“Top Chef” Recaps: Episode 4.14 “Finale”


But, of course, the judges know better. The judges say the
ingredients are hard to distinguish in Richard’s dish. Tom calls it Richard “falling
in love with the technique.” Gail calls Lisa’s soup “absolutely
delicious,” and Chef Zagat says he would have been “happy to have
seconds.” The judges like the well-balanced flavors of Stephanie’s quail.
But Tom, oh Tom, he has once again spotted and despised the unnecessary

Tom: No one had
an issue with these leeks?

They’re apparently undercooked and have no relevance on the

The third “carnivore” course pits Lisa’s Wagyu
beef with chayote and cucumber salad, hot sauce and garlic chips against
Stephanie’s lamb with maitake mushrooms, braised pistachios and olive tapenade,
and Richard’s pork belly with pickled radishes and mirin broth.

Hands down, my eyeballing-it critique gives it to Stephanie.
My stomach began growling involuntarily.

The judges, for once, agree with my superficial
prognosticating. Richard’s pork belly is underseasoned. Lisa’s beef isn’t
tender, but they do like her salad.

Padma: Did you do
that, April? Because the knife skills are pretty good in that.
I didn’t do that at all.

Wait, Padma, was that a mini slam on Lisa’s knife skills?

But it’s Stephanie’s dish that gets the big love. And it’s
surprised them all, in a very good way.

Tom: Richard’s
dish just needs work. Lisa’s dish is just pedestrian. Stephanie’s is full of
surprises and it works.

And, finally, dessert. Lisa’s black Thai rice pudding,
Stephanie’s ricotta pound cake with tropical fruit, and Richard’s banana
scallop with bacon ice cream all try to satisfy the judges’ sweet teeth.

Now, normally, I am in favor of anything and everything with
bacon. But I may just have to draw the line at ice cream. On looks alone, I
give it to Lisa. It’s just pretty.

And, what do you know, maybe you can judge a dessert by its
cover. Lisa’s rice pudding is called “exciting” and “wonderful.”
Richard’s banana/bacon-dish is called “playful,” but Eric says one
needs to focus on flavors before contemplating playtime. Stephanie’s cake is deemed
“nothing special” and “unrefined.”

Thanks for the grub
— The chefs compare notes after the meal is over. Gail thinks they’ve all won.
Aww, what a softie. But leave it to Tom to bring the perspective.

Tom: [Richard is]
more intellectual, out there. Lisa is sort of sticking true to herself and what
she likes to eat and what she likes to cook. And Stephanie tends to have more
of a homey spin on things. And I think we have a very strong contrast of styles
and of flavors, and I think it is going to be a very interesting Judges’ Table.

The cheftestants come back out to applause.

I like that. I think more people should clap at the end of a
good meal. Of course that would mean conversely that people would boo at the end
of a bad meal. I guess that would make for a pretty noisy dining area.

Despite the applause, Richard and his non-poker face tell a
different story.

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