Top Chef: Texas, Finale Recap

This episode almost killed me, but we’ll get to that later.

Part One: The Souz Chef Battle

The judges bring in an eclectic group of chefs to compete for eight souz chef positions: four for Sarah and four for Paul. Two are Master Chefs, six are previous Top Chef Season 9 contestants, and three are contestants who didn’t make it into the top sixteen during those first couple episodes. Remember Tyler Stone, the cocky dude who couldn’t butcher a piece of pork? Yeah, he was there. After the souz chefs cook for 45 minutes, Paul and Sarah choose their underlings based on what dishes they like. Paul ends up with Malibu Chris (who Sarah says is so hot, she can’t cook around him), Keith, Barb Lynch (a Master Chef), and Tylor Boring. Sarah chooses Nyesha (master of sauce-making), Heather, Grayson, and – get this – Tyler, the young whipper-snapper.

“I’m not letting you butcher,” says Sarah.

Please do, Sarah, because then this show would be off-the-charts funny.

Part Two: Paul vs. Sarah

This is Restaurant Wars all over again. Both of the final contestants must operate inside two of Canada’s finest restaurants, create a four-course menu, and prepare to serve 100 guests in one evening. Everything needs to be perfect because THIS WILL DETERMINE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. Just kidding. (They think so, though.) Sarah aims to create food that’s totally outside of her comfort zone, while Paul’s sticks to his comfortable Southeast Asian roots.

Sarah’s got herself a great team of gals she can count on, but that Tyler kid keeps getting in her way with all his ‘expertise.’ All the girls are stirring, stirring, stirring like madwomen while Tyler’s off in La La Land. This is when Grayson steals the entire show by busting out the best line in Top Chef history: “We’re just gonna jam out with our clams out while Tyler does whatever he does.”

Meanwhile, Paul’s struggling with a team that knows very little about Asian food. He’s going to have to train them on everything. Time to step up to the plate, boy. Paul takes charge of the kitchen, earning him deep respect from Master Chef Barb who’s proud to work under him. Wow. With two hours left to go, huggable Keith finds out that the crabs taste a little funky because they were sitting over night. There’s no time to freak out, so Paul immediately switches to the back-up prawns that he bought at Whole Foods earlier. Whew, crisis averted.

Part Three: The Service

Sarah’s menu:

1st course
Pasta with prawn tar tar

2nd course
Rye bread-crusted steel head trout with fennel and beets

3rd course
Brasied veal cheek with crispy sweet breads

4th course
Hazelnut cake with white chocolate ganache

Paul’s menu:

1st course
Chawan mushi with edamame, pea shoots, and prawn

2nd course
Lu de mer with clam dashi

3rd course
Congee with uni, kale, and smoked albacare

4th course
Coconut ice cream with puffed rice and foam

Problems: Sarah’s fiance finds some bones in his fish, and huggable Keith overcooks the second batch of Chawan Mushis. Ugh. I don’t care how much Keith resembles a bear; he just ruined Paul’s chances of winning Top Chef.

Part Five: The Judges’ Table

It’s around 5 am. The chefs’ friends and family surround them in a semi-circle. Sarah’s crying and Paul looks like a lost puppy. Tom is a huge fan of Paul’s execution, but the second batch of Chawan Mushis weren’t jiggly enough. Padma thinks Sarah’s white chocolate ganache was the best dessert she’s had on Top Chef so far.

“There were strokes of genius,” a judge says about Sarah’s menu.

Another one claims Paul’s dinner was a “sexy meal.”

Then something spectacular happens. Padma looks Paul dead in the eyes and says, “Paul, you are the winner of Top Chef.”

At this point I am jumping around the room, fist-pumping like crazy, and I just barely miss seeing everybody cry at the end. Paul’s crying, Sarah’s crying, Paul’s parents are crying, and his girlfriend is crying. Who isn’t crying? And somebody please tell me I’m not the only one who did a jumping tour de force. Now, if Paul only wins that James Beard award, I swear my life will be complete….


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  • Miss She

    You were not alone in your jump-fest. I was so happy that Paul won — it redeemed what was mostly a dull season with too many team challenges. And yippee — a Texas Chef won Top Chef: Texas

  • Amen, Miss She. And thanks for stealing my name!

  • JT4242

    I had the pleasure of eating at Paul’s restaurant, Uchiko, last weekend in Austin, and (no exaggeration here) it was the BEST sushi I have ever tasted. I am from Tampa, Florida, so seafood was huge in my upbringing, but I have never tasted anything like this in my entire life. He absolutely deserves the win. So excited!

    P.S. I’d argue that Grayson’s “best line in Top Chef history” comes right after Fabio’s “All she makes is scallops. Scallops, scallops, scallops. This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop!” (in Italian accent of course).

  • VM

    I’ve eaten at Uchiko my last three trips to Austin, including last weekend. Paul was out working the room and you just knew he had won, but was holding my breath when the announcement came. One of my all-time favorite restaurants.

  • @JT4242 and VM, I’m planning on making a trip to Austin JUST to eat at Uchiko and East Side King (his food truck) very, very soon.

  • Scagnetti

    Is there a grip assigned to featuring Padma’s scar in the highest sheen?