Commercial Interruption: And the winner is ... The Bald and the Bland
Malavika: Cue the banners, the marching band, the parade ... the snoozing ... (I am softly weeping into my curdled souffle as I write this) Now I'm not going to be redundant and ask "what the hell happened?" but, seriously, what the hell happened? How did a dude who skated by with a couple of wins in the middle -- including a team challenge that didn't really include an individual winner -- end up on top other than by simply just being not as bad as the others? And, why, oh why doesn't the final judging take into account past performances? I understand that one bad dish can send you home, but does it make sense to declare someone "Top Chef" when they have not consistently shown their stuff or been on top as the title suggests? It's like getting an A all semester, but finding out your entire grade is based on the final exam that you failed. It just doesn't make sense.
According to the explanation given by Gail Simmons on her blog (see here), once Carla was dismissed as a contender, the judges put each course head-to-head in the battle of the balds. Both Stefan and Hosea were even in the appetizer round, Hosea pulled ahead of Stefan in the first course, Stefan won over judges with his squab in course number two, so it literally hinged on the last course of the night. In her words, Stefan's 1980s-era dessert plate, which I may or may not have seen served at The Olive Garden, "left us wondering if he had given up the fight somewhere along the line." Hosea's dish came out on top, so Hosea got the title. My only question is whether it was fair to compare someone who at least attempted to do a dessert, albeit not the best one, to someone who clearly played it safe knowing a dessert would probably wreck his chances? Is dessert even necessary to complete a meal or that just our way of traditional thinking about a three-course meal? (I can't remember the last time I could afford a two-course meal, but that's not the point here).
After last night's episode, I forced myself to critically examine the last few seasons. The one redeeming factor to last night's episode is that, as much as I hate to admit it, this isn't the first time a more deserving chef has had to settle for second or third place. As much as I think Stephanie was the right choice to win "Top Chef," Richard was the better chef last season. Marcel was (and still is apparently) a giant monkey ass, but he was a more consistent and creative chef than Ilan, who won season two. Casey, whom we also saw last night, won a slew of challenges back-to-back but was out of the running fairly quickly in the finale on a few mistakes. The Blaisanator -- last night's Top Sous Chef -- wrote this in his blog (that hit the nail on the head: "Sometimes, the best team doesn’t win the game."
Speaking of Casey, I have to ask my fellow bloggers -- do we think the darling from Dallas sabotaged Carla's chances?
Kelly: I'd like to defend Carla here, but the bottom line is that dear old Crazy Eyes was in charge. She shouldn't have let anyone, much less a previous non-winning sous chef, call the shots in her kitchen. Even though I picked Stefan to win, I had high hopes for Carla going into the finale. But she needed to stay true to her style and who she is as a chef, and it was on those counts that she failed to deliver. One can definitely argue that Casey should have kept her yap shut, but ultimately it's Carla's fate that's at stake. She should have trusted her instincts and cooked what she wanted, the way she wanted.
Carla's immediate removal from consideration for the top prize was just one element of last night's snoozefest. Many thanks to MJ for helping us tap into the collective Judges' Table psyche, but I simply don't buy their logic. Stefan, for all his baby makin' jerkfaceness, is hands down the better chef. Yes, the dessert was a bit of a disaster, but how can that one dish -- albeit an important one -- put the nail in Stefan's culinary coffin? The salty Finn was less consistent dish-to-dish, but still turned in a strong performance and didn't play it safe. And what of the alligator meat?! Who but a true "Top Chef" could take this exotic ingredient he's never cooked with and astound the judges the way he did? I can only imagine how Hosea would have fared, had the tables been turned.
There were precious few highlights to last night's anticlimactic finale. I was pumped to see the Blaisanator and of course our boy Fabio, and it was good to see Gail back in the mix (Lots of Gail. That dress had quite the neckline). Carla was out of the running but the more I see of this woman (crazy eyes and all), the more I like her. And Stefan's unexpected words of comfort for our third-place chef were sweet, if a little odd.
I'm also wondering, were we all let down -- at least in part - by the lack of someone like Lisa, the season 4 villain we loved to hate?
Sara: Apparently I must've been watching the wrong show last night. Here I thought I turned on "Top Chef" but instead, it appeared to be "Lucky Chef" that I was watching. Again, what the funkhouser, "TC?" Hosea?! Really? I mean, yes, Stefan toots his own horn more than, er, Louis Armstrong? (My knowledge of horn musicians is a bit lacking ... ) but point is, he's a talented chef and has the most talent of either Carla or Hosea. And yes, I know the judges have to look at it on a per challenge basis but c'mon ... the man won challenge after challenge. We dubbed him unstoppable! Talk about an anti-climatic finale. Even without Hosea's woop-de-doo win, I think I still would've been disappointed. It just didn't feel like a finale. There wasn't enough oomph or excitement and the "twist" was a half-spin at best.
Carla the Choke went down in flames and yes, I do feel bad for her but in the end she didn't go with her instincts and let someone else run the show. Hosea played it safe and made an appetizer and three middle dishes. He admitted there was no way he was going to risk doing a dessert because -- well, he knows he can't. And the point was made -- a very valid point -- a TOP chef should be able to do dessert. Then again, you'd think a top chef would be one who, oh, I don't know, is consistently on top? Perhaps, as Malavika and Blaiser point out, perhaps we've been thinking all wrong and really, this is "Almost Top Chef." Also, I think Fabs' comment (p.s. I can't believe he led us astray in the interview! He knew the winner ... darn that Italian Stallion) really swayed the judges' decision. Way to throw Team Euro under the bus! And speaking of the judges, someone should tell Miss Gail to put a cardigan over those clam shells. This isn't "Top Shelf," Gail.
As for Kelly's point, I would argue Hosea nearly became a She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Suckface villian. He makes out with Skanky-fish Leah, wants us to feel bad for him, focused all his time on taking down Stefan and wore that damn "I heart Padma" shirt every single day. Throw a bandana on that baldy and he's on his way. I think everyone was sick of Hosea by the end. He started out as an interesting competitor but then followed his pecker to near disaster and never fully regained himself. He became obsessed with beating Stefan or having a leg-up on the guy that I think he lost sight of the true competition. And the fact that he was so intimidated by Stefan -- you'd think that'd be just one more reason Stefan should've been "Top Chef." Hosea sure thought he was.
It's a little sad that this was the way "Top Chef" chose to send us off into a non-"TC" world. One can only hope next week's reunion will give us the closure we're desperately looking for.
Oh yeah, and Livin' La Vida Dusty correctly ranked his picks and beat the snot out of the rest of us. Way to go, Dusty! Now burn in hell for choosing Hosea to win. I mean, congratulations.
Catch the reunion special at 9 p.m. next Wednesday on Bravo.
(In an effort to leave you on a happy note: Check out this crazy picture of Tom Colicchio with hair!)
UPDATE: This just in ... Looks like Carla's little sous chef Miss Casey has been riding the resentful train. She tells SideDish all about how she "carried" Carla and how she's putting "Top Chef" on her do not call list.
Here's her response:
"Carla was not prepared and in over her head. The show did not talk about how the first course (crab) took her half of the friggin’ cooking time that day, I was left to work the rest of HER dishes.
She also did not have a plan. The ONLY thing she had in mind was a cheese course! I would NEVER do a cheese course. And where in the hell did french come from!? She is not even classically trained! It (the show) didn’t talk about how I worked on a sauce for 2 days and Carla forgot to put it on the plate… It didn’t show how the 2nd course (fish) was MINE. It didn’t show how she took the sous vide idea and decided to GRILL it last minute causing it to be tough… And it didn’t show how she WANTED to do the souffles which she does not even know how to make! That was HER food, because it certainly was me asking her how she wanted to do this and that while she was busy picking crab the entire time and making a souffle that didn’t rise!
I am done with TC. I did not influence her. She has NO ideas of her own, oh, except a cheese course."
Bitter, party of one, your table is now ready.