The finalists cook goat and craft cocktails in Guadalajara as Top Chef’s finale approaches

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The finalists cook goat and craft cocktails in Guadalajara as Top Chef’s finale approaches

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Photo: Bravo
Photo: Bravo
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Top Chef

Cooking Away in Margaritaville

Season 14 , Episode 12

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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Eagle-John! It’s time for you to soar! To soar far, far away (and by that I mean Dallas, where you are no longer the most hated chef, but the most redeemed one—or at least that’s what I like to believe). John promised himself that, no matter the outcome, he would take his loss “like a man, with grace and dignity.” Besides the fact that women can also take a loss with grace and dignity, he carried himself well here, despite his claim of being “confused.” For comparison, let us remember his Seattle departure, wherein he gave us a treatise on how he was a good guy to allow Lizzie to use the pickles he reached first—see, they were the mandatory ingredient of their cook-off dish. Man, just remembering that makes me sorta hate him again, but then I remember that John is a dude who’s seen a lot of dark shit and is in the process of bettering himself by transforming from Scorpion-John into Eagle-John and, dudes, Eagle-John soars. Seriously, though, as much as I know John is a brilliant chef, I don’t think anybody saw him squeaking through this final round. This is about Sheldon, Shirley, and, as if we had any doubt, Last Chance Kitchen winner Brooke.
  • Oh, right: Brooke won Last Chance Kitchen, which, though it complicates the narrative she’d already written in her head, seems also to have motivated her. There’s no trace of the bitter, self-deprecating chef we’d seen previously here—Brooke seems fiery, prepared, and, perhaps most importantly, confident. Who else saw her coming back?
  • Quickfire: Goat is one of the most popular local proteins in Guadalajara, where the finale is taking place, so the chefs are tasked with making a delicious dish from it...in the middle of a stadium? I never quite caught the significance of the stadium. I wish some soccer players were practicing as they cooked and the chefs had to dodge soccer balls as they sautéed or whatever. Wait, no, I don’t. That would be awful. That would be the Texas finale. Remember how they had to, like, ski in the finale? God, that was awful. Anyways, the judges come down on pretty much everyone but Brooke, who wins with a rack of goat ribs rubbed with, of all things, chamomile. As someone who eschews ribs for their inherent sloppiness, I’m struck by the marrying of such a subtle flavor with a dish that I’ve always associated with bold ones. For me, at least, chamomile sounds much more appealing than a slicker of Sweet Baby Ray’s.
  • I love goat, though it wreaks havoc on my digestive system. TMI?
  • Elimination Challenge: Maybe I’m mistaken, but I can’t recall a season where sponsored content wormed its way into the finals. Well, being that there’s a first time for anything, the chefs are told to create both a dish and a margarita (made with Patrón tequila, natch) that provide a mellifluous pairing. Again, the challenge is fraught with missteps, whether that be Shirley’s incorporation of vanilla, or Sheldon’s overly sweet octopus dish. That puts Brooke on top again for her chilled avocado soup with watermelon coconut salad. We’ll see just how much her journey mirrors Kristen Kish’s from her previous season.
  • By winning the Quickfire, Brooke was granted first pick from the available sous chefs, which included Casey, Katsuji, Sylva, and, Emily, the clear weak link. She was also given the task of assigning the remaining chefs to the other finalists, an advantage with which she took full advantage. After choosing Casey for herself, she saddled Sheldon with Emily (a sign of what a threat she considers him) and John with Katsuji (a wise move considering the pair’s contentious relationship). Regardless, it was simply John’s cookery that sent him home; Katsuji provided one of his dish’s most memorable ingredients with the chamoy rim he laced around the cocktail. Meanwhile, John’s over here just pouring that whole bottle of Patrón into the pitcher. It’s not the ‘80s anymore, John! Anthony Bourdain’s not here to party!
  • John lost gracefully, but he did commit the cardinal sin of refuting the judges’ criticisms by saying the locals liked it and, ya know, that’s who he cooks for. Both here and in Seattle John made it clear he knows the rules of Top Chef, so he really should’ve known better when pulling that one out. Unless you’re cooking for kids, you’re cooking for the judges. That’s how this shit works.
  • Love the tequila factory, where dudes literally just thrash shit with an axe. Best job ever?
  • Katsuji is so mean. John is so happy to work with him, to reconcile their differences and start anew as friends. Katsuji, meanwhile, is all:
  • Brooke and Casey are the best. They work so, so well together, even after competing so heatedly on Last Chance Kitchen. One of my favorite parts of tonight’s episode was the random tequila tasting. They looked like they were seriously having the most fun.
  • Shout to guest judge Richard Blais, who looks like the evil, infidelitous boyfriend in an ‘80s teen beach comedy.
  • Brooke won a bottle of tequila worth $7,500. I know that they tax contestants on trips and cars and a nonstick pans and shit, but do they tax you on alcohol, too? ‘Cause that would suck for her.
  • Last Chance Kitchen: Oh, shit, LCK is over. Here’s that photo of Sam “Poochie” Talbot with the lime again.
  • Jesus Christ, I’m wistful for Last Chance Kitchen.
  • Remember the rookies?
  • Next time on Top Chef: The chefs get thrown twists that usually happen in the first three episodes of most seasons.



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