Welcome back to Top Chef, last week before the finale! Technically, I think this is part one of the finale, but ANYWAY, let's roll!
I am excited to see Kwame back! I know he won Last Chance Kitchen because of this one running shot
In the meanwhile, let's talk about everyone else! Jeremy Ford is a front-runner (not for me, because I dislike disorganization), he's won the most challenges and he's wanting to win this for his daughter (to show her that only winning counts: another reason I am not a Jeremy fan) and that's why he's in Las Vegas! We need pics again, it's been a while since we've seen anything but food:
Then we have Marjorie Meek-Bradley, from Washington, D.C., who has worked all over the place and has survived the Top Chef dessert curse and makes bread like a CHAMP! I liked her initially because her food was solid, but her confidence lacked; it seems as though she's found her feet and is ready to rock out the finale. She also punches a lot and is unsparing in her criticism of unrefined chef Isaac Toups.
Speaking of Isaac! He is a protege of Emeril Lagasse (a sometime judge of this show - eyebrow raise), and a self-styled Ragin' Cajun from New Orleans. I really like what he can do with meat, which makes sense, given he runs a Meatery. He's struggled with confidence a bit throughout the season, given his lack of "tweezifying" of plates and the other chefs not seeing him as a threat, but fought through and now is in the finals, baby!
They're all very excited, and are waiting to see who won Last Chance Kitchen, 'cause as Isaac says: he knows that's coming; he watches the show.
Some really beautiful shots of Las Vegas, I've never been there and I forget just how massive it is now that I don't watch C.S.I anymore.
The next morning, the cheftestants meet Padma and Tom at the MGM Grand; now they find out who won Last Chance Kitchen! Huh. It's Amar. But but. He isn't. Um. No way to say this properly, so, congrats, Amar! I would have LOVED to see you rock out the Fleur de Lis challenge, but you're here now! His pic
He says he has a monkey on his back and I am more struck by the chia pet on his head or the pubes on his face, but nonetheless, on we go!
Padma says Las Vegas is home to some of the world's biggest chefs, including people I have never heard of, Wolfgang Puck (who lost all credibility when he started opening Food Courts), Emeril Lagasse (shot of Isaac) and Tom Colicchio (uncomfy smile from Tom).
Oh wow, I didn't realise, being a Top Chef newb, only two of them are making it through. One today, one tomorrow. And THEN the finale? Wow. Okay, Marjorie, knives up and out, you got this!!
Padma explains their first challenge with a deck of cards, saying that luck plays a part in any win. She holds up a card from each suit, which represented a class designation in the past. Spades = royalty, Hearts = The Clergy, Diamonds = merchants and Clubs = peasants. That doesn't make any sense to me, I know that's accurate, scoring-wise (I play bridge, poorly, call me!) but why would Diamonds be ranked as merchants and not as royalty?
Each of the suits has it's own pantry, stocked with historically accurate foodstuffs, er, I pity both whoever gets royalty, because killing a bunch of blackbirds is gonna SUCK, and also peasants, because blood pudding is real and really disgusting at the same time. These ingredients will be the inspiration for the challenge.
Now they're drawing cards; Jeremy gets Diamonds and the Merchant's pantry, Marjorie scores with Spades and the royalty grub, Isaac wins my cold, black irreligious heart with his Hearts and Clergy win, saying he's an atheist. I used to identify as atheist, but now I just try to focus on hating organized religion with every ounce of my being. It's very draining, so I take occasional breaks to write.
That leaves Amar with the peasants and Clubs, boooo for Amar! It gets worse for him, yet; everyone else gets to raid his pantry and even though it's a game, I find myself getting hot on his AND history's behalf. You go droight de seigneur elsewhere, Jeremy you bastage!
They have to be ready to serve 150 people each in 3 hours. 3 HOURS. Jeremy rubs his chin and this is where I have to stand down on alla dese. I don't agree with a lot of what Jeremy does, but I COULD NEVER DO THIS. EVER. So. All the respect.
Oh. They get a little help, thank goodness, and THAT'S where I saw Kwame, he was helping and that makes much more sense. They wouldn't let me get a handy screen-grab like that if it meant anything; especially since I am epically bad at screen-grabs.
Back as well are Karen (love her, wish she'd made it through, she made me a believer for sure), Phillip and Carl, who probably didn't even unpack after his foie gras catastrophe 5 minutes ago.
Marjorie gets to pick first, she goes with Karen, then Isaac picks his "good-luck charm Carl," then Jeremy will for sure pick Kwame, he's just surprised nobody else picked K, he's "so fast and so technical" leaving Phillip with Amar. Phillip always gets chosen last.
Marjorie was a great choice for royalty, she will actually use that to her advantage, and she does immediately, taking the best of everything from each pantry. I think one of the other cheftestants would have tried to be fair and Marjorie doesn't feck around like that OR make apology for it. She's here to win. Normally that bugs me, like when Isaac was being so single-minded about getting ALLLLS the credit, but Marjorie's not sneaking up on anyone with it.
She's making salmon and there's a blood line in salmon? And it should be cooked medium rare? I have been eating salmon my entire adult life and I didn't know either of those two things. I also don't believe anything other than beef should be cooked medium rare, but that may just be from my Canadian Food Safety Guidelines, Americans play from a whole 'nother rulebook.
Amar is a really good peasant choice too! He is so easy going and actually likes chicken livers and probably even beef tongue. I'm sure there's some weird old French recipe with both or either. Herk. For 150 Amar! That's a fecktonne of chicken liver, but he's optimistic!
Isaac is making fish too, seared black cod and now I want to know what's the difference between regular cod and black cod? I mean, you can't tell with the scales off, so does it taste different? Cook differently? Or is it just trend, like crudo? I still don't know what crudo is. Oh my. Isaac is going to cook 150 pieces of black cod TO ORDER and how on earth will that work?
Jeremy is doing chicken thighs with grapes and zucchini and er. I'm sure it will be delish! And he's pickling the grapes. Er-ooh.
Marjorie is second-guessing her salmon and salad, and that's maybe the problem with having access to allllls the ingredients, all that opportunity to overthink. Let's just say Amar with his chicken livers and beef tongue did not have to overthink what he was making.
10 minutes to service! Everyone is ready in an empty room and they're so excited! Peeps in! The judges come in and we're rolling!
Amar gets GREAT feedback, from the judges and a giant man with an Aussie accent in an enourmous pink shirt
Jeremy's chicken is extremely well-received, but I mean, he confit the chicken. He went with a fatty cut and then poached it in butter. I guess it's rich! Gail really REALLY likes the grapes, though
Isaac is a little worried that his dish isn't his usual Southern OR Cajun, but he wants to show he can cook regular. Not a lot of people like it, however.
Look how pretty Marjorie's is! They love her Meyer lemon sauce
The prize is not just a spot in the finale, but $25,000 too! Yay! At results time, guest judge Ric Moonen talks first, he loved Amar's. Tom loved Isaac's, EVERYONE loved Marjorie's Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Almost as much as Jeremy's grapes. I feel like he's going to win this challenge and I HATE that. Sorry, sorry, sour grapes. Yeah. He wins. Yay.
Now we have the second challenge. "The Magician of the Century" David Copperfied will be guiding them with his illusions, blergh. Marjorie is worried, she doesn't run a showy kitchen, she just makes great food. They will have two hours and a full pantry to serve the judges during David Copperfield's show the next day, but they are going to his show tonight to get inspired. Yayyy. I'm with Marjorie, I'd rather be doing tequila shots and trying to convince the piano bar singer to play "Closing Time" than sitting through that.
She was really inspired by his show, though, how he told a story through magic and will be using Duck A L'Orange to tell her story.
Isaac. Well. He's doing something weird. He's attaching cornish game hen skins to my favourite steaks, rib eyes, and calling it Chicken Fried Steak. I will miss you, my Cajun friend.
Amar is making roasted squab with a white chocolate cauliflower ganache and I need a minute. What the everloving FARK?? He is embracing the surprise aspect of the challenge, moreso than the other chefs, so there's that.
Marjorie decides to mess around with liquid nitrogen and right before the biggest challenge of the season? This is when you want to experiment? She burns her tongue and can't taste anything. I mean.
I've never likes David Copperfield, even from afar, but I love that he questions the judges as to why the chefs have to do their final challenge like this "in your business, are...why is that important?" LOVE.IT. Gail says chefs have to be more accessible, be entertainers, blah blah, basically, it's Vegas and Top Chef is trying to ramp it up. Just admit it.
Marjorie is up first and her show is PAINFUL. Oh man. I can barely watch. Everyone looks similarly uncomfortable and we just want it DONE. It looks gorgeous
Isaac's weirdness is up next, he does a little slight of hand and they like his chicken skin idea, so let's see. They LOVE it.
Amar's turn to shine! He just found that his first mentor, Chef Gerry Hayden, that we talked about before, has just passed away after a long fight with ALS. He's got a lot on the line. His food looks interesting and he incorporated a little bit of smoke
And now they wait! Isaac says he's at peace but he wants to win and that's a great feeling. They've done everything they can do, and now it's all over but the waiting, which as Tom Petty knows, is the hardest part.
Marjorie gets good feedback, as does Amar, and then the talking: Amar gives a lot of backstory. After, during deliberation, Marjorie is surprisingly considered to be the chef with the most showmanship, Amar has the best technique but Isaac took the biggest risk. Let's see!
And the chef competing against Jeremy in the finale will be: Amar. Wow. I didn't expect that, although he really is so technically sound. He fought his way back through Last Chance Kitchen and good for him!
Bai Marjorie and Isaac. Amar is so happy he and I maybe cry. It gets very emotional at the end of a series! Only one show left, good luck you guys! See you next week