Top Chef: Goodbye London
June 6, 2023 2:39 PM - Season 20, Episode 12 - Subscribe

As the journey in London comes to a wrap, the final four chefs welcome back the winner of Last Chance Kitchen. For this week's Quickfire, the chefs are joined by guest judge Sam Bompas, who challenges them to create a dish featuring jellies and molds. For their final Elimination Challenge in England, they're tasked with creating trompe-l'oeil dishes, where the plates must literally fool the eye and taste like something completely different than what they look like. Who will make it to the finals in Paris, and who will bid adieu?

Summary from IMDB.

As I expected in the previous episode, the double elimination leads directly into the Last Chance Kitchen finale, where Sara and Amar compete against Charbel for the spot back into the competition. Charbel and Sara edge out Amar in the first round, a fairly straightforward "you fucked up cooking meat-in-pastry wellingtons, now cook meat-in-pastry pies".

The actual final round in LCK is a level up, where Sara and Charbel compete head-to-head in a three course menu; fix the worst thing you made, cook something inspired by the best thing you had in London, cook something that speaks to where you're going as chefs. They get to pick the previously defeated LCKites as sous chefs; Sara cooks with Sylwia and Nicole, and Charbel with Amar and Dale. Victoire, wonderfully, gets to join the judging panel (and she practices saying "pack your knives and go"). Sara edges out Charbel with a menu including fixing her soggy steamed cabbage from the previous episode and a high-end fish and chips (Charbel picked his day one roast onion as the best thing he's tasted -- which I think set himself up for a fall). So she's back in.

The quickfire is fairly uninspiring aside from a one-hour gap for jelly (NB: jelly=British for jello) setting and indulging Buddha's endless parade of molds as he wins.. again. Gabri's unset dulce de leche is on the bottom; I don't think he was ready for that jelly.

The finale takes place at the very impressive Hatfield House, which you could say is the real McCoy. The trompe l'oeil challenge seems like it's in the Buddha and Tom wheelhouse, and the chefs struggle a lot with this one. Gabri's lemon brioche and lamb tartare scouring pad is pretty successful and pays tribute to his start as a dishwasher, although the green herbs for the sponge could be a little tighter. Sara overthinks her tamale-looking matzo ball soup, adding a bunch of excessive mirepoix jellies for the hell of it. Ali overthinks his falafel garden, adding a bunch of weird touches like multiple dry soils and little turtles until it doesn't really fool anyone's eye. Tom overthinks-slash-underthinks his dish, turning out what looks like a tin of caviar, only to be... basically caviar but made with seaweed. And then Buddha shows up with a plate that looks like Clara Peeters painted it in 1615 and you can basically hear the judges scream "fucking finally".

Ultimately, it's the end of the road for Tom. "I'm not gonna damn change, that's for sure."

Other notes:
I think a certain constituency might appreciate long shots of Ali pumping iron in a tank top. ("Let's put the Ali in Finale!")
Tom went to clown school before becoming a chef, which is simultaneously the least surprising and most surprising thing he could have said. German clown schools aren't any fun, apparently.
posted by Superilla (6 comments total)
I am that constituency! Ali’s workout was serious bait. I found out from a podcast he was an alternate — another contestant dropped out in pre-production. We’re very lucky to have had Ali.
posted by sixswitch at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2023 [2 favorites]

I thought the jelly one could have been so much more fun. I'd heard of the company they brought in before, so was really interested in what the challenge was gonna be, only for them not to get enough time at all!
posted by Carillon at 10:24 AM on June 7, 2023

By the way, did I just read this over at AVCLUB:

"After 17 years, 19 seasons, and nearly 300 episodes of “Please, pack your knives and go,” longtime Top Chef host, judge, and executive producer Padma Lakshmi announced that she’ll be doing just that following the big Paris-set finale of Top Chef: World All-Stars, which airs on Bravo on June 8."

I am upset.
posted by kbanas at 12:22 PM on June 7, 2023

I hope Padma will come back for some judging in the future; maybe for an Indian challenge. ;)

The show will definitely have huge hosting shoes to fill, and seeing how well Great British Bake-Off has done (NOT!) after their wonderful hosts were forced to leave left the show, I don't have high hopes for future seasons. Top Chef would do best by putting Gail or another familiar face into the role.
posted by hydra77 at 12:37 PM on June 7, 2023

The best idea I've heard for a replacement host was Kristen Kish, who is part of the Top Chef family, has food credibility and personality, and was great as a host on the new Iron Chef series. Apparently she was asked about competing this series, but that didn't happen. But host (and executive producer) is a much bigger job.
posted by Superilla at 3:59 PM on June 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

I have never laughed so much during a TC episode. The jelly guy was delightful. I think the Wellington challenge broke the contestants because they were much less guarded and more silly during this episode.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:21 AM on June 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

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