Well, per Antonia’s final request, Stephanie does kick their asses, but it’s not as fun as it should be. She takes the title in a lackluster cook off that pairs the final three with famous sous chefs and ample trays of random proteins. Plus a structured four-course tasting menu, served head to head: fish, then poultry, then red meat, then dessert. Yes, dessert. What? You didn’t spend the last few months perfecting a passable molten chocolate cake? Well, you just might not be Top Chef material.
Stephanie enjoys first choice of sous chef, and wisely chooses Eric Ripert, while Richard pairs off with Blue Hill’s Dan Barber and the shockingly under-congratulated and strangely even-keeled Lisa gets surprisingly chummy with Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield. Stephanie goes for simple and elegant, Richard has trouble settling on his menu, and Lisa heads straight for Asia. Richard gives Ripert a cute demo of cooking with liquid nitrogen, and Ripert seems genuinely impressed.
The twist, which no one could possibly have seen, is the fact that all three sous chefs call in sick the day of the serve-off. Not sick enough to stay home from dinner, however, a black tie affair for nine that pairs formal attire with business casual fare. Stephanie impresses with a delicate fish dish, quail with lobster ravioli, and a counterintuitive lamb that pairs olives with highly complimented braised pistachios, although she ends with a rather dumpy cheesecake. Lisa’s performance lobbies for her inclusion in the final three, with kudos for her coconut soup and black rice pudding.
Richard, throwing himself under the Toyota Corolla, volunteers that he choked, and he totally did -- really, he gets the most praise for his banana scallops, making their third appearance this season. Gail tries to turn Richard’s admission into some drama, but it’s just not happening. The fourth seasons wraps with a whimper as the show crowns its first female victor, although we can all look forward to the “Everyone Hates Lisa” reunion episode.Check out some of TV's best cooks here!
Many thanks to Kim for last week's deft recapping. Now, if you can see around the massive chip on Lisa's shoulder, on with the finale! After correctly surmising that Richard and Stephanie (here acting as surrogates for all of TV Land) were shocked that Antonia was dismissed, and having the gall to scold them for failing to offer immediate congratulations for "her fucking bronze medal," Lisa (as usual) is on the warpath. At least there's no live studio audience to muck things up.
Stephanie, Richard and Lisa convene in a verdant courtyard for the most important meal of the day, as Stephanie reminds us that there's never been a female Top Chef and that she would like to be the first. She asks her competition if they're feeling excited, with one of the least excited voices I've ever heard, and they respond in kind. The level of excitement at the table is overwhelming in its absence. Richard says he's "ready to cook" like he's actually ready for nothing of the sort, before seeming confused by whatever aroma his eggs Benedict are emitting, and explaining to the camera that with a career, a wife, a baby on the way, and a new house, he's got everything to lose. Yeah, everything and fifteen pounds. Oh, and he's still shocked that Lisa managed to out cook Antonia and round out the final three. She's not a leader, she's got "a bad attitude," and she doesn't deserve to win.
As for Sourpuss Greasylocks, she knows she's only there "by the skin of my teeth," but, true to form, she doesn't care that Stephanie and Richard have consistently outperformed her. "I'm about to beat you," she tells the cameraperson, as she rattles on about nerves, or not nerves, to Richard and Stephanie, who seem really, really excited.
Breakfast over, it's time for the details of the final challenge. Padma (yes, in blue), Colicchio, three white-coated chefs and three abundant platters of food await Richard, Stephanie and Lisa. On a tree-shaded, seaside garden path, Padma congratulates the finalists, remarks that they "are about to cook the most important meal of your life," and introduces the chefs -- April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Dan Barber of Blue Hill, and voluptuously-featured Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. They did manage to pull an all-star team, although all three are New York chefs -- seems like there should be at least one Chicagoan in the mix. Richard and Lisa are suitably impressed by the assembled culinary firepower.