Since Gene Villiatora got booted from Top Chef: New York in episode seven for an overcooked and underwhelming red snapper, something has been missing for me.
Maybe it was lacking from the first shot of the cheftestants chopping apples in the Big Apple – Season 5 hasn’t kept me as riveted or left me as hungry as previous seasons – or maybe it was losing the home team factor that sent my attention spinning. Either way, my relationship with the show was on the skids, but as Wednesday night’s finale approached a little bit of the Top Chef excitement crept back into me. Would Carla come from behind and prove that caterers can still kick ass in the kitchen? Would Stefan assert Europe’s superiority once and for all? Would Hosea smile goofily and then proceed to look super stressed while cooking?
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Yet, as the episode got underway the excitement faded. The baldies bickered and trash talked as expected. Carla made funny faces and spoke earnestly about her food. Tom laid down the gauntlet of the “best three course meal of your life,” and New Orleans cameos flashed intermittently with no mention of Katrina.
It was all so … predictable.
And then the sous chefs arrived: Marcel Vigneron, Richard Blais and Casey Thompson, three past runner ups back for a vicarious shot at Top Chef glory.
Marcel worked his customary werewolf hair, a pair of massive shades and a self-assured swagger. Vegas was back!
Vegas struck again as the judges and guests sat down at renowned eatery Commander’s Palace to dine on the best the three remaining chefs had to offer. Alongside chef and TV personality Rocco DiSpirito, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and others was the long grey hair of Hubert Keller, the man responsible for Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay and Burger Bar at Mandalay Place.
Still, even with the Vegas appearances and the twists of the second-place sous chefs and a surprise hors d’oeuvres course using classic southern ingredients, the finale lacked oomph. There were good dishes (Carla’s shiso soup with blue crab), great dishes (Hosea’s seared scallops with foie gras and Stefan’s perfectly cooked squab) and disappointments (Stefan’s dessert and Carla’s sous vide tenderloin), but the inspiration seemed slightly lacking. Where were the risks? The odd and yet awesome flavor combinations?
Under the New Orleans sun and the watchful eye of Tom Colicchio, Top Chef: New York came to a close with more of a sigh than a bang, with Hosea taking home the win and the $100,000 prize.
Here’s hoping that next week’s Season 5 reunion packs a little more punch. And a suggestion for Season 6: Top Chef: Las Vegas?