Top Chef Texas Finale: Yayy! We're So Happy For ____ !

Categories: Screen Bites

paul and sarah.jpg
via Bravo
... just a little competition between friends.
Last night was the final episode of Top Chef Tex-Anada, and it played out like a culinary version of the walk-off scene in Zoolander set to symphony music -- a fierce and almost perfectly orchestrated parade of dishes, as we have come to expect from the two remaining chefs.

Paul Qui, executive chef at Uchiko in Austin, and Sarah Grueneberg, executive chef of Spiaggia in Chicago, brought their best games as they faced the challenge of cooking a four-course meal aided by very familiar sous chefs chosen through a tasting competition.

Previously eliminated chefs filed into the kitchen, along with two heavy-hitters: Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park in Boston and Marco Canora of Hearth in New York. All 11 had to cook a dish, and the two competitors each chose four.

"I made an Asian-inspired dish to try and lure Paul into choosing me," eliminated heartthrob cheftestant Chris Crary said. Proving anyone would buy anything that guy is selling, Paul chose him as part of his dream team, along with Barbara Lynch, Ty-Lor Boring and Keith Rhodes. Sarah chose Nyesha Arrington, Tyler Stone (the former cheftestant who didn't make it into the original 16 because of his horrific butchering skills), Heather Terhune and Grayson Schmitz.

Then it was onto the meat (or fish and eggs, in Paul's case) of the competition as the two chefs banged out some seriously mind-expanding dishes, pushing the boundaries of their personal styles -- Sarah's innovative homey dishes of comfort and Paul's simple and delicately executed plates of precision.

Our highlights ...

Sous chef who had stunning potential to ruin the competition: Tyler Stone
Last night's episode felt like the time when he almost ruined the competition for Grayson by selfishly hacking away his piece of meat at the expense of hers. Tyler pushed back and asked questions as though he were a 5-year-old who had never cut a vegetable before in his life. "I cannot believe the balls on Tyler," Sarah said, flustered.

Tyler: "How thick do you want the wedges? How much celery do you want me to do? Is there a vacuum machine?" ... and on and on and on.

Sara: "Just chop the celerrry!!!"

... and then he showed up to cook in dress pants and dress shoes.

pauls dish.jpg
via Bravo
Paul's chawanmushi. Is that not a good-lookin' plate of food?
Moment that could have been terrible if Paul wasn't absolutely awesome, which he is: The crab
Sous chef Keith gave the crab for one of Paul's dishes the sniff test. It was funky. "We have to change the game plan," Keith said.

"I've got to go to plan B ... let's find the spot prawns," Paul said. "You don't flinch at these problems. When they come, they come and you find a solution for them." He bought the prawns for no apparent reason, and boom, just like that, they find a happy home and provide a bandage for a problem that healed instantly and perfectly.

We missed Grayson's quotes since she's been gone, so here's her best from last night:
"Tyler is definitely moving at his own pace, which I think is highly inappropriate, so we're gonna jam out with our clams out and Tyler's gonna do what he does." Git it, girl.

Apples and oranges: Paul and Sarah's first courses (and the entire meal, for that matter)
How do you compare Paul's pure, simple chawanmushi: steamed egg custard, prawns and pea shoots, and Sarah's squid-ink tagliatelle with spot prawns and fresh coconut? They were both incredibly beautiful and perfectly plated dishes, but they're from different universes. Judges toggled. We'd happily eat either.

Most emotional moment: Paul and his dad crying
Paul revealed that he dropped out of college and began cooking, to his parents' despair. Seeing his dad cry out of pride made Paul's eyes well up. "Are you crying? Are you crying?" his mom asked repeatedly. Paul was. We were too. In fact, every time Paul cries, we cry. It's Pavlovian, or something. When his mentor chef showed up several weeks ago, we cried, and now his parents and girlfriend are here. Get the Kleenex.

dessert.jpg
via Bravo
White. Chocolate. Ganache.
Best final courses, maybe ever: Both desserts
Historically, dessert is the fatal flaw of many otherwise accomplished and amazing chefs in seasons past. Last night went against the grain, with both desserts appearing delectable and memorable. Sarah's hazelnut cake with kumquat and roasted white chocolate ganache gained highest praise from Hugh Acheson, who called it "just brilliant and something I'm sure we're going to have fun ripping off of for the next few years."

Once again, in case you missed it ... roasted white chocolate ganache. Television is so mean in that you can't taste what's on the screen.

Paul answered that with coconut ice cream with puffed wild rice, kumquats, mangosteen, Thai chili foam and jasmine gelee. Tom was delighted: "Paul really knocked it out of the park." It's a tart dessert with some kick, and it's appealing in its detailed daintiness and exactness. This is some damn thoughtful cooking.

Judges' kudos: It's happened for weeks on end. The judges LOVE it all. It's incredible how few screw-ups have occurred this season. "I think in nine seasons, including All Stars, this is the best food we've ever seen at a finale," Tom said. "The food was exciting, so, thanks."

"This brilliant broth lifted the whole dish and all of the components to the moon," Emeril said of Paul's grilled sea bass with clam dashi.

They nitpicked a little -- Sarah's beets could have used more pickling; Paul's puffed rice may have been a little too crispy.

But in the end, they had to choose.

Top Chef winner who seems like the nicest guy in the world and absolutely deserves it: PAUL
Paul quietly rose to the top, never talked shit or got involved in the pettiness, and cooked some damn fine food. Once, he even stopped to chip away at an ice block for Bev, remember that? He's a chef and a gentleman. Paul, God love ya!

With that, I'm planning a trip to Austin, especially to eat dinner at Uchiko.



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29 comments
Last Chance Bitchin
Last Chance Bitchin

I'm convinced Tyler Stone was a TC producer's bit that failed miserably due to an underestimation his ineptitude, so they brought him back in the hopes that one chef would be dumb enough to take him and give them some last second gold to work with.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Great, now what is my wife and every other frau in the neighborhood going to watch?  Welp, there is always the soap's.  I can picture Mildred in Garland with a plate of nacho's, stomach hangin' over her belt-as she watches Top Chef.  I'd rather watch paint dry.  Then ya'll suddenly think yer chefs.....I call BULSH! 

Mervis
Mervis

OK, this is as close as it comes to a TV thread around here so I am going to ask....did anyone see Happy Endings last night? It was a great episode for mocking the self-important chefy. You had a bunch of pretentiousness wrapped into one. A hipster food truck owner who added mixology and of course was wearing a fedora and sporting facial hair.

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

Paul was awesome. And how did he navigate this whole reality TV thing so well? He won like every challenge during the season and still managed to stay friends with all the other chefs. 

Maybe he just seemed nice compared to all the bitchy girl stuff that was happening? 

I dunno. But I'm glad he won so I can keep watching the show.

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

Funniest part was that no one picked Marco Canora to be their sous chef, but Sarah did pick private chef/public a-hole Tyler. Ha.

Mervis
Mervis

This was the first season that I've seen of this show. Why did it move to Vancouver at the end? Does it move every season?

I did almost bail on this show after the first couple episodes. Glad I stayed til the end as it was much better once the tatted up, fedora wearing hipsters were eliminated. It was good to see that substance reigned over style. Congrats to Paul.

Kate
Kate

Great article!

Comprehensive and entertaining, it summed up the  finale beautifully!

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Hopefully next season they get away from Top Caterer. Having to make their final meal for 100+? That's some bullshit.

SPOILER ALERT, whiners:Sarah may be a great chef, but she annoyed me so much over the season I didn't want to see her win at all. Plus her being all bitchy-happy about getting Heather made me rather glad Paul won. Her whining about sous vide made me want to smack her--butcher boy was right. And I can't forgive her for turning into that when you saw she was a hottie when she was younger (and fit). Yeah, I'm shallow.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

blah blah blah.....methinks even you are tired listening to you-jes sayin'. 

Mervis
Mervis

Hold on there Kergs. Anyone is a chef. Do you cook (i know you do)? Bam your a chef.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

It contained every element that would've commanded 3 weeks of CoA posts. Plus they would've proclaimed turpentine the hot new ingredient.

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

I thought the funniest part was when Paul said he does, "Japanese food with an Asian influence."

mmarks
mmarks

For the last few years the finale always goes to a different location. But why they'd pick Vancouver in the middle of winter is beyond me. The challenges up there were idiotic and more like "Survivor" than "Top Chef." Such as ingredients encased in gigantic blocks of ice, a cooking biathlon that actually required cross-country skiing and shooting, cooking in a moving gondola, etc. Stupidest season EVER.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

The last few seasons have ended in other locales. I remember Thailand and some beach-like place...Padma was in a bikini.

Mervis
Mervis

I agree with the catering reference. I guess they do want to see the chefs perform under pressure but sometimes the food was lacking because they had to cook for so many (Cattle Barons Ball).

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

No, it just beats my arse when the ladies in the neighborhood start talking about TC, and recipes, and really, they don't know shite; or how to cook....it just bothers me.  I watch Ice Road Truckers, but I'm no trucker. 

ps-I'm no chef (I like myself too much), I'm a food explorer, or scientist.

Mervis
Mervis

Oh yeah, forgot about the turpentine. So how long til COA declares the scene to be unhip...like that magazine did to Dave's truck?

Mervis
Mervis

But Brandy is kind hot in a skanky way.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

The Texas one blows.....the California one is, meh.  May have run it course?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

While watching a rain delay Nascar race on sunday I found myself watching storage wars.  Interesting, and I am excited to follow this....new one from Texas

Mervis
Mervis

The best shows (IMO) are the History Channel trio of American Pickers, Pawn Stars and American Restoration. Cajun Pawn Stars is pretty good as well. The guys all seem to not be douchbags and are really into their jobs.

Mervis
Mervis

Oh yeah, that Canadian Taxes one is mesmorizing. ;)

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

me likey the Nepal version, but until they kill one of those mother fuckers, its all the same.

5 books by me terlit-SI 2008 with NCAA Champ KU's Mario Chalmers on the cover -SI this weeks Marlins on the cover-ESPN the Mag, body issue (I think my wife put that there for her reading)-Canadian Taxes, a Guide to VAT, GST, and HST-Eurosport-

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

IRT got interesting for a season or two when they moved to Alaska for the Dalton. And the spinoff in India/Nepal was halfway good too, but there's only so many ways they can tease something drastic happening before a commercial then show it was just a minor hiccup.

And I'm sorry for your wifey's questionable taste in TV, Merk.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

5 books currently by my 'terlit":

-Nearest Faraway Place (book about the Beach Boys)-How to Stay Alive in the Woods (don't ask.....you never know!)-Texas Cookbook (nothing says Dickeys BBQ like taking a sh+t.-Sport Fish of the Gulf of Mexico (how to guide to catching Moby Dick)-Texas Almanac

______

Behind Said Terlit (and god knows whats on that "somebitch":-A flyer about a train in Oklahoma-A brochure on The Perdeneles.-Hero of a Thousand Faces-Conrad (I read that one after Pancho's)-War and Peace (I read that after my mother in law makes that raw meat dish, with the WORST cut of fatty meat).

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

You are correct sir (spoken like ED).  No doubt DC, IRT and shows like Gold Rush have lost the luster (no pun intended); after one season, you know the bit......and it's like everything else in this world, built to be shocking and salacious.  I here you on the smashing of the dingus when the "Trash TV" comes on!  Worse than that is when 40 or 50  of those "scandi-mags" come each week, and she puts them in the bathroom in place of my "Baseballs Greatest 50 Moments" or "Texas Football"........so there I am trying to relax, and all I see is that Oprah gained 50 pounds in a week, or that Angelina Jolie is really a man....and blah blah blah.  I 'd rather read the ingredients on shampoo container when I'm "spraying paint".

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

IRT was good for like 1 season.  After that, who really wants to watch the same truckers traverse the same frozen boring land week after week.  Thats also how I felt about Deadliest Catch.  My new favorite channel is Velocity but I think Ive seen about every show in there now and they need new material as well.  When the wife turns on "Trash TV" (thats reality shows on E and VH1) I punch my self in the dick and go watch tv upstairs

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