CarlaFan vs Stefan: Top Chef Finale Gamer

It's the finale of Top Chef season 5, and we're here to watch. Will Crazy Carla pull it out? We're hoping. Stefan is the big challenge, but I suspect he has few fans out there. It looked for a moment that he might reproduce Hung's story-arc (hated to beloved and humbled, and clearly talented), but instead he continues to be an insecure prig, and now that he actually feels threatened by Carla, he's been retreating into his lumpy shell—our man Hung would never do that. Hosea's still hanging around, but the big lug just doesn't have the game, and all he worries about is besting Stefan. So we're pulling for the crazy lady. Big time. She impressed Jacques Pepin, and that's enough for us. 

23 replies on “CarlaFan vs Stefan: Top Chef Finale Gamer”

“Big lug” makes Hosea sound, well, likable. But he’s nearly as unsavory a character as Stefan. He’s a mediocrity wrapped in a bald head hiding behind a bad soul patch, and the way he turned on Leah was pathetic. I mean, you can’t explain away screwing around on your girlfriend by being mean to the girl with whom you screwed around, acting like nothing significant happened. Especially not WHEN IT IS ON TAPE. Dumbass.
I hope Hosea drowns in a vat of consomme.

First big error: Carla goes sous-vide, which she has never done, when her strength has been her traditional technique and flavors. spells disaster.
Hosea’s hogging the fancy ingredients. Probably not a good idea to incite Stefan. If he actually cares he’s tough to beat. Better play possum, encourage his complacency.

Im with you SF. Hosea is mediocrity defined, im having trouble rooting for the other two due to Stefan’s insane arrogance and the fact Ive thought that Carla should have been bounced at least a few times earlier in the game. Ultimately its pretty clear that Stefan is the best chef on the show this season though…

Is the Commander’s Palace really one of the country’s most famous restaurants? I pay decent attention this stuff and I dont know it. Perhaps its because New Orleans is one of the few big cities I haven’t visited in the US….

No doubt. Carla drew Jacque Fucking Pepin. Served him squab and fresh peas and he loved it. She’s been on an amazing roll, and whomever calls it “simple” isn’t giving her proper credit. Oyster stew is one of my favorite dishes. It is so very subtle and so easily degraded. She had never shucked oysters, yet she nailed it. She calls it cooking “with love”. Fair enough; I call it “taste.” She has great respect for the ingredients she puts on the plate, and there is talent in doing so that one can’t underestimate. It’s hers to lose.

I think CP is an NO institution.
Good editing leaves us in the dark.
Props to Stefan for taking apart that gator. Yikes. Meanwhile, Marcel the underminer returns (not that he’s wrong.)
Whose seafood carpaccio will win–stef or hosea?
Will carla’s blue cheese dessert backfire. Cringe at the memory of sam’s watermelon and gorgonzola desert in season3.

As predicted, Carla screwed herself with the sous-vide.
Stefan’s desert went over flat.
Looks like Hosea may take it by default, which is sad because out of the 3 he has been consistently the least good.
We’re closing in on one extremely disappointing conclusion. It’s either Hosea for the last meal of Stefan because he’s better. But Tom did not look too inclined toward Stefan. So…..

“Ilan redux”
Hosea annoyed me because of how much of a cheeseball he was, but this is unfair to him. Ilan had a meanness about him that bordered on cruelty.

Nope, it’s not unfair. Hosea’s smarminess and d-baggery were more subtle, more subtextual. But he’s basically a taller, balder, more goateed version of Ilan, a passable chef who won because of one dish. Hosea won because of Stefan’s dessert and his own venison. That’s it. Stefan cooked better than him for WEEKS (as did Carla), and last night Stefan had the better first course and the best main course of the night, according to the judges. So basically Stefan lost because of a dessert that Hosea was too afraid (and maybe smart not to) confront.
(he also lost because clearly he built up too much frustration in Colicchio too, his own fault).

I don’t share SF’s animosity toward Hosea, but this is definitely Ilan Redux, in that the least talented won in a very disappointing conclusion. This was not a strong season for TC, despite some highlights and being in NY. The guest judges were phenomenal, but Toby Young almost obliterated any good will. The contestants never really stood out, until Carla, at the end. Stefan folded on himself. I think the show is always going to have trouble living up to season 3, because Hung was such a compelling figure to watch and genuinely had an arc to his story over the season. It was great tv. Still, without the Wire and with MM on hiatus, it was the best thing going. More Padma. More Padma. More Padma.
PS: I think SF is excessively mean to Hosea. I suspect it’s hard to live in that kind of fishbowl for so long, so I’m willing to make allowances. The Leah thing was a mistake, but that thing can happen in an enclosed, pressurized environment. His biggest problem was his Ahab like obsession with Stefan, the White Whale he did not deserve to catch. He looked to me like a thoroughly competent, and sometimes creative chef. If he wasn’t exactly cutting edge, that’s not a character flaw.

It wasn’t the “Leah thing”, YF, I realize that this is reality TV and shit happens. Rather, it was the petty and obnoxious way he talked about her and to her after the “thing” happened, writing it off as nothing even though it was ON TAPE. He was treating Leah poorly, his offscreen GF even worse. I came to seriously dislike him over the course of the show. His obsession with Stefan was, to me, annoying and predictable, but of little import. You motivate yourself however you motivate yourself, I don’t hold that against him.
The problem (if it is a problem) with TC is structural. The self-stated “rules” of judging forbids the panel from considering the run of cooking done by any given contestant in determining any given elimination challenge. This is fine (and understandable) from a production standpoint: it lends drama to every show, any one chef, no matter how great they have performed, is up for elimination in any given episode. It protects every contestant, so that there is no inevitability. I get it. But it leads to moments like last night and also Ilan. So, in 40% of the seasons the best chef has not emerged victorious, despite losing records. Hosea was pretty much middle ground the entire season, maybe slightly above. Stefan and Carla dominated the show, from beginning (Stefan) to end (Stefan and Carla). They both lost because of a single course in the final challenge. Not sure if TC can change this criterion, but it seems like a massive contributing factor towards these seemingly misguided final results (Ilan and Hosea, to be specific).

Stefan folded on himself.
This isn’t really fair. He made the best hors-d’oeuvres last night with the toughest ingredient (the gator), and the clear, from the judges’ testimony, best main course (the squab). He and Hosea lost to Carla in the second course, and had he just made an above-average dessert as opposed to a shitty one he would have won, Hosea’s avoidance of dessert would have been more in the spotlight had Stefan simply executed that course with a tiny degree of vision. As such, Stefan negated Hosea’s cowardice (smarts?!). But that’s all it came down to, and that’s not “folding”. That is a major exaggeration.

I very much appreciate that y’all are into the “competitive” reality TV thing. It can be trying because, like sports, you can watch someone and root all season long only to see them fail at the end (Colby and the second season of Survivor still burns me). Only 1 out of about every 4 or 5 seasons of reality TV goes the way you want it to (or the way I want it to anyway).
So what’s this I hear about the uncertainty surrounding Project Runway? I love that show!

> Toby Young obliterated
Less Toby, More Tony.
I enjoyed the Eric Ripert/Le Bernardin episode best. Good season. Not great. Maybe because I couldn’t ever bring myself to despise Stefan, which left the show without a Joker.

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