Spoilers ahoy, so if you haven’t seen the episode and wish for suspense, stop reading after this sentence.
OK, that was a fun episode. This morning, as I sit and ponder, I want to overanalyze the Bravo Editing Machine, which really made it seem like Kevin was going home tonight—lots of Kevin interview clips, implying this was the last time we’d see our guy, and weaved-in Kevin comments about his confidence with local food and how sad it will be when someone from this talented group of four has to go home. And then there was his tinny brisket. You got me, Bravo. I was freakin’.
And after last night, I cringe once again, wondering what or who turned the Brothers Voltaggio (even Colicchio called them that last night, heh) into who they are. I mean, sure, the Bravo Editing Machine is on full-throttle now, playing up the sibling rivalry in any way it possibly can, but Michael especially seems like he doesn’t need much coercion to mouth off or be a schmuck toward his bro. Michael is just straight up angry.
To backtrack and set the stage, we find ourselves in the Napa Valley in autumn for the Top Chef Season Six finals, and it opens at an idyllic country train station. The verdant scenery is immediately obscured by a strange parade of whack hairstyles and fashion accessories. My girl Jen looks to be sporting a day perm. Kevin has grown his hair out in the back and wisely kept his talk piece red beard, albeit trimmed down a bit from lumberjack fulsomeness. Bad BroVo Michael is without his ubiquitous cap. And Good BroVo Bryan appears last, carrying an enormous umbrella. I didn’t picture him as an enormous umbrella guy.
And then … Padma with bangs! No, ma’am, they do not work. Bad stylist idea. And she’s in virginal white, with her pregnancy showing obviously. She thanks the contestants with a guarded, contralto edge to her voice when they congratulate her on her mystery baby.
So down to work they go, back into the swing of competition after a lengthy break. For the Quickfire Challenge, they must make a dish using Napa’s signature crop—the grape. The twist? They must cook on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Kevin has motion sickness issues, poor guy. And he makes dessert—no! Will the contestants never learn that dessert is the curse of Top Chef? Bad BroVo hogs the best prep table, natch.
Everyone does reasonably well—guest judge/Top Chef Master/Napa restaurateur Michael Chiarello wishes Kevin’s honey and fromage blanc mousse had been shown more “grape love,” and that Bryan had used something more local than standard Concord grapes. Jen’s chicken livers are so good that Chiarello says he might swipe her idea for his menu, and we’re so sure for an instant that she’s gonna win that third-gen Prius, and we’ll get to see her weary winning smile once more. But, no. Bad BroVo snags the win for his all-grape-all-the-time concoction that included leaves, tendrils, vines, and vinegar. Cut to a smug BBV in interview mode, pronouncing it his immediate intention to win the elimination challenge.
Which is as follows: Cook two dishes—one vegetarian, one not—for 150 people at Napa’s Crush Festival, using only local foods, save for salt and pepper.
Off to the farmers market, then to the kitchens, with five hours to prep. Kevin chooses brisket, but then realizes he doesn’t have enough time to braise it to tenderness. Yeeike.
Everyone makes a strong showing, though each falter in some way, too. Cocky BroVo feeds pregnant Padma a slightly undercooked egg in vegetable pistou, not smart on a couple levels, yo. Jen regresses to her stressed-out ways, neglects to tend the embers in the wood-burning grill, and resorts to duck confit rather than grilled duck, which would have given the dish the smokiness she hoped for. Kevin’s carrot and beet dish incorporates the carrot tops into a puree, which Chiarello calls “brilliant.” But though the pumpkin polenta on his meat dish sings, his beef gets the thumbs down from Colicchio. Brian’s goat cheese ravioli with basil and mushrooms, and his short ribs with squash, are a bit off-kilter in the seasoning department, though Gail in particular swooned for the ravioli.
And down to the nail-biting moments. Colicchio commends these four on their professionalism during the season (if you remember foul-mouthed Season Four, in particular, you’ll know what inspired this comment). Then the judges offer disparate opinions on everyone’s food, even in front of the chefs. I think for sure Kevin has really blown it when he won’t own up to the fact that his ropey brisket wasn’t as tender as it should have been. In the past the judges have pounced on hubris. But when they don’t, and they over-emphasize the fact that Jen flubbed her intentions to grill the duck, I know the show’s producers have made a decision about who’s to go home—whether the judges have or not. It’s the cuddly Atlanta bear vs. BrosVo.
Despite Bad BroVo’s obvious command of technique, his execution missteps cost him victory. Bryan wins. Yes!
And my girl Jen is told to gather her cutlery and make tracks. Sigh. She was on and off and off and on her game, but I’m sorry to see her go. Her tears at the end make me think the producers provoked her with sad questions, boo. I told a friend last night that I want to make a trek to where Jen cooks in Philadelphia to taste her food— not an impulse I often get from watching this show.
Jen’s loss, of course, means that Kevin makes it all the way to the top three. What are your thoughts, gang? Do you think our man has a chance to claim the win for Atlanta?