The final three are taken to the Getty Villa, a beautiful mansion, and Kelly fills them in on their final challenge. They will need to create a series of dishes the represents their history as chefs. The first dish should be inspired by their first food memory. The second dish should be inspired by the experience that caused them to become chefs. The opening of their first restaurants should inspire the third dish. And the fourth dish should represent where they will head in the future. It's a really, really awesome challenge, so hats off to the producers. They will be judged by the traditional three critics, but also by Colicchio, Padma, and Gail, as well as the five winners of the past seasons of Top Chef.
The twist this week is that each chef is joined by a sous-chef from his restaurant to help him. The food that the three chefs put out on the table is really amazing, and I'm super jealous of the people who got to eat it. Even the dishes that were a bit less than successful were good and the diners have trouble finding things that were wrong with each.
In the end, Rick Bayless edges out Michael Chiarello and Hubert Keller to win the title of Top Chef Master and a $100,000 donation for his charity.
The three finalists have piled into a car and have no idea where they are being taken. They just know they are traveling on the Coastal Highway, but aren't sure if they have another Quickfire ahead of them, or something else. They finally arrive at The Getty Villa in Malibu, and it is breathtaking. The views, the art, the grounds, all beautiful.
The chefs walk in and find Kelly waiting for them. She welcomes them and reminds them that they are the only three remaining from the twenty-four that started, and whichever one wins this last challenge will get $100,000 for their charity and the title of Top Chef Master. Don't they at least get a little crown or something? Maybe a special chef's toque? Kelly's hair is looking kind of flat today. It must be humid/windy up at the Getty Villa.
Anyway, Kelly explains the challenge: the chefs will create a series of dishes based on their careers as chefs. More specifically, the first dish will be inspired by the chef's first food memory. The second dish will be inspired by the experience that made them become chefs. The third dish will be inspired by the opening of their first restaurants. The final dish will be inspired by where the chefs are heading in the future. The chefs are thrilled by this awesome challenge. Rick comments that this isn't even a challenge, because it's something he would just love to do anyway. Michael thinks he's got this one wrapped up because he is a storyteller at heart. Kelly concludes that, in addition to the three regular critics, the diners will include Colicchio, Gail, and Padma from Top Chef, and then the five winners of Top Chef as well. Kelly leaves them to hang out in the Villa and think about their menus.
Is this the most awesome challenge ever? I love it. The chefs walk over and find a table filled with food to snack on while they discuss their menus. Hubert goes first and talks about how his parents owned a pastry shop and they lived above it, so his first food memory will definitely be related to pastry somehow. They show a photo of an adorable baby Hubert in a carriage, holding what looks like a breadstick or some sort of pastry. Hubert explains how he chose his first dish, which is called baeckeoffe, and it's a stew made from lamb, beef, and pork with potatoes. In the old country, Monday was laundry day, so on their way to do laundry, the women of the village would bring their leftover meats and vegetables to Hubert's father's pastry shop. They would put all the meats and veg into a pastry crust and stick it in the oven all day to cook slowly. The women would stop on the way home and pick up their dinners. It's sort of the old country version of a crock pot.
Rick is the next to reminisce about his early days. Turns out that his family owned a barbecue restaurant. He tells the other chefs how he kept all of his dating clothes in a separate closet so they wouldn't smell like hickory smoke. Rick's dish will be a barbecued smoked quail, using his family's Hickory House barbecue sauce, and a watermelon salad. They must have had some warning about this, because otherwise why would Rick have the barbecue sauce on hand? I smell shenanigans.
So what about Michael? He explains that his first food memory was making gnocchi with his mother, where she took his hand and showed him how to form the gnocchi. I wish someone would do that with me. I want to make homemade gnocchi but I'm scared. Michael explains that this experience helped him to understand the pride you get when you get to serve and eat food that you made yourself. His dish will be a duo of gnocchi, which is inspired by but not exactly like his mother's recipe.
After finishing their meal, the chefs wander around the grounds with notepads and write down ideas for their other courses. Rick mentions that things keep getting more complicated. Hubert mentions the pressure that they all feel at this stage.
Inspiration time is over! No more inspiration! Instead, they head to Whole Foods for some shopping. Michael interviews about how both of his competitors are talented chefs, but he's scrappy. I think that he means to say that he's Scrappy, i.e. the addition to the show that no one wanted and everyone wishes would kind of disappear. Rick goes into the back to ask an employee for toasted pumpkin seeds and the employee walks him to the aisle with the Mexican foods. Rick interviews that he hopes by winning, he can help bring respect to Mexican cuisine. He has a point; most people think of Mexican food as fast and tasty, but not something for fine dining. Hubert interviews that he's excited not just to cook great food, but also to share his journey.
The chefs return to the kitchen, where they have five hours to prep. These chefs have clearly learned something about time management as it relates to this show. Rick explains that they are all trying to get the hardest things done first and just cook for five hours straight. The chefs banter back and forth as they start cooking, and then Rick is the first to talk about his second dish in an interview, the one that inspired him to become a chef. He went to Mexico when he was fifteen and had this Oaxacan black mole, and it has twenty-seven different ingredients and unique cooking techniques. So while he knows it's a risk, he's going to recreate it with ahi tuna, and honestly, if anyone can pull it off, you know it's Rick Bayless.
Michael's "Becoming a Chef" dish is polenta with rabbit, asparagus and wild mushroom, and a duck and rabbit liver spiedini. He explains that his family loved to go mushroom hunting, and would also hunt rabbits, and whatever they found in the woods, that's what went into dinner that night. That fits his definition of cuisine. Did he grow up in Fairy Tale Land? Where you go into the woods and pick mushrooms? That's interesting.