Top Chef: Finale
March 16, 2019 12:12 PM - Season 16, Episode 15 - Subscribe

It's the final showdown; the three remaining chefs must create the best four-course meal of their lives; Tom reveals in a twist that only two chefs will get the chance to serve their full menu; only one chef will emerge victorious.
posted by kanata (13 comments total)
 
I have nothing against Kelsey, but god do I want to see more POC, particularly those who cook food that aligns with their heritage and is under-represented, win on Top Chef. Half of my family is white primarily, and they're from the south, so I really can relate to Kelsey and Sarah - I literally have the exact same memory of my white, Georgia-born grandpa eating cornbread in a glass of milk for breakfast that Kelsey has. However, "southern food" is based on the traditions of POC, black people who are descended from African slaves. I consider it absolutely a part of my family heritage but I also recognize where it comes from and it's a topic I feel like wasn't even addressed this season? I could be mis-remembering. Either way, maybe it's also my heritage that keeps me from being as excited about Kelsey or Sarah's food as I was about Eric's.

Or maybe I've just outgrown the "We judge based on the food only" - when you have a panel of almost exclusively white judges (minus Padma obviously), you're going to see food rewarded that fits in with their ideas of what "Top Chef level" food is, which is often steeped in European ideals.
posted by primalux at 1:04 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Agreed. For me it underscored that i weight uniqueness of cuisine just behind execution.

Execution: Sara had high variance— she hadn’t been safe since episode 3 and had been low 5 times to Eric’s 2 and Kelsey’s 3.

And Jesus we’ve seen refined southern from so many white chefs. Eric’s story could have been so good if he had played that up more to the judges— also southern, but by way of the Triangle Trade. Maybe he did and it was cut. What a bummer. Don’t trust a 6th place chef over your gut.

I think in an earlier post I was wondering about timing re: Bourdain’s suicide. This addresses the timing.
posted by supercres at 3:48 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it definitely stood out to me when they said to Eric "Thank you for teaching us about your food."

To me that was a clear indication that they cannot assess his food fairly. If I hear poetry in a language I just learned, versus my first language, my ability to appreciate it will be much different.

Plus, telling the story of the transatlantic slave trade, vs "this is what I remember eating growing up, but influenced by this international trip I am on" - it's a vast difference in ambition.

I'm not furious that Kelsey won - over the season I came to appreciate how strategic and smart she was as a competitor, and I really liked her throughout - but it definitely leaves open the question of whether someone with Eric's range can be taken seriously where he is rather than meeting the judges well within or at the edges of their comfort zone. Because it also seemed like the dish he put up had a lot of problems. It's not like burnt or overdone lotus chips are the traditional way of serving them in Ghana or something. Or if it is, we didn't learn that from this episode.
posted by Emmy Rae at 4:31 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Listen. I’m not mad, just disappointed.

I genuinely liked pretty much everyone this season. Especially compared to last year, which was a complete bust for me, this felt like a change in direction. The drama was refreshingly absent. And it was exciting to see Eric go so far.

But I agree with everything said here. I guess the question is: is Top Chef the vehicle that can actually highlight and then judge food like Eric’s? I am not sure it is. I applaud that he brought in what he knew and did so well. And yeah, I suspect there were execution issues with the final dish for him. But I wonder how much African food the judges are all truly familiar with to the point of being able to, well, judge it. There’s technique, certainly, but that can’t be all one is judged on.

Once again: have more non-cis, non-white judges AND cheftestants.
posted by hijinx at 7:08 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I'm disappointed about and for Eric, but it also seems like his elimination was almost entirely based on execution problems, at least from what we saw. The language the judges used was almost the opposite of the experience he explained himself as trying to evoke in the planning stage, and then there was the burnt/overdone aspect. I suspect that the judges would've been quite glad to give him the win, to show their own cosmopolitanism. And he will benefit immensely from the exposure.

Something about Sara(?) never sat quite right with me, so, of the two, I'm glad Kelsey got it.
posted by praemunire at 7:28 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


(Did I miss something? Was there a non-cis contestant who got overlooked/mistreated? Because of course there should be trans judges as there should be trans every-walk-of-life, but I'm not sure what the direct connection to a cooking contest is?)
posted by praemunire at 7:32 PM on March 16


(Was there a non-cis contestant who got overlooked/mistreated?)

Not that I'm aware of, but the show is feeling to me like it's struggling with diversity... and so the more representation, the better, on both sides of the table.
posted by hijinx at 7:29 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


This has been a great season, after the last one, which was sub-par (with Tom regularly commenting that the food in LCK was better than the main event). I liked all the finalists, and would have been happy for any of them to win.

I was sorry not to see Eric's full menu served. I've loved the food he's cooked and it's made me want to investigate African food. I was happy for Kelsey's win, though. She's been a bright spark throughout this season, both with her food and her personality.

But I think this season was lacking in drama of the Tesar/Katsuji variety, or 'PeaPureeGate'. Yes, the food was magnificent, but I like my reality TV served with a side of bitters sometimes.
posted by essexjan at 1:28 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I really thought the contestants here were great, definitely something that I called out to my girlfriend. They were generally quite nice, only really the UK boxed waffle mix issue, otherwise quite supportive and nice to each other.
posted by Carillon at 4:14 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


What is the best source for the recipes and maybe a food-focused recap of each episode? I don't need a review of what happened, but I would like to see the ideas/recipes if there is a list somewhere.
posted by soelo at 2:11 PM on March 22


I wanted Eric to win too, in part for diversity reasons and part just because both he and his food are so appealing. And then for him to spin up a high-wire act for the last episode, "the story of the slave trade on a plate". Yikes! I'm very sad he didn't get to cook the whole meal. But in the structure of the contest that seemed fair to me. They were all judged on one dish and the dish he put up had major flaws. I'm just mad one of the flaws, the burnt taro, was something a sous chef had done. Eric's responsibility ultimately but it's a shame he went out that way.

Kelsey really impressed me and grew on me. So did Sara. I'd like to think all three chefs' careers will be helped along by this. It's a bit strange two of them (Eric and Kelsey) aren't regular restaurant chefs but working as private chefs. I wonder if that will change.

(They need to find a new format for the celebrity judges at the end of this show. They had some very interesting folks sitting at the table and I had no idea who any of them were. Each one got to say one, maybe two lines. Meanwhile the jackass in the white glasses keeps getting to say meaningless crap with lots of air time. Not a good choice.)
posted by Nelson at 8:29 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


Graham Elliot (the white glasses man) is a regular judge, along with Gail, Tom, and Nilou. Gail was out this season on maternity leave. I agree they need more intro of who the celebrities are and a reminder blurb/nameplate when they return in a later episode. I wonder how much weight the celebrity has in the final decisions. They often make the quick fire decisions themselves, or at least it seems like they do.

I'm adding Graham Elliot to my list of people who are my age but I have always thought of as 5-10 years older. John Cena and John Oliver are the other two.
posted by soelo at 8:52 AM on March 25


But I think this season was lacking in drama of the Tesar/Katsuji variety, or 'PeaPureeGate'. Yes, the food was magnificent, but I like my reality TV served with a side of bitters sometimes.

I thought waffle-mix-gate was both silly and overly dramatized.
posted by soelo at 8:53 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


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