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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #17 - Finale Part 2 - 02/27/13 (Spoilers)

Well, we're at the end of a pretty darn good season - two really good chefs are poised to be the winner of TC10. It's a "live" audience finale - and the audience includes all the previous TC winners. Each chef has their own team, and they have to serve 5 dishes to be served to 160 diners and the judges.

But before we see the final service, we see a brief review of how Kristen and Brooke both got to the finale. In the TC Finale Kitchen, the cheftestants arrive, and see their teams. BUT neither cheftestant realized there was going to be a "stadium" of people watching them. They have 3 hours to prepare their best 5 dishes, and the dishes will be served head-to-head. The first cheftestant to have 3 winning dishes will be crowned Top Chef.

Kristen's team is Sheldon, Josh and Lizzie, and Brooke's team is Stefan, CJ and Kuniko. Brooke describes Team L.A. - Stefan as a bit scatterbrained, but he's quick. CJ has a great palate, and Kuniko adds a level of precision. Kristen notes that her sous chefs as "just good people - no egos". Brooke notes they are required to use scallops for the 2nd round and red snapper for the 4th round.

There are 300 people watching them, including Emeril, Hugh, Gail, Tom, Padma, and all 9 previous Top Chef winners. Gail asks Stephanie Izard if she's ready to share her tiara with another woman who will join the Winners Table. Stephanie says "It's about time!"

We're getting *right* to the service - just a few minutes and Kristen and Brooke will be sending out their first dishes to the audience and judges. Each cheftestant notes that their first dishes are very familiar to them. Kristen is concerned about cooking for so many people - for the past few years, she's cooked for just 10 people at Stir/Boston. She's got Lizzie butchering for the 4th course, Sheldon working on the scallops, and Josh beginning dessert.

Brooke notes that something's burning in her kitchen, and CJ is shown in front of a large vat of pigs ears that are burning. Even the judges notice that he's just not focused. The audience counts down the clock for the last few seconds. The chefestants bring the dishes up to the judges.

KRISTEN (1st COURSE) - Chicken Liver Mousse with Frisée, Mustard, Prune, Hazelnuts & Pumpernickel - Emeril notes it's not the first time he's seen chicken livers from Kristen in the competition; he loves the mousse - very classic. Tom notes it was well seasoned, nicely put together. Gail said her chicken liver mousse was perfect.

BROOKE (1st COURSE) - Crispy Pig Ear & Chicory Salad, Six-Minute Egg, Apricot Jam & Candied Kumquats - Tom thought the dish had good flavor; Emeril said his cracklings were overcooked. Padma said her pig ear was crunchy and not burned, like others' were. Hugh said her salad dressing was awesome and had good balance.

ROUND 1 VOTES (first 3 out of 5 votes):
Hugh - Kristen
Gail - Kristen
Emeril - Kristen

Round 2 features scallops. Kristen asks Sheldon to make a cure for the scallops. Brooke is making sure that Kuniko cleans the scallops very very well to ensure there's no grit. Stefan calls out to Kristen "Kristen - I chose light blue!" She calls back "Light blue for what?" and he replies "For the baby's bedroom!" She laughs and says "Shut up!"

The Peanut Gallery of former winners calls out "CJ!" and he raises his arm to acknowledge their busting his chops. A bit of a look back into how Brooke made it to the finale, going through each challenge, getting feedback from those who have worked with her as to how she got there. Gail interviews Brooke's husband, asking him "Did you ever imagine you'd be watching Brooke in the finale?" and he said "Yes, I really thought she'd be in the finale!" Brooke and Nick's son, Hudson, has fallen asleep on his lap. Brooke's Mom and Dad said she watched The Galloping Gourmet when she was 5 years old when other kids were watching cartoons.

They finish plating, and Michael Voltaggio says "I'm jealous, dude! I want to be down there with them!" (He loves the competition!) Kristen asks Brooke to save one dish for her to taste. Countdown again to 2nd course service.

BROOKE (2nd COURSE) - Seared Scallop with Salt Cod Purée, Speck, Black Currant & Mustard Seed Vinaigrette - Someone (Richard Blais?) says to Hosea that his scallop is overcooked, but others at the TC Winners' table are saying "I think it's a tie now; this is really good!" Tom says he enjoyed the combination, he said the scallop was perfectly cooked and that everything worked very well together. Hugh said the flavors are bright and well balanced. Emeril said he's a salt cod lover, and the flavor of that with the scallop really drives it home for him.

KRISTEN (2nd COURSE) - Citrus & Lavender Cured Scallop with Bitter Orange, Meyer Lemon & Apple - Tom said her dish is exactly what he expected from her - really flavorful, really delicious. Padma said "There's nowhere to hide with this dish, and you did the scallops really proud." Emeril said he loves the simplicity and that she didn't over-complicate it.

ROUND 2 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Gail - Brooke
Emeril - Brooke
Tom - Kristen
Padma - Kristen
Hugh - Brooke

So they're tied, 1-1.

They have 34 minutes to plate the next course.

[Can I just say now that I *LOVE LOVE LOVE* how well their sous chefs are working with them? There is (so far) no drama, and each sous chef is listening to Brooke and Kristen and doing exactly what they need. LOVE IT.]

Kristen's road to the finale is shown, including her friendship with Stephanie, who was in the initial episode at Emeril's restaurant, both trying to get into the competition. Kristen also says that learning under Barbara Lynch has helped her immensely to focus her vision. Her trip through LCK is quickly shown, and she said that she plans a trip to Korea. She was adopted and moved to Michigan when she was very young, but she said she misses seeing two people that "look like me. I just need to see where I came from." Gail interviews Kristen's family and friends. Kristen's brother said he remembers dropping her off in Boston with a suitcase, and now she's a big-city girl and teaches them what's going on. Her father was sad to see her voted off of TC the first time, but he said he texted her afterwards and said "Kristen, you're my Top Chef!"

BROOKE (3rd COURSE) - Vadouvan-Fried Chicken Wing with Sumac Yogurt-Tahini & Pickled Kohlrabi Fattoush - the judges dig in, and Brooke said "I forgot the Wet-Naps - sorry!" and Tom says "Yes!" Harold said the wings were awesome, as did someone else at the TC Winners' table (Kevin Sbraga?). Hugh said he was not expecting the wings, and Brooke replied there was a reason for the wings. She said she felt she had to redeem herself with some chicken on the bone and fry it properly. Emeril said it was delicious. Tom said "I get why you're doing it, but I don't get why you're doing it." He did like the vadouvan, but wasn't sure how the salad went with it.

KRISTEN (3rd COURSE) - Celery Root Purée with Bone Marrow, Mushrooms, Bitter Greens & Radishes - Emeril loved all of the earthy tones of the dish. Tom asked why she stewed the mushrooms instead of roasting them. Kristen said she wanted the bone marrow to be the primary flavor, and the mushrooms to be an undertone. Padma said "I just wish it was hot! It wasn't." Gail thought the purée and mushrooms were both velvety and the bone marrow just cut through all just like she wanted it.

ROUND 3 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Emeril - Kristen
Tom - Kristen
Padma - Kristen

So Kristen has got 2 rounds under her belt - it's an all-or-nothing for Brooke for Round 4. CJ asks her what happened, and when he finds out that Brooke is down 1, he says "We'll kill this one." It's the required Red Snapper round coming up.

In the in-betweener, a confessional interview with the former winners - Hung says to relax and be yourself; Ilan can't remember the funny thing he was going to say; Hosea says do what you do well; Michael Voltaggio is just silent; Richard Blais uses a sports analogy of "don't fumble the football"; Stephanie Izard says "Try to make something that doesn't suck!" (I *love* Stephanie! LOL); Kevin Sbraga says to go out and rock it; Paul Qui laughs; Harold Dieterle says keep your adrenaline in check. They then show Ilan going crazy in the kitchen stadium, and he ends up breaking a glass. Sbraga is shown shaking his head.

Kristen is most confident with the Red Snapper dish as she's practiced it before she got there. Brooke says knowing the next dish could be the deciding factor is weighing on her nerves. Richard Blais notes that there are a lot of pressure cookers being used, but he says it's smart if someone is doing a braise. There's a quick review of previous TC Winners, showing what they've done since they won Top Chef. In total, they've opened 17 new restaurants among them.

Padma interviews the winners. Richard Blais says he's the only one at the Winners' Table who will know how both of them will feel tonight - but the verdict either way will be life-changing.

BROOKE (4th COURSE) - Braised Pork Cheek & Red Snapper wtih Collard Green Slaw & Sorrel Purée - Hugh said the snapper is perfectly cooked, and if collards are the new kale, he's all for that. Tom said he liked the combination of the pork cheek and snapper, the sorrel brings a nice brightness to it, and there's a bit of crunch with the pomegranate arils. Emeril liked the sorrel addition. Gail likes the play between the pork and snapper. The TC winners all seem to like it a lot as well.

KRISTEN (4th COURSE) - Red Snapper with Leeks, Little Gem Lettuce, Tarragon, Uni & Shellfish Nage - Tom said the snapper is great, there is great depth of flavor in the shellfish stock. Gail said the texture is spot-on. But she found the leeks a bit hard to eat. Hugh said the braised leek was a nice balance with the fish.

ROUND 4 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Gail - Kristen
Emeril - Kristen
Tom - Kristen!!!

And she WINS!!! Congratulations to Kristen Kish - a Boston chef wins! Woo hooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

And THAT, ladies and gents, is the end to a damn good season. Right up there with TC6 and TC8/All-Stars seasons. Just good cooking, only a bit of drama from you-know-who, and the best two cheftestants in the competition in the finale. This was a good season.

Signing off. I hear they're casting TC11. I've got 6+ months to get my strength back and make sure my remote control battery is working, I guess. ;-)

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  1. I know i havent posted all year - even though ive read all your threads (thanks linda for another great season of recaps).....but i hate this format for the finale - thats it :)

    1. I hate this format!!! 13 minutes left, fourth course not served. Clearly there won't be a fifth course. No drama at all.

      29 Replies
      1. re: donovt

        Ditto. I'd rather know there were hours of deliberation and discussion.

        1. re: momjamin

          Awful. Then they needed all of this filler, talking to families, talking about previous winners.....I hope they never do this again.

          1. re: momjamin

            6 minutes left and they're in commercial break. I thought there was no way they'd be so blatantly obvious, and that they'd throw in a twist by having Brooke win round 4 and then have the show run late. Wow. But I'm happy Kristen won. The shots with her dad and brother were so sweet. Still a great season overall. Thank you, Linda!

            1. re: KrumTx

              Based on when you all were posting (close to 11pm), it was obvious that they weren't going to have a 75 minute show.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Are we (I) in trouble with you? Ha. As someone posted below - did they think we couldn't tell time? I can't imagine that they did, so I was looking for a twist of it being 2-2 and running late. But then I thought they wouldn't risk the ire of those who'd used DVR to tape it. But honestly, for a few minutes I was thinking of any reason possible that the outcome wouldn't be so obvious!

                1. re: KrumTx

                  Agreed!
                  I liked the format, but was pretty surprised that the timing made the outcome so obvious.
                  I didnt care, really becasue I was pleased that Kristen won!

                  1. re: NellyNel

                    Me too. I'm not going to nitpick here anymore because it was a fantastic season overall, and I'm happy Kristen won.

                      1. re: NellyNel

                        agree with KrumTx! loved this season, happy for Kristen, but sad for Brooke.

                        thanks Linda, as always, for a wonderful job - give those wrists a good soak and a massage, and a drink while you're at it!

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          The glass of wine has been poured, mc. ;-)

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Better hurry up and drink it! See link for TCM news:)

                            http://eater.com/archives/2013/02/08/... (Spoiler)

                            1. re: KrumTx

                              Ahh, I only recap TC, no TCM. But I *will* watch. :-)

                              1. re: KrumTx

                                How about flagging that as a spoiler alert for those of us who might end up watching TCM??? Luckily I have a terrible memory for names so I'm not going to remember come screening time...

                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  I'm sorry. It honestly didn't even cross my mind to spoiler-alert it. My apologies.

                                  1. re: KrumTx

                                    No worries, just something to keep in mind next time. I wasn't joking about a bad memory; all I can see in my mind now is a vague image of some really fat dude. I think I'll be all set :-)

                      2. re: NellyNel

                        I was rooting for Kristen so I wasn't too devastated with the obvious time spoiler, but my daughter was going for Brooke, so she was more disappointed.

                      3. re: KrumTx

                        Oh not at all, KrumTX! I'm always behind the clock when it comes to getting the last bit of the recap done, so when I see a few posts in the 10:45-10:50pm time frame, I knew that it was probably Kristen, as they didn't have enough time for the 4th AND 5th/dessert courses.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Last post, promise, as I don't want to hijack this thing. I love your recaps. My family members and friends don't watch TC, despite my prodding, and you continually create such a sense of community here. I look forward to what fellow TC posters have to say (it's the little things in life, you know?) It's been fun and I'm looking forward to next season! Thank you, as always.

                          1. re: KrumTx

                            Thank you very much, KrumTX. I think I'm just the only dumb one who's willing to spend so much time recapping the show while it's airing. ;-)

                2. re: donovt

                  Yeah, I realized that Kristen won after she got the 3rd course. AND I also saw something on Facebook from Kristen today that led me to believe she was the winner - something about "Exciting things to talk about!"

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I also noticed that Padma was looking left, where Kristin was standing, when they announced the winner, so I pretty much knew it was her.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      Yes, and that's been a tell in previews of previous years, too, IIRC.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Yes, and as I meant to say, I saw this in the promo...

                  2. re: donovt

                    And much too much time of filler and re-cap.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      Think about how much more time filling they would have needed to do if Kristen had won three straight courses. I'm sure, if you were actually there live with no deadline (a 1 hour show) it was pretty dramatic. Major oversight by the producers for them not to realize that after editing, it would be easy for anyone with a clock to be able to figure out the winner. If Kristen had taken it three straight we would have probably have had to sit through video of family vacations, the two as babies in high chairs eating cherios, anything to take up the hour.
                      I'm still really happy with the season overall. In fact, I can't really think of one overtly stupid challenge compared to Texas where I can't think of any challenge that wasn't stupid.
                      And of course there's Linda. I sometimes feel as though I'm cheating on my wife while I anxiously wait for your recaps:-)

                      1. re: bobbert

                        "I sometimes feel as though I'm cheating on my wife while I anxiously wait for your recaps:-)"
                        ~~~~~~

                        ROFLMAO!!! *BEST* line of the season, bobbert! Please tell Mrs. bobbert that I have no designs on her man. Just on his opinions of Top Chef. ;-)

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          I'm not telling Mrs bobbert anything... there's a good reason I've been married for so long.

                    2. re: donovt

                      I was thinking the same thing last night. Time time factor was a giveaway. No time for a fifth course means Kristen wins.

                      1. re: donovt

                        I loved that Kristen won, but I really did not like this format. At the fourth course I realized there were only 4 minutes left so I knew who won. I really prefer to see the deliberation and the reason behind the judges' decision. This was almost like a foregone conclusion. I hope the go back to the old format next year. This was awful

                      2. I'm happy about the outcome, but not so happy about the format. I guess it was the lack of deliberation and not having the last course served that bothered me most.

                        Awesome job, Linda. Thanks for bringing us all together on this!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: roxlet

                          I wondered why they didn't have 'em both cook a dessert course anyway, and edit the show tighter (no sweet babies or family), then just disregard the dessert round.

                        2. I wonder why hey changed the format? Were ratings down last year? If so, I don't know if it was the format that was the cause. I realize that those who are frequent writers on these TC threads are likely not the same as he average Top Chef viewer, but I prefer the old format. This finale showed much less of the actual cooking. We saw none of the planning, and I would like to know how the teams were chosen. I would like to see all of the courses. They were voting with about 2-1/2 minutes to go, of course Kristen was going to win. Why didn't Tom vote first? I also think that cooking for 65 on the finale is a huge change in the format. I am glad for Kristen however I am not a fan of LCK.

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: John E.

                            Agree that we saw none of the planning, but I disagree we didn't see enough cooking. I was actually pleased with the amount of cooking. Wasn't crazy about the format, and think having to cook for 160 in the finale is stupid.

                            As for why Tom didn't go first, I think they staggered the voting so in case everyone voted for Kristen or Brooke in a single round, the same people wouldn't be saying the cheftestant's name each time.

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              I just do not like the sudden death format. I want to know all of the votes for all of the dishes. I also want to hear what the judges think about all of the courses. We saw a lot of the kitchen activity in the Iron Chef format, I don't think we saw the cooking, at least not in the same way as we have in the past. I want to know more about what they are going to cook before they cook it. II liked to see them shop for their food and plan there menu. I also don't care what the former winners are doing while the finale is going on. I would love to see a Top Chef special where they get all the winners together.

                              I usually watch each episode twice before makng too man comments here. I don't have any desire to watch this episode again. (And it's not as if I'm disappointed in who was chosen as the the winner of Top Chef Seattle.

                              1. re: John E.

                                I'm with you, I want to know if the other judges would have voted for Brooke, wanted to see them make dessert.

                                NOT loving this format!

                                I'm looking forward to reading the blogs... tomorrow. :)

                            2. re: John E.

                              I wonder if part of it (the change in format) was the whole bit about the save-a-chef in LCK -- they let viewers vote so recently. Or maybe they wanted to shake things up since it was the 10th season. (I hated the live reveal in S3 when Hung won (tho' I take no issue with Hung winning), but that was separate from the actual cooking.)

                              I would also have liked to see how the teams were chosen (all pretty strong, a couple burnt pigs' ears notwithstanding), and also see the judges talk about the dishes a bit more and persuade each other about high points and low points.

                              The bit with the previous top chefs giving "advice" was pretty funny, though.

                              1. re: John E.

                                I agree. I don't like LCK but this year I did only because it brought Kristen back. Maybe they changed the format for just that reason - change?

                                1. re: John E.

                                  Just came across this:

                                  http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaur...

                                  How did you choose your teammates?
                                  So, after the last challenge at Craft, we flipped a coin and Brooke got to choose first. We got to choose two people and she chose Stefan [Richter] and CJ [Jacobsen] and I chose Sheldon [Simeon] and Lizzy [Binder]. Then later on we were informed we could choose one more, and that’s when I picked Josh [Valentine] and she took Kuniko [Yagi].

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    There's a pic with Kristen and all the other winners. Would it kill Voltaggio to smile?

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      The Chowderhead who wrote the BosMag story (and writes about food-related topics for BosMag) can't even spell Gordon Ramsay's name correctly. :-/

                                      And I see what you mean, LurkerDan - Voltaggio stands out, doesn't he?

                                      Interestingly, Kristen *liked* the format of the finale, because they knew right away whether the dish was good or not.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        What makes good TV isn't necessarily the best for a contestant, and vice versa.

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          There was a correction added on 3/5 with the correct spelling of "Ramsey."
                                          I think the 2 chefs who look happiest are Hung and Paul, two of my all time favorites. Voltaggio does look uncomfortable. Too bad. He's another of my favorites in terms of his food, if not his general personality.

                                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                                            Interesting. I posted a comment yesterday @ BosMag re: spelling Ramsay's name correctly and they fixed it at 7:18pm last night. :-)

                                            1. re: KailuaGirl

                                              Paul and Hung did look happy, as did pretty much everyone in the photo. But MV looked like he always does. Which doesn't seem uncomfortable to me, just super serious (plus some people never smile in photos anyway). He never smiled during his season, no reason to start now I guess.

                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                But he can smile, that's just it - and he looks better when he does!

                                                http://i.usatoday.net/yourlife/_photo...

                                                http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-zzJ-GwyV98c...

                                                http://www.girlaroundtown.net/wp-cont...

                                                (But yes - most pics of Michael V. were sans smiley face! LOL)

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  That first one makes me have even more of a crush on Brian. I'm planning on going to his restaurant for my anniversary in a couple months.Can't wait!

                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                    Are you going to Volt, or one of his newer restaurants?

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      Planning to go to Volt. Actually chose that area for our annual weekend away precisely to eat there. My DH thinks I'm nuts, but it's an excuse to go to a part of the country I haven't been to before.

                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                        "Actually chose that area for our annual weekend away precisely to eat there. My DH thinks I'm nuts..."
                                                        ~~~~~~~~

                                                        And yet we all understand you. :-)

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Which makes us what? Nuts as well? Or discriminating in our taste?

                                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                                            EXTREMELY discriminating in our choice of nuts.

                                                        2. re: DGresh

                                                          It's a nice area--lots of little shops, places to walk around. It's a great experience. We just did it last fall and I have to admit that I'm the geek who asked to have pictures taken w/ him after dinner. My husband took the picture and when Brian asked if he wanted to be in the picture, I said,"No, this is fine, just us." Ha, happy anniversary, honey! After I asked, everyone else, who had been too cool to ask, popped in line.

                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                            I've done that, and it's lots of fun. I went to Chicago for my birthday one year just to go to Charlie Palmer's.

                                          2. Thanks Linda, for another great season of recaps and threads!!!

                                            Terrible episode, in my opinion. Disjointed, not enough information shown (*how* did they pick the teams? the menus?), too much information given away (ooh, let's put a commercial in right before a vote, with only 8 minutes left in the show. I wonder who will win. Huh.)

                                            Happy Kristen won. But 20 minutes in I was completely bored and ready to fast forward to the end. I slogged through it, though. Figured I'd already watched the entire season :-)