Thursday, February 19, 2009

Top Chef Season 5 Finale Part 1: The Fun Stops Here

For an episode set in New Orleans, a city infamous for its partying and bare chests, part 1 of the season 5 finale of "Top Chef" was severely lacking in the fun department. Gone were the chatty asides, nonsensical sound bytes from Fabio, and inappropriate snuggling on the couch. The final four chefs, Hosea, Fabio, Carla, and Stefan, arrive in the Big Easy with their game faces on -- they are all there to win. And maybe look a little snazzier on camera now that they are all big, quasi-famous reality stars.

Carla's makeover, complete with a sleek new hair cut and fierce hot pink jacket, is a definite "do" for the bug-eyed underdog. Fabio's mohawk and pale pink pashmina scarf, on the other hand, needs to pack its knives and go. Now. Bald boys Hosea and Stefan look the same (bald and slightly angry), though Stefan's cap that reads "Suimi," a Finnish word that can be translated to mean "a style of free-form psychedelic trance" (Wikipedia), makes me wonder what he's been up to these past few months...

My guess is skinning eels (or children) back in Germany.

After flying in, the chefs are immediately shuttled to a random picnic area for their quickfire challenge that is to be judged by the "King of Creole," Emeril Lagasse (aka the king of kicking things up to notches unseen by man). But wait a minute -- something is weird. Hosea can count and notices that -- gasp! -- there are only three tables of food! Padma informs them that they will not be cooking in the quickfire challenge -- Leah, Jamie and Jeff will be. The three formerly disgraced chefs are paraded out and told that they will be competing against one another for one last chance to make the final. The winner of the quickfire to create a dish with crawfish will join the four remaining chefs in the elimination challenge, but to move on to the final, that chef must win.

In other words, they are being used as sneaky plot devices to amp up the tension and stakes. Because there really isn't enough on the table already, and it's just so much fun to see the chefs, "our heroes" sweat and get in a tissy over yet another obstacle on their path toward Stefan's imminent greatness. I suspect that it's mostly to see Hosea get all awkward when he sees his long lost lover Leah, who still can't like stop saying "like" and like has "never worked with crawfish before" like. She makes "like a crawfish soup," Jamie does some weird egg thing that looks really complicated, and pretty boy Jeff whips up a shrimp and grits with Andouille sausage. Emeril says it's really hard to pick one dish because "they're all winners" (he must have missed the memo that "it's 'Top Chef,' not 'Top Pussy'), but ultimately awards Jeff the win. Just in case everyone didn't catch it the first five times, Jeff now must win the elimination challenge to move forward. But don't worry, that will come up another twenty times before the Judge's Table.

In the spirit of Mardi Gras, the elimination challenge requires the chefs to cook two dishes -- one in the Creole style -- and create one cocktail for 100 people attending a masquerade ball at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The winner will not just make the final, but also win a (drumroll please) brand new Toyota Venza! Fabio's car is "a piece of poop," so he's really excited about that. I'm really excited that someone is saying "poop" instead of to win "will be the answer to everything I need" and I'm doing this for "my husband and step-son" and the rest of that sentimental hogwash meant to get me all teary-eyed and attached to someone. Hey guys, this is "Top Chef," not "Top Pussy," remember? At least Stefan is aware of that. He knows "this is not a butt-rubbing contest. There will be a slaughtering." Hosea?

The chefs then head down to Emeril's restaurant, Delmonico, for five hours of prep. It's about as entertaining to watch as it sounds. There are no broken fingers, no refrigerators left open so everything spoils, and it seems as though all the cheftestants are actually... cooking? Well, except for good ole Stefan who is giggling over the shape of sausage links and taking a break to smoke a cigarette, and poor Carla who just learned to shuck oysters a week and a half ago and is struggling to get those suckers open. But not to worry -- she's got love on the menu, and begins asking them to, "please open for [her], little oyster."

Prep complete, it's time to head down to the ball where the chefs are then introduced to their four judges for the evening -- Emeril, Tom Collichio, Padma, and... Gail Simmons! I squeal at this one. As does Carla who screams, "Girl, love you!" Really starting to come around to Ms. Hooty-Hoo and her crazy love voodoo...

Everyone is decked out in masks which "kind of [reminds Fabio] of like an old porno movie with just kind of a mask on it." Totally making the sense there, Fabio, but boy, I still love you even if your haircut reminds me of like an old New Kids on the Block video.

Service starts and the chefs are frantically dishing out their plates and drinks to the masses of really hungry people -- ie. the krewe of Orpheus who are never fully explained. Everyone loves Jeff's mojito and fried oyster with homemade sausage, goes gaga for Carla's soup, enjoys Fabio's rando Italian-Creole crawfish pasta, and seems to appreciate both Stefan and Hosea's gumbos. With no major disasters (aside from some misses on the cocktails - bell pepper martini, anyone?), there isn't much to knock these chefs on.

Of course, the judges do find one or two things worthy of negative attention. They find Stefan's attitude that Hosea accurately described as his "Achilles heel," off-putting, and aren't completely smitten by the flavors in Fabio's maqux choux and creole pasta. It's clear from the outset that either one or both of Euro boys are going down. It's also clear that Carla is a favorite for her belabored oyster stew that Emeril declares a "home run." Even Tom is impressed, saying, "her food had a certain level of care." Ahem, Tom? Not just care, looooove. She walks away the winner of the evening, and the Euro boys are left to meet their fate.

I know before it happens what's coming. Stefan's "laissez-faire" attitude may be his greatest weakness, but he's still a talented chef. At this stage in the competition, it no longer matters that Fabio has a face and voice that could charm the pantaloons off a nun. Funny one-liners no longer fit into the equation. It ultimately comes down to the food, and Fabio's just isn't quite there. He is sent packing, and the humble Italian chef bids a sincere adieu to the judges and final three chefs, Stefan, Hosea and Carla.

Turning to Stefan with a twinkle in his eye, he says, "If you don't win, I will kick your ass. You have no idea."


Alessandra said...

While you are familiar with my lve for Fabio, I was at peace with last night's decision. Stefan is technically the better chef.

My allegiances have switched to Carla. Stefan stinks and Hosea is quite possibly the biggest tool this world has ever seen. Hooty-hoo and bring it home, woman!

Ashley said...

I'm such a disgrace. I fell asleep just as the elimination challenge was starting!

Esi said...

I am almost positive that Stefan put on some weight.

One of my favorite parts was when Jeff, Leah and Jamie came back and were told "you guys were consistently in the top" and the camera cuts to Fabio's look.

I knew that bell pepper martini would be the kiss of death for Fabio (maybe because I don't like bell peppers), but I was still genuinely sad when he was sent packing. I am sure he will end up in the finale as part of some twist.

And thank heavens there was no Toby Young in sight!

Weister said...

Top P*ssy is right! I for one was not happy that they brought back Leah, Jamie and Jeff - they lost, move on! By bringing them back, it's like the show lost it's backbone. Are these second chances or second thoughts? "Pack up your knives and go...uh, maybe not." This is not a twist to the competition, it felt more like a pathetic attempt to create tension. Gone was the spontaneity and surprise!

I was pro Fabio - personality goes a long way! Stefan - you've bit the dust the last two times when you thought you had it in the bag. Carla - enough with the "Love" cause it's making me nauseous. And Hosea - grow a pair! But with Fabio gone, I am now on the Carla bandwagon. She seems to be the most genuine and the one with the most heart. So Bug-eye Carla - YOU GO GIRL!!

Katie said...

Totally agree about Fabio's hair!! Please just get rid of the hair altogether if you're going to do anything. And am I the only one who thinks they're keeping Stefan and Hosea around for the rivalry's sake??

Diana said...

Ali - I agree - I'm definitely pulling for Carla at this point.

Esi - I didn't notice that Stefan gained weight, but after looking back at some pictures from the episode, I see that you are totally right! Wow! I really hope Fabio does come back for the finale. It won't be the same without him.

Weister - I was really annoyed about the second chance they gave Leah, Jeff and Jamie. It didn't seem fair at all!

Katie - Hah - good call re: the Hosea/Stefan rivalry. Now that Leah is out, they need some sort of spark to keep things juicy!

Erica said...

hmmm not sure how I felt about this episode. I can't believe Carla won. I dunno why but something about her just rubs me the wrong way.

Nicole said...

We thought that it looked like both Stefan and Fabio gained weight! Especially Stefan!

I am also rooting for weird as she may be! Not really a Hosea fan and although I think Stefan may be the best chef at this point his attitude is the pits...

Kirby! said...

I thought it was a good episode! This was the first time this season when I actually thought that they all were actually really talented chefs. And I'm glad Jeff got to come back and prove himself; I was a little worried about him after he first got eliminated and said he would "never recover" from it. Eek.

And I don't know what Stefan is talking about-- I LOVE a good butt-rubbing contest!

Mina said...

Katie brought up a good point. Who else thought they kept Stefan on purpose? As a huge Top Chef Fan, I do wonder how much of this is solely based on the food and how much is it based on producers whispering into the judge's ears, hinting and nodding.

And let's not forget how happy I was when Gail came back. Holy Mother of F! did I hate Toby Young. What does he do, besides being a complete ass!?!

Reeni♥ said...

I was not a Carla fan before, but I've slowly come around. The guys are just...turning me off? I guess is the right way to put it. I do really like Jeff for some reason, he's much more like-able than any of the other guys.

Pepsi Monster said...

I have a good feeling they are setting Carla up as the "competent" opponent for Stefan while Hosea provided the USA vs Euro rivalry. It seemed that no one can touched Stefan since he won so many challenges.

For some reason, I just they were knocking down a bit the last two episode to give it more suspense. To me, right at the episode when Jamie got fired, I really Stefan was the dominator and the most convincing Top Chef in a very weak field (considering Fabio hasn't won an individual challenge until the episode that got him in to the final).

It's really setting it up as Stefan vs the world. I'm ready for that let down and so should anyone that supports Carla.