'Top Chef Masters' Finale: And The Winner Is...
Well, guys, we did it! We endured an underwhelming season of Top Chef Masters filled with monotonous challenges and repetitive buzzwords like "adopted!" and "ninja!" And in the spirit of repetitiveness, just like last year, the finalists were challenged to tell their life stories over three course meals.
The chefs were playing for $100,000 for their respective charities, and as Kelly Choi put it, "bragging rights FOREVER." Or, at least until people stop talking about Top Chef Masters, which should probably be this afternoon right around 4 p.m.
So, who won? Who lost? And who just swore a lot? Let's find out!
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
After 15 minutes of video footage highlighting Susur's hyperactivity, Rick's goofiness, and Marcus' favorite denim shirt with his name embroidered on it, Kelly Choi met the finalists at Union Station in Los Angeles to tell them about their final challenge. The real mystery here wasn't how Susur got his hair to look that shiny in the sunlight, but how Kelly Choi's frail legs managed to hold her body up long enough for her to ask the chefs to create a three-course meal celebrating their journeys as chefs (otherwise known as THE EXACT SAME CHALLENGE from last year's Top Chef Masters finale. Three cheers for originality!).
The first course had to be inspired by their first food memory; the second course had to represent the food or event that made them want to become a chef; and the third course had to be a dish that described them in the present day. Just when the guys were panicking like they were at the disco, Kelly Choi told them they'd be cooking for Tom Colicchio, Rick Bayless, and Michael Chiarell. So yeah. No pressure or anything, guys. Honest.
After a leisurely breakfast, which of course included Marcus reminding us that he was an orphan from Sweden, the finalists headed to Whole Foods to shop for the challenge. As usual, they were given 45 minutes and a budget of $1,500. Let's just say if their Whole Foods is anything like my Whole Foods, that should have been enough for them to buy about 7 scallops and a clove of garlic.
We interrupt this Top Chef finale recap to bring you this important message from Susur Lee:
"Being a chef is like being a ninja. Your mind has to be very strong."
And now back to your regularly scheduled recap.
This episode of Top Chef was all about heartwarming stories and loved ones. Marcus talked about fishing in SWEDEN with his SWEDISH parents, and Rick told a story about shucking oysters with his father when he was a kid. "[My first course] is gonna make you melt," Rick said. "You're not gonna be able to stand after tasting it." Well in that case, I sure hope he didn't give any to Kelly Choi. Girlfriend can barely stand as it is.
Suddenly and without warning, the usually annoying Top Chef Masters background music changed to really somber, depressing music that you'd normally only hear while sitting in the reception area at a dentist's office wishing you'd flossed more last year. Susur then told a story about how his "first wife" died after her plane got shot down in Russian air space. I'm not sure if she had a name, or if he just spent their time together referring to her as "first wife," but I feel really sad inside either way.
Oh, but Susur still wasn't done bumming us out. "She was my best friend," he said with tears in his eyes... sad words that I'm sure his "second wife" absolutely loved hearing. Still, that's so horrible, and I actually felt bad for Susur for the first time all season. Damn you, Bravo editors. Damn you.
Next, Kelly "One Arm" Choi burst into the kitchen and excitedly screamed: "Chefs, stop what you're doing. I have a surprise for you!" For a moment, I thought she was going to tell them all that she she swallowed a bite of solid food, but no. Actually, the finalists' sous chefs had arrived to help them with the challenge! Suser went from "very pissed off he was interrupted" to "happier than Anne Burrell in a room of brown food" in about two seconds flat.
And while we're still on the topic of Susur, is it just me or did the guy say "penis sauce" about 19 times while describing his third course to the judges? He totally did. "I took my family to Thailand, and loved the PENIS SAUCE I had there, so I learned how to make the PENIS SAUCE and put the PENIS SAUCE all over this recipe." Jeez, Susur. Either your accent is still really heavy, or I need a cigarette.
For the most part, the judges offered the same banal commentary about each dish they tasted. "Extraordinary, delicious, and nice" were the buzzwords of the hour. I must say the dishes were aesthetically gorgeous, except for Marcus' African-inspired foie gras flan and and duck breast. I'm not sure when chefs are going to learn we diners don't think unidentifiable brown smears on our plates look "yummy."
Susur's first course was steamed scallops and Cantonese black bean sauce with dim sum shrimp. His second course was tuna with wasabi mousse, pickled cucumber, and artichoke. His third course was a lamb Thailandaise, with green curry sauce and polenta.
Marcus' first course was smoked char with sweet horseradish, shellfish broth, and root vegetables. His second course was duck breast with a foie gras ganache, and his third dish was hamachi meat balls with sea urchin froth and couscous.
Rick's first course was a glazed oyster, with caviar, hamachi, and live sea scallop. His second course was pork belly with poached egg, mushrooms, truffles and gnocchi. His third dish was venison with matsutake mushrooms and pear butter.
Yes, you read that right. Rick, the fish guy who cooked seafood for almost every challenge during the show, cooked PORK and VENISON during the finale. Cue me screaming "WHY" at my television for 20 minutes like I was Annie Lennox circa 1992.
The Judges' Table
Of course, the judges found fault with the food prepared by all of the finalists. They thought Rick Moonen's gnocchi was too tough, Susur's chunk of tuna was too big, and Marcus' fish was too flaky. Oddly enough, Jay Rayner spent half the night making googly eyes at Marcus, but was exceptionally tough on Rick: "You're a sustainability guy. Your venison had to come on a plane. That's not the most environmentally friendly way for it to arrive," Jay said.
"I'm not a tree hugger. I'm a chef," Rick calmly replied. He then ran backstage to shove a pin through the small groin area on his Jay Rayner voodoo doll.
And The Winner Of Top Chef Masters Season 2 Is...
Wait, whaaaaaat?! Susur didn't win? Even though his dishes looked better and the only fault the judges found with them was that the tuna was sliced a little too thick? Are you kidding me?! This is a conspiracy! His food was better (or at least was edited to look that way!) I want the last three months of my life back!
Rick took the loss like a champ, but Susur looked pretty darn miserable. Upon hearing he lost to Marcus, he hung his head in shame and disappointment and actually looked like he should be sitting next to sad Keanu Reeves on that park bench.
And that brought this season of Top Chef Masters to an end. What did you think of the finale, Serious Eaters? Did the right man win? Will you be watching Top Chef when it premieres next week?