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'Top Chef' recap: Singapore showdown

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top-chef-finale

Image Credit: Joan Leong/BravoI’m not sure how you guys are doing, but I’m still coping with Tiffany’s elimination from last week. Why is breaking up so hard to do? Well, for starters, last night proved that there’s very little to like about the remaining four chefs. I’m not talking about their food-making cred — these people are obviously talented. But when you watch a reality competition show, the contestants need to give us something more, a spark that keeps us returning week after week.

And that’s my sob story. But I do still feel the need to throw my favors toward one cheftestant, and for that, I’ve chosen Ed, mostly because he’s the lesser of the evils. Kevin is short-tempered, Kelly is a bit vanilla for my taste and Angelo — well, must I explain?

As for the actual events last night, if you couldn’t tell by the gong sounds, the foursome was finally in Singapore, dressed in their snazziest vacation gear: plaid Bermudas for Kelly, a rather cute hat for Kevin (“You’re going on a safari?” Ed asked), and a really schlubby V-neck and shorts for Ed that actually made me miss his yellow dress.

To get a feel for the lay of the land, they were taken on a tour of Singapore’s famous food carts by “King of Singapore Street Food” KF Seetoh, whose hyperbolic title sounds straight out of the Food Network show Unwrapped (“hot dog aficiando” or “black and white cookie master”). Seeing the cheftestants gobble up the food made me wonder what they eat after a long day of Quickfires and Eliminations. Do they have too much pride to heat up an Ellio’s Pizza?

The food carts were smaller than jail cells, yet Angelo felt the need to muscle his way to the front each time because a finale in Asia was a sign that he was going to win. Whether liking black cockles guarantees a win remains to be seen.

For their Quickfire, Padma, wearing the exact same thing she wore to the Emmys, instructed them to create their own version of Singapore street food using a wok, a cooking instrument that, as Seetoh explained, is a great honor to hold. Angelo’s food fornication must make his wok usage some sort of sacrilege then, right?

Regardless, it was no surprise that Angelo knew how to use a wok (he uses words like wok hei), as did Ed. Kevin had never worked with one, for which Padma inexplicably went all Tyra on him, and Kelly who has little Asian food experience to begin with, also floundered a bit.

The twist was that the labels were all written in Cantonese, so everyone was in the dark, tasting the ingredients in a culinary guessing game, which I understand is tough with a time limit, but it’s been a Quickfire challenge in the past.

Seetoh was the nicest guest judge there ever was, having nary a bad thing to say about anyone’s dishes. Kevin’s seafood stew was complex and sophisticated, Kelly captured the “essence of the ocean” with unusual ingredients that ultimately worked in her Chinese noodle dish, and Angelo recreated one of his personal favorites—chili frog legs—that mastered robust flavor. See? So nice!

Ed won the Quickfire with a stir-fry noodle that lifted up the street food sensation, according to Seetoh. Ed wasn’t afraid to admit that he needed the immunity after being crowned winner, which probably peeved Angelo even more. Though, for all his gusto during the cooking process, Angelo often seems like a scared little child in front of the judges. Wracked nerves do not a quality chef make!

For the Elimination, they’d be working as a team, cooking à la minute for a Food & Wine party. This deep into the season, a team challenge could’ve been more painful than a scolding from Padma. Miraculously, it wasn’t brutual warfare.

Still, the kitchen had its moments. Angelo called upon God, Ed called upon Downtown Julie Brown, and Kelly got a nasty cut and dripped the blood all over the kitchen floor — fitting, since Ed dripped sweat into all of the saucepans.

But there was some sort of collective amnesia everyone fell under, in which they believed making one dish each was enough for 80 guests.

Tom laid into them for it, but Ed was quick to say he was ready with two dishes. Weird, because he told everyone he “personally” thought one dish each was enough. Safe to say, the others were not happy with Ed. But somehow they each had enough ingredients and enough time to make a second dish, and go prawn fishing in a shopping center, which actually looked pretty sad.

On the day of service, besides some stubborn cockles and confused waitstaff (one of whom wrote down an order in “scribbly-do,” according to Angelo), the chefs served the best food the judges have had all season.

Angelo cooked an over-salted spicy shrimp broth and beautifully executed lamb tartare, while Kelly put out a nice chilled cucumber-yogurt soup that had an unfortunate fishy component and a seared prawn that needed some more heat.

Kelly had mentioned that Kevin was her biggest competition and that when he brings it, he brings it. Well, to quote Not Another Teen Movie, Kelly, it’s already been broughten. Kevin nailed his Asian-style clam chowder and, more importantly, the oh-so-tricky 63º egg, a risk that paid off, but sadly for Kevin, not enough.

“Immunity is for suckers,” he said about Ed. Someone’s been drinking the bitter beer, eh? For someone with immunity, Ed pretty much cooked his heart out with “yummy” crispy rice and potato cakes and banana-chili fritters that the judges went gaga over. I don’t think anything has caught the judges’ taste buds quite like those fritters. And something that can unite Tom Colicchio and East Village stoners sounds like first place to me, and with that Ed won round one of the finale.

On the other end, Kelly got the boot, which means the showdown is a boy’s game. I was sad to see a woman-less, and more specifically a Jennifer-less finale last season, but Kelly’s exit didn’t strike me as that shocking. Angelo got all choked up, but I think that had more to do with being grateful he survived than being sad to see her go.

Next week, the top three get some help from past TCers (Hung! Mike Voltaggio!). Plus, Angelo gets violently ill and has to finish his challenge via phone. Okay, who else feels mildly bad about smack-talking him?

What’d did you guys think about Ed’s double win? Do you think he’ll take it all next week? And did Kelly deserve to leave?

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