It felt like we spent too much time with Brooke and Sheldon pre-finale. Sheldon’s ukulele song and Brooke’s happy dancing were admittedly adorable, and it was kind of cool to see where they both work—but did we really need to see Brooke on a date with her husband? Or Sheldon greeting tourists in Hawaii? It also created a weird imbalance when the Last Chance Kitchen winner came in, since we didn’t get to see any home footage of her.
2. Speaking of LCK …
After a seemingly-interminable recap of what happened on LCK (all right, all right, I know some people don’t watch LCK and probably enjoyed the recap), we found out who would be joining the competition. Last we heard it was down to Lizzie and Kristen, and our third finalist is …
KRISTEN!!!!! Aw, yeah. Sheldon, Brooke, and Kristen might just be my favorite final 3 ever.
We got about four seconds to bask in the awesomeness of Kristen returning. Then we found out the challenge: cook a three-course meal in Craft. With Tom expediting. Whoa.
3. First Course
Brooke’s prep immediately went to heck and I was seriously worried for her—we saw in the fried chicken challenge that when Brooke has a bad day, she really has a bad day. Her sweetbreads with beets looked fantastic, but the judges didn’t seem to think the beets belonged there. Also, Hugh had some really specific criticisms of how Brooke prepped and cooked the sweetbreads.
In contrast to Brooke, Kristen had almost laser-like focus—I loved the way she divided and labeled her station. But her chestnut velouté with duck rillettes didn’t seem to be a home run. It was criticized for not having enough acid. To me it sounded like Kristen’s usual elegant food, but I had to admit that I probably would have ordered Brooke’s salad instead.
Or Sheldon’s spot prawn. Seeing Sheldon pull those out of the Craft walk-in made my eyes bug out in envy. Yum. The judges loved the dish.
4. Second course
I’m not sure if I could cook with Tom yelling at me. Yikes. I couldn’t tell if the chefs were really screwing up or if this is what expediters sound like all of the time. Kristen claimed she peed her pants a little. I love Kristen.
Kristen’s entrée sounded ambitious—the lemon curd and tuna wasn’t a combination that I’ve heard of before. The dish sounded well-executed, but it didn’t get my mouth watering like some of the food she cooked earlier in the season. John Besh speculated that the expediter had over-salted Kristen’s dish. I giggled and forgave him for being on the Top Chef All-Stars episode that eliminated Dale Talde.
Sheldon’s quail was criticized for not being “Sheldon” enough. I’m torn about this criticism. My reservation about Sheldon all season has been that he seems to stick to his comfort zone and I liked that he was pushing himself. If the dish had been really good, though, I don’t think the judges would have been talking about whether this dish was “authentic” Sheldon.
Brooke’s short rib looked and sounded amazing. It seemed to be a home run with the judges. Could good food save Brooke from being eliminated for being a mess in the kitchen?
5. Third course
Kristen’s chocolate curry dessert looked nothing like her style. It wasn’t refined, it wasn’t sophisticated—it just looked like a mess! It sounded good, but the judges were clearly as baffled as I was. At this point I started to worry that Kristen would get eliminated, and after all that work getting back in from LCK!
Brooke’s brown butter cake was a hit with everyone eating at the table. It looked seriously yummy and I immediately Googled “brown butter cake recipe.”
Sheldon’s apple and fennel dessert was visually very pretty, but the judges didn’t seem impressed with the raw fennel.
6. The decision
Judge’s Table was painful. I really like all three of these chefs and secretly hoped they might all get to cook in the final meal. But I was definitely rooting for Brooke and Kristen, who have been my two favorites all along.
We heard some pretty harsh criticisms at Judge’s Table. Sheldon got an earful about how his quail wasn’t “Sheldon” enough. Tom said Brooke’s brown butter cake wasn’t a restaurant dessert, which surprised me—everyone else seemed to love it. Hugh described Kristen’s dessert as “a badly-thought-out pot de crême”—as she said, ouch. Also, there was a really awkward moment when Padma said she wanted to take Kristen’s tuna and use it to lap up Brooke’s sauce. Brooke laughed a bit and looked over at Kristen, who was much less amused.
I honestly had no idea who was going to move on. When Padma said “Sheldon” I thought she was going to say “you’re moving on to the finals”—we usually get a fake-out at this stage—but Sheldon went home.
We have an awesome final two, people. I can’t wait for next week!
So who are you rooting for? I’m honestly torn. Both of them cook amazing food; Brooke has a more comforting approach, while Kristen consistently pushes the envelope with sophisticated techniques and ambitious flavor combinations. If I had to pick whose restaurant I’d want to eat in, my answer would change depending on my mood.