Top Chef California Recap: Finale Part 2
By Jason Lee
March 21, 2016
Our California roadtrip ends where so many dreams have ended before—Las Vegas. Though both finalists - Jeremy and Amar - have likely been propelled to new career trajectories by virtue of their performances this season, one will walk away with the (as Padma often likes to say) coveted title of Top Chef. Oh yeah, and also $125,000 richer.
Jeremy and Amar arrive here with differing levels of momentum. Jeremy is on a three-challenge win streak and is clearly riding high. Amar has fought back from his Sudden Death Quickfire to claim the Last Chance Kitchen mantel and bested Marjorie and Isaac in the penultimate episode. Use whatever metaphor you want - all the marbles, bet the farm - everything will be decided in one challenge.
But not before brunch. Interrupting a game of pool, Amar answers a knock on the hotel room door to find Tom Colicchio in the hallway with a cart of cooking supplies and food. Noting that he’s never cooked a meal in 13 seasons on Top Chef (it pays to be the head judge and executive producer), Tom is going to cook a four-course brunch for the chefs, with each dish highlighting one of his favorite ingredients. Jeremy and Amar are treated to squab with honey-glazed onions, potato pasta with leeks and caviar, wagyu beef with chanterelle mushrooms. It’s an amazing experience and Jeremy and Amar all but have to pinch themselves in between bites to make sure they’re not dreaming.
Finishing up, Tom hints that the finalists may be tasked with making a similar menu. Indeed, that proves true when Jeremy and Amar arrive at the MGM Grand kitchen met by Padma and the entire Top Chef: California cast. For the finale, each chef will have to cook a four-course menu, where each dish highlights a single ingredient—something they love to cook. To help them through it, each finalist will get to choose two sous chefs. Amar goes with Kwame and Marjorie. Jeremy goes with Carl and Angelina, repeating what Marjorie said a few episodes ago about Angelina being a “beast” with prep.
But wait, there’s more! The two finalists are also met with their own respective culinary mentor. For Jeremy, it’s Jean-Georges, and their reunion is incredibly heartfelt and sweet. Their faces clearly show how much they mean to each other.
In stark contrast, Amar sees Charlie Palmer, who had a guiding hand in Amar’s development as a chef. When Amar decided to break away and open his own restaurant, though, it apparently was not an amicable departure. “Some things were said that I now regret,” Amar notes, leaving it at that. Charlie is similarly terse - there’s a fine line, he tells us, between being confident and being an asshole. Amar, he says, crossed that line.
Kinda makes you wonder why the producers decided to bring Charlie into the finale.
The two crews get to work, with Jeremy and Amar in charge, and their mentors working as sous chefs. After a trip to Whole Foods, prep starts in the kitchen. Jeremy gleefully sets Jean-Georges to work cleaning foie gras. Tom and Emeril check in to see how both groups are doing. There’s a ton of lighthearted banter and laughter with Jeremy’s group.