“Top Chef: Boston” recap (12.12): It’s the final countdown

Previously on Top Chef: Boston, Melissa won a spot in the finale! I’m equal parts super pumped for her and selfishly relieved that I won’t be stressing about her during this whole episode. I will be stressing, however, about Mei and Gregory. If any of you guys were ever worried that I have low blood pressure, just—don’t.

It’s morning in the Top Chef house. Gregory, Mei and George are up already, talking/worrying about the day’s challenge. Melissa, meanwhile, is snoozing because she DGAF, y’all. Maybe, I don’t know. Actually, she probably still does give a fuck, because she seems like a responsible person. If it had been me, I would’ve gotten hammered the night before and slept through the challenge, probably. And that’s why Melissa is in the running to win $100k and I am writing in my sweatpants.

Anyway, the contestants arrive at the Top Chef kitchen to find Padma waiting for them along with Chef Wylie Dufresne. Dufresne is one of the few chefs that practices molecular gastronomy that doesn’t annoy me or seem like a total douche. This is probably because he seems so weird and wacky (in a good way), that it somehow just makes sense. Instead of using fancy techniques for this Quickfire Challenge, however, the chefs are simply tasked with making a great and innovative bean dish.

The winner of today’s Quickfire will receive a trip to Napa, and Melissa wants to win so she can whisk her girlfriend away on a romantic getaway. As someone who has been whisked away on a romantic getaway to Napa, I approve of this plan wholeheartedly.

The chefs begin to work and George makes a bean/fart joke, because of course he does. George also gives us some really important culinary insight—you have to make the beans taste good, you guys! Who knew? Melissa throws some shade at Gregory’s tendency to stick firmly to Asian cuisine, all, “One does not simply win Top Chef on curries alone.”

Awwww snap

Meanwhile, Mei knows that Wylie loves eggs + molecular gastronomy, so she’s preparing a breakfast dish that has a bean foam. I’m inclined to trust Mei’s instincts, but, not gonna lie, the idea of bean foam weirds me out a little. Oh wait, George thinks it looks funny, so that means I now LOVE IT.

Padma and Wylie come around to taste the dishes, stopping at George’s station first. He made something with beans and tomatoes, I think. IDK, I’m bored. Mei’s up next. If I know Padma like I think I do, the tone of voice she uses to tell Mei, “Nicely done,” means that she’s very impressed.

The judges try Melissa’s dish next, and the only comment Wylie makes is about how the beans aren’t really the focus of the dish. Ruh Roh, Melissa’s girlfriend, you might not get to go to Napa after all. Gregory is last, and, though navy beans are Padma’s favorite (Noted.), there is some bitterness from the saké that the judges don’t seem to like.

Wylie has good and bad comments for all the chefs—we’re too far along in the season to have a true top and bottom at the Quickfire. The winner is Mei! Are you impressed with how well I can read Padma’s tone of voice? Are you scared of it? Both reactions are valid! Mei is going to Napa, and she’s tryna get wasted. Mei, you are a woman after my own heart.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are tasked with the, in my opinion, infuriatingly vague instructions to create an “innovative dish.” Wylie tells them that innovation doesn’t necessarily mean technique; they should push boundaries in any way that they can. Eep, this is a tough one, y’all. Also, the winner of this challenge will receive $10k! Padma reminds everyone that Melissa has already earned her place in the finale, and there are only two spots left.

The chefs arrive at Whole Foods and there’s the standard running around montage. Remember that time Padma went completely bananas on a Whole Foods whilst wearing overalls? Yeah, me too.


George’s innovative dish is going to be octopus. I don’t really have anything to say about that except that octopi kind of terrify me. If there’s one thing fictional love of my life, Myka Bering, and I have in common, it’s our fear of tentacles. [fill in the lesbian joke] George also uses the phrase “whack ass,” and is sad because there is no pork belly. Apparently, the pork belly was going to be the innovative part?

We get more of a glimpse into Mei’s life, and I really hope that doesn’t mean she’s going home. Her family wanted her to become a nurse, but she dropped out to go to culinary school because of her passion for cooking. I’ve heard a lot of people lately talking about how they don’t like Mei, and hope she doesn’t win. Frankly, I think that’s some sexist bullshit. When male chefs are competitive and serious, even pompous, they’re respected for their authority. Yet Mei, who is hardworking, super fucking talented, and confident, is a bitch? Aw hell no.

Speaking of sexism, George asks why Melissa wants to win Top Chef. She responds that there have only been two women to win in 11 seasons, and she wants to be the third. Fuck. Yeah. GET IT LADIES!

It’s the morning of the elimination challenge, and of course it’s grey and gloomy outside. The chefs that aren’t Melissa commiserate about being nervous and not sleeping, while Melissa, looking quite well-rested, looks on quietly. You know that internally she was probably like, “Fuck yeah! Suckers! I can make literally anything I want today with no consequences!” She does a great job of holding it in, though, I have to say.

The chefs arrive at the kitchen and begin their three hour prep time. FYI it pretty much always takes me over an hour to cook even dumb, simple food. I have no idea how chefs move so quickly in the kitchen, but godammit, I respect them. Anyway, Melissa is making seared duck with cherries, but she’s adding miso which is unexpected. Gregory is making a thai soup with lots of skins. Sounds gross, is probably delicious IRL.

It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again.

George is over there grinding octopus heads and just fucking flinging around tentacles. NOT COOL, BRO. Mei is making a duck curry with some yuzu yogurt stuff on it—sounds tasty. Melissa wants the final two to be her and Mei, and I completely agree. They work closely in the kitchen and help each other out. As if I didn’t already hate George, he starts crying about it to the camera. Boo hoo.

Mmmm, delicious! (photo via: hermionejg.tumblr.com)

Tom and Wylie roll through, bothering everyone and asking how their dishes are innovative. Gregory is worried that the judges will think he isn’t pushing boundaries enough. He also thinks that maybe George is a little in over his head. It’s getting down to the wire, and all the chefs are trying to finish and plate in one too-small space.

Gregory is serving first and he finishes in the nick of time! He explains that the innovation on his plate is his incorporation of textures and fat in the crispy chicken and salmon skin. The judges love the flavor, but they don’t seem sold on the innovation.

Melissa is up next, and, even though she’s already in the finale, she doesn’t want to rest on her laurels. She doesn’t do molecular gastronomy, so she chose to innovate with her flavors. Wylie doesn’t think she pushed it enough, because he is, like, turning water into wine or making edible smoke on the regular, I think. Everyone else loves it, though.

George serves his plate next, and it looks like a hot mess to me. There are about a million components, his octopus is charred and bitter, and I’m feeling pretty good about his chances of going home.

Mei is up last. She serves her lightened up duck curry, and Tom gives me a minor heart attack by being speechless for a moment. Then, he articulates that he does, in fact, like it! All the judges do! They praise the complexity and flavor.

The judges discuss the plates and Melissa and Mei are on top! Woo! They discuss who should move on to the finale- Gregory or George. Gregory played it safer, but made a really delicious dish. George took more risks, but it was also a mess and not as tasty. It’s the age old Top Chef question, really.

Quick timeout to appreciate that Padma is a VISION in white:


Back to the action: Melissa is the winner! She giggles adorably, before proclaiming that everyone better watch out for her, and, also, she’s going to win it all! Protip, Melissa: the cute giggling makes it a little harder for you to be intimidating. Keep being you, though—I love it.

“Fear my wrath, you guys! ::tee hee:: Seriously, fear it!”

Mei is also going to the finale! Mei + Melissa BrOTP 5EVER

It’s down to Gregory and George. If George goes to the finale over Gregory, I’m going to HULKSMASH the crap out of something. Gregory deserves this—he’s been here the whole time competing, and he’s also the better chef.

Oh thank goodness, Gregory is going to the finale! Sorry for (somewhat) irrationally hating you, George. These three, though, these have been my faves for a long time now. I really can’t believe they all made it! This has never happened before, I’m so excited! What do I do with my hands?

Next week on Top Chef: Boston, it’s the finals!!! We’re off to Mexico, and Mei really should’ve brushed up on her Spanish. Also, I tried to watch the end of Last Chance Kitchen to see whether Dougie (Woo!) or George (Boo!) comes back into the competition, but it’s a cliffhanger. ::sad trombone music::