Top Chef D.C. Episode 14: Return of the Jedi

I can’t believe it’s over, but it is. The finale is here! Tuning in with me for the final showdown is still-aspiring cheftestant (Are you listening, Bravo?) Ed Hardy.

"I only wish I could've held the title for more than a few months. Jeez!"

Okay, Ed. It is on. The final EC. And the final three are charged with creating a four-course meal of the most amazing food ever! I’m not sure what that even means anymore. If you were charged with socking it to Seetoh, which former winner would you want as your sous? Hung? The Volt? Ilan?

I want Michael Volt. He’s the assistant most likely to be able to offer me a couple different perspectives on how I might change a dish or the plating of a dish our possibly just change the garnish of a dish. If I’m sick in bed, oddly enough, I do want Hung. If I’m sick in the head, I want Ilan. Call me a playa hater, but I’ve never been that impressed with him.

The advice: “Do who you are.” This is all kinds of right, right? When people do something new, it is usually disastrous, yes?

If you think about it, the cheftestants all kind of took that advice to heart. Ed had layer upon layer of flavor, Angelo had some personal drama (Do you think he found another mail-order bride in Singpore?), and Kevin made some well-thought out cuisine with some excellent details.

Awww. I feel superbad for Angelo. I’ve felt like Angelo has. Unfortunately, when I was in Paris.

I’ve felt like Angelo has. Unfortunately, when I was in Morocco. It might have been the street vendor escargot. Being a culinary adventurer has its downsides.

"I'm baaaaaack!"

I do think it’s good that Angelo has Hung. Do you agree? I mean, the dude is KILLING himself.

I had forgotten about how fast that guy was. He’s a little scary and definitely amazing.

A duck and foie marshmallow. YUM! I don’t know what that is, but I want one. Right now.

Except that for whatever reason, the foie marshmallow doesn’t work. It just becomes a regular marshmallow and, as Tom says, “A way to get cinnamon to the plate.”

Explain the scuttlebutt with the other chefs and the foie. If they wanted foie…why didn’t they buy it at the store?

With the number of people they were feeding, it appears possible that Hung might have bought all the foie that was available at the store. In that situation, it’s not too much to ask for Angelo to give up a little. But, can Ed honestly expect any charity from Angelo at this point after his mental torture from the last round? I would have picked the old-fashioned Singapore caning over listening to Ed’s mouth run.

Kevin’s veg terrine sounds gross. Blech! I like my veggies fresh, don’t you?

"Sorry, Susan. You'll have to try to get a table at Ko like everyone else."

I agree. I don’t normally like layered and cooked veggies pressed together. But to his credit, it is colorful (see also Kevin’s dessert) and slicing it thin made it attractive.

Ed is having Ilan do a sticky date cake — we had that in school and it was AWESOME! Do you remember Chef Alain, our Level 5 pastry instructor, made it on the last night at school? Blew. My. Mind. Did you have some?

No. And I haven’t forgotten that incident either. I wanted some, but you guys ate it all. You’re all on my list.

Oh, that’s too bad. I’ll make you some one day! Everyone talks about winning $125K…can we discuss how LITTLE that is in terms of opening a restaurant — not just in NYC but, practically, anywhere?

The real value in winning Top Chef is winning Top Chef, not the $125,000. Opening a restaurant can cost a million or two smackeroos easily. And it might take a couple years for a restaurant to turn a profit so you can begin paying back those loan sharks.  I’m certain Top Chef winners can secure a loan, but for most of ordinary chef-humans it will always be financially out of reach. To sum up: $125,000 is great, but opening a restaurant costs something more like $1.25 million.

Why is Ed all catty about Ilan? “Ilan had his season, blahblahblah.” I mean, he’s helping him. Also, is the Volt ridiculously low key?

It did seem like Ilan might have been offering unsolicited advice and recipe changes. There’s a fine line between enthusiastic support and making you nervous that you might change his recipe. Volt is low-key, but I’d be low-key too if I had just won Top Chef earlier this year. Also, maybe this is a good example of how Bravo’s editing turns some folks into villains.

I love that Angelo draws his dishes before making them. He is an artist. Do you draw dishes ever?

Never. I’m not an artist. I’m a practiced plagiarist, though.

Good to know. Remind me not to ask you to guest-blog. Does Ed overdo his dishes? I thought that was Kenny’s forte.

Remember earlier in the season when Ed couldn’t tame the creative monkey? It came back. And it was flinging you-know-what at Ed. Call it the Singapore Fling. But seriously, I get the feeling that Ed has a lot going on in all his dishes. Heck, in the QFC, he had two different kinds of noodles in one dish.

What’s your strength — flavors or plating?

Flavors. I try to plumb the depths of moments of culinary nostalgia, real or imagined, in the minds of my diners by concentrating on the center flavors of classic dishes.

Holy cow. Hold the phone! Is Kevin going to win it?

Kevin pops and locks in celebration of his Top Chef victory.

Of the courses, whose dishes looked best? Kevin’s. Did you see that dessert? All the pretty color?

Also, dessert. What do I want to eat for dessert? CAKE! I don’t want fruit. EVER. I eat fruit, don’t get me wrong. I grow fruit. But, I don’t want to be a punched by fruit like a Hi-C commercial!

Ummm, Caroline, I think there was alcohol in there. If I know anything about you, that means you would have enjoyed it.

Kevin wins. NFW! Angelo will still get more press out of this because he’s, you know, totes hot! This goes to show it’s ep by ep. Kevin didn’t show up with the real goods all year, IMHO.

Let’s put this into terms you can understand. Pretend for a moment that Angelo is like Roger Federer. And Ed Cotton is Andy Roddick. That makes Kevin Rafael Nadal, right?

Some would argue that Angelo is Nadal and Kevin is, like, Del Potro or something. Anyway, thanks for pouring salt in my Federer wounds. So, Ed is happy only because Angelo didn’t win. Am I right? Or am I right?

Agreed. Ed turned into a big Angelo hater at the end. He brings shame upon all of us Eds with his behavior. But isn’t Kevin adorable when he doesn’t believe that he won?

Kevin is a bun! The curse of attending culinary school in this day and age is that people ask me if I want to be on Top Chef. I don’t, but only because being the CDO is so much better. Really, though, every ep I watch makes it clear that I’m a bush leaguer. I couldn’t keep up! But, Ed, after carefully watching all season…do you think you’ve got the chops to go head to head with these chefs?

Absolutely. Maybe not the Top Chef champion, but a contendah. Additionally, I promise in front of you and the OpenTable Community that if I see the writing on the wall, I will make a grilled peanut butter bacon and banana sandwich during the elimination challenge and have it be my final dish. I will leave with my head held high and my culinary sense of humor intact.

Will you audition again?

Absolutely. If I’m on, you might even be persuaded to watch another season.

I sure will. If you know anything else about me, aside from my love of a cocktail, it’s that you can always count on me to tune in and root against you.

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