Top Chef: Fin
June 14, 2023 10:22 PM - Season 20, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Top Chef World All-Stars finishes up in Paris with the final 3. Given the classic challenge of cooking the best (four-course progressive tasting) meal of their lives, given a sous-chef, given €2000, given six and a half hours over two days, given a chef's table meal to celebrate the night before, given a table of global chefs led by three restaurant six-Michelin-star chef Hélène Darroze, the guest judge. And one of them is given the title.

Sara gets first pick of sous-chef, she picks Amar; Gabri reunites with Tom for one last ride (he's also good for a laugh, "for a German guy"), and Buddha gets Ali. (When he said "you can't have the finale without Ali" he should have been clearer.)

First course: Sara - seafood couvillion with tomato water, Gabri - tostada with grasshoppers, mushrooms and hollandaise; Buddha - trout with clam velouté, caviar and butterfly cracker.

Second course: Gabri - sweet potato empanada with cheese foam; Sara - veal liver and onions with cookie butter and figs; Buddha - red curry bisque with lobster, squash and dumpling.

Third course: Buddha - lamb with eggplant and pickled onion; Sara - burgoo with cornbread madeleine; Gabri - Chiles en Nogada - poblano filled with ground beef sausage and dehydrated fruit.

Fourth course: Sara - green pea cake with buttermilk sorbet; Buddha - Chocolate and coconut lamington with raspberries; Gabri - chocolate tamale with hazelnut and goat cheese ice cream.

A lot of deliberation, of course. Gabri's food has tons of flavour; Sara's pea cake was the best dish of the night; Buddha's cooking technique was refined. But Sara's undercooked liver was the one dish with a real flaw. (Padma: "Goddamnit, that liver.")

And so, for the second season in a row, your Top Chef is... Buddha.

Also: If you hadn't heard, this is Padma's last episode; she is leaving to "make space for Taste The Nation, my books and other creative pursuits." I think she had decided before filming this episode that this would be her last; she tears up at the end of meal when saying she's saying "I'm so proud of all of you guys".

I'll end like this episode, this season and this era ends, with Padma giving a toast (to a crowd including a ton of crew who never get to be on camera):
"A lot of us grew up on this show. It's been a long ride, 20 seasons is an accomplishment. Thank you very much."
posted by Superilla (17 comments total)
Two links on Padma: an appreciation from Variety and her first post-Top Chef interview with the LA Times.
Also, pea cake recipe.
posted by Superilla at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2023

Tom screwed up shopping for Gabri twice. And here Tom couldn’t find plantains in Paris?!

Gabri (who to my eye is suuuuper ADHD) chose Tom because Germans seem organized, change my mind.
posted by sixswitch at 4:19 AM on June 15, 2023

As soon as Sara said, "we're going to cut the veal at the last minute," we were like, "uh, oh." And boy did she ever regret it.
Also, while I don't think he should have won, I think that Gabri deserves recognition for surprising the diners with a couple of his dishes. While Buddha's dishes were near flawless, he didn't get the exclamations that Gabri's dishes did.
posted by Spike Glee at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

That was the best season yet, though I believe I've said that many times over the years.

I plan to travel to Paducah to visit Freight House to eat Sara's food sometime this year. It'll be the first time I've traveled specifically to eat at a restaurant, but why not? I am dying to try her burnt cauliflower that supposedly tastes delicious, so hopefully that'll be on the menu. She was my favorite chef in her season, as was Buddah in his, so I'm fine with the choice of winner, of course.

Wouldn't it be cool as hell to be able to do a food tour to hit all the amazing restaurants of the chefs featured this season?
posted by heyho at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

* burnt cabbage
posted by heyho at 10:06 AM on June 15, 2023

Just glad Sara didn't win. Ever since she threw a pout party over getting mildly razzed for using a boxed cake mix in her original season, I have never been able to stand her po-mouthing around. Sara, you finished second in your season, you are not an overlooked underdog.

Poor Buddha, having to play the "here are my deep roots" game when whatever his style is--I still don't feel it's truly been articulated--it sure isn't that. But he'll comfort himself with the money.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2023

It really seemed like the liver was what sunk her. I like Buddha, but was definitely rooting for Sara. Buddha is great, but his passion always seems more about the production rather than the consumption of the food. Congrats to him though, he really seems to take to these competitions like a duck to water, curious to see if he's ever going to make a masters season.
posted by Carillon at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2023 [2 favorites]

It was sweet to see him genuinely surprised by Ducasse's showing up in the kitchen.
posted by praemunire at 11:38 AM on June 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I wonder if Padma already knew she was leaving or had made an internal announcement when this episode filmed. Her level of emotion definitely seemed higher than a typical finale.
posted by Clustercuss at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

And here Tom couldn’t find plantains in Paris?!
They had a limited amount of time to visit multiple markets; the Mexican shop that they went to seemed pretty small and had a very limited set of fresh produce (a couple of flats of poblanos and other peppers); that's consistent with my experiences in small minority markets where the traffic is lower and primarily packaged stuff is in stock. I'm sure given more time, they could have gone to a market aimed at the (much larger in Paris) West African diaspora, which would probably have plantains a plenty.

From Tom C's twitter (which is 90% curtly taking shots at Trump, with 90% of the remainder either boosting adoptable dogs or stanning Jason Isbell) he seemed to agree that if Sara had properly cooked the liver, she would have won. He also said that Padma made the decision to leave over the months since the show was filmed (last October).
posted by Superilla at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

I also thought Padma seemed unusually emotionally and it was touching. I do wonder if even if she hadn't expressed it, she was considering it already while in production.

While I loved the overall of this season, I'm a little disappointed that Buddha won. Certainly his cuisine was technically the best (and probably what I'd most want to eat) but he seemd to lack a little of the passion and soul for the craft Sara and Gabri did. Really wonder what would've happened if Sara hadn't underdone the liver and just remembering this happened during the Wellington competition too! I imagine this will haunt her but to come out a finalist at this level is still amazing.

Still chuffed that Ali wasn't finalist. From everything we saw he was absolutely a top 3 contender and I thought the judging on his elimination was a little arbitrary.
posted by artificialard at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

I thought it was funny how nobody judging on the show could understand or explain what Gabri's main course was. It is a little unusual, the sauce and the use dried fruit and sausage stuffed in a chile. But it seemed amazing and delicious and I genuinely think he just sort of stumped the judges who'd never eaten anything like that before.

I've been in that little Mexican market where Gabri goes to shop! It's La Equinita and is very humble. But remarkably well stocked with Mexican ingredients and the nicest guy running the place. Your options for buying Mexican ingredients in Paris are very limited and generally limited to a range of mediocre El Paso brand products. This place has a good variety of ingredients I'd be happy to buy at home in California, too.
posted by Nelson at 1:59 PM on July 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

This finale fell flat for me. Basically for exactly the same reasons as the last episode. Exclamations all over the place about the interest and surprise of Gabri's dishes, and Sara's dishes. Buddha's dishes are flavors and dishes the judges are already familiar with, done technically perfectly. I guess Gabri needs to refine his dishes more before they're ready to be the top level... but he's creating something new. If Buddha is reworking existing concepts, of course he can jump ahead to perfect technicality!

This was one of the most fun judging tables. They were so lively! I came into the episode expecting boring (I mean, I didn't even bother watching it until now...) - I assumed Buddha would take it away every time because he is so good at fancy food and I was very happy to be wrong.

I want to eat that first course Sara served so bad.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:03 PM on July 2, 2023

‘Top Chef’ Selects Kristen Kish, a Former Winner, as Its New Host.
Both Colicchio and Simmons published posts on Instagram Tuesday afternoon applauding the choice of Kish.

“She is an excellent chef, brings a world class perspective and most importantly, having been a past contestant and judge, she knows what it takes to win @bravotopchef,” Colicchio wrote.
I vaguely remember Kish from season 10, positively. She certainly seems qualified! Honestly I was afraid with Padma leaving the show was going to be over. This show has so much been Padma's show, she really stepped up and made it hers.
posted by Nelson at 5:56 PM on July 12, 2023

I've always liked her. As a fairly butch lesbian, she's definitely going to bring a different vibe than Padma.
posted by praemunire at 12:05 AM on July 13, 2023

How Does Kristen Kish Feel at the Top of ‘Top Chef’? It’s Complicated. A long and interesting profile.
posted by Nelson at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2023

Called it. And good for her!
posted by Superilla at 1:51 PM on August 22, 2023

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