finally find out what is in the “mystery box.”
Surprise! It is a box of garbage!
Now make it!
The next morning, as the chefs are preparing their menus, there is a knock at the door. Uh oh! Another twist! What could it be? Maybe Tom is coming to tell them that they have to cook the meal under heavy sedation. “Take these three pills and meet me in the kitchen in 20 minutes.” Maybe Padma is coming to tell them that they have to cook the meal in a hospital. “The chef whose food gives the least people a staph infection of the face will win.” No, it is their moms! Yay! Moms are the best! Hugs all around.
Back at Cyrus, Tom explains that in honor of their moms being in town, each chef will now create a fourth (first) dish, inspired by and honoring their mothers. Sure. Mostly I think this is an excuse to use photographs of the chefs when they were younger.
Kevin’s baby photo makes me feel really uncomfortable. Just kidding. But it is lucky for him that he apparently got 1,000 times cooler right before being on this show. America loves a cool dude. America does not love a pasty, nervous-looking dude.
And more cooking.
When it is time for the judges to eat, they have a little competition of their own: who can make the most threatening I Am An Extra On The Sopranos Face:
Yikes. A lot of pretty menacing fuhgettafaces guys, congrats. But I think the winner is clearly Billy Walnuts Terlato over there. BADA-ZING. I’m actually taking tough points away from Sam Nazarian for being on The Hills. And I am taking life points away from myself for knowing that.
The judging seems very close, as usual. People love Kevin’s mom course, and for the first two courses they think that Bryan has never heard of seasoning and is a sissy, but they love Bryan’s main course venison. Michael wins on the “mystery box” dish with his dashi-glazed rockfish with sweet & sour crab salad with squash and meyer lemon, but his dessert is overcooked. Everyone likes the broth in Kevin’s mystery box course, but they find his matsutake mushroom inedible. Bryan’s cheesecake dessert is a hit. Kevin puts bacon on a banana. Kevin, you’re killing me! Speaking of Kevin killing me, he introduces his main course of slow-roasted pork belly by telling everyone how much he loves cooking pork and how he is the king of pork and how if he had things his way he would be made out of pork and his hands would be silverware. But that never goes over well, Kevin! Now everyone just thinks you are kind of sad for not knowing how to cook the thing you love (which is also the plot of Sophie’s Choice). Anyway, everyone had some hits and everyone had some misses!
At judge’s table, everyone is both BRAISED and criticized. Sorry. Then everyone is asked to give their speech on why they deserve to win Top Chef. Really? I mean, we are more than a decade deep into reality TV, can we stop using the word “deserve”? No one deserves to win Top Chef. Bryan thinks he should win because he thinks that he has shown the judges consistently that he is pretty good at cooking. Oh, Bryan. We should have workshopped that speech together! Michael just doesn’t want Bryan to win, which everyone laughs at. I guess it was funny, but it was also pointlessly mean. We get it, you are competitive. Michael is kind of an asshole. Kevin thinks he should win because…I don’t know, Kevin seems tired. The fight has clearly drained out of him. :(
So, Kevin is pretty quickly told that he is not Top Chef. Oh well. His mom is there to console him. I hope she called Eli’s mom for some tips. She probably did, but the line was busy. Because Eli was already talking to her.
It is down to the two Voltaggio brothers, and I really think that Michael should win. He has been an excellent competitor throughout the season and I just think that he’s been more creative and adventurous and really shown that he…oh my God, am I in love with Michael Voltaggio? No. But he was great. Bryan is also very talented, and he definitely had a great final challenge performance, but I would feel weird about Bryan beating Kevin in a way that I would not feel weird about Michael beating Kevin. Which is good. Because MICHAEL BEATS THEM ALL.
His mom comes in and Michael sheds some tears, and then he says “there is the emotion you were waiting for, Padma.” Yikes. That is seriously what a Terminator says right before he lowers himself into the molten steel. And check this guy out:
Congratulations, Michael Voltaggio!
And congratulations to all of the chefs this season! But mostly just congratulations to Michael.