TC6, Ep. 14, Finale
It's a culinary showdown between Kevin, Bryan and Mike starting at the Rutherford Hills Winery in Napa Valley. Kevin tells us that he had been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but decided to start a culinary career instead. Padma states that Kevin has won 5 Elimination Challenges and Tom later in the show says that the Final 3 won 12 of 13. That statistic clearly demonstrates why they are the finalists. Mike adds a sly remark that Bryan won Elimination Challenges but no Quickfires. Fortunately, there has not to my knowledge ever been a Quickfire in the finale. Usually the mission is to cook the best possible meal, sometimes with constraints and sometimes not. This time there are serious constraints:
Course 1 is to be created using a box of obscure ingredients containing one Pacific rockfish, a Meyer lemon, a Matsutake mushroom, anise hyssop and Kabucha squash. The initial reaction of the chefs was "these ingredients don't go together".
Course 2 is to be chef's choice - anything goes.
Course 3 must be a dessert. Kevin is upset because he does not consider his dessert skills to be very advanced.
In addition, they will have a sous chef for a brief prep period that evening and for 3 hours cooking time the next day, both at the Citrus restaurant. Knives are drawn and this is the result:
Kevin - gets Preeti (who he considers useless as he assigns her only 2 of the 20 prep items, doing the rest himself) and Ash
Bryan - gets Jen (lucky him) and Ashley
Mike - gets Jesse and Eli (who he is very comfortable with)
Prep begins immediately and Preeti, Ashley and Jesse are utilized for these tasks while the later eliminated sous chefs are reserved for the following day. The results of the prep period were the mise en place for the following day.
Now you know that in Top Chef episodes there is always a twist. So the 3 chefs are hanging out in their living quarters the next morning waiting for Padma to present it to them. Instead, the knock on their door is from their mothers, who they are glad to see. When they arrive at the Citrus restaurant Tom has a surprise for them. No, it's not another 2 cars. He tells them that in honor of their mothers there will be a new course (Course 0 is my counting system) that reflects their culinary experiences as a child. So adjustments have to be made rapidly in the plans of the chefs.
The distinguished tasting panel included the 4 final judges (Padma, Tom, Gail and Toby) plus this distinguished chef/owners:
Bill Terlato, President/CEO of Terlato Family Vineyards
Donatella Arpaia, chef/owner of bellini, davidburke & donatella, anthos, Mia Dona and co-owner of Eos in Miami
Douglas Keane, chef/owner of Cyrus restaurant, obtaining a Michelin 2 star rating for it
Steven Starr, restaurant owner of 11 Philadelphia restaurants, 2 in NYC, 2 in Atlantic City and 1 in Fort Lauderdale
Drew Nieropont, co-owner of Nobu with Robert DeNiro
Sam Nazarian - co-owner of Katsuya's restaurants in Brentwood, Hollywood and Glendale CA, XIV and Bazaar
In addition, for the first course only, Kevin's mother and Bryan and Mike's mother joined them for the dish in their honor. Mrs. Voltaggio stated that Mike had never hated everything she cooked when he was a child. How ironic!
Here is the menu choices they make:
0. Sardine, German Butterball Potato, Heirloom Tomato and Panko Bread Crumbs
1. Rockfish Sous Vide, Kabocha Squash with Curry and Meyer Lemon
2. Venison Saddle with Purée of Sunchokes and Orange Juniper Sauce
3. "Dulce de Leche" Cheesecake with Fig Sorbet, Poached Pear and Basil
0. Southern Fried Chicken Skin with Squash Casserole and Tomato
1. Pacific Rockfish, Roasted Squash, Crab Broth and Roasted Matsutake Mushroom
2. Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Caramelized Ham Jus
3. Roasted Banana, Toasted Peanut with Chocolate Bacon Mousse and Bacon Brittle
0. Cream of Dehydrated Broccoli, Fried Broccoli and Spot Prawn
1. Dashi-Glazed Rockfish, Sweet and Sour Crab Salad with Squash and Meyer Lemon
2. Fennel-Scented Squab Breast, Pistachio Cassoulet and 3 different Textures of Mushrooms
3. Chocolate Caramel Coulant, Butternut Squash Brûlée and Butternut Ice Cream, with pumpkin seeds
During the cooking process, Mike's dessert was overdone in the oven as a result of his negligence. Kevin said that Ash was working very rapidly on his behalf and he appreciated that.
The tasting panel commentary during the courses included this:
Mom's Honor course
Kevin - excellent job of highlighting flavors
Bryan - underseasoned
Mike - prawn overwhelmed by broccoli flavors
Mystery Box course
Bryan - underseasoned, plating not very original; Tom thought the rockfish/ lemon combination was super
Do Your Own Thing course
Bryan - Tom thought the venison was perfect
Mike- Donatella thought something was a little off
Mike - Tom says his ganache was close to right, but he had to serve it immediately after leaving the oven or it dries
Kevin - Stephen hated the use of pork in diessert but Gail defended it
The tasting panel was excused and the final judges talked with the chefs and gave them some feedback . Their comments were:
Bryan - Toby says he cooked with restraint, Gail was happy with the venison, Tom mentioned sparse seasoning
Kevin - Padma says his chicken took lots of flavors; Tom - squash revealed new flavors as you ate it; Pork dish deficient
Mike - Toby says pickled sonata was bold and appropiate; Tom said it kept revealing new layers of flavors; Gail said cake was dry but the flavors were excellent
Each chef was given the opportunity to share his philosophy:
Bryan - these dishes showcased my cuisine and style.
Mike - I don't want Bryan to be top Chef (because Mike wanted it for himself). I love what I do.
Kevin - I cook food that's soul food, which reflects who I am
Now, did you find those statements enlightening or were they the usual crap that people say in such situations? You don't have to answer that because it is a rhetorical question.
The judges then deliberated and the snippets revealed in the telecast included these:
Course 0 Mom's honor
Gail - Kevin created a great dish
Toby - I liked Bryan best
Tom - Mike's broccoli overpowered the poor prawn and dish needed acid; Kevin's puree great and chicken skin crispy
Course 1 Mystery Box
Mike was best; toby loved his "pickled sonata", which I assume is the sweet and sour
Kevin massacred the mushroon by making it too tough to eat but his broth was perfect
Bryan had a one note dish, competent but not exceptional
Course 2 Anything Goes
Bryan - Tom says the venison exceptional
Mike - Gail says squab fine but cassoulet was a problem
Kevin - Toby hated the pork belly dish; tom says it needef more cooking time and more complexity
Course 3 Dessert
Mike - Tom said he burned his coulant dish; Gail called it "dry" but she thought his flavor combination was excellent
Kevin - Toby summarized with "he had a bad night"
Padma brings them in for the verdict. She says "one of you is Top Chef". This causes me to think it will probably be Bryan and definitely not Kevin. I was half right. Kevin was put in 3rd place first. Then Bryan says that he can't think of a better outcome than he and Mike being the top 2. The winner of $125,000, some cookware and the title of Top Chef is Mike.
I have difficulty understanding that outcome. The usual process is to see who wins each course. With the problems that Mike and Bryan had, my judgment is that Course 0 went to Kevin. Course 1 was a clean win for Mike. Course 2 was a close win for Bryan. both Kevin and Mike made mistakes on the dessert. That should have resulted a win for Bryan. Why didn't it? In her blog on BRAVO.com, Gail cites the complexity and subtlety of Mike's dishes as the main reason for his win. Tom revealed in his blog on BRAVO.com that my rating of Bryan as best for course 2 was not correct as Bryan's perfect venison was beaten by Mike's even better squab. I think the title of Tom's blog say it all,
"Bait n Switch", as the producers make I believe conscious editing decisions to mislead the viewers into thinking Bryan should win. In fact, it is reported that Bryan, Mike and Kevin all through Bryan had won.
That wraps it up for Top Chef 6, except for next week's special TC6 Reunion.