Top Chef Finale Recap: St. Paulmo’s Fire


It’s the Top Chef Season 9 Finale Part 2, entitled “Fire And Ice,” a devious move by Bravo to trick people into thinking Game Of Thrones is back on their viewing guide and accidentally recording it.

Obviously, there can only be one guest judge for the “Fire And Ice” challenge:

Just kidding! Prince Joffrey declined because he thought Sarah was acting too much like a spoiled child. The actual guest judge is this old flame:

I love that they’re still chyron-ing Emeril really specifically, like we don’t know who he is at this point in the season/life. “I don’t know, I guess he wrote some book about pans? Doesn’t sound very qualified.”

The episode opens with a pallin’ around driving segment where Paul explains that the three chefs are friends in real life but “you can’t think like that in the competition.” Really? You can’t be like, “I would like to beat these relatively nice people at this cooking competition?” You have to hate and destroy them? EYE OF THE COOKING TIGER, MOFOS.

They arrive at a brasserie in Vancouver’s Chinatown where they’re met with three guest chefs for an Asian cooking challenge:

The chefs will randomly pair up with one of the three master guests: Lindsay pairs with Top Chef mainstay Anita Lo, Sarah pairs with Masters Season 3 winner Floyd Cardoz, and Paul matches up with Takashi Yagahashi, which may or may not be the name of a cool ninja character I created during recess when I was in 2nd grade.

The chefs will take turns switching off with their partners in 10-minute increments to prepare one “Asian-style” dish per team. To amp up the excitement, Padma adds that the winner will receive $20,000, and says it with very patronizing excitement:

The Masters kick things off by conceiving and preparing their dishes (seems like a pretty huge component of this challenge is going to the Masters, huh?), and after ten minutes, the cheftestants take over. Everyone’s like “I hope they know what I was trying to do!” and the three remaining chefs are like “I hope I know what they were trying to do!” and it’s just like when you’re a real chef in a restaurant and you start cooking something then your wife goes into labor and you have to leave and can’t explain anything and the other person takes over mid-dish.

Padma and Emeril watch the action from a small sliding window, because they couldn’t get one of those creepy mansion paintings where the eyes move:

All the master chefs agree “They totally got what I was going for!”, even though the guest chefs probably weren’t gonna be like “WHAT THE F*CK WERE YOU DOING, partner of mine??” (unless Hubert Keller was here). It’s time to announce the winner, and at least this lil’ guy’s still excited:

Sarah and Floyd win for their Seared Cod with Coconut Curry, Dungeness Crab Salad and Amaranth. Sarah wins $20,000, which is great because the show is clearly setting it up so it looks like Paul has competition and he can now win deservedly without it seeming as anticlimactic. If Paul had breezed through both challenges in this episode, I would’ve been worried that they’d pull some dumb shocker in the finale, but everything’s right on track for the Paul win.

Paul did mess up in the Quickfire, though, by adding too much heat to his giant clam sashimi dish. It’s probably a mistake when your dish is too spicy for this guy:

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will have to prepare a dish that symbolizes the concepts of “Fire And Ice,” because of course that’s the second to last challenge on this show about very skilled adults. “Here in Vancouver, some people have fireplaces, but also it snows outside…” Sure, fine, let’s just move on so we can make it look like Paul might not win then have Paul win.

The chefs go off on their second-to-last shopping montage (awwwww, I’m gonna miss these! Our little redundant children are heading off to boring college…) A justifiably overconfident Paul even takes time to shop for edible glitter:

The chefs prepare their dishes and explain the arbitrary connections to the arbitrary theme, and it’s exciting to the Sweet Genius guy if he’s watching. Sarah is making a dish she’s never made before, which is a classic TC red flag (or will it not be???) Lindsay is worried she didn’t take the challenge theme literally enough so she throws together a “tomato ice” at the last minute which sounds like a gross non-thing but the judges don’t hate it. Paul wants the broth of his dish to be poured tableside to create a “melting” effect, so he has lots of instructions for the team of server-magicians:

The chefs also prepare a cocktail to pair with each dish, which I always love, because hearing food people talk about drinks that pair well or poorly with particular dishes is the most arbitrary and pointless exercise in cuisine, and they always sound like they’re unselfconsciously making stuff up. The drinks all look fine, even if their names are weird:

Hey, if this show can phone in its challenges, I can phone in my Photoshops. Deal?

So which chefs succeeded the best at putting fire and ice on their plates?? We are wide awake like Gail and Padma:

The judges enjoy all three dishes to an extent, but have specific problems with each one (this sentence is true of every Top Chef finale ever). Sarah’s pasta-and-mousse gamble was a well-executed risk and the pasta was perfect, but the mousse was too frozen and difficult to cut through, which is the most common problem in the current worldwide hunger epidemic. Paul’s dish actually lacked heat for Padma’s taste (what is this, Goldilocks And The Three Paul Dishes’ Heat Bears?) and Tom was really hilariously offended by A PIECE OF ARUGULA Paul added as an afterthought. Maybe Paul won’t make the finale???

It’s not entirely clear what Lindsay did wrong with her dish, but the flavors weren’t as strong as the others’ and her tomato ice was kind of an afterthought, and she might’ve tried to do too much, or whatever, someone’s gotta go home and it won’t be Paul. We’ll find out after this ad for our favorite Socialist playland:

The Elimination music kicks up, and Padma makes the dramatic announcement…

OH SNAP! The first Ryan Seacrest psyche-out of the season!!! They even timed Padma’s “Sarah…” to the exact spot in the music when she announces the eliminated chef. Bravo, editing (literally and figuratively!)

Now it’s down to just Paul and Lindsay. WHO WILL MAKE IT TO THE Paul will obviously. Just say Lindsay lost. Padma tells Lindsay to pack her knives and go. Beverly cries:

So that’s it! We’re down to Paul vs. Sarah to see which Asian man from Texas will be named Top Chef. I CAN’T WAIT!!! Only four more episodes.

Top Chef Finale Part 2 Thoughts? Favorite / Least Favorite Parts? Dumb stuff we missed? Predictions for the Finale? Leave ‘em all in the comments!

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