Hello, Top Chef Trashies. Well this is the end! I can’t believe we are here already, it feels to soon. I apologize for the lateness on this recap I had some cable/internet issues this week and um I am no longer allowed to call the company because I got a little fresh with them and this became my husband’s duty. So, I had to wait for him to sort it out and promise to bring the relic cable box he has been refusing to give up because he hates the new system.
The episode begins with a nice tribute to both of the chefs. Le Bernardin finding her voice and Non-mustachioed Joe for his sense of wit and Italian flavors.
Who will win Top Chef?!?!?!
Still at the lodge the chefs are receiving their last-minute instructions from Scar, Big Daddy and Gail. Basically, they are giving them fortune cookie advice… to enjoy their time, live in the moment, be true to themselves and above all cook like their life depends on it!
The next morning Non-mustachioed Joe calls his mentor and boss at Spiaggia, Tony Mantuano for advice as he prepares for the finals. He talks about how special of relationship they have and that he took a real chance on him when he first hired him. The one thing I kept thinking about during this scene was that Tony just announced he is opening a restaurant with Cubs Manager Joe Maddon in the Wrigley Field area with more announcements to come this spring. Hmmmm…
With Le Bernardin back in the room the chefs receive Scar mail,
Le Bernardin says she is ready for a fight and gets it from her mama and daddy. He was a Black Panther (not the superhero) and her mother taught her good work ethic.
The 70’s were awesome and Le Bernardin really looks like her mom!
She says to potentially be the first female Black Top Chef makes her feel like she has a lot to live up to. Somewhere I like to think Carla hooting for her and Nina is working on her death stares rooting her on.
Non-mustachioed Joe says that this Top Chef journey is all about trying to figure out what his move would be beyond Spiaggia. Right now, it’s his baby but with some cash and notoriety that’s all a game changer.
In the bubbles they travel to the top of the mountain to find Scar and Big Daddy waiting for them.
Tom tells them the final challenge is to make the best food of their lives, NBD.
Joining the judges will be Jonathon Waxman, Curtis Duffy and Nancy Silverton. They will of course be receiving a little bit of help. In order to determine who will get first pick they will perform the ancient Top Chef ritual of drawing knives.
Le Bernardin draws first blood with first choice and the Season 15 cheftestants reassemble.
Is that LaurAlaska hiding behind Tonya
Le Bernardin chooses Dr. Chocolate aka B.Funk and Denver. She reasons that he has experience in Southern cooking and they have a lot of similarities and Denver because she is creative and fun to cook with. Non-mustachioed Joe pick the other Joe known as Stacho and Fati because of their Italian experience. Now right here I had a thought that I will share at the end of the recap*
They will have 30 minutes to menu plan before shopping and will have a chance for special orders with the Little Nell.
Le Bernardin is a woman with a plan and already has the menu in her mind because it’s the one she wrote for her new restaurant she has been working on opening. Dr. Chocolate says Non-mustachioed Joe is no joke but Le Bernardin is bringing IT! Non-mustachioed Joe is doing Italian but not in the way Grandma Mary would, in a refined and rustic way. Fati says she knows for a fact that Stacho loves Non-mustachioed Joe but she loves him more.
At Whole Foods the chefs and their sous have 30 minutes to shop and $500 to spend. At some point Non-mustachioed Joe jumps behind the butcher counter and instructs the guy on how he wants his meat cut. Denver and Fati compare notes and Denver makes a great joke about how Non-mustachioed Joe is probably making 4 pastas. Le Bernardin is nervous about baking so she decides to do a banana yuzu pudding. Le Bernardin runs out of money so Non-mustachioed Joe puts it on his tab because even though he wants to win he doesn’t want to win because someone did have what they needed. AW!
The chefs enter the kitchen with 2 hours to prep. Non-mustachioed Joe carves a pig’s head he has lovingly named Nora, while discussing his first dish being a sexy play on Vitello Tonnato. While Dr. Chocolate gets started on Le Bernardin’s spoon bread for her first dish. She says working with Eric Ripert, you might have heard of him, she knows to start the menu light so she is doing a play on cornbread custard. For her second course she is doing octopus and grits. Denver freaks when she asks her to do the grits. She doesn’t want to be the Casey to her Carla.
Non-mustachioed Joe has Stacho starting on the pasta dough and OMG this isn’t Brucie Bear’s pasta. They are making Grano Arso pasta that is made with wheat from fields that have been set on fire, a flavor that cannot even be achieved by toasting the flour it has to be the real deal.
Le Bernardin cracks some Cheerwine that she is basting her beef in and pours her homey Non-mustachioed Joe some as he has never heard of the soda. In he talking head she says that Non-mustachioed Joe only weakness is that he is not a gambler, but she is and isn’t afraid to take chance. Fati works on Non-mustachioed Joe’s grandma cake and decorates his face with the batter.
Le Bernardin and Dr. Chocolate work on her tuiles, a cripy garnish but they are not turning out right. Fati’s first cake is bitter and they all agree that it needs to be better. Le Bernardin makes a list with her team of all the things that still need to be done for the next day when Non-mustachioed Joe’s team remembers with minute plus that they need to press the ricotta out.
Back at the suite, Graham and Tom are cooking and I am taking eye notes on how he is cutting those leeks. They are so excited about surprising Le Bernardin and Non-mustachioed Joe with dinner and giggle that they aren’t making dessert.
OMG no way
Tom engages Le Bernardin in a conversation about her upcoming restaurant proving that is possible to cook and be emotionally terrorized. She admits that she is still working on getting investors and doesn’t want to sign a lease until she has the money. He tells her that it might be easier to get investors now that she has appeared on the show. They toast to the chefs as they sit down to what can only described as an amazing looking meal.
Non-mustachioed Joe asks Tom a very interesting question would have ever gone on the show. He admits that when he was about 26 he would have because he had a restaurant that received a 3-star review and that’s really what got his career started. They give the chefs some parting final words and Tom tells them, “May the best chef win.”
The next morning Le Bernardin talks to her mentor and former boss Eric Ripert. He gives her the last minute tip on the tuile that is the missing part to making it complete.
In the pods the chefs head to the Aspen Mountain club located at elevation of 11,212 feet. The other chefs are already waiting inside with 4 hours until service. Le Bernardin explains her conversation with Chef Ripert and Non-mustachioed Joe makes his delicious looking pasta by hand into tortellini.
… And the tuiles look beautiful too
So pretty that Non-mustachioed Joe asks Denver is she wants to be on his team for the second course. Fati’s brown sugar cake is still not coming together and she is going to make another one, this time with more flour. Le Bernardin is mushing her black-eyed pea because she says traditionally they are overcooked to which I sort of side-eye. Are they? I feel like beans it’s a matter of preference.
Meanwhile the judges and their guests enter the dining room.
What in fresh hell is going on with the jacket that Graham is wearing
As the first course is served the chefs give each other a little squeeze and the games begin.
This is much sexier than the images of Tonno Vitellato I found
Jonathon Waxman tells them both that the presentation is exquisite. Nancy Silverton is impressed it feels like she is eating at Spiaggia or Le Bernardin. Curtis loves the acidity in Non-mustachioed Joe’s dish even the fat powder. Graham likes Non-mustachioed Joe’s dish but says they have seen it before where as Le Bernardin’s is provocative. Tom says the spoonbread was so tender and it went well with the ham. Nilou says what she put together is a flavor combination she has never had before.
Tom leans over and says the one thing we have been waiting to hear him say… this is the best finale food ever. I hope you marked your bingo cards accordingly. He calls Non-mustachioed Joe’s dish amazing and perfect, he is beside himself. Gail says Le Bernardin’s did a beautiful job too, the octopus was cooked perfectly and the blackened heat was good Big Daddy likes it but thought it ate dry and needed fat, aioli or vinaigrette even more grits as Scar suggests. So far, they all agree it is a close competition.
Nilou admits that she is just torturing her meat and Tom says its over-rested. However, Gail found Non-Mustachioed Joe’s asparagus to be magic. Nancy says that all of Le Bernardin’s components eat well together but it’s a little dry and Gail’s explains that’s because she mashed half of them. But Tom likes the dish and the flavor of the ham hock, calling it a near perfect dish.
While preparing the final course the whole kitchen is working together and having fun. This actually a great cast and I have enjoyed watching them all season.
As he explains his dish he is quick to say that this is actually not a Torta Della Nonna but a play on it before Nancy can correct him.
Nancy tells her it is actually very good but um very intellectual. I wasn’t sure what to make on that comment.
Everyone likes the cake and Graham likes the blueberries, but the ricotta is very heavy. Gail, who dessert opinion I hold in high regard says Le Bernardin’s dish is very creative and good but loses her on the banana pudding. Nilou says it was good eye candy and wishes it was as good as it looked. Jonathon though is impressed with both of them. Nancy says they are both very talented and both deserve to win so she is glad she isn’t making the decision.
The chefs enjoy a last glass of wine with mountains and attempt to calm one another’s nerves reassuring each other that the judges liked the other’s dishes.
South Side Pride
Big Daddy congratulates them on a job well done, it was the best food of the season as it should be at the finale. Then they start in on each course. Scar wants to know how Joe came up with his first course he admits that it is a favorite of his but it’s not sexy. Gail tells him it better than the original. Scar tells Le Bernardin that her first dish was the best thing she ate all season from anybody and it needs to go on the menu immediately somewhere as is, do not change a thing. Gail says that will be her signature dish.
For the second course Le Bernardin was inspired by a braised octopus they did at Le Bernardin (the actual restaurant) and she thought why not blackened octopus. Tom says that this dish was mind-blowing and if she is looking to elevate Southern cooking this is the way to do it but itneeded fat. Graham calls it clever and good representation of where she has come as a chef. For Non-mustachioed Joe he took inspiration from a pig’s head risotto they do at Spiaggia. Gail tells it was the second most memorable dish of the night and as soon as he said river rocks she had a deep desire to eat river rocks. Tom tells him the broth was just so delicious and rich, giving it his highest compliment of being perfectly seasoned.
Now into the third dish they ask Le Bernardin about mashing her black-eyed peas. She explains she has never had them when some were not broken but Tom tells her that is the difference between her that knows how to cook lentils and someone who can’t. So true. Non-mustachioed Joe cooked very Italian by cooking with the best thing around him. Graham said the best thing on his dish were the vegetables and you can tell by the look on his face he is trying to figure out if this is shade. Gail confirms this when she says the vegetables and bone marrow sauce together were like fireworks, but the meat was chewy.
Scar wants to know what they were thinking with the desserts. Non-mustachioed Joe admits once again that this is not Torta Della Nonna in the traditional sense, but someone’s grandma makes it somewhere. Graham and Gail give their two cents about it all being good but the ricotta was too heavy. Scar says he just needs a new name for it because right now it’s like a good band with a bad name.
For Le Bernardin she just loves banana pudding and Scar says she would have loved more banana in her pudding. Tom tells a terrible knock-knock joke to tell her that the yuzu overpowered the whole dish. Telling her that if she would have called it a yuzu meringue pie they would have been blown away. But overall it was all a good end to a great meal.
The debate and say that it has never been so close…
What were the pins that Scar, Tom and Gail were wearing?
Tom says Le Bernardin’s first course was like an amazing first chapter of a book. Second course goes to Non-mustachioed Joe and his amazing pasta. Third course, Le Bernardin’s short ribs were delicious but the broken peas were not. However, Non-mustachioed Joes meat was chewy but everything else was perfection… so, tie? The fourth course was fraught with badly named desserts. Scar liked the textures in Le Bernardin’s dish whereas Non-mustachioed Joe was homier. Tom and Gail thought his cake was really delicious and was executed better.
They get a hero’s welcome from all of the season 15 cheftestants.
Noticeably absent… their loved ones
Standing in front of the judges they both look like they want to toss their cookies. Tom tell them that they are both winners tonight, but Scar says only one will be Top Chef.
Le Bernardin is excited for Joe and all the judges give her hugs assuring her that she did a great job. She felt good about her food, but she still lost and that is understandably an emotional blow. Here’s my note from earlier in the recap: for a moment when she chose Dr. Chocolate to work with her I thought it was going to be her that won because I saw that they had done cooking even together in February.
Non-mustachioed Joe is elated and tells Stacho he couldn’t have done it without him. He calls his wife to tell her the news and she is all…
As of right now he is going back to Spiaggia and then who knows where it will all take him from there. It is important to note that auditions for Season 16 started in February and the first stop was Spiaggia with a meet and greet with Non-mustachioed Joe himself. At the time I thought, maybe he won, but then I also saw Rogelio was on the roster of meet and greets.
An additional congrats to Fati for winning Fan Favorite! Also Le Bernardin who is getting married on Saturday!!!
Thank You ALL for a great season of comments! Top Chef recaps are a passion of mine and I love writing them and having deep conversations about every little detail because you all pick up on things I didn’t even notice. I know it was 50/50 on Non-mustachioed Joe and Le Bernardin winning with many of us feeling good either way, but what did you think? I was kind of surprised that Non-mustachioed Joe won with chewy meat honestly and felt like what it really came down to the execution of the fourth course.
So, here’s to Season 15, I will see you all back for Season 16 in Kentucky!
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