Welcome back to Top Chef and the final episode of Season 14 Charleston Thursday night was heavy on the Top Chef front with the Live Quickfire happening, the crowning of the new Top Chef and the finalists, Scar and Bog Daddy Tom joining Andy in the clubhouse. I am going to cover it all so sit back and enjoy this super heavy Top Chef coverage.
If you are the sort that enjoys learning how the sausage is made, this episode for you and is still available on YouTube.
The best part of the episode was Scar hands down. If you have ever seen the episode of 30 Rock with her on it, that was the Scar that showed up for the live filming.
She wore her reading glasses to read the cue cards
Provided music for dramatic effect
Ate chips with Art Smith
Called Shirley and Brooke on Facetime
Then gave them and up close a personal view of her chest
Also, Sam’s new dirt stash and his bandaged hand that he claims was a restaurant injury, but very well could have been a gravity bong incident.
Oh yeah and Casey was there too and her hair looked super cute
As we all know we went from this:
Down to this.
Shirley vs. Brooke
Both alums and with something to prove.
We catch our queen bees having what can only be described as the world’s most awkward breakfast. Brooke seems like she is trying psyche out Shirley and tells her how awake she feels and Shirley is all good for you. Brooke ask Shirley how she thinks they will get to pick to their sous chefs and Shirley replies roshambo, what google tells me is paper, rocks, scissors. They share a giggle and Shirley tells her to just roll with it and Brooke is all like yeah and cook better than Shirley.
As they walk to the area to meet the judges it’s hard not to notice that they are in similar outfits, white shirt and black tops I am guessing this is something that was planned by production and an ensemble they were specifically asked to bring.
Scar and Tom greet them with smiles and Scar launches into her rehearsed speech regarding the final challenge.
They will serve a progressive four course meal to a full dining room in the Portofino Restaurant inside Secrets Akumal. They will be placing orders with the hotel for proteins and will have 10,000 pesos for additional ingredients.
Tom says that because this is such a big task they are going to give them a few extra hands.
The gang is all here
They will get three sous chefs and to determine who gets to pick first they will perform the ancient Top Chef tradition of drawing knives.
Shirley get first pick and goes for Casey for some unbeknownst reason. Why would you pick Casey she has the worst finale sous chef juju EVER! Shirley says she picked Casey because she knew Brooke would pick her and Brooke not afraid of greasing her face and hiding razorblades in her hair asks her point blank if that was strategic. Brooke picks Sheldon, of course. I read a really cute article in People online that they did with Sheldon where he admits they truly are good friends and she was the first one he called after they asked him to come back. Brooke says Casey is her girl, but Sheldon is a beast in the kitchen. Shirley picks Katsuji, for his Spanish skills and familiarity with the local cuisine but also because he works really fast. He knows it because he immediately says oh because I am Mexican. Brooke’s second pick is Sam, which I found very surprising she says she choose him because he is quick but also really positive. Tom says that for their third sous chefs they are picking for them and then two guys walk out that do not look at all familiar but based on Shirley’s tears I guess that it is someone she knows and probably cooks with often.
Brooke scream holy shit!
Brooke immediately asks they big dude next to her who is running the show at home? Scar has them introduce them both and they are both their Chef de Cuisine from their respective restaurant’s. We can tell by the touched up outgrowth in their hair that they went home before coming to Mexico and I can’t imagine hiding such a huge secret from your boss that you would be coming to cook with them in the finale. They chefs head off to the kitchen to start planning.
Shirley is taking direction from Edna Lewis and will be cooking from the favorite food memories of her life. Brooke’s theme will be local ingredients, she again admits that this sort of freedom in what can be served can be hard for her as she tends to better with distinct direction.
Sheldon must have been overwhelmed by the selection of hats
Shirley is thrilled to see Asian ingredients in Mexico.
Brooke once again expresses her annoyance with Shirley and her loud ass voice.
Back at Secrets they are going through the walk-in coolers reviewing what they ordered and Brooke notices that there is no pork belly that she ordered.
Later on, WWHL she clarifies that she did write is down on the list but they didn’t get for her. Sheldon tells her there is pork belly but it’s for Shirley and was in fact on her list too. Brooke approaches Shirley to see if she can have her pork belly as it is the main ingredient in her pork and beans dish but Shirley is using it to render crackling but it is also her back-up protein because she also ordered piglets. Since the producers already flashed the horrifying picture of the piglet on her shoulder that haunts every meal I have had pork at since, I am hoping they spare us this time. Shirley says that if she can spare it she will give it to her but if it Brooke beats her on that dish she gets to share her title. Chefs head out and Shirley tells her team not to drink too much tonight because they have to cook tomorrow.
Brooke and Shirley head back to their shared suite and once again discuss the possibly shared pork belly. Shirley straight up tells her that if her piglet doesn’t work out she is going to have to keep the pork belly and then makes this face…
Brooke is like well I kind of want to win and it’s a 50/50 chance. Shirley is like what if it’s more like 51% because I don’t’ want to share the pork belly and then laughs manically.
I hate you so much besides I have short ribs
They head to dinner at Dreams resort down the street from Secrets. They walk into a private dining room and guess who is there!
Nick, Hudson and Jimmy
Shirley introduces herself to Hudson
He can feel her crazy energy
Brooke lets us know that they do own a bar named after Hudson and he is her biggest inspiration. Shirley talks about how much she admires Brooke and seeing the happiness that her family brings to her inspires her to start her own family that she once thought was not possible due to her long hours. Aw that’s actually very sweet.
The next morning Brooke is writing down some notes or journaling, I can’t tell and Shirley is sharpening her knives on the balcony. As they gather themselves to begin cooking Brooke tells her good luck and Shirley does that same but adds, “may the best chef win.”
AS they begin prep with their respective teams it’s interesting to see their distinct approach to collaborative work. Shirley begins with a team meeting and tells them what to do while, Brooke made a list of all the tasks and asks her team of sous chefs to let her know what they are comfortable with. Shirley is still unsure about the piglets and asks Katsuji to break one down for her to inspect. Again, this is a surprising choice given that he SUCKED at the barbecue challenge and quite honestly hacked that poor pig. Brooke starts to work on the oysters and says she can’t wait to see Scar but something big, wet and slimy down her throat. BROOKE, that just a regular Saturday night for some. Shirley is going on and on about her snapper and the dish she is preparing for it as she her voice gets progressively louder. Brooke yells at her from the other kitchen area to can it but Sam is like it’s cool you can hear everything she’s doing and it’s good to know what your competitor is up to. Mr. Positive is right on the money.
Shirley is taking her second course inspiration from of all things, the first time she had Top Ramen but with a flavorful broth and handmade noodles. However, the noodle press she is using is not locking to the table properly so she goes and grabs Katsuji to stabilize the press while she works the machine. Brooke is making octopus as her second course and turns to Sheldon for his advice on how he handled his octopus the other day. She is taking inspiration from eating sushi at a young age and since the octopus is local it fits into her theme of using fresh and local ingredients. Sam is making garlic accompaniments for the dish and I believe his secret ingredient to his cooking is talking to his food while he preps. At this point in the prep Brooke needs to find out if she uses the pork belly or not and wisely sends Sheldon into find out of Shirley is going to give it up for Brooke or not. As it turns out the piglets are beautiful and she cuts off a small amount of pork belly to keep and hands the rest to Sheldon and tells him to remind Brooke she gave her the major protein for her meal and laughs. In her talking head, Shirley makes a great point that she doesn’t want to beat Brooke just because she didn’t have everything she needed to make the meal she intended to make.
Back in Shirley’s kitchen she is riding Katsuji’s ass to clean and keep on task, he calls her a Tiger Mommy. Shirley backs this up by letting us know that when she was working Las Vegas they called her Devilita which, I guess is Spanglish for little devil because she was so aggressive in the kitchen. She says that why her Chef de Cuisine, Jay is so good because he is the calm to her storm. Brooke is dismayed to find out her flan is not setting properly and it is taking too long to cook, she says that problem with this is that is the longer that flan cooks the denser it becomes and that not good because flan is supposed to be light.
In the dining room tables are starting to be set and we begin to see some familiar faces.
The A Table The B Table
And some new faces.
At some point, someone was able to fire-up a color printer and create menus for the meal. Gail loves the story behind Shirley’s meals as does Milou at the other table. Notice how Graham and Gail were forced to sit at the B table.
As Shirley steps into the dining room she sees her mom and sister that she did not know would be there and gets so excited.
In the other corner, Brooke notices her mom and dad sitting with her husband and is equally thrilled.
Brooke’s oyster is well received and Chef Bould appreciates that there is a lot of bacon flavor but no fat. Chef Waxman likes how much liquid was in the shell because going down it was just beautiful. I die at the comment because I am perpetually 13. Tom says that it was a modern interpretation of oysters Rockefeller, it was light and delicious. Brooke’s mom said it was a surprise in her mouth and her dad said it was the best oyster he has ever had.
At the B table Chef Jonathon Sawyer, who will soon be joining other Top Chef alums Stephanie Izard and Sarah Gruenberg in Iron Chef Gauntlet, says that Shirley’s dish is beautifully plated. [Thank you Jimbobjones and Corin37 for confirming that Sarah was in fact one of the mean girls you all have talked about from the Texas season]. At the A table Milou says that Shirley’s dish took a lot of confidence doing something so simple. Chef Jonathon Waxman says there was not enough mint and Tom concurs that you have three slices of fish and only 2 pieces of mint and 1 slice of chili, if you want a little with every bite, how do you do it?
Shirley made a really nice crudo but Brooke’s dish was soigné
Do you actually know what that means?
Scar really likes Brooke octopus and says, “This is Finale food,” and Big Daddy agrees. Chef Waxman loves that it was tender but not mushy and Chef Bould says he loves how she played with the garlic and created a double texture. Chef Sawyer says he would put it on any menu and would recommend it over and over again.
Shirley’s ramen did not receive quite the same reception. Chef Joachim Splichal felt that the broth was flat and would have preferred a much richer flavor in the dish. Tom makes the astute observation that with all the ramen restaurants open now if you serve ramen it’s got to be tops. Chef Sawyer likes the condiments on the dish but the noodle isn’t very supple. Chef Bould says that it would be hard to qualify this as winning dish next to the octopus.
Scar almost apologetically tells the A table that she loves Shirley’s pork shank. Chef Jonathon Waxman asks if they are judging on size and Scar without missing a beat says, “no size doesn’t matter, haven’t you heard?” Big Daddy says eating Shirley’s dish he has forgotten how much he loves wild rice. Chef Splichal says he loves it and being German he hasn’t had pork like this since he left Germany. At the B table Graham, who has been surprisingly quiet expresses his love for the shank and says that he likes that she didn’t go for a chop or loin that would have dried out. The cameras pan over to Shirley’s family table and we hear her sister speak, they couldn’t be more different!
Chef Bould really loves Brooke’s dish. Chef Sawyer felt that the strongest points were the protein and the sauce. Chef Ortiz says that the beans are soft and the dish reminds her of Mexico. Tom really liked how the dish was put together but felt that beans were really the star of the dish. Scar says this course is hard to decide because they were both really delicious. The self-proclaimed pork guy of the season agrees.
Lewbert totally agrees
In the kitchen, Brooke starts to plate her flan and you can tell by the way it flops on the plate that it is not good.
Brooke says that she made the flan to honor her mother who she didn’t know would actually be here, but she just won the flan competition in her neighborhood and she always make it for her when she comes to visit because it’s her favorite. Her mother wipes away a tear, it’s all very sweet.
Chef Ortiz says that when she thinks of chamomile she thinks it’s one of the most incredible flavors and so sophisticated and honestly, she isn’t getting that from this dish. Graham says that flan is too eggy and dense and doesn’t have that wobble you want from flan. Chef Jonathon Waxman says that it just wasn’t perfectly executed and Tom says he doesn’t understand the rum and didn’t get any chamomile from the dish at all.
Milou calls Shirley’s dish compulsively edible and she can’t stop eating it because every time she digs in there is more surprises. Gail, the dessert queen, calls it seductive and says she basically finished it all. Chef Ortiz points out that you should always finish you rice. At Shirley’s table her mother is asking Jimmy and Shirley’s sister how to say I am proud of you in English.
Brooke and Shirley re-enter the dining room to thunderous applause. They each run to their families for hugs and words of support.
Shirley tells us in a voiceover that her mom doesn’t speak a lot of English so to hear her express her love and pride meant so much because she has been waiting for this moment since she told her mom she wanted to change her career.
Brooke hugs her husband and this is the first time I have ever noticed that he seems considerably older than her. She asks him and her parents if everything was good and they are like oh yeah, her did whispers to her that she won and her mom tells her she loves her. Her husband tells her Shirley’s shank was amazing but her pork and beans were better also her dessert … Brooke’s mom finishes his thought and says that Shirley’s dessert was better.
Tom tells them that both of their meals are worthy of the title, from start to finish they both had really strong dishes. Scar asks how it felt to have their families in the dining room. Brooke says it was great and it felt she gave them a good meal and made them proud. Shirley talks about how glad she was to have her mom in the room to show her how hard she works and to show her that this is truly her calling.
They start in on the courses and Tom questions Shirley on the mint to chili ratio compared to the three pieces of fish and if that was intentional. Shirley says it was because the fish was so delicate that she wanted to let it out standout. Gail tells her it was a smart way to start and set up a beautiful progression.
Next, they move on Brooke’s first course. Brooke says that the dish was inspired by a dish that she had with her parents in Baja. Graham says for him it was a little too much right out of the gate with all the components, this doesn’t surprise me because his method is much subtler. Brooke defends her choice saying she knew this would come up but it was what she wanted to do and Big Daddy says that if you’re going to start with a smack in the face, it was the right way to go.
Second course, Scar asks Shirley about her ramen Shirley says that she really likes the slippery texture of the ramen noodle and she tried to recreate that today with a really flavorful broth. Her goal was to recreate what you get in the packet with Top Ramen.
What is this Top Ramen you speak of?
Tom tells her hand making the noodles was great but this read as really simple food and he isn’t sure that this was the time to showcase really simple food. Graham says that he loved the condiments, the egg and kimchi were great but the broth could have used more time because it fell short. Then they move onto Brooke’s octopus dish and Tom tell her that the octopus was great, he loved the charred mint and the garlic sauce. Gail says that garlic was key in this dish both in the sauce and chips, Brooke accurately gives Sam props and says that he made those and she could have eaten the whole bag. Did you hear that Lays? Sam makes good chips! Gail also praises the perfectly cooked octopus. Graham says it was really, really tasty and had a lot of heart behind it, you could taste it in the dish.
Now for the third course, Gail calls Shirley’s dish striking! The shank was so beautifully cooked that it fell off the bone and that she loved the simplicity of the just cooked green. Graham tell her that she couldn’t have done any better and he felt it was really delicious. Tom felt the rice was the best part of the dish and reminded him why wild rice is so good because of the chew it gives. Look for wild rice to appear on Tom’s menus soon! Scar tells Brooke that she really loved her jam and thought the beans were perfectly cooked. Graham says he kept going back and forth on her dish was it a pork dish or a bean dish and in the end, it didn’t matter because it was harmonious.
Finally, onto dessert, they start was Brooke’s flan. Tom tells her that a few things he loves are chamomile and rum but he didn’t get those flavors from the dish. Gail says that when flan is good it is so luxurious, creamy and rich and she really wanted her flan to be creamier than it was. Scar is all like I take it you learned to make flan from your mom and Brooke says no, they have never made it together she always makes it for her. Then Scar tells Shirley that her dessert was her favorite dish of the night.
Scar says simply that it was beautiful and Graham calls it one of the most creative and provocative dishes of the night. He loved the play on rice pudding and thought it was really cool, fun to eat and delicious. Tom says he loved it and thought it had great texture and flavor, he finished every bit.
Scar tells them it’s been a pleasure to eat their food all season and thanks them before dismissing them.
A chilled bottle of wine awaits them and Shirley looks like she wants to vomit from nerves.
Back the judges table Scar says that this the way a finale should be, down to the best two chefs with really great meals. Gail says that Shirley really put it all out there with her stories and her snapper was a simple, bright first taste. But Tom gives the first course to Brooke because he believes that Shirley’s story was better than her dish. They all agree though hands down that Brooke’s second course with the octopus was the best. Third course is a toss-up because they loved both dishes, Tom says the rice in Shirley’s dish made it homey and Gail loved Brooke’s caramelized onion. However, she asks the panel is that flan the dessert to win Top Chef.
Seriously guys that was super shitty flan
Graham is like yeah, that was so weird and out of place and Tom reiterates how good Shirley’s was and Scar again brings up that was her favorite dish of the night. But Tom says if he looks at them head to head he can make a really clear argument for who should win. Back in the kitchen Brooke and Shirley are having their last words and Brooke tells Shirley that no matter who wins she is honored to have shared this with her. Shirley says that she literally took the line out of her heart.
Out by the judges table everyone has gathered for crowning.
Katsuji wore his special green pants, the red ones must be at the cleaners
Scar tells them it’s been really long road and they both have been fierce competitors.
Tom addresses the parents and thanks them for raising such wonderful people who are amazing chefs. Then he makes a speech about how they have both found their voice this season yadda yadda… there are no losers but there is only one Top Chef. Scar says Brooke………………………………………………………
She took such a dramatic pause after her name Shirley knew before the words even left her mouth and gives Brooke congratulatory half smile.
You are Top Chef
Shirley gives her a hug and tells her don’t come back and Brooke assures her she won’t be back.
Gail hugs Shirley and tells her she really is an extraordinary woman and you cooked an amazing meal.
Shirley says even though she didn’t win she accomplished what she came here to do and that was cook a great meal and express her love to her loved ones. She gets a big hug from her mama and her husband who seems more crushed than she does gives her a hug and she comforts him and tells him it’s OK. Brooke calls her kid to tell him the good news and immediately tells him not to tell his friends.
Later on WWHL Brooke, Shirley, Scar and Big Daddy Tom joined Andy in the clubhouse.
And Sheldon served as the bartender.
I don’t watch WWHL with any sort of consistency, I just pop in when there are guests I am interested in seeing or folding laundry. Some points of interest were that Scar thought Sheldon for sure would be in the finale. Brooke bought her first house and remodeled the kitchen to be her dream kitchen with her winnings. Andy also did a video of all the implied shade on the finale that Brooke and Shirley threw at each other and it was fabulous. Tom and Scar were both surprised Sam went out so early in the competition but Scar said she wasn’t surprised when he went home because she tasted his food. When asked what the worst thing they tasted all season was Tom said probably Brooke’s finale dessert.
You guys this was sort of an anti-climatic ending to a pretty good season, but a great ending to a soul crushing journey that began in Seattle in 2010. I have really enjoyed commenting with you all season and appreciated your patience when I have been late, sick or clearly rushed to get something up. I have looked forward to interacting with you every week and will miss you ALL now that we have officially come to the end. Let me know your final thoughts on this season below. I don’t know what I am covering next but I will definitely see you around the TrashTalkTV boards!