Top Chef Recap: Episode 14—And We're Done

By: Carol Blymire

It's the finale, we're still in Singapore, and our three finalists—Ed, Angelo, and Kevin—are told at the top of tonight's episode what their final challenge will be: preparing a four-course meal with "the most amazing food you've ever done in your lives."  They must start with a vegetable course, then move into fish, then meat (which Tom and Eric Ripert will choose for them), and dessert. Padma tells the chefs they've flown in "additional hands" to help with the cooking, and out walk previous Top Chef winners Hung Huynh, Michael Voltaggio (call me!), and Ilan Hall.

The finalists draw knives to determine who their sous chefs will be: Ed chooses Ilan (and noticeably grimaces); Kevin gets Michael (they've worked together before); and, Angelo gets Hung (that's what she said). The guys head back to the hotel suite, where Angelo tells them he feels "like garbage" and heads to bed. The previous winners counsel Ed and Kevin, and Kevin chews on some paper like he's a goat, or something.

The next morning, Ed and Kevin enjoy a lovely room service breakfast while Angelo lays in bed and tells the cameraman that it feels like someone is stabbing him in the stomach. The doctor shows up and tells Angelo there's a 20 percent chance he will be able to cook in in the finals.

Ed, Kevin, Ilan, Michael, and Hung walk into the Top Chef Kitchen, and are greeted by Tom and Eric who have decided that Angelo will direct Hung via phone to do all his prep. Next, they unveil the proteins they've chosen for the guys: red mullet, cuttlefish, cockles, and slipper lobsters for the fish course; and, pork belly and a whole duck for the meat course. Then Tom tells them they're not choosing from these.  Oh, no. For their fish course, they have to use the mullet, and for the meat course, the duck. And, they have to incorporate all the other proteins into the dishes somehow. The finalists and their sous chefs head to the market with $300. Kevin seems to follow Michael's lead around the produce section; Ed and Ilan have a bit of a power struggle (shocker); and, Angelo and Hung  work well together over the phone.

They have three hours to prep, during which time they preview their menus, lament Hung's taking of the entire foie gras lobe, and yet still give Hung props for doing the work of two men. The doctor visits Angelo again, who says he now has a migraine, and the doctor tells him there's a three percent chance he could feel better with an antibiotic injection. Now, I'm not a doctor (and I also don't play one on TV) but that makes absolutely no sense at all. Health care reform, anyone? Then, the doctor says it usually takes "two or three days" or "three to five days" or "up to a week" to feel better. I know the chefs have a duck to cook, but how come Angelo gets stuck with a real quack?  Bah-dum-bum. Thanks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal. Three ways. (™ Kenny)

The next morning, Ed and Kevin yawn over coffee, and Doctor Quackster McShotinyourasswillprobablynothelpbutlet'sdoitanyway is back.  Angelo is wearing a flowered t-shirt, so I'm thinking he's feeling better. The "doctor" clears him to cook, and they all gear up to go in and cook the "meal of their lives." They cook, taste, sweat, and season, working with their sous chefs. They trash-talk in their interviews: Kevin thinks Ed's dishes have too many elements; Ed thinks Angelo and Kevin worry too much about presentation and not enough about taste.

The judges arrive and each of them heads up a table of dinner guests including some of the world's leading food experts and chefs: David Chang, Dana Cowin, Susan Feniger, K F Seetoh, and Paul Bartolotta, to name a few.  The finalists come out to present their first course.

The locals love Angelo's pickled mushroom with char siu bao pork belly, fresh noodles, and watermelon tea, but Tom says it's a dish that "needs work." Susan thinks Kevin's eggplant-zucchini-and-pepper terrine with pickled tomatoes, jalapenos, and black garlic  doesn't have "enough oomph," but David Chang likes it.  Eric thinks Ed executed his chilled summer corn veloute with fried black cockles well.  On the whole, Tom thinks the first courses showed restraint, but were good.  The fish course is up next.

Dana likes Kevin's pan-seared red mullet with cuttlefish noodles, braised pork belly, cockles, slipper lobster, and cigala, and Seetoh recognizes all the work that went into Ed's stuffed mullet with glazed slipper lobster, cuttlefish, and zucchini pesto. Paul Bartolotta says Angelo's "Asian-style bouillabaise" with sauteed red mullet and poached cuttlefish is "the dish you'll remember—boom!"  

As far as the meat course goes, the guests and judges really love Kevin's roasted duck breast with duck dumpling, caramelized bok choy, and orange-coriander sauce. Angelo's sauteed duck breast and foie gras marshmallow with a tart cherry shooter impresses Susan, but others didn't really see the point of the shooter. Everyone at Padma's table enjoys Ed's roasted duck breast and braised stuffed duck neck with baby spinach. Eric says that, so far, he's been impressed and that he sees why these three guys made it to the finals. And, it's at this point that I have to disagree with my boo. There's nothing in this episode I want to reach through the TV screen to eat or figure out how to cook myself. I think the food looked and seemed more impressive, bold, and flavorful in last week's episode. I wanted to cook and eat nearly every single one of those dishes.

Dessert time!  Kevin's frozen "Singapore Sling 2010" with tropical fruits is named Singapore's new "national dessert" by one of the guests, while Gail and David like Angelo's "Thai Jewel" of coconut-vanilla cream with crushed ice and exotic fruits.  David and Gail crack each other up over the very straightforward, not-at-all glam approach of Ed's sticky toffee date pudding with fleur de sel chantilly creme.

At Judges' Table, Eric and Gail laud Angelo's fish course, but question his tart cherry "palate cleanser." Tom thinks Ed phoned it in on the dessert. Eric doesn’t think Kevin's vegetable course had enough heat, but Gail and Tom say his duck course and Singapore Sling were really good. Gail says she thinks this has been one of the best finales (oh, honey... really?), and the judges go into a course-by-course hash session which results in them loving Ed's corn veloute for the veg dish, Kevin's and Angelo's fish courses, Kevin's duck dish, and Angelo's and Kevin's desserts.  So, it's clear at this point who the winner is, right?  And also?  Dang it.
 
They call the finalists back out to Judges' Table where Tom says the winner will be the person who took the most risks and cooked the best meal. And—ZOMG SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!—the Top Chef crown goes to: Kevin. The sous chefs and Kelly join the finalists for a round of champagne to toast Kevin, and uh, yeah. The end.

There's a reunion show next week, and the promo promised they'd delve back into the Great Pea Puree Mystery of 2010.  I bet you can't wait.  Curious to see who wins fan favorite this season.  Did you have a favorite?

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