It’s the Top Chef Boston finale! Will Gregory or Mei emerge victorious as this year’s Top Chef?
After many, many weeks of competition and eliminations1, we’re finally at the Top Chef Boston finale. Mei or Gregory will be crowned this season’s winner, and it’s down to one final elimination challenge. Mei’s work with Michael Voltaggio (a former Top Chef winner himself) has trained her well, but Gregory’s worked for Jean-Georges, so they’re matched pretty evenly.
The chefs are tasked with cooking one last meal – the meal of their lives. Mei and Gregory are tasked with creating the best four-course meal they’re capable of making. Each chef will be cooking in a separate restaurant’s kitchen, and can choose two sous-chefs from their past competitors. Gregory chooses Doug (another Portland chef) and George (who has good technique); Mei chooses Melissa (because Girl Power) and Rebekkah (who I seriously did not remember from earlier in the season but apparently she has pastry experience so idk).
With one hour to shop in town, the chefs start to plan their final menus. Gregory decides to continue focusing on Mexican ingredients after focusing on his more familiar Asian flavors all season. Mei is reaching into her heritage to do Chinese-inspired dishes that also pull from what’s available at the Mexican market. Mei seems challenged by the way Gregory is challenging himself, and resolves to give the judges the bold flavors they’ve been missing from her all season.
I’m not going to lie to you guys – this episode was pretty chill, as far as finales go. Both Mei and Gregory have fantastic time management skills and picked good teams to assist them, which makes for a great final head to head when it comes to the dishes, but not so exciting when it comes to recapping who did what in the kitchen. Aside from Gregory forgetting to add sugar and vinegar to part of one of his dishes, there are no major errors in the kitchens. Here’s what the chefs presented to the judges:
- Octopus w/ fish sauce vinaigrette, avocado-coconut puree
- Congee w/ carnitas, chili, peanuts, egg
- Duck breast w/, kimchi butter, huitlacoche
- Strawberry-lime curd, toasted yogurt, milk crumble, ice
- Grilled octopus, avocado, prickly pear, passion fruit
- Shrimp broth with green chorizo, cactus, fried shrimp heads
- Striped bass with grilled tomatillo and pineapple
- Beef short ribs with mole, agave sweet potato
In the battle of octopus first courses, Gregory wins by grilling the octopus, although Mei’s presentation is highly praised. In the second course, it’s Mei who dominates – her congee wins rave reviews and it’s easy to see why – it’s packed with all sort of tasty flavors that pair well together to create a complex, home-y dish. Gregory’s choice to keep the shell on his shrimp heads doesn’t sit will with the judges, particularly those getting shell stuff in their teeth.
Third course seems to be the most difficult for both chefs; Mei’s duck is okay, although the judges aren’t as sure as she is that the tastes of kimchi and huilacoche pair together smoothly. Gregory’s failure to add the sugar and vinegar to the sauce for his carrots causes his dish to be out of balance, flavor-wise. This isn’t the time to make mistakes, and something like that could cost him the win. Finally, both chefs present their final courses and knock it out of the park across the board – Mei’s dessert is ranked by Tom as the best dessert he’s ever had on Top Chef, and possible one of his favorite desserts ever. Gregory’s more savory short ribs with mole get similar praise – a strong finish for both chefs leaves them neck and neck in the final judges table.
After much debate over who had the best overall menu, Mei is named Top Chef. Based on both menus and only what I could see, she seemed to be the clear winner, especially when 2 of Gregory’s courses turned out less than stellar-ly. It’s awesome to see another female chef take the crown – here’s to Mei’s next steps.
Next season: Nashville? Some other city? Boston, again, but this time with all the snow? Who knows!