We start out at the judges’ table with much hype about Nina’s this and Nick’s that and how it’s the closest Top Chef ever. This immediately sends me into panic mode thinking my Xfinity app has skipped to the end and I’ve missed the competition. Then 48 hours earlier flashes across the screen… not a big fan of that trick, Top Chef! We pick up right where we left off, after last week’s elimination. Padma and Tom come to greet out finalists, and Padma announces the final elimination challenge. Both Nick and Nina will take over a restaurant for the night and execute their own menus. I love this finale; it’s very much like Hell’s Kitchen.
To make up for that scare, two great things happen: (1) Padma emerges from the Hawaiian surf in a bikini, (2) in come the former challengers including my favorites, Stephanie Cmar & Janine Booth!
We learn of Nick’s advantage from winning the last challenge and it is a big one. He gets to pick all three of his souf chefs before Nina. Nick’s first choice is Jason, next Louis, and finally Brian. Nina picks Shirley, then Stephanie, then Travis. I’m sad for Janine, but Nick and Nina clearly have no idea how much ass she kicked in Last Chance Kitchen! Padma takes her, Carlos, and Sarah to the beach.
After the big day of cooking, there’s a nice surprise at dinner with the Tom and Emeril: Nina’s husband & brother, and Nick’s wife & mom! Nick’s mom has the perfect Boston accent! Listen to her say “smartest!” I also believe I spotted Nick in a Patriots jersey in some photos earlier in the episode, so he’s gotten a couple points with me.
The day of service arrives. Tom and adorably pregnant Gail visit Nina’s restaurant first. It is named for the island on which her father was born, Canouan. She serves a bread course, then her first course.
Padma, Emeril, and Hugh (for the first time in Hawaii! Hi, Hugh! I’ve missed you!) visit Nick’s restaurant, named Kris for his wife, first. Chef Matsuharu Morimoto is with this group! I’m fangirling. Nick serves his first, then second course.
We go back to Canouan for Nina’s second and third courses.
Then to Nick’s restaurant for the third course and dessert, redemption panna cotta. Emeril’s duck is very clearly very chewy.
From Nina, we get an intermezzo, then a dessert. T.S. Eliot is almost quoted: her meal ends in a whisper, not a bang.
The groups switch and they do it all over again! Gail & Tom and company get to hear Nick audibly freak out. And we’re back at judges’ table!
Nick’s critiques seem to point out some inconsistencies in the services. Nina, who added two courses, is really only judged on the four mandatory courses. The cheftestants are dismissed while the 5 judges debate. They basically decide that Nina’s first two courses were better, and Nick’s second two were better, but with the inconsistencies and five differing opinions, it’s not as simple as all that.
Padma announces the next Top Chef, Nick! Nina, you put up a great battle and made a nation proud.
Congratulation, to the newest Top Chef: Nick!
It’s been SUCH a great season, and I’m so sad it’s over. Now when does season 12 start?!