Okay, did I miss the beginning of this episode on my recording? Because I feel like this episode started in the middle and I'm super confused. Anyway, apparently the finale is filmed live? And the final challenge is to cook a five-course meal in front of a live audience. All nine former winners are there. Brooke and Kristen are cooking in what looks like an Iron Chef or Chopped kitchen stadium. The whole thing just feels bizarre and off-brand. The judges are Tom, Gail, Emeril, Padma and Hugh.
Anyway, they each have sous-chefs. Brooke has CJ, Stefan and Kuniko. Kristen has Sheldon, Josh and Lizzie. After each course is served, the judges offer live critiques and decide who won the round. Apparently, if someone wins three rounds, they win. So then do they stop cooking? Even if it's like round three? This is fucked up. Here are the courses:
Kristen: chicken liver mousse with frisée, mustard, prune, hazelnuts and pumpernickel. The judges love the flavors and the only complaint is Gail's; she didn't like that the lettuce covered the mousse.
Brooke: crispy pig ear and chicory salad, six-minute egg, apricot jam and candied kumquats. We saw her making a version of this in her restaurant in the previous episode. Everyone loves it, although a few judges felt the pig ears were overcooked -- we saw CJ burning them in the kitchen.
Kristen wins the round with votes from Gail, Hugh and Emeril.
Second Course, where they are required to cook scallops:
Brooke: seared scallop with salt cod puree, speck, black currant and mustard seed vinaigrette. None of the judges have a bad thing to say about the flavor, how the scallop is cooked or the concept.
Kristen: citrus and lavender cured scallop with bitter orange, Meyer lemon and apple. Kristen really loves those Meyer lemons. It's her fennel. The judges also have huge compliments.
Brooke wins the round but it's close -- Hugh has to be the tie-breaker.
Brooke: vadouvan fried chicken wing with sumac yogurt-tahini and pickled kohlrabi fattoush. The judges are surprised by the dish and Brooke explains that she wanted to redeem herself after her previous fried chicken fiasco. Emeril loves it and Tom likes the elements, but isn't sure how they mesh.
Kristen: celery root purée with bone marrow, mushrooms, bitter greens and radishes. Tom has questions about the mushrooms and Padma is mad that the dish isn't hot. Gail and Emeril love it.
Despite it not being hot, Padma casts the deciding vote for Kristen to win the round and she leads two to one.
Brooke: braised pork cheek and red snapper with collard green slaw and sorrel puree. All of the judges love it and they especially appreciate the sorrel and the pomegranate.
Kristen: red snapper with leeks, little gem lettuce, tarragon, uni and shellfish nage. Gail has a problem with the leeks, but Hugh totally rips on her for being upset about using a knife.
Because the episode is only an hour long and the judges start announcing their votes at like minute fifty-four, it's pretty obvious that they won't be doing another round. Kristen wins the round.
Which means that Kristen is the next Top Chef! Pretty amazing that she came back from Last Chance Kitchen. I hope Josie feels like a real asshole. I'm not sure why she should, but I just hope she does in general.
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So the finale starts without the typical "Previously on Top Chef" segment. Instead, Padma is walking down the steps in a huge open kitchen stadium and introduces the finalists, Brooke and Kristen, while the live studio audience cheers madly. What the fuck is this? I guess I should give it a chance. Anyway, behind Padma, we see Kristen and Brooke already cooking with help from previously-eliminated cheftestants. What are they cooking? What is the final challenge? I'm so confused.
And isn't it a great way to begin a final episode? Confusing the people who have actually watched the entire season including every episode of Last Chance Kitchen? I mean, if I'm confused, people who have only watched sporadically must have already changed the channel, right? This format is bullshit.
Padma explains that the finalists are making five dishes that will be served to the entire studio audience (who are seated at tables like this is dinner theater) and the judges (who are seated at an Idol style judges' platform). And the first dish goes out in a few minutes. They're already plating? But what was the challenge? Was it just "Cook five dishes"? How did they choose their sous chefs? I'm so confused.
Ooh, they're going to a taped segment. Clearly, this will explain everything. Okay, so far they're just showing clips that explain how Brooke got here. I've got a tip: she didn't lose any challenges. And how did Kristen get here? She did lose a challenge, but then she won Last Chance Kitchen. Brooke thinks Kristen is her stiffest competition. Kristen wants to win. Okay, none of that is information that I didn't already know, but if someone didn't watch the whole season, I guess that was necessary.
Okay, now we're back in the kitchen but it's three hours earlier. Three hours earlier than what? The opening? Is this Lost? Why are there flashbacks? Everyone is cheering wildly as Brooke and Kristen come out into the stadium kitchen and join their teams. Brooke asks, "What is this?" GOOD QUESTION, BROOKE! Why is this show suddenly turning into an Iron Chef/Chopped retread? Nothing against those shows - I have enjoyed both from time to time. But it's not what I'm looking for from this show. Anyway, they've already chosen their teams, so I guess we don't get to see that, and they already know what the challenge is, so I guess they're not going to tell us that, and they have three hours to cook. By the way, Brooke's team is CJ, Stefan, and Kuniko, and Kristen's team is Sheldon, Lizzie, and Josh. Why didn't Kristen pick Stefan? What order did they choose those people in and why? These are questions that I guess won't be answered, unless we get another flashback.