TOP CHEF FINALE RECAP: Grape Job, Bravo Producers

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This is a Recap of the Top Chef Season 6 Finale Part 1, in Napa Valley. If you haven’t seen the episode, this recap will spoil the results for you like a bottle of wine gets spoiled if you leave it out. Or maybe it’ll just age finely. Better read and find out.

Top Chef Finalists– It’s Finale time! And if you thought Las Vegas was something to behold, wait’ll you see the chefs congregating at a quaint train station inside a Thomas Kinkade “Autumn” painting. The chefs are really gonna have to ROLL THE GRAPES if they want to win the JACKPOTWINE!

– The final Quickfire of the season is based on the old mantra, if you want to be a truly great chef, you’re gonna have to learn to cook on a train. This is true about all chefs, not just chefs who work on trains.

– I was hoping the Quickfire would end when the train just arrived at Tom. The train slows and it’s just him standing in the middle of the tracks with his arms crossed going “Time’s up!”

Napa Or CrapaMichael Voltaggio wins the Quickfire with his not on the nose at all dish of grilled grapes on grape vines in grape sauce with a grape glaze, and side of grapes in grape reduction, served in a cask of grape juice and rolled to the judges by Violet Beauregarde She’s a blueberry, but it was as close as Michael could come in the time restrictions.

– For his victory, Michael wins an all-new 2010 Third-Generation Toyota Prius. He celebrates by saying “I have won an all-new 2010 Third-Generation Toyota Prius. This pleases me greatly because I am a hu-man.”

– Bravo really got creative with the product shots in the finale, showing Jen use her Sprint phone to watch video of Michael and Kevin eating Alexia Waffle Fries. Michael then seals the phone in a Glad bag, drops it in a bucket of Swanson broth and drives over it in his Prius while busting an impromptu freestyle rap about the greatness of GE.

After the jump, the shadiest Elimination Challenge of the season:

Kevin Carrot Top Puree– For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs have to cook one vegetarian dish and one protein dish using exclusively ingredients local to the Napa area. This gives Kevin an advantage because, as he says, he’s used to working with local ingredients in Atlanta, which makes a lot of sense: Having experience with the specific Napa ingredients isn’t as important as just having cooked any food in the past using ingredients near where you’re cooking them.

– Did you notice that the chefs were drinking “Quickfire” wine at their waiting table? Was this an Easter Egg secretly slipped into that scene by Paul Thomas Anderson, the episode’s guest director?

Top Chef Phantom Of The Winery– The Bravo DVR-buster was the best one of the season, easily; I rewound the part where the chefs open the door to the wine cellar and Tony Terlato is just standing there creepily like a phantom three times. Terlato then delivers his stirring proclamation that he believes “wine and food go together.” No wonder he’s the mayor of Napa or whatever! The previous owner believed wine goes with winos.

– When Michael Chiarello complimented the chefs for “Really capturing the spirit of Napa,” my friend quickly added, “Meaning, cooking weird food for many white people.” To which I imagine Michael responded through the tv, “You got it.”

– During the judges’ deliberations, the chefs get to sit in an actual room and not the usual solitary confinement cell for misbehaving Glad Bags.

– The Judges, meanwhile, are sitting in Donkey Kong’s closet:

TC Barrels Judges Table

– At Judges Table, Michael even manages to slip in the word “Shite” and Bravo doesn’t bleep it. What the fork?

– As for the results, I think we’ve witnessed the first significant ‘obvious Bravo producer meddle’ of the season. When the judges ate Bryan’s dish — and I rewound and watched this scene again after the verdict — Michael Chiarello compliments the texture of the ravioli, then Tom calls Bryan’s sauce “bland,” and Padma says it could’ve used some crushed black pepper, to which Tom agrees. Padma then says about his protein dish, “Is it just me or does this need salt too?” and Tom says “Nope, you’re right, it does.” And that’s it, that’s the end of the Bryan food sequence. This results in him winning? Did the editors cut out five minutes of the judges saying “But all in all, everything was really delicious.” If Robin had turned in two dishes that lacked frickin’ salt and pepper, Tom would’ve haughtily lectured her at Judges Table about the importance of never overlooking simple seasoning, and how chefs this far along in the competition should never make that mistake, and called her the C-word five times.

Jen Cries– While eating Jen’s dish, the judges agree that it’s really salty, but Tom proceeds to rave about the beautiful “duckiness” of her duck to the agreement of the other judges. Then later, when Jen reveals that she chose to confit the duck after the kitchen coals were too cool, Tom suddenly reacts as though he’s offended by her decision to waver on the duck preparation, even though he clearly had enjoyed the dish before knowing this information. It just seemed like they instantly leaped on her technique shift as a reason to decide to eliminate her, thus keeping the Brothers non-rivalry that Bravo thinks we care about intact.

– I’m glad Michael didn’t win, though, after his blatant, smug Top Chef politicking when he was all “I usually am all about bells and whistles but in this challenge, I had to discover the magic inside your wonderful Napa food and boy was I impressed!” Nice try, Dr. Smugglestein.

– The best editing moment of the night came when Tom complimented Kevin’s vegetarian dish, saying “Some of your competitors probably looked at your dish and thought, it’s a roasted beet, big deal…” and Bravo immediately cut to Michael with a sound effect. They then CGI’d him raising his fist and shaking it and yelling “DAAAAMMNNNNN YOUUUUUU SIMPLEEEEE!!!!”

Grape Stickers– Bottom line, maybe Jen did deserve to go, but based on the judges’ initial reactions to the food, either Bravo did a terrible job of editing the footage accurately (or deliberately made it misleading so you thought, as I did, that Bryan might be in trouble), or the judges and producers very intentionally rationalized themselves into believing that Jen deserved to go home to keep their desired Top Three intact. Not that Kevin, Bryan, and Michael don’t all deserve to be in the finale, but still, it was the most shenanigany episode of an otherwise well-judged season.

– So the Superfinale will be the Voltaggio Brothers and Kevin; even Helen Keller saw that one coming. And no, that’s not a lame joke about her lack of senses, I just mean that she was born and died prior to having any concept of television, let alone reality television, and thus her being able to predict the results of this season would be preposterous, but yet she still did.

What do you think, Top Chef peeps? Did Jen deserve to go home, or was there some Bravo producer meddling goin’ on in the valley? Who do you like in the Finals? Leave your episode thoughts and predictions in the comments.

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