Top Chef: Texas Recap

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

March 7, 2012

The knife points to the winner!

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Earlier, we stated that Sarah’s family had arrived and there was a beautiful moment between Sarah and the single mom who raised her as they celebrated her big moment. Paul is informed that a table wants to speak with him. He is shocked when he realizes his girlfriend and his parents are there. Paul and his father both begin to cry. The pride on the face of Paul’s father is unmistakable. We don’t think you have anything to worry about in terms of having your parents’ approval, dude.

Paul’s menu consists of a daring first course of chawanamushi, edamame, pea shoots & spot prawns. This affords the judges the opportunity to play with their food a bit as it jiggles in the bowl. His second course is grilled sea bass with clam dashi, pickled radishes & mushrooms. The third dish is congee with scrambled eggs, uni, kale & smoked albacore. The dessert is a coconut ice cream, puffed rice, kumquats, mangosteen, thai chili foam & jasmine gelée.

Judging from the comments of Tom and the others, Paul has created a meal for the ages. We do not exaggerate when we say that Tom’s eyes light up as he describes the various flavors as well as the overall dining experience. We mentioned last week that Tom’s opinion carries more weight than the rest of the judges in combination. As such, we believe that Paul is about to be named Top Chef.

“It was a sexy meal.” -- Mark McEwan, summing up Paul’s triumphant performance

When the judges switch restaurants, there is one key moment of note. Paul is informed that the chawanamushi is overcooked. Even worse, Keith and him cannot make another batch because they have exhausted their supply of eggs. This too mirrors last season’s finale wherein Richard Blais offered a better dessert for one set of judges than the other group. Paul freaks out and understandably so. The good news for him is that Tom received the properly cooked meal rather than the disastrous batch.

Judges Table begins with a celebration of what has been accomplished this evening. Tom says (for the third time in four seasons) that this is “the best food we’ve ever seen in a finale”. We have stopped believing Tom because one can only cry wolf so many times. Even so, what we take from this is that Paul has matched the lofty expectations for him while Sarah has surpassed the lowered ones for her less proven style of cooking. Everyone is thrilled with the news.

At one point, Tom comments that Paul created his “favorite dish of the night." Sarah’s look of consternation speaks volumes. Her worst fears have been confirmed. After the finalists are dismissed, Sarah then proceeds to debate the evening’s courses with Paul. By the end of this conversation, she has again convinced herself that she has a strong chance at victory. We shout at the television as if this were a horror film and she were a recently deflowered teen heading down into the basement where the guy with a chainsaw and hockey mask is waiting.

In a humorous switch from last week, Gail champions Sarah, the very woman she wanted eliminated in the previous episode. The other judges all sound thrilled with the overall output. Sarah has definitely won the first course due in large part to the issue with the chawanamushi while the next two are Paul’s although Gail probably gives Sarah the nod for the third portion. The dessert is up for debate as the judges decide between the delicious flavors Sarah provided as opposed to the thematic completion from Paul’s symmetrical offering. In the end, Paul wins this as well.

Stating the obvious, Paul Qui is the winner of Top Chef Texas. This announcement signifies the culmination of the most dominant performance in the history of the show and quite possibly all of competitive reality television. Paul wins his ninth elimination challenge out of a possible 15, a staggering accomplishment in a field that originally included sixteen participants.

Paul’s triumph has felt like a foregone conclusion for months now. Still, we are thrilled that for the second consecutive season, the best chef won. Top Chef is a special program in this regard. The best competitor frequently does win, something otherwise sadly rare in relative programming.

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