Top Chef
Season 5 Finale Part 1

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The Good Times, They Roll

Padma calls time and the cheftestants start cooking while everyone else scatters to the four winds. Leah reminds us that she was the last one eliminated, although I don't know what that has to do with anything. She's decided to make a gumbo, even though she's never made one before. Great idea! Serve gumbo to the gumbo expert! Stefan yells over and asks Jeff what he's making, and Jeff says he's doing crawfish and grits. Jeff interviews that he got eliminated during the Super Bowl Challenge, and didn't think he should have been eliminated for his dish. I do think that challenge was horseshit in terms of the least talented person getting eliminated because that didn't happen. And I don't know why Jeff's arrogance comes off as whininess to me while Stefan's makes me laugh. Maybe it's the European thing. Maybe it's the bald head. Jamie interviews that she's psyched to have another chance, and she decided not to do gumbo, because it's so typical. She's making corn cakes with a poached egg and sauce. Not sure where the crawfish factor in.

Padma says they only have twenty minutes, and Jeff explains that he's focusing on finishing one dish, instead of his usual more scattered approach. Leah explains that she's using the trinity (onions, pepper, celery) for her gumbo, as tradition dictates. Stefan tells the other finalists that Leah can cook things even when she's never cooked them before, which he thinks is the sign of a good chef. Jamie thinks her dish is coming along well. Padma calls five minutes and everyone starts plating. Time is called.

The judges head to Leah's table first. She introduces her dish as a crawfish soup with andouille sausage. I don't know why it's not gumbo anymore, unless it just didn't turn out thick enough. The judges don't offer much in the way of commentary after tasting. Jeff made crawfish and grits with andouille and beer. Jeff interviews that the judges all had poker faces after tasting. Jamie introduces her dish, which is a corn cake, greens, a poached egg with tasso, and andouille and crawfish cream sauce. Normally, I'd say that she'd win based on the relative sophistication of her dish compared to the others, but this season has been all about keeping it simple, so maybe not. Emeril nods like he appreciates the dish, and I totally thought Jamie had it locked up at this point.

Everyone gathers to hear the results. Even the people already in the finals look nervous. I would have liked to hear who each of them was rooting for; did they want the best chef, or a friend, or the worst chef? Anyway, Emeril announces that he chooses Jeff as the winner. Jeff barely smiles and interviews that he was shocked. Padma gives him the twist; in order to advance to the finals, he has to win the next Elimination Challenge. Padma says with a smile: "Jamie and Leah, you won't be going any further." Do you feel like Padma was probably a mean girl when she was in school? Leah and Jamie depart and Jeff joins the other cheftestant finalists. Stefan interviews that Jeff is from the South and he knows New Orleans food. I really feel like Southern food and New Orleans food are totally different, because New Orleans food has such a French influence. I guess they're both influenced by soul food, though. Anyway, Padma says that the Elimination Challenge will be the next day, and Emeril invites them all to eat at one of his restaurants tonight after giving Jeff a copy of (what else?) his new book. On the way out, Jeff fake-tackles Fabio because he really wants to hug him but that's not allowed, unless you're both European.

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