TOP CHEF ALL-STARS FINALE RECAP: Blais Of Glory? Or MIKE Of Glory?

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It’s the Top Chef All-Stars Finale! The real one, not Part 1 of 4 where they have to cook for a king who turns out to be not a king and how is that a twist because the stakes are infinitely lower (so many chefmories)!

It’s down to Richard Blais and Mike Isabella, and their Final Challenge is to “Provide a glimpse into your future as a great chef.” Richard says he dreams of someday having a restaurant where “you come in and I cook you my style of food” (it’s also a restaurant where he’s in it to win it and not there to make friends), while Mike Isabella shows the judges a crystal ball of his future self as a fat fish with a long white beard.

All the All-Stars and Jamie are back, and they’re all wearing their Wackee Finalee Glasses:

Everyone got their Cheffin’ glasses on? It’s TOP CHEF SEASON 8 FINALE RECAP TIME (my superhero-entrance declaration needs shortening):

To determine who the finalists will be working with, the eliminated chefs each cook one amuse-bouche, and Richard & Mike each select three dishes without knowing whose they are and pair up with the corresponding chefs. Richard, shrewdly, picks up on the scent of Angelo’s herbal essences:

Mike ends up with Tiffani, Jamie, and Carla, and says “they’re like my angels.” Which angels exactly? Charlie’s? The Los Angeles ones of Anaheim? Christopher Lloyd’s outfield ones? Or the angels where two of the three angels are pretty bad at making angelhair pasta in the cloud kitchen? Yes, I know angels don’t only eat angelhair pasta – LIGHTEN UP guys, it’s the Finale of Humour too.

Richard gets Angelo, Antonia, and Spike, noting that Spike “did have jet ski reservations, so I’m worried his head might not be in it.” Richard ends up being so right:

The Finalists take turns outlining their menus for their chefbordinates, making sure to point out how well Terlato wines go with the foods they’ll eventually be making:

Mike smartly rejects some awful dessert input from Tiffani, avoiding a classic and super-foreseeable Top Chef pitfall (nine testimonials of Mike regretting not taking control of his own menu), and proudly declares “There’s nothing safe on my menu.” When he eventually unveils his Blowfish Over Razor-In Apple Salad, we cannot help but agree.

Richard unveils his restaurant, Tongue And Cheek, and creates a menu by pulling letters off an AFI t-shirt from Hot Topic:

Richard’s concept? Creative, flavorful cuisine with whimsy, served by waiters dressed like Robert De Niro from Casino:

Richard’s menu does sound impeccable, including a Raw Oyster Amuse Bouche, a Raw Hamachi appetizer, a Pork Belly with a Black Cod Cutlet second course, and a very Blais-sounding Beef Short Rib third course, but he makes a last-second dessert alteration that raises a giant red flag in my Top Chef-watching mailbox (my metaphors haven’t made sense all season, no time to start now). Richard decides to switch from a Cap’n Crunch ice cream to a foie gras ice cream (basically the same thing), and I immediately see visions of jaded chefs being automatically reverse-impressed by the foie gras and saying they didn’t know why it was there. GLLLLL…hang in there, Blaisby!

I have extreme confidence that Mike will come up with a lamer restaurant name than Richard, and I am completely right (that’s why they pay me the big bucks! Oversized, novelty one-dollar bills):

That restaurant doesn’t even exist and my parents are already saying the name of it wrong.

Mike’s “Restaurant Iz” — named after “Love Is,” Homer SImpson’s favorite comic strip about two naked eight year olds who are married — also boasts an impressive menu, including a Spiced Beets and Mozzarella first course, a second course of Halibut, an amazing-sounding Braised Pork Shoulder with Pepperoni Sauce third course, and a Rosemary Caramel Custard dessert.

No one appears concerned about how much Mike’s halibut dish looks like sperm:

The judges for the finale are a veritable Top Chef Masters of Top Chef Notmasters Master Judges: Hubert Keller, Lidia Bastianich, Alfred Portale, Art Smith, Curtis Stone, and the aforementioned Bill Terlato, plus Tom, Gail, and an insanely happy Padma:

The judges’ feedback is superlatively positive right from the getgo, with Tom calling Mike’s sperm halibut “the best-cooked piece of fish I’ve ever had on the show.” Richard’s dishes are receiving equally emphatic praise, as he learns by sending Spike out to spy on the guests (by far my favorite part of the episode):

Neither set of judges is impressed with the desserts, though; Spike tells Richard, “They’re not really liking the jet skis. I mean foie gras,” and Richard decides to do another last-minute tweak to his dessert before the second batch of judges arrives. Foie gras is foie gras and Richard knows what he’s doing, but seeing the ice cream come out of the machine was the first time I actually worried that he might lose this finale:

The teams of judges switch places and the positive comments keep coming, and in an odd switch, both groups of judges seem to now enjoy both desserts. Basically, everyone loves everything. Especially these excited kids:

We head to the final Judges Table of a very long season with both chefs seemingly neck-and-chubbier-neck. At Judge’s Table, Richard’s foie gras ice cream suddenly isn’t remembered as badly as it seemed when it was first presented, and Tom adds to his comment about Mike’s best-cooked piece of fish ever that “that was before I tried Richard’s.” The Judges then give the chefs one more chance to describe their culinary dreams furnished by Buitoni, and both chefs get emotional:

At this point, despite Mike’s initial gushing reviews, it really seems like Richard is going to take it. Top Chef brings out all the eliminated chefs and some of Mike and Richard’s family members for the big Top Chef crowning (just kidding, it’s that fake king’s crown! Just kidding it’s not, you’re literally a king.)

EVERYONE IS SO NERVOUS…

Padma opens her mouth and says “Richard………………..” Well, clearly he’s won, because she’s not gonna be a d*ck and say “pack your knives and leave the Bahamas” plus we saw a clip of her saying “you ARE Top Chef” last week and she’s not gonna eliminate someone then still have the chance to declare Mike as Top Chef before the hubbub settles unless Bravo filmed her saying that for the teaser but never used it…

Never mind cause RICHARD BLAIS IS TOP CHEF!!!

Mike Isabella is not:

I gotta say, for as many times as I’ve ripped on Mike this season (some of which was just me trying to get VH1 its money’s worth for the stock image of the Mike fish I purchased from Getty Images), he may have backed into the final grouping but really turned it on these last few weeks. He wasn’t a true “villain” or “fan favorite”, so there was really no reason for the producers to overly meddle to keep him on the show, so I can only guess that his strong Bahamas showing was nothing short of legit.

That said, obviously I was pulling for Richard, and for as many twists as there’ve been this season, he was the obvious choice from Day 1. 89.9% of you agreed:

I did notice that the poll is now up to 90% for Blais, meaning some people voted for Richard last night after Richard actually won Top Chef. That’s nice work, boys!

So that’s it. Blais is the King of the All-Stars, and he completely redeemed himself after his much-flashbacked Season Finale choke. This wasn’t exactly shocking — particularly with how happily Richard’s been Tweeting about the episodes in the past couple weeks (not sure he’d be like “Hey guys, don’t forget to tune in to watch me lose to Mike Isabella!”) — but I really felt like Bravo was properly building up Mike so that Richard could deservedly win the season without it being as anticlimactic as we might’ve guessed from Day One if we knew the Finale would be Richard vs. Mike.

One fitting final story – I was watching the episode on my DVR, and when it ended it launched right into Watch What Happens Live, then cut off one minute into it at this exact frame:

Awwwwwww, BLAIS!!!! He’s a man who can freeze anything…except his tears.

What’d you think of the Finale, and the Top Chef All-Stars season as a whole? Happy for Blais? Unhappy for Mike (lol)? It’s our LAST TOP CHEF COMMENT JAM SESSION of the season :(

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