The final episode of Top Chef World All Stars to be filmed in London opened with some casual time with the chefs, showing us the camaraderie they have. “Good morning, sunshine!” Gabri said to Tom, who came into Gabri’s room and said, “Good morning, gorgeous!” and then messed up Gabri’s freshly-made bed.
In the kitchen, Tom kept that up. Buddha asked—obviously prompted by a producer, and I really wish reality shows would stop doing this—”Tom, what you doing right now?” Tom replied, “none of your fucking business.” Perfect.
Of the four remaining chefs, only four of them would go on to the finale of season 20 in Paris—because they were about to be joined by the second (and final) winner of Last Chance Kitchen.
The actual episode of Last Chance Kitchen, which was on-demand and elsewhere last week, ended with a cliffhanger, ugh!
Its challenge gave Charbel and Sara one hour to make three dishes, with two sous chefs each (Nicole and Sylwia for Sara, Amar and Dale for Charbel).
That meant the one eliminated chef not picked as a sous chef, Victoire, had nothing to do, and just as I said Let her judge! that’s what Tom Colicchio said, too.
Victorie joined Tom and Gail Simmons in tasting and discussing, though Tom and Gail also kept whispering after Victoire left for her seat, so I wonder if that meant the final decision was their decision alone.
Back to the actual episode, the editing tried to conceal the winner for a few seconds, only showing parts of their body, but from the second the shoe came out of the car, it was clear that Sara won and was returning.
“I’m back, bitches!” she said. But would she stay back?
For the final quickfire in London, they had to make jellies. Guest judge Sam Bompas told them, “I’ve been jellying for 15 years now,” which is a lot of jiggling.
Because of the nature of working with gelatin, they had 30 minutes to make their desserts, an hour for them to set for an hour, and then 15 minutes to remove them from molds and plate.
Buddha, who brought his own mold store with him to London, told us, “I love molds, but not a lot of time.”
Tom was making something with goat cheese, which caused me to yell “ew, goat cheese,” and then Tom mocked me from inside the episode: “Oh my god, there’s goat cheese inside!” he said.
Sara insisted “this time I’m not making jiggle juice,” giving us a flashback to Padma’s horrified reaction to her houseboat party Jello shot.
Gabri and Tom ended up in the bottom; Gabri just couldn’t get his jellies out of their molds, so he ended up plating some chunks, while the judges didn’t love Tom’s flavors.
Buddha won, as he “used the mold exceptionally and put smiles on faces,” guest judge Sam said.
Buddha said that’s “three in a row now, so let’s go for another one.” And guess what he did? Yep, he won his fourth challenge in a row, sending him to Paris as the obvious front-runner.
That challenge: create a trompe-l’œil, or a dish that resembles another food, or looks like an object but is actually food. Basically, Top Chef did a savory Is It Cake?
“We want to be fooled; we want to be tricked,” Padma said. Alas, that was either too much of a challenge for three hours, or just a huge challenge, because only two of them got close to that brief.
Then again, maybe they had a lot of time: Gabri said that, on Top Chef Mexico, “We did this exact same challenge, but it was a quickfire challenge.”
The chefs had £300 to spend at Whole Foods, and then three hours to cook at some palace where Queen Elizabeth I became queen. Buddha had an extra 30 extra minutes thanks to his quickfire win.
Perhaps because Gabri had done this challenge before, he immediately had an excellent idea: creating a Scotch-Brite sponge, reflecting his start in the culinary industry as a dishwasher. Perfect.
While working, Sara asked Gabri what they should do when they get to Paris. He said, “French kiss with some random guys.” And he will have that chance, as he was in the top with Buddha.
Gabri served his sponge on a dirty plate, and while the sponge could have looked more refined or matched the proportions of an actual sponge, it still worked.
Buddha’s, though, was easily the best, both in terms of the way he presented it and his flavors. He created a full plate, including a glass of wine that was actually beef and onion broth. Everything on the plate was not what it seemed to be, and Gail Simmons said, “it felt like a painting.”
The others struggled. Ali created a garden, but added a breadcrumb soil that “tasted almost raw,” Padma said, and also had slices of vegetables, which Tom Colicchio pointed out seemed weird. “You don’t see cut vegetables in gardens.”
Sara created a tamale that became matzo ball soup, but added unrealistic molded things at the bottom. She said she “saw everyone else with their tricks” and wanted to do that. While Gail and Tom thought Sara’s was the best tasting, it didn’t have the same visual impact.
Tom created a tin of caviar on a little beach scene, but his caviar, while not actually caviar, was flavored with seaweed and therefore tasted like caviar. Tom Colicchio said he “overthought it.”
The bottom two were Tom and Ali, with Gail Simmons saying “Tom overshot, Ali undershot.”
Ultimately, “overthinking it and really not following through,” as Tom Colicchio said, was what led to Tom’s elimination. I’ll miss his energy and humor.
That means Ali, Buddha, Gabri, and Sara are the final four, heading to Paris for the Top Chef World All Stars finale. Buddha is the clear front-runner, and is gaining momentum as the finale approaches.
But like other competitions that frustrate viewers, it’s judged meal to meal, and there’s still at least one more challenge to get through. That means it’s anyone’s game.