Top Chef Blog: Finale
by Faith-Ashleigh Wong
Our culinary adventure ends here, folks. It's fitting that this special Texan-themed season has come down to two Texans. For their final challenge, the final two must create their dream four-course menu in two of Vancouver's finest restaurants. Are you Team Paul or Team Sarah?
Step One: Create the Dream Team
First order of business: Pick your sous chefs by way of a blind tasting. This sees the return of eliminated chef-testants – including three faces from the qualifying rounds – and to mix things up, two James Beard award winners, Marco Canora and Barbara Lynch.
Team Paul: Ty-Lör, Chris C, Keith and master chef Barbara
Paul definitely picked the better team, in my opinion. Keith may have been the first out of the top sixteen to be eliminated but the others more than make up for that. Ty and Chris do both dabble in Asian flavours and how can you go wrong having one of the master chefs on your team?
Team Sarah: Nyesha, Tyler, Heather and Grayson
Of all the "rookies" to pick, Tyler is probably the worse as he never even got past the first ever challenge! The other three will definitely have to carry him. I thought it was really interesting that if you take him and Barbara out of the equation it was essentially a battle of the sexes!
Step Two: Create the Dream Menu
No surprises at all with the theme for both menus. Paul stayed true to what he knows best which is dishes with an Asian and Japanese influence while Sarah drew on her German heritage.
Qi Restaurant: A Twist on South East Asian
I really liked the look of Paul's chawanmushi (egg custard) with spot prawns. Such a shame about the second seating's batch being over-cooked. The grilled sea bass was an absolute hit with the judges across both seatings because of the clam dashi which had an exceptional depth of flavour.
I thought it was really brave of Paul to serve congee as savoury congee is not for all palates. Paul's coconut ice cream with puffed wild rice, candied kumquats, mangosteen, Thai chilli foam and jasmine gelée sounded divine. Putting chilli in dessert is risky but thankfully he got the balance right!
Monte Verde Restaurant: German-Italian Fusion
The creativity behind Sarah's squid ink tagliatalle with spot prawn tartare both impressed and inspired the judges. Her second course – rye crusted trout with pickled beets – was close in concept to Paul's second course with similar components but Paul's broth still gave his dish the edge.
Sarah's braised veal cheeks suffered the same issues like Paul's custard but in reverse. In between seatings, Sarah managed to fix the persimmon sauce so the judges in the second seating got the better dish. Her hazelnut cake dessert was a hit and clearly the dish of the night.
Step Three: Win
Suffice it to say I am mighty pleased with the verdict! The better, more deserving chef won, in my opinion. There is a saying "nice guys always finish last". This is proof that sometimes, with a bit of luck, skill and if you play your cards right, nice guys can also win!