Yes, folks, we have come to the end of this live blogging venture. I reiterate: this live blogging venture (there's still the Next Food Network Chef 4, Sundays at 10). I asked a few days ago who y'all thought may win tonight. Here are the results of the poll I put up (closing halfway through the program tonight at 10:30):
Stephanie has a majority of votes. Again, this is who we think will win, not who we want to win. All the same, probably a lot of us want Steph to take the prize.
I think (and hope) it'll be Steph. I won't be disappointed if Rich wins, though I really think this is the season where a woman will take the title. Just not this woman:
For tonight's drink of choice, I have decided to go local. So any dumbass thing anyone says or does tonight will lead to a nice sip of Wild Goose India Pale Ale, one of several brews made by the Wild Goose Brewery out in Frederick. I bought it sight unseen (go to a place that lets you buy them individually, which isn't everywhere). It's an okay brew. That reminds me: I need to get out to Frederick at some point.
9:59 Still can't get over Lisa's whining. What - if she had gotten kicked out, did she think they'd pants her or something?
10:00 Kind of like a loooooong "Circle Back" like the Food Network does during every ep of TNFNS4. Just get the damn show over with!
10:02 Steph" "So are you guys excited?" Yay. Very excited. Drink.
10:03 The "stating the obvious award" goes to Rich: yes, we know you think she shouldn't be here. So does the rest of America.
10:04 So Padma and Tom, who stands beside you guys? April Bloomfield (Spotted Pig). Dan Barber (Blue Hill) and Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin), their honorary sous chefs! (Cool!)
The task: make a four-course meal for a black-tie dinner, including a dessert.
10:06 Steph gets to pick her sous chef first! (Ripert), Rich (Barber) and Lisa (Bloomfield) follow suit.
Lisa's going Vietnamese for her final dinner. Brit Chef Bloomfield isn't used to Vietnamese at all.
10:07 Rich is going for a "tableau of my journey as a chef", and loves having Chef Barber. The feeling doesn't seem mutual, as Rich is, shall we say, not totally decided on what he wants..
Steph's concept? Show off her styles and flavor combos. Ripert is impressed.
10:08 Exciting scenes of food prep. Yup. This'll draw 'em in.
10:09 Oh dude! Rich had a special request: liquid nitrogen. Wicked! (Kudos if you got that classic Doctor Who reference.)
10:10 At least Lisa's getting along with her sous chef.
10:11 If you didn't want tomorrow's service to be a mess, Blais, you shouldn't have made today's prep be such a mess.
10:12 Coming up: Tom puts on a tutu and blows their minds!
10:15 Which beautiful, smart, funny redhead, Kathy? Oh I know: Tiff from TC1!
10:16 Oooh, how are the producers going to screw them today? By taking away the sous chefs of course. Just for being assholes: DRINK!
10:17 What Lisa doesn't tell us is that she had fun with Chef Bloomfield by spotting a pig! Get it? Spotted Pig? Funny? No, you're right. It's not.
10:18 Rich, my man: it's ALL about the liquid nitro.
Wait did he say BACON ICE CREAM!? Ick. DRINK!
10:19 Again: why do these people on this show every fucking season downplay the pastry? They know they have to do it. Practice. people!
I stand corrected: Steph DID practice beforehand: a ricotta cake (yum)!
I bet Rich's head explodes by 10:42.
10:20 On the plus side, Tom says the menus all sound great.
On the minus side: Rich did indeed say "bacon ice cream". DRINK!
10:21 I didn't expect Lisa to be giving Steph a pep talk.
10:22 Way to flash it up, Padma!
Ah, the sous chefs have zhuzh'd themselves up for the big dinner.
10:24 Food haiku time:
Judges wait in gorgeous room.
I bet Steph takes it.
10:27 Oh now I get it: they took the sous chefs away so they could eat!
So aside from Gail and Ted and Tom and Padma and the sous chefs, we also have Puerto Rican chef Alfredo Ayala and book publisher Tim Zagat, who wins the show's product placement award.
10:29 Course 1:
Rich: scallop with mango and pineapple vinegar - overheard: unfamiliar
Lisa: prawn with chili basil sauce - nice spice, too strong
Steph: seared red snapper with truffle and asparagus - best of the three, elegant.
Way to go Steph!
10:31 Course 2
Rich: guinea hen, chicken egg, foie gras and spring veggies - fresh, perfectly cooked
Lisa: tom kha hai with dumpling - satisfying, you wanna eat more of it, happy for seconds
Steph: seared quail breast over lobster ravioli - more lobster essence in the sauce, quail is perfectly cooked.
What is undercooked? I missed that.
10:33 Course 3
Rich: pickled radish, mirin broth and pork belly - pressure cooked, not as crispy, underseasoned
Lisa: wagu beef with chayote - cuke salad - sauce is so sweet, beef is not tender, cuke and chayote salad is nice
Steph: lamb medallions with maitake mushrooms, olive, pistachio and blackberry - crash and burn I thought but NOOOOOOO!, Ripert: "I love!"
Take home: Rich needs work, Lisa's is pedestrian, Steph surprises!
10:35 Dessert course
Lisa: black thai rice pudding with lime and mango creme - works
Rich: banana scalloop bacon ice cream - it actually works!
Steph: ricotta pundcake with fruit and banana creme - nothing special
10:38 Final result of my poll: With 16 votes counted, Steph has the most with 8, but Rich now comes in a close second with 7. Lisa is at the back end with 1.
10:42 And here we are at Judges' Table. Rich thinks his culinary journey went okay. Everyone thought his first course was underseasoned.
Lisa's first course was assertive and hoooooooooot.
Steph: beautifully presented first course, dude! Lisa gets attitudinal again (c'mon, you know you'll miss it).
10:44 I've never seen tom kha kai on this show before. They're not the only ones who love it.
Oh, Steph's leeks - THAT'S what was undercooked!
10:45 Braised pistachio excited Ted.
10:46 And then we get to that nasty ice cream. How the hell did bacon ice cream, with bananas and scallops no less, win them over!?!?
Oh my God, I really am getting the vibe that Lisa is going to win.
10:47 Last words?
Steph: typical chicken soup for the soul shit.
Lisa: typical bravado
Rich: the whole dramatic thing they've been building up to all week? "Yeah, I'll admit it - I choked."
All that drama for that? Figures. For being taken: DRINK!
10:48 What's worse for Rich: they agree - he choked. We are definitely having a woman Top Chef.
10:49 Play by play? Oh hell, my fingers hurt. Run down: they liked everybody's, but Rich overthought his stuff, while Lisa and Steph turned in some fascinating stuff.
10:50 Zoning - Just thought of TNFNC4's Lisa's Three C's. DRINK!
10:51 Whose was the best meal? Based on the preference tonight? They're discussing into the wee hours of the morning here. Dang.
The consensus among the chefs at least - okay, among Lisa - is that Steph nailed the odd numbered courses, and Lisa nailed the even numbered ones.
10:55 Okay, that ad made me never want to buy a Verizon cell phone.
10:57 Whoa. America really doesn't want Lisa to win.
I think it'll be Steph, with Lisa then Rich as runners-up. In that order.
10:58 And the winner is...
Rich looks disappointed, Lisa does not look pissed. Mournful comments abound.
10:59 Rich: "It's a disappointment to almost be there." Yeah, but at least you got to the finale. Hell, he's still going to go far here!
TC4 WRAP UP - So as so many predicted, Stephanie Izard is the first woman to claim the mantle of Top Chef. A fascinating episode. Not dry at all I don't think, though it did get a little serious and long in the tooth in some places. I'd say I'm satisfied with the ending. I was wrong about Lisa and Rich - he really choked, while the judges were (dang!) very pleased with Lisa's selections. But in the end, Stephanie pulled it out, ricotta poundcake be damned. Thoughts? While you ponder, I'm off to the next live blog: The Next Food Network Star on Sunday at 10!