Tuned In

Top Chef Watch: Asian Flu

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Spoilers for the finale of Top Chef DC coming up:

Top Chef DC ended its run in Singapore, but it started off in our nation’s capital, and it tried to structure its challenges around Washington, its culture and its politics. So it’s fitting that the end of the season should come down to a choice among flawed candidates, and that the main drama should come from healthcare.

I’m assuming that we’re all familiar enough with the wonders of reality-TV editing that no one was surprised when Angelo miraculously arose from his sickbed and was able to complete the finale. (Though I would not have been very enthused to be a judge having to eat food he came in contact with.) It would have been bad news for the show to lose him on the verge of the finale—the Asian-influenced chef getting a chance to compete on his culinary home turf.

Still, his having to spend a day out of the kitchen while sous-chef Hung shopped, prepped and cooked for him seems like it would put an asterisk next to his performance win or lose. I mean, I can hardly say that being out of the kitchen was an advantage for him, and maybe he can point to this handicap as the reason he lost. (Simply on the menu, frankly, his meal seemed the more appealing of the three.) But say he’d pulled it off and won: could he really call it “his” victory when Hung had done so much of the hands-on work in the kitchen? Granted, it’s common for an executive chef to handle the big-picture planning and leave the execution to others; but that’s not how Top Chef works.

In the end, we didn’t have to worry about that, as Kevin took the title, to which I reacted with a resounding, “Huh.” Kevin has some underdog appeal, and I can’t really argue against his winning. I can’t really argue strongly for it, either, though. And I’d say the same for the final performances of Ed and Angelo, which pretty much sums up this season. They each delivered what seemed like pretty good, not especially spectacular menus; Kevin, in retrospect, appears to have won by not having notably screwed up any of the courses. In summary: Huh. On to the next season.

A few quick shooters:

* Loved Tom’s reaction to Angelo’s labored defense (“”Right, but then you should go back to the salad, which should be crisp and refreshing”) of his cloying cherry shooter: “I don’t think dishes should come with so much instruction.” AMEN.

* Ed’s explanation for producing a lame dessert was indeed puzzling—as Tom said, he could have just as well have screwed up any of his dishes as a lemon curd. But I thought the bigger problem was his farming it out entirely to Ilan. “Is a fried banana going to win me the title of Top Chef?” he asked. Well, is having someone else make your dessert going to? I suspect, or hope, that would have been an issue had he ended up producing something better.

* To end on a positive note: I’ve critiqued a lot of the challenges this season, but I really liked the approach of the judges selecting the same proteins for each contestant. Just from the home viewer’s standpoint, giving each chef the same building blocks makes for easier comparisons.

Your thoughts? And who stuck around for Just Desserts?