Top Chef Masters Finale Recap: Going out with a Whimper

The pain is finally over after months of watching Top Chef Masters. Remarkably, this was the most boring, least stressful finale I’ve ever seen on Top Chef (I blacked out during Just Desserts, so maybe that was worse). No games, no hoops to jump through, just an abundance of time to make three courses for twelve people.

Following the classic finale format, each chef was tasked with making a food memory, the dish that made them want to be a chef and the final course was critic’s choice. So after some knife block work, everyone got paired up. Toss in their sous chefs being the executive chefs at each of their restaurants, this looks a lot more fair than most Top Chef finales. No one was infected with plague, no one got screwed over by a random forced fourth course or had to deal with environmental changes.

Well, Floyd had to deal with traffic after wasting nearly all of his prep time riding in a car. Mary Sue played it safe and bought all of her product at Whole Foods before rushing back to the kitchen. Traci checked out some other proteins but couldn’t find the duck she wanted. Maybe I spend too much time in my own kitchen, but I just couldn’t get into the episode when the chefs have EIGHT HOURS to prep a meal for only a dozen people! It’s just like Just Desserts when people bitched about “only” have four hours to bake a cake.

Get over it.

Mary Sue shows off some smart thinking by making a soufflé test run during prep, but I’m still wondering what everyone ate during 8 hours of cooking in the kitchen. Then Curtis kidnaps them and makes them a meal. How exciting.

Thirty minutes later, and more commercial breaks than needed, it became obvious that Magic Elves were doing all they could to stall for time. Nothing happened in this episode! NOTHING!

The guests got revealed as a bunch of Top Chef alumni like Tom Colicchio, Jon Waxman, Rick Moonen and Susur Lee. Oddly, Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelson are no where to be seen. You’d think the last two masters would be there.

For the first course, Floyd presented a simple upma polenta, a snack he often ate after school that was brave in its perceived simplicity. Mary Sue comes from left field with an Asian steak tartare from memories of Christmas that was good, but not great. Traci’s shrimp creole was based off her grandfather’s recipe and was boldly deconstructed but lacked spice. No one seemed to really win this round, but Floyd’s seemed to lose the least.

The second course was inspired by the dishes that made everyone want to be a chef. Floyd’s rice flaked snapper wasn’t bad, but the rice got chewy. It was inspired by a business lunch he went on as a child. Mary Sue honored her mentor with a duo of shrimp that seemed way too heavy with the shrimp and chervil mousse stuffed rigatoni. Traci continued her surprisingly lackluster performance with roasted quail and sweetbreads that was good but didn’t blow anyone away.

The final round was the critic’s choice. Floyd had to make James’ rendang of oxtail and shortribs. It had some good level of spice but probably got shortchanged by Floyd getting stuck in traffic so long. Mary Sue avoided a lemon soufflé fiasco for Ruth that was considered one of the best dishes of the evening. Finally Traci was to make fried duck for Gael but went with a duo where half of it just fell flat.

In a twist of irony, it seemed like no one really won. Traci’s dishes weren’t that exciting even if she is the most distinguished chef remaining. My personal favorite, Mary Sue, hit some hurdles along the way as well. So in a move that seem like a surprise made of indifference, Floyd was crowned Top Chef Master for making a dish that sucked the least.

I’m sure everything made was better than what I could do, but for a finale where these are the supposed to be the best dishes you can make, it was a let down. At least I know get a break from Top Chef after covering it for a year straight. I finally have my Wednesday nights back!