Well, we're at the end of a pretty darn good season - two really good chefs are poised to be the winner of TC10. It's a "live" audience finale - and the audience includes all the previous TC winners. Each chef has their own team, and they have to serve 5 dishes to be served to 160 diners and the judges.
But before we see the final service, we see a brief review of how Kristen and Brooke both got to the finale. In the TC Finale Kitchen, the cheftestants arrive, and see their teams. BUT neither cheftestant realized there was going to be a "stadium" of people watching them. They have 3 hours to prepare their best 5 dishes, and the dishes will be served head-to-head. The first cheftestant to have 3 winning dishes will be crowned Top Chef.
Kristen's team is Sheldon, Josh and Lizzie, and Brooke's team is Stefan, CJ and Kuniko. Brooke describes Team L.A. - Stefan as a bit scatterbrained, but he's quick. CJ has a great palate, and Kuniko adds a level of precision. Kristen notes that her sous chefs as "just good people - no egos". Brooke notes they are required to use scallops for the 2nd round and red snapper for the 4th round.
There are 300 people watching them, including Emeril, Hugh, Gail, Tom, Padma, and all 9 previous Top Chef winners. Gail asks Stephanie Izard if she's ready to share her tiara with another woman who will join the Winners Table. Stephanie says "It's about time!"
We're getting *right* to the service - just a few minutes and Kristen and Brooke will be sending out their first dishes to the audience and judges. Each cheftestant notes that their first dishes are very familiar to them. Kristen is concerned about cooking for so many people - for the past few years, she's cooked for just 10 people at Stir/Boston. She's got Lizzie butchering for the 4th course, Sheldon working on the scallops, and Josh beginning dessert.
Brooke notes that something's burning in her kitchen, and CJ is shown in front of a large vat of pigs ears that are burning. Even the judges notice that he's just not focused. The audience counts down the clock for the last few seconds. The chefestants bring the dishes up to the judges.
KRISTEN (1st COURSE) - Chicken Liver Mousse with Frisée, Mustard, Prune, Hazelnuts & Pumpernickel - Emeril notes it's not the first time he's seen chicken livers from Kristen in the competition; he loves the mousse - very classic. Tom notes it was well seasoned, nicely put together. Gail said her chicken liver mousse was perfect.
BROOKE (1st COURSE) - Crispy Pig Ear & Chicory Salad, Six-Minute Egg, Apricot Jam & Candied Kumquats - Tom thought the dish had good flavor; Emeril said his cracklings were overcooked. Padma said her pig ear was crunchy and not burned, like others' were. Hugh said her salad dressing was awesome and had good balance.
ROUND 1 VOTES (first 3 out of 5 votes):
Hugh - Kristen
Gail - Kristen
Emeril - Kristen
Round 2 features scallops. Kristen asks Sheldon to make a cure for the scallops. Brooke is making sure that Kuniko cleans the scallops very very well to ensure there's no grit. Stefan calls out to Kristen "Kristen - I chose light blue!" She calls back "Light blue for what?" and he replies "For the baby's bedroom!" She laughs and says "Shut up!"
The Peanut Gallery of former winners calls out "CJ!" and he raises his arm to acknowledge their busting his chops. A bit of a look back into how Brooke made it to the finale, going through each challenge, getting feedback from those who have worked with her as to how she got there. Gail interviews Brooke's husband, asking him "Did you ever imagine you'd be watching Brooke in the finale?" and he said "Yes, I really thought she'd be in the finale!" Brooke and Nick's son, Hudson, has fallen asleep on his lap. Brooke's Mom and Dad said she watched The Galloping Gourmet when she was 5 years old when other kids were watching cartoons.
They finish plating, and Michael Voltaggio says "I'm jealous, dude! I want to be down there with them!" (He loves the competition!) Kristen asks Brooke to save one dish for her to taste. Countdown again to 2nd course service.
BROOKE (2nd COURSE) - Seared Scallop with Salt Cod Purée, Speck, Black Currant & Mustard Seed Vinaigrette - Someone (Richard Blais?) says to Hosea that his scallop is overcooked, but others at the TC Winners' table are saying "I think it's a tie now; this is really good!" Tom says he enjoyed the combination, he said the scallop was perfectly cooked and that everything worked very well together. Hugh said the flavors are bright and well balanced. Emeril said he's a salt cod lover, and the flavor of that with the scallop really drives it home for him.
KRISTEN (2nd COURSE) - Citrus & Lavender Cured Scallop with Bitter Orange, Meyer Lemon & Apple - Tom said her dish is exactly what he expected from her - really flavorful, really delicious. Padma said "There's nowhere to hide with this dish, and you did the scallops really proud." Emeril said he loves the simplicity and that she didn't over-complicate it.
ROUND 2 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Gail - Brooke
Emeril - Brooke
Tom - Kristen
Padma - Kristen
Hugh - Brooke
So they're tied, 1-1.
They have 34 minutes to plate the next course.
[Can I just say now that I *LOVE LOVE LOVE* how well their sous chefs are working with them? There is (so far) no drama, and each sous chef is listening to Brooke and Kristen and doing exactly what they need. LOVE IT.]
Kristen's road to the finale is shown, including her friendship with Stephanie, who was in the initial episode at Emeril's restaurant, both trying to get into the competition. Kristen also says that learning under Barbara Lynch has helped her immensely to focus her vision. Her trip through LCK is quickly shown, and she said that she plans a trip to Korea. She was adopted and moved to Michigan when she was very young, but she said she misses seeing two people that "look like me. I just need to see where I came from." Gail interviews Kristen's family and friends. Kristen's brother said he remembers dropping her off in Boston with a suitcase, and now she's a big-city girl and teaches them what's going on. Her father was sad to see her voted off of TC the first time, but he said he texted her afterwards and said "Kristen, you're my Top Chef!"
BROOKE (3rd COURSE) - Vadouvan-Fried Chicken Wing with Sumac Yogurt-Tahini & Pickled Kohlrabi Fattoush - the judges dig in, and Brooke said "I forgot the Wet-Naps - sorry!" and Tom says "Yes!" Harold said the wings were awesome, as did someone else at the TC Winners' table (Kevin Sbraga?). Hugh said he was not expecting the wings, and Brooke replied there was a reason for the wings. She said she felt she had to redeem herself with some chicken on the bone and fry it properly. Emeril said it was delicious. Tom said "I get why you're doing it, but I don't get why you're doing it." He did like the vadouvan, but wasn't sure how the salad went with it.
KRISTEN (3rd COURSE) - Celery Root Purée with Bone Marrow, Mushrooms, Bitter Greens & Radishes - Emeril loved all of the earthy tones of the dish. Tom asked why she stewed the mushrooms instead of roasting them. Kristen said she wanted the bone marrow to be the primary flavor, and the mushrooms to be an undertone. Padma said "I just wish it was hot! It wasn't." Gail thought the purée and mushrooms were both velvety and the bone marrow just cut through all just like she wanted it.
ROUND 3 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Emeril - Kristen
Tom - Kristen
Padma - Kristen
So Kristen has got 2 rounds under her belt - it's an all-or-nothing for Brooke for Round 4. CJ asks her what happened, and when he finds out that Brooke is down 1, he says "We'll kill this one." It's the required Red Snapper round coming up.
In the in-betweener, a confessional interview with the former winners - Hung says to relax and be yourself; Ilan can't remember the funny thing he was going to say; Hosea says do what you do well; Michael Voltaggio is just silent; Richard Blais uses a sports analogy of "don't fumble the football"; Stephanie Izard says "Try to make something that doesn't suck!" (I *love* Stephanie! LOL); Kevin Sbraga says to go out and rock it; Paul Qui laughs; Harold Dieterle says keep your adrenaline in check. They then show Ilan going crazy in the kitchen stadium, and he ends up breaking a glass. Sbraga is shown shaking his head.
Kristen is most confident with the Red Snapper dish as she's practiced it before she got there. Brooke says knowing the next dish could be the deciding factor is weighing on her nerves. Richard Blais notes that there are a lot of pressure cookers being used, but he says it's smart if someone is doing a braise. There's a quick review of previous TC Winners, showing what they've done since they won Top Chef. In total, they've opened 17 new restaurants among them.
Padma interviews the winners. Richard Blais says he's the only one at the Winners' Table who will know how both of them will feel tonight - but the verdict either way will be life-changing.
BROOKE (4th COURSE) - Braised Pork Cheek & Red Snapper wtih Collard Green Slaw & Sorrel Purée - Hugh said the snapper is perfectly cooked, and if collards are the new kale, he's all for that. Tom said he liked the combination of the pork cheek and snapper, the sorrel brings a nice brightness to it, and there's a bit of crunch with the pomegranate arils. Emeril liked the sorrel addition. Gail likes the play between the pork and snapper. The TC winners all seem to like it a lot as well.
KRISTEN (4th COURSE) - Red Snapper with Leeks, Little Gem Lettuce, Tarragon, Uni & Shellfish Nage - Tom said the snapper is great, there is great depth of flavor in the shellfish stock. Gail said the texture is spot-on. But she found the leeks a bit hard to eat. Hugh said the braised leek was a nice balance with the fish.
ROUND 4 VOTES (first 3 of 5 votes):
Gail - Kristen
Emeril - Kristen
Tom - Kristen!!!
And she WINS!!! Congratulations to Kristen Kish - a Boston chef wins! Woo hooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
And THAT, ladies and gents, is the end to a damn good season. Right up there with TC6 and TC8/All-Stars seasons. Just good cooking, only a bit of drama from you-know-who, and the best two cheftestants in the competition in the finale. This was a good season.
Signing off. I hear they're casting TC11. I've got 6+ months to get my strength back and make sure my remote control battery is working, I guess. ;-)