It’s exciting times for the final four remaining cheftestants on “Top Chef” Season 7 in the first episode of the two-part finale. Kelly, Kevin, Ed, and Angelo are in Singapore. Kevin’s wife is about to pop out a mini Kevin back home. Ed’s lost some weight around his middle that apparently took up residence in his big fat egomaniacal head. And Angelo, dear sweet, slightly unbalanced, Angelo. He’s feeling like a kid in a candy store in Singapore -- a fish in the water, a carnivore in a steakhouse…
This is his destiny.
He thinks. (Judging by the previews for next week's finale, part of his destiny winds up in the toilet...)
As soon as the chefs arrive in Singapore, they are shuttled off to a street market where they are able to taste several different dishes prepared by various street vendors. Seetoh, Singapore’s leading authority on food, is their tour guide for the experience that the chefs are, quite literally, eating up. Kelly is really jazzed to be hanging out with Seetoh because she’s read his book, highlighted all the key points, made flashcards and composed several essays on it. We think her lips are looking a little dry from kissing so much ass all season. But that’s just us.
The chefs’ brief feast of local specialties chile crab, boiled chicken and a fusion noodle dish is cut short when the angel of death arrives at the premises. Padma.
Nobody’s happy to see her. Especially when she informs them that the final street food that she and Seetoh will be tasting is theirs. For the Quickfire, the chefs must create their version of Singapore street food using only a wok. The winner of the challenge will have immunity from elimination and will proceed directly to the final. In other words, the pressure is on – especially for Kevin who apparently doesn’t wok. Or rock.
Angelo, on the other hand, is very comfortable cooking with a wok, bathing with a wok, taking long walks on the beach with a wok, curling up inside a wok for a nap…
He rocks the wok... and Ed talks the talk. His biggest goal is “to cook Angelo’s ass.” I suppose it’s a nice change from wanting to tap Tiffany’s?
Despite some difficulty reading the labels on the local ingredients (not even Angelo knows Cantonese), the chefs eke out some nice interpretations of the cuisine. Angelo does chile frog legs with pineapple and rambatan salsa; Kelly dishes up Chinese noodles with lobster, cockles, bean sprouts and Chinese broccoli; Ed churns out stir-fry noodles with black pepper sauce, lobster and gai lan; and Kevin embarrasses himself by telling Padma he’s never worked with a wok before. The angel of death is not so angelic about his revelation. She’s shocked that he didn’t practice using a wok before coming to the finale in Singapore.
Why doesn’t Kevin wok? Angelo woks. Kelly can wok when she’s not reading chef biographies and taking about space camp. Even Ed Big Head woks it out at his house on the weekends.
He’s a big wokker.
Despite Angelo’s prowess with cooking Asian cuisine (and napping in woks), Ed ultimately wins the challenge for his stir-fried noodles that Seetoh says was the dish that hit closest to his heart. The announcement does not warm Angelo’s heart at all. He looks ready to chew his tongue off and then roll it up in a spring roll with some jicama and fish sauce.
He says, “We’re in Asia, and Ed wins a Quickfire.”
Ed just smiles. “He should be upset – I beat him at his own game.”
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be working in a team to create a menu for an event hosted by Food and Wine magazine and Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin. The cohesive menu must feature local cuisine and the 80 guests at the event will be ordering a la minute (i.e. the food must be made on the spot). Everyone, except Ed who has immunity, is on edge with the time constraints and high pressure from the challenge.
The chefs only have one hour of prep time and will only have an hour and a half to finalize their dishes before service begins the following day. Ed spends approximately half that time talking smack. “I would like to see Angelo go home,” he says. A moment later he tells Angelo, “You’re crazy; I hope you go down in flames.” He spends the rest of the time plotting to make the other chefs look bad by deciding to do two dishes instead of the one dish that each discussed doing the previous night.
Even though he was spitting up bile after the Quickfire, Angelo decides that he’s happy Ed has immunity and he doesn’t. He says, “I think immunity is a double-edged sword – especially toward the end. I think you have to have fire. Personally I'm 100% motivated. The spark in the forest has been set and those flames are going to be burning.”
We have a feeling that Smokey the Bear wouldn’t approve. Remember Angelo, only you can prevent forest fires.
Tom, the bald angel of death, comes in mid-way through the chef’s prep time and upon hearing that the chefs are only planning four dishes for their menu, tells them they need to do two each. Ed, who was already planning for two, is all smiles. Everyone else (including us) wants to punch the self-described “douche bag” in the face. Or the cockles.
The four chefs masterfully churn out their two dishes within the limited window of time, but hit a road block with the wait staff that they are having trouble communicating with. Ultimately, however, the dishes make it out without catastrophe and the judges – Padma, Gail, Tom, Seetoh, and Dana Cowin – seem to go gaga over everything. They appreciate the concept of Kelly’s chilled cucumber yogurt soup with bitter melon, love the broth in Kevin’s clam chowder with Southeast Asian flavors and his perfect 63 degree farm egg with tapioca, find Angelo’s lamb tartare with curry impeccable, and are smitten with Ed’s two dishes – a sweet and sour pork with crispy rice and potato cake, and his banana fritters. Gail wants a mound of the fritters. Among other things. (Padma just wants a mound of cockles.)
After such high praise from the judges, it’s hard to know whose head is going to over inflate and whose head is going to fall (sort of not really at all). Gail wants a mound of Ed’s fritters, Dana wants a bottomless bowl of his pork, Tom wants to get stoned and eat mounds of fritters too – Ed is clearly the winner of the elimination challenge. (Even if he is the loser in the Miss. Congeniality contest.)
It’s now down to Angelo, Kelly and underdog Kevin for the two remaining slots in the final. The judges have minor critiques with each of their dishes. They felt Angelo’s spicy shrimp broth with ginger and prawn dumplings was a little salty, they thought Kelly’s seared prawns with red coconut curry was a little rough and needed more heat, and they wished Kevin’s 63 degree farm egg dish had a little more texture. Ultimately, however, Kelly is the one sent back to America. Apparently, there isn’t a book for how to make the final round of “Top Chef.” Maybe the spunky chef should go home and write one.