Thursday, March 31, 2011

'Top Chef' All-Stars, the finale: The restaurant of our dreams

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 10:54 AM

  • Courtesy Bravo TV
The restaurant of your dreams!!! From the get go, putting aside my...ahem...lackadaisical (?) attitude towards the season, there's been something personal about this dumb show for me. Why? Because despite everything, I still think Richard Blais should have won Top Chef. Since the beginning.

Maybe it's my Atlanta bias. After all, I think Kevin Gillespie should have won his season as well. But it's more than that. Richard Blais, despite his tenure in this town long before I ever arrived, is the chef I've had the most interaction with, and I don't mean personal (I kinda met him, once. It was odd and awkward). I reviewed Element right before he left to do Top Chef the first time around. I watched that season with a rabid fervor. As a critic, this dude is exactly what you hope for. He's brilliant, and imperfect, and frustrating, and his food has a style and tension that makes for good subject matter. Right now, in the midst of the worst dry spell (of things to write about) in my restaurant reviewing career, I would kill for a character with the talent and drama of Richard Blais.

After Element, I reviewed him at Home, right after he returned from his near-win on his season of Top Chef. He was the first chef I followed through a few places, and actually bought into his cooking enough to care. I wanted his best. I had tasted it. I had seen in on TV. I wanted to see it in real life. I still want to see it.

Apart from all that, Richard was a columnist for me for some time. In that time, I think we each grew to love and hate each other in a new and interesting way. I loved him because his writing was, much like his cooking, brilliant and elusive. I hated him because it was so damn elusive. Sometimes lazy. Always worth more than I paid for it.

When I heard him say on the finale last night that he already had restaurants but he wanted some place where "You come in and I cook for you, my style," I said, yeah, me too. I want that. I've been wanting that for years.

And so, for this finale, we get to breath a sigh of relief that for once there was no tricks or gimmicks, that they would let the chefs just cook. My only ongoing sadness is that Isabella was the competition. Especially when the other chefs came into the kitchen and I saw Dale. It should have been you, Dale!

Only choosing sous chefs from their cooking alone was the kind of twist I deem interesting and cool, not obnoxious and lame. When they were tasting the food I shouted from my couch, "Richard! Look for the gnocchi!!" But alas, no Fabio Richard reunion happened. Even so, there's no doubt Richard ended up with the better team. And it's interesting that both Carla and Antonia got picked. Maybe there is something to this crazy thing called judging and stuff.

Um, Tongue in Cheek is a really good name for a restaurant. Tongue AND cheek? Not the same.

It was nice to see Blais bring out his old classic, oysters and pearls, for an amuse. From there it just seemed to get better. Hamachi and sweetbreads? Yes, please. When it looked for a moment as though the ice cream was going to do him in I thought, Jesus. For RICHARD GODDAMN BLAIS TO GO DOWN ON A FOIE GRAS ICE CREAM WOULD BE SO RIDICULOUS AND BEAUTIFUL I CAN'T HANDLE IT.

What to say about Isabella? Look, I don't like the guy. Why bother pretending to give him serious consideration? I think his food sounded nasty. Chocolate vinaigrette? Gross. And in the stew room even Blais just seemed disgusted with the dude's "confidence and swagger." Why, at that point, would you still be talking shit? It's just disgusting.

Can we now please say that yes, asking the chefs to cook the food they actually wanna cook is the best way to go? I was more interested in the food that was cooked last night than any other food from any other episode, because there was no dumb superglue challenge or mutant zombie curve ball.

Through it all, and despite my utter lack of respect or sense of seriousness about this show and this season, I am so damn happy to see Blais get the win. My only sadness is that I swore that if he lost I'd never watch Top Chef again, and now I don't have that excuse. But it's worth it. Congrats, rB. You did us proud.

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