Well, it appears that a sufficient amount of time has elapsed since the finale of Top Chef: Hail to the Chef. Thirty-four days to be exact. Clearly, it's just about time for my recap! It is exceedingly difficult for me to not boldly display a photo of the winner at the top of this post, but I'll refrain.
As is usual with Top Chef, there is always a length of actual time between the penultimate episode and the finale. Invariably, one or more of the chefs have changed their hair style. Occasionally, a chef will have a new outlook on life. Without fail, the three or four final chefs are all chomping at the bit to create the best meal of their lives.
This time, the finale takes place in the exotic locale of Singapore. Ed and Kelly meet up first, while casually wandering through the market. Kelly's hair is dark, and Ed's eyebrows are even more artfully sculpted than usual (see above points). They stumble into Kevin, looking adorable in a fishing hat. Of course slick-haired Angelo is the last to arrive. He looks exactly the same.
My beloved Tom, accompanied by famed Singapore food expert Seetoh, meets the chefs at the market. After a brief introduction, Tom leaves Seetoh to lead the chef around the markets. There are lots of fried noodles, sprouts, black cockles, and Chinese sausage. Apparently, Singapore's food culture is a diverse mixture of various Asian foods, from Malaysian to Chinese. The national dish is roast chicken. Seetoh calls it the Singapore hamburger.
Why the chefs expressed any surprise at seeing Padma in all her bejeweled glory waiting for them with a Singapore street food challenge is beyond me. Kevin freaks out when he learns that they'll be creating their own version of Singaporean street food using a wok, because he doesn't wok.
The chefs attack the piles of ingredients waiting for them, but are stymied by the Cantonese labels. Padma and Seetoh knock back a beer or two while the chefs are literally sweating it out nearby under a tarp. Almost everyone is sure that Angelo is the one to beat, and Ed in particular is obsessed with wresting the "Best Asian Chef" title from him. Angelo is confused with all the ingredients, and decides to change his chile crab idea to a "bangin'" chile frog leg.
After expressing dramatic and extreme displeasure with Kevin for not owning a wok, Padma and Seetoh declare that Ed's stir-fry noodles are the winning dish. In a huge boon for Ed, he achieves immunity for the elimination challenge, guaranteeing a spot in the final three. Angelo can barely contain his displeasure.
Apparently, Dana Cowin of Food and Wine has arrived in Singapore, and would like a delicious, cohesive menu for a fancy dinner. The four chefs are going to have to work as a team to contribute dishes. The chefs head back to the obligatory luxury hotel suite, where they share champagne and spend time poring over thick black journals full of lists of proteins. They decide to each complete one dish.
After quibbling with a complacent Ed over morning coffee, the chefs head out to shop for spices and proteins. Unbeknownst to the rest of the team, Ed decides to make a second dish, even though he'd been the biggest proponent of only one dish the evening before. Wow, Ed. I'm a bit surprised by your dastardly side.
Prep time is stressful. Angelo and Ed split snide remarks while Kelly tries to remember all of the different Singaporean veggies. Angelo attempts to follow a ridiculously complicated diagram of his dish that he drew in his handy black journal. The tense mood worsens after Tom's visit, where he chides the chefs for only planning one dish each. I had to rewind that scene a few times-love it when Tom gets upset. Teacher's pet Ed pipes up that he has two dishes already planned, making an enemy out of the rest of the competitors.
While Angelo and Kevin seethe Ed's behavior, I simply worry about the amount of sweat that will be going into both of Ed's dishes. Kelly struggles with an ethnic can opener and displays visible frustration at the language barrier when it comes to reading ingredients. Ed sweats and joyfully runs about the kitchen saying things like "Downtown!" and "Right behind you!" and "I'm better than you!" Kelly eventually concedes to the can opener and bleeds copiously into plastic gloves whilst shucking oysters. Eww.
After a day of stressful prepping, the chefs take a little detour to a prawn-fishing pond. Inexplicably, Kevin isn't wearing his hat, and is afraid of touching the prawns. I don't blame him-the water looked suspiciously murky. No offense, Singapore!
Final prep is slightly calmer. My main concern is Kevin's 63 degree egg. I'm fairly certain it's a gigantic risk to make something that can be ruined in an instant. Ed decides to do a "pre-meal" with the striped-shirted wait staff, who look completely disinterested and apathetic, with the exception of one chirpy go-getter. He also attempts to redeem himself by helping the rest of the chefs out at the last minute.
Service does not go smoothly, to say the least. The wait staff floats in and out of the kitchen and write indecipherable orders. Thankfully, the orders for the judges' table arrive unscathed. Tom orders five of everything for himself, Padma, Gail, Seetoh, and Dana Cowin in all her green glory.
First course is a resounding success for all of the chefs, which is a nice thing to see at this point in the competition. I breathed a huge sigh of relief to see that Kevin's egg and tapioca were successful. Kelly's seared prawns and guava-enhanced salad and Angelo's lamb tartare were pleasing, but it was Ed's banana fritters that the judges could not stop talking about.
Back at judge's table it came down to tiny imperfections and plates that were simply better than others. In the end, Kelly came in last, while Ed sailed to a fritter-fueled victory.
One down, one more to go!