Top Chef Recap
Finale Part II
By David Mumpower
February 7, 2014
The next day is the Big Day. The restaurants will serve their food to guests; then, the judges will determine who is Top Chef. Nick immediately gets off to a bad start as his dictatorial personality creates problems with the wait staff. He picks a pair of people to be his main servers. Moments later, he holds a staff meeting. Those two people are nowhere to be found. Nick handles it like a pro, grossly overreacting while somehow simultaneously managing to demonstrate a tremendous amount of panic. The faces of the servers are priceless. Nick is already the worst boss they have ever had in their entire lives.
The editing staff at Top Chef has a tremendous sense of humor. Counterbalancing Nick’s temper tantrum, Nina is showed conversing with her wait staff. She calmly invites them to partake of the food, noting that the elegance of the flavors blends wonderfully with the crackers. While Nick screams at strangers, Nina throws an unannounced tea party, thereby making a dozen new friends. Nick may yet win Top Chef, but Nina is the people’s choice with regards to other players, temporary employees and Bravo TV viewers.
The judges are divided into two groups. Tom and Gail are joined by luminaries such as David Kinch and Takashia Yagihashi while Padma and Emeril dine with Hugh Acheson and my beloved Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto. Oddly, the division of the five judges proves crucial to the final outcome. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The finalists present their first courses. Nina provides another celebration in minimalism, breadfruit with whipped foie gras butter. Tom and Gail confirm that it tastes as marvelous as it looks. Technically, this bite was an unrequested precursor so her actual first course is tuna & escolar tartar with tomato water & jalapeno. The judges again sound pleased. A regular diner provides a wonderful compliment, “I taste the island.”
We cut back to Nick’s first course. He is berating the wait staff once again. He states his embarrassment of the service. I am embarrassed for him, because he is not presenting the best version of himself on television. Nick is a very nice man right up until he is not. He’s like the Hulk in that regard. And right now, he is green and angry.
Fittingly, Nick’s first course is also green. It is Hamachi & tuna with green apple wasabi, celery & maui-meyer lemon. The appearance of the plate resembles pan grease. He may have been going for this look, but I find it unappealing. You will never guess what the judges think. It’s under-seasoned! What a shock! If Nick wins, it will almost be admirable how little he adjusted to the criticisms of the judges.
Nick’s second dish strikes me as a huge improvement. It is a sweet shrimp bisque, scallop & daikon noodles with thai basil. The presentation is perfect. The judges disagree. Morimoto finds the scallop superfluous. Another judge expresses frustration that the flavor is not sweeter. If Nick loses, it could be because of this dish.