Previously on Top Chef: We arrived in Singapore for the extra-humid final leg of this clambake before the battle for the whole thing. Kelly, Angelo, Ed and Kevin wok'ed it out in the Quickfire and Ed took won not only that, but immunity in the Elimination. After a serious bout of psychological warfare between Ed and Angelo (and friction with the wait staff) Ed won the final Elimination Challenge as well, breaking Angelo's wittle heart. And Poor Kelly was told to go pack her butts and go.
It's finally the finale. And yours truly wouldn't be happier (for a variety of reasons). So here's who's left:
Angelo: The douchiest chef this season. But he's his own kind of douchey. No asshole-y smacktalk from this one. Just a series of daily affirmations, the Tony Robbins-ish belief that he actually deserved to win every single challenge ... and a plan to strategically mentor everyone else out of the running.
Kevin: The temperamental one. He may have a realistic sense of his own accomplishments, having been on the bottom several times this season, but he's still a dick. Has a short fuse and it's a wonder he hasn't hauled off and clocked someone at least twice already. Must be the camera. We're all still in shock that the restaurant he works at remains in business considering its name: Rat's.
Ed: My Chef Twinkle-eyes. More sweat glands per-square inch than anyone else this season. Speaks entirely in deadpan sarcasm, which is his secret weapon, since Angelo seems incapable of understanding when Ed's joking. Which is all the time. Has the big mo' coming into the final round. This does not bode well for his chances.
When we first see our chefs, it's still the night of the previous elimination and Chef Kelly (Future Star Of Ma's Roadhouse) is busy saying her goodbyes.
(For a closer look at what the future looks like for our dear Kelly, see below.)
Once the tearful goodbyes are made, Padma returns with the cliffhanger from last week's final moments: She would like to see all the remaining judges, including Ed, back at Judges' Table. What crazed twist is this?
No! There's a knife block! It's drama! What could it be?!
Oh, it's so they can choose their sous chefs for the final challenge. They've flown in the help. And here they come now ...
It's three previous season winners, Chefs Michael "Relax! Relax! Reeeeeelax!" Voltaggio (Season Tattoo), Hung "My Monkey Could Do That!" Hyunh (Season Three) and Ilan "The Misbegotten" Hall (The Season Of The Assault).
Wow. This would be such a shock, had we not seen this all over the previous week's previews.
So, after the shock of seeing Ilan's vomitous puss again, we get to hear how much each of the three finalists wants to work with Anyone But Ilan. Kevin wants to work with Michael, since they're friends and have worked together before. Angelo wants to work with Hung, since they have similar styles. And Ed wants to work with Michael since it's pretty clear he hasn't watched all the seasons.
"Ilan," says Ed. "I don't know too much about him other than, yes, he won Top Chef. So there's no reason not to respect him."
Unless you had watched his season. Or heard how many years it took him to finally open his restaurant. Or learned how it was shut down soon by the health department shortly after it opened. Or witnessed his general horribleness every few months on this show and its one-off specials.
But other than that, no, there's no reason not to respect him.
In any case, after he knife pulls, Kevin gets Michael (like he wanted) and Angelo gets Hung (as we've hoped all season) and Ed gets stuck with Ilan. Ed, not knowing any better, doesn't use the knife to fricassee King Saffron.
Padma asks guest judge Seetoh what time it is.
"It's Sock-It-To-Me time!"
Someone splashed Goldie Hawn with a bucket of water and we move back to the Singapore Red Roof Inn for the chefs to get acquainted with their sous chefs. Once there, the full impact of being in the room with Ilan starts to hit. But rather than striking Ed, who's been saddled with Ilan, the nausea strikes Angelo. (I imagine those weeks of being paired up with Alex earlier have given Ed some kind of immunity.)
Once Angelo's gone to lie down, the sous chefs offer their advice. Ilan says one truly valuable thing: Do not take this moment to try something that's outside your general field of expertise. (Paging Chef Carla!)
The sous chefs leave and the next day begins. Over breakfast, Ed and Kevin fill us in on Angelo's health status. Apparently, he is doing really, really badly and was up all night in some kind of gastrointestinal panic. Thankfully, we're spared the details.
In the bedroom, a curled up Angelo is in pain.
"It feels like someone's stabbing me in the stomach."
Wow. Those voodoo dolls do work. Who would'a thunk it?
A bit later, the one doctor in the world who still makes house calls arrives and tells Angelo that it's unlikely he'll be able to cook the following day. Oh noes!
Later, Kevin, Ed and the sous chefs arrive in the Red Roof Inn kitchen where they are greeted by Tom and Eric Ripert. There, the obvious fact that Angelo won't be working in the kitchen this day is reiterated. Kevin doesn't know if this means that Kelly will be brought back to take his place in the finals. But Tom has a plan (of sorts). Angelo will be on the phone with Hung throughout day, giving him instructions on what to buy and prepare. And if Angelo isn't better the day of the finals ... well, he's going to be better. And let's leave it at that.
Ed, for his part, thinks that Angelo should just curse at any potential bacterial infection and be done with it.
Once that business is completed, Tom and Eric display the proteins the chefs will have to each use in their dishes. (One course is to be a vegetable course, one a fish course, one a meat course and -- gong of doom -- one must be a dessert.)
The proteins are a collection of local fish, shellfish and meats which should present a decent challenge. I've never heard of most of these things. (But then again, I have trouble boiling water.) It seems that the chefs appear unfazed by them for the most part, which seems fair, since this is hardly the time to throw outre ingredients into the mix.
Then, the chefs head off to 完全食物 Market for their ingredients. There, Kevin tells us that he's going to listen to Michael, yet do his own thing. And Ilan over and over again gets all Ilan all over Ed, telling him what he should be doing and what he shouldn't be doing.
To his credit, Ed notes that he's not going to make the mistake some have made in the finals of listening too closely to the suggestions of his or her sous chef. (Paging Chef Casey! Phone call on line two for Chef "You Really Should Sous Vide That" Casey!)
Meanwhile, Hung zips around the market like the little bisexual tornado he is and snaps up everything Angelo wants while the cheftestant remains in fetal position back at the Motel 6.
They all arrive back in the kitchen and start their three hours of prep. And, true to his speedy nature, Hung zips right in and snatches up all the foie gras in the kitchen. The other sous chefs find this amusing. Someone finds it "awesome."
But Ed, who was counting on using some of it for his duck course, is mighty p.o.'d. He responds by sweating profusely. Or should we say more profusely.
As the chefs explain their game plans, the blur of motion that is Hung gets everything done in record time. And even without his own cleaver manages to dissect his duck in seconds, leaving time for him to jump into the bleepin' cursing spree with the rest of the guys. (Seriously. There were more bleeps in this one scene than there were actual words heard. Sort of like listening to Lil Wayne perform on seven-second delay at the Grammys.)
Prep continues. Ilan and Hung flirt shamelessly. Ed feels left out. And Ed explains to us that he's letting Ilan do his dessert, since he doesn't have confidence he'd be able to deliver a finale-worthy one at this stage. (Ugh. I can tell right here that this is what will cost him the title.)
Back in the House Of Pain, Angelo gets another visit from Marcus Wel-bi. The doctor tells the patient that he's going to have to take it in the butt. And, on cue, Hung decides to take this moment to place a call to interrupt the proceedings.
A dejected Hung becomes sad that he can't raise Angelo on demand here on account of Angelo being busy with the the doctor's "big one."
Oh, by the way, that was referring to the needle the doctor was using to give Angelo an intramuscular antibiotic injection. Didn't wanna give anyone the wrong impression here.
Before he leaves, Dr. Feelgood provides the necessary drama by again stating that there is little chance that Angelo will be well enough to cook the next day.
But, after a message from our sponsors, it's the next morning and Ed and Kevin are wondering if Angelo will be well enough to join them in the kitchen this final day. And after another visit from Dr. Fil, Angelo gets the go-ahead to go ahead and infect the diners and judges! Woo hoo!
Angelo says that Ed's probably not happy about this. Ed says he'd rather have competed against just Kevin. And we look at the clock and see how many minutes of these phony rivalries we'll all have to endure.
The chefs arrive at the Just Screams "Thai" Jim Thompson Restaurant for their final three hours of prep before service. Kevin tells Michael that he's "not here to be nice" (Spoiler alert!) and is also here to "bring it."
And we see that Angelo is making nominal attempts to not infect all of greater Singapore in that he's now wearing surgical gloves. In some shots. (Myself, I'd not be satisfied with anything less than Angelo in a full-body condom. But that's me.)
As if to add insult to injury (or infection to insult), somewhere in this whole process we spy Angelo tasting his dish and then placing that same tasting spoon back into the dish. ... And now we know how Avian Flu got started.
Ed provides us with our obligatory finale "no room for error" (we'll also accept "no room for mistakes") and the cooking portion ends about as lamely as the majority of this entire season.
The three chefs smack-talk each other's offerings with Ed saying that Kevin's and Angelo's may look good but might taste like shit. Angelo and Kevin say that Ed makes dishes that are too complicated. And I start tapping my foot like I do in line at the bank.
Ed reminds us again that at this point in the competition "you cannot make any mistakes whatsoever."
Finally, the diners and judges are seated and served. Angelo finds it "awesome" to be serving such a noted bunch of diners.
Kevin is most impressed with the presence of David Chang (Chef of the Mothafok-u Group) whom he calls a "stud." (Well, that dispels one Asian stereotype.)
The chefs present their vegetable course. Angelo's involves pork belly, which makes it not-so-vegeteabley. Kevin's involves eggplant. And Ed's has that corn soup which Ilan opposed.
Tom thinks Angelo's needs work. Diner Chef Susan Feniger (late of Top Chef Masters) doesn't think Kevin's has enough oomph, though Stud Chang is impressed since it "takes a lot of balls" to do a vegetable tureen. And Ed's gets praised. Still all three are deemed restrained by Tom.
Next comes the fish course. Angelo's is a bouillabaisse. Kevin's involves slicing his cuttlefish into what look like noodles. And Ed's is three pieces of fish. Kevin's gets praise. Ed's is considered very complicated. And Angelo's is considered tasty.
This is followed by the duck course. Angelo's involves a shot glass filled with tart cherry somethingorother, which is billed as a "palate cleanser." Kevin's is served with a caramelized bok choy. And Ed's is served two ways with the duck neck stuffed with spinach.
Kevin's is ruled the best cooked duck of the three, though Ed's is considered novel and tasty. No one likes or appreciates Angelo's cherry sauce shooter, though.
Finally, it's time for the dessert course.
Ed thinks Ilan could have gotten more intricate with his cake, which would be a decent dig if it was supposed to be Ilan's dessert. They serve.
Angelo's dessert is a "Thai Jewel," a soupy coconut concoction of some sort. Kevin's is his take on a Singapore Sling, which is not some kind of adult novelty, but actually a fruity alcoholic beverage. (Its mere appearance makes most of the diners develop faces which look like shock and disgust.) And Ed's is Ilan's boring toffee pudding (read: cake) with a side of salty cream.
Once everyone tastes Kevin's fruit cup, it totally wins everyone over. Angelo's is enjoyed, but is called almost too close to a savory dish. And the simplicity of Ed's (sorry, Ilan's) dessert is considered a big "fuck you" to the judges. (That's an actual quote from one of the celebrity diners, folks. But seeing as it's Stud Chang of Mamafukka Group, it should come as no surprise.)
As for Tom having a disagreement with another diner about how much he likes salty cream ... well, we're not going there.
Once the service is over, we get to see the chefs tasting each other's food and cross-infecting like crazy. Ed finds it "awesome." And though the cooking is done, Kevin feels the psychological pressure is "schtronger" than before.
The chefs emerge from the kitchen and are given a final hand before we head back to ...
Padma tells the three chefs to each grab fire, because fire represents life in Top Chef. The questioning begins.
Basically, the judges liked Angelo's seafood broth. They didn't get the sticky, cherry "palate cleanser" in his duck dish. They liked Ed's duck dish, but weren't impressed with
Asked about the fine, yet not spectacular dessert, we get what appears to be a heavily edited back-and-forth between Ed and the judges, the thrust of which is that he didn't want to go out on a limb and fail with a ambitious dessert. And the judges don't Cotton to this.
Again I'm convinced that this whole dessert thing is what's going to cost my big Gnocchi Of Love the win.
Kevin's duck dish is praised. His dessert is really praised.
And it starts to feel like ...
The three stress in the Singaporean Stewed Room. Everything's subjective.
Dullest Fakeout Scene Ever ... over!
Aaaaand we're back. You know how this is going to go.
"Kevin ... you are Top Chef."
"I am?" Kevin asks, stunned.
"You are," says Padma.
This cracks up Tom to no end.
Kevin is overjoyed.
Angelo has no regrets and thinks Kevin did an "awesome" job.
Ed thinks Kevin deserved it.
My response: Rats.
Next time on Top Chef: Reunion. (Which will not be recapped owing to travel and a general sense of fatigue.) We'll supposedly get to the bottom of the done-to-death "who stole the pea purée" thing. (Yeah, right.) And there will be a "shocking announcement" about the next season of Top Chef which will be shocking to anyone with a very low threshold for surprise and zero access to the 101 announcements/rumors which have been all over the intertubes for three weeks now.