Screenshot: Bravo

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. 

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  • Oh, if you could only hear the “WHAT” that resounded through my apartment when Padma called out Chicago Joe’s name first...and the sigh of relief when I realized he was going on to the finale. Y’all, I’ve been watching this show for a large fraction of existence; I’ve rewatched these episodes more times than I’d like to admit; I’ve recapped this damn show for two seasons now; and I still friggin’ fell for it.
  • Padma, you’re killing me. Now put ‘em up!
“Hey, no harm, no foul.”
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • Good point, Cowboy Padma. Just stop saying “Joe Flamm” like it’s one word and I’ll let this here spat settle.

  • Hey! We’re in Assssssssspen. Can we take a moment to appreciate the Dumb and Dumber reference in the episode title? No? The French are assholes? Daniel Boulud would beg to differ. Ludo Lefebvre? Not so much.
  • Sorry.

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  • Quickfire: I typically hate challenges that task the chefs with, well, not cooking, but I’ll always appreciate the catch-your-own-fish challenge. Not only is it a bitchy variation on “you’ll have 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods,” but it also ensures chefs can’t take any shortcuts. This particular challenge takes it a step further: If you can’t catch a trout in the allotted time, you have to cook canned fish, which, for a seafood chef like Adrienne, is a punishment worse than death. Chicago Joe, or JoeFlamm as Padma would say it, catches one almost instantly, with Joestachio close behind.
  • “I am a bear in its natural element,” says Joestachio after catching a fish, to which I say no, Joestachio, you are not a bear and I will not suffer this revisionist history. The only honorary bear is Fati, who is baby bear.
  • Adrienne struggles, but eventually reels one in with only 20 minutes to go. As such, her “barely cooked” fish is inedible; as guest judge (and Top Chef Master) Chris Cosentino politely informs her, non-bear den bears dump in that water, and you gotta cook that shit out.
  • Or maybe it just needed a little lime?
Groucho Sam
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • The thing is, had Adrienne cooked her fish properly she’d have probably won, as Cowboy Padma and Chris “Maybe Related to Bethany?” Cosentino were enamored with both her sauce and her fish skin. Instead, JoeFlamm wins and, as a prize, gets first pick at a sous chef for the elimination challenge.
  • Elimination Challenge: For the first time ever, the chefs are given a glimpse of their winning prize by presenting at Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic. On the guest list is a rogue’s gallery of Top Chef Masters, former judges, and all-around culinary daddies (seriously, no ladies?). Hunky non-chef Curtis Stone is there, as is Jonathan “Obi-Wan” Waxman, the Voltaggio brothers, and Tim Love, who always comes across like a royal snot-boy. Daniel Boulud is also there, which is a big deal, and I’m just assuming John Besh was, again, edited out.
  • If so, I give their editing around John Besh the following score:
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • The sous chefs on hand are the last three eliminated chefs: Carrie, Chris, and Bruce. Joe picks up Carrie, and he splits up Bruce and Joestachio, as both are pasta wunderkinds.
  • There’s a few caveats to the Food & Wine challenge, namely that they must cook a vegetarian dish and that their only heat source is a “cowboy cauldron.” When one passionate Twitterer decided to attack Tom for this particular wrinkle, saying he “can’t imagine anyone is overly versed with that heat source,” Tom replied in classic Tom fashion.

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  • Attaboy.
  • That said, the cauldrons do pose quite the challenge, and Adrienne especially finds her dishes in peril. But it can’t all be blamed on the cauldrons; Adrienne overdid it in a challenge that serves over 200 people. JoeFlamm, on the other hand, describes it as an “exercise in clarity,” having led him to focus on simple, concise flavors. His chilled baby zucchini with hazelnut, mushroom vinaigrette, and goat cheese marks him as the first cheftestant to head to the finale.
  • Despite Adrienne’s flubs, the creativity of her dish—especially the corn coconut milk champagne dashi—is enough to keep her in the game. Joestachio had a good run, and his beet-centered carpaccio dish was mostly successful, but Tom had simply had enough of those crystals. “I don’t get the crystals!” Tom screamed. “Enough with the crystals!” Okay, I made that last part up.

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Screenshot: Bravo
  • Or did I?
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • So it’s down to Chicago Joe, a culinary chameleon versed in elegant Italian, and Adrienne, a technician who’s just tapping into her passion for elevated Southern fare. Those are two cuisines I want to see square off. Also, the “next on” reveals that there’s no bullshit gimmicks, no live cook-off—just cook the meal of your life. That’s how it should always be done.
  • I didn’t get a screenshot of JoeFlamm celebrating, so here’s a photo of him looking like, as he put it to me on Twitter, “a bag of dicks.”
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • I just feel the need to say again that this season produced the most amicable, likable chefs of perhaps any season. Sure, Claudette and Tonya bristled a bit, but, by and large, the biggest villain this season was fucking Logan Paul. Seeing the camaraderie between the two Joes and Adrienne at the top of this episode was genuinely sweet. Friends 4 lyfe.
  • Or am I wrong? Was there a villain this season? What do you think?
  • On that same line of thinking, who’s your favorite? Is there a chef you wish had made it further? Honestly, I wish Tu had had more of a chance to shine. Dude seemed legit.
  • I loved that Bravo kept in Adrienne’s bit about how several of the visitors assumed her sous chef, Bruce, was the executive chef. If there’s one truth that the Besh/Batali/Bastianich situations have proven, it’s that sexism in the kitchen is still a very, very real thing.
  • “The bread needed nourishment.” Thanks to Daniel Boulud, this is how I will criticize all food from now on. “The ___ needed nourishment.”
  • Next week on Top Chef: Tom says this is the best food that’s ever been cooked in a finale, which I’m pretty sure he’s been saying ever since season nine.
  • Also, Fati’s back!
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • Love you, Fati.