Top Chef Masters: Something Borrowed, Something Sous
By Graham Kates
September 26, 2013
Photo by: Bravo
Who will win the Top Chef Masters finale? Will it be Bryan Voltaggio, who famously lost to his own brother in a finale of the original Top Chef? Or maybe Jennifer Jasinski, who, after nearly getting kicked off the show a few episodes ago, has become a weekly winner down the stretch? Or Douglas Keane, whose has consistently found himself among the judges favorites week after week?
The finalists are first brought to a large church-like building, totally empty except for host Curtis Stone. He seats them at a table and informs them that he’ll be cooking for them.
After they’ve finished eating and lauding Stone’s cooking, the host reveals that their final challenge is wedding-themed. They’ll be cooking something old, something new, something borrowed and something sous.
Ah, the final twist.
In “Battle of the Sous Chefs” the final sous chefs each had to concoct a dessert that symbolized their time working with their chef overlords, and that dish has to form the basis for the fourth course of the final challenge.
Keane’s sous chef, Paul Winberry, Jr., lost the challenge, which means Keane is the only finalist not get the help of a sous during the first day of shopping and prep.
He’d later say that’s a blessing in disguise, because it allows him to keep focused all day. He’s so focused, he’s even able to notice tiny details, like the impressive cargo capacity of a sponsor’s car.
“Wow, look at all this space in the back of this Lexus RS,” Keane says as he loads groceries into it. “It surprises me every time I open it.”
But there are some things even a great car can’t provide, like the ability to avoid Los Angeles traffic. Heading back from the grocery store, Voltaggio and sous chef Graeme Ritchie are losing precious time to the LA roads and Ritchie says what everyone else is always thinking.
“Dude, this city sucks.”
Back in the kitchen, Voltaggio, Ritchie and lonely Doug seem totally composed while, Jasinski and her sous chef Jorel Pierce seem a bit frantic. Turns out, Pierce doesn’t totally remember how he made his dessert during “Battle of the Sous Chefs.”
It’s time for judgment and the chefs bring out their first course, something new. In generally, the judges seem pretty happy with all the offerings in all four courses. The winner is going to be separated by the thinnest of margins.
For the first course, “something old,” Jasinski serves a potato sunchoke galette, Keane makes a soup billi bi and Voltaggio’s dish is groat salad with crab.
Next up, for “something new,” Voltaggio makes black cod with dashi, Keane makes soba-wrapped ocean trout and Jasinski makes paella gnocchi with chicken meatballs.
For the third, “something borrowed,” course it's braised beef cheek, New York strip and a seaweed puree from Voltaggio, duck breast with tamarind from Keane and Chinese duck with wonton from Jasinski.
“Something sous” time and it really seems like the whole season might come down to the sous chefs’ dishes. Voltaggio serves up a coconut, lavender, vanilla dessert, Keane’s made a black sesame panna cotta that’s arrived sort of grayish in color and Jennifer serves smoked macadamia with Bavarian chocolate and caramel.
At the judges’ table, the critics have just small complaints for each chef. Voltaggio’s third course had too much meat (apparently that’s a criticism). Jasinski’s dessert was too busy. Keane’s duck was slightly overcooked.
In the end, the title goes to the chef who was most consistent in the episode and throughout the season.
DOUGLAS KEANE WINS!
Keane, cool and collected as always, finds time while celebrating to quote Thomas Paine.
“What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value,” he tells the other cheftestants and the judges.
He talks about facing fears and references the very first episode of the season, when he was the only chef who would not sky dive to save time for a Quickfire.
“I can conquer a lot of fears, a lot of demons. I think I might be able to jump out of a plane now,” Keane says.
The show cuts to one week later, and we see Keane in a small plane, taking the plunge.