“Top Chef: Boston” recap (12.15): The Final Finale

Previously on Top Chef: Boston, Dougie was eliminated during a very difficult and emotional Judges’ Table—which means we are finally down to two: Chef Mei vs. Chef Gregory. It’s a rematch of Battle Alpha Dog from episode five. If you’ll recall, Gregory won both head-to-head showdowns in that ep, so I have to assume Vegas oddsmakers would give him an advantage here. (I don’t really understand how betting works, though, so maybe I’m wrong.)

The finale starts off with some flashback footage of the very first episode and it has been super desaturated, so that it’s almost black and white. We get to hear a few of the chefs’ original introductions—including Mei and Gregory. It’s all very dramatic.

Face/Off (but with way less Nic Cage)

There’s a montage of Gregory and Mei’s journey over the course of the season. Gregory started out strong, but faltered a bit before Mexico. He won more challenges than Mei overall, but Mei feels like she’s grown so much over the course of the show. You guys, this is probably the best finale match up on Top Chef, I think probably ever? And they’re both likable! See, Bravo? You don’t have to have douchebags/villains on the show to make it engaging.

And we’re back to present day. Mei and Gregory share a hug, and toast to the finale in the stew room immediately after last week’s elimination. They head back to the villa to sleep, but not for too long, apparently, as they embark on a van ride before dawn. The chefs pull up to a field to find a hot air balloon being inflated for them. They hop right in and enjoy some spectacular views of Mexico.

This looks equal parts amazing and terrifying

In the balloon, Gregory asks Mei if she ever thought she’d end up here on that first day during the Quickfire Challenge. They cut away before Mei can answer, but I can only assume her response was, “Yes. obviously,” because that is the correct answer.

The chefs descend back to Earth to find Tom and Padma standing awkwardly and not talking to each other while they wait. Cool, guys. Mei and Gregory approach, Padma pronounces some more things with a Spanish accent, and so my heart rate accelerates. There is no Quickfire in the finale, so we are jumping right into the last Elimination Challenge.

The challenge is simple: “Cook the meal of your life.” NO PRESSURE THOUGH, GUYS. I have a feeling a twist or two might pop up, but, for now, the chefs are just asked to make the best four-course meal they possible can. They will each select two sous chefs from the eliminated contestants, and Gregory goes first because he won the last challenge.

Gregory picks Dougie, obviously, because they’re both from Portland and, more importantly, they have a really solid bromance. It’s Mei’s turn, and Melissa is smirking before her name is even called. I know I say this a lot, but I LOVE FRIENDSHIP SO MUCH.

 Killin’ it with that denim best, btw.

With his second pick, Gregory takes George. Sure, I guess. Mei selects Rebecca to round out her team. I was kind of surprised by her pick until Mei mentioned that she wants to do a dessert—so Rebecca, with her pastry experience, is a very smart choice. It’s Girls v. Boys, y’all!

The chefs have an hour to shop tonight and five hours to prep, cook, and serve tomorrow. They will each have their own full kitchen/restaurant, and they are serving a group of really important chefs and critics, including: Hugh, Blaze, and Gail. If I have one complaint about this season, it’s that there hasn’t been enough Gail.

They arrive at the grocery store for the usual mad dash shopping spree. Mei’s menu sounds like some Asian/Mexican fusion, while Gregory is stepping back from the Asian flavors he’s made all season to really focus on the Mexican ingredients. Mei mentions working the pastry line in the break between Boston and Mexico, so she’s confident in her dessert. I want to trust her, but desserts have such a notoriously bad history on Top Chef that it’s kind of hard.

It’s the day of the final challenge, and Mei + team get to prepping immediately. Mei is fucking hype, you guys. She wants this title real bad. She notes that the judges have consistently called her food subtle and clean, so she’s pushing really bold flavors for this final meal. There are a whole lot of elements and interesting techniques in all of Mei’s courses, and I honestly don’t know how she is keeping everything on track.

Gregory + his team get into their kitchen to begin work as well. He, like Mei, has a very organized game plan to utilize his sous chefs to the best of their abilities. He’s making short ribs with mole, which is a big risk. There are a ton of ingredients in that dish alone, and Tom asks if he’s nervous to use so many new flavors. Gregory’s like, “Duh,Tom, stop playing—of course.”

The judges and guest chefs/critics arrive at Mei’s restaurant. Hold up a second, though. Blaze, wtf are you doing with that hair, man? Get your shit together.

Even Tom is not amused:

“He doesn’t deserve to have hair.”

Mei serves her first course- octopus with fish sauce vinaigrette and avocado/coconut puree. Everyone thinks her plate is absolutely beautiful and her flavors are bright and delicious. The dish only receives one negative comment- that the octopus is slightly overcooked and tough.

Mei’s next course is congee, which is basically a rice porridge, served with egg yolk, carnitas, and garnishes. It looks absolutely delicious and hits some of the most important items on my food checklist: it’s in a bowl, it’s warm and comforting, and it has a runny egg yolk. Her next course, duck, gets some mixed reviews- Hugh doesn’t love the way the fat was rendered, Blaze wants more kimchi, but Gail really likes the flavors the more of it she eats.

A lot is riding on Mei’s dessert and, at the last minute, it’s tasting a little sweet. She makes sure to have enough tart lime flavor to balance it out before serving. The bowls, full of strawberry lime curd with toasted yogurt, milk crumble and yogurt-lime ice, are presented still smoking from the liquid nitrogen she used. Everyone raves about the dish’s beauty and flavor. Tom calls it the best dessert he has ever had on Top Chef. Nailed it!

Time for Gregory’s service. Do you guys think the judges get to go for a walk between meals or something? Two four-course dinners in a row sounds pretty aggressive. Gregory serves his first course—another octopus dish—but his is paired with prickly pair, xoconostle, passion fruit, and cashew milk. Tom calls the dish a “powerhouse,” so I think Gregory is going to win the head-to-head octopus course.

The second course is shrimp broth with green chorizo, cactus, and shrimp heads. The flavor is really nice, but the texture of the shrimp heads are a little off-putting. Tom declares the second course a win for Mei.

For the third course, Gregory realizes he made a mistake with his carrot sauce, and adds sugar later than he wanted to. It ends up being a bit sweet, but he hopes a pinch of salt and being paired with the tomatillo sauce will balance it out. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well—Tom calls it sweeter than Mei’s dessert.

Gregory’s last dish is a mole with short ribs and agave sweet potatoes and it is definitely miles better than his fish course. The mole is delicious, the sweet potatoes pair wonderfully, and the meat is cooked to perfection. But was it better than Mei’s dessert? I don’t know!!! Padma invites them both to Judges’ Table for the final elimination. I forgot to note this earlier, but she is wearing the hell out of a downright spectacular dress.

 ILY

The judges ask how the chefs are feeling. IDK how do you think they’re feeling, guys? Gregory tells them that getting sober was easier than Top Chef. Well, damn. The judges go through the courses one by one and critique each dish.

First course: They loved the way Gregory took inspiration from his surroundings – the dish was really great. Mei’s plate was visually stunning, but some judges found the octopus too tough. Advantage: Gregory.

Second course: Gregory’s shrimp broth was delicious, but the texture of the shrimp heads wasn’t great. Mei’s congee told her story as a chef, and was also really tasty. Advantage: Mei.

Third course: Gregory’s fish dish was too sweet. Mei’s duck brought a lot different flavors together, but Tom calls it her weakest dish of the night. Even still, I’m going to go ahead and give the advantage to Mei, but it’s a close one.

Fourth course: Gregory’s mole was complex and perfect. Of Mei’s dessert, Blaze proclaims that “everything that’s right about modern cooking was in that bowl.” Of course Blaze loves it! Tom tells her it’s one of the best desserts he’s ever had in his life. Both chefs put out their best dishes last, and, honestly, I think I have to call this course a draw.

You guys, I think Mei might take it! Oh wait, now they’re talking about the overall meal and Blaze thought Gregory’s was more inspirational. No one asked you, Blaze. My girl Gail, however, thinks Mei was more successful. It’s a really close one.

Everyone applauds the chefs as they come back to hear the verdict. Tom raves on and on about their talent and how the children are our future, or something. He reminds me of that guy from The Graduate.

“Just one word…”

Anyway. Padma announces the winner and it’s Mei!!!

 In this gif, I’m the ewok and Mei is R2.

 

Gregory hugs her, Gail hugs her, Melissa hugs her, Tom hugs her, I WISH I COULD HUG HER, TOO! Mei is just crying and swearing, which is the perfect way to end the season, I think.

“Holy shit.”

Well, this season of Top Chef has been quite a ride. Congratulations to Mei, Gregory, Melissa, Doug, and all the chefs (except Aaron)! It’s been such a pleasure recapping for you. You can follow me on Twitter (for lots of TV ramblings) and Instagram (for the occasional novice food shot, but, let’s be honest, mostly cat pics). Thanks for reading!