A good meal is what it’s all about. That’s what it comes down to, and that’s what the chefs had to do: create the best meal of their young lives so far, to try to win a GE monogram kitchen, a $100,000 prize and the title of Top Chef Canada!!
So much happened in the finale episode. Xavier, Trista and David had the chance to try and cook their way back in, using PEI ingredients, while the other finalists judged them with us. They all had a fighting chance and David rocked it, with his aromatic seafood that showed off his creative talent. Jonathan, Carl and Trevor collectively voted for Trista to be back in and cook against them in the competition, and she did make a skilled dish with mussels, but I really believe they were intimidated with having a seasoned chef like David in their midst in the finale. So we chose David, of course!
All four chefs in the finale really deserved to be there, because they are all top notch, but of course only one can be Top Chef, and I was panicked to try and narrow it down. But when the whole meal was said and done, it became clear to us...
The chefs created a four course menu that reflected their cooking styles and passions, and they were evaluated by Lisa, Mark and myself, as well as Guest Judge chef Virkram Vij, Chef de Cuisine at Hockley Valley Resort Michael Potters, and owner of Hockley Valley, John Paul Adamo. What was key for us was meal progression, as well as great taste and technique in every bite.
Jonathan showed great flare, and showed us exactly who he is as a chef by cooking all South Asian food, but for the dessert. He went from a sweetly spiced three part lobster app of mousse, curry and soup, to a braised and slightly fried pork belly salad with Hockley Valley garden vegetables, to a curry spread of coconut rice, spicy seasonal garden vegetables and juicy braised beef shot rib Phanaeng curry. The third course was controversial because he served it family style, but I stand behind his choice because that’s what the food called for in this case, and it was balanced by the other more refined presentations of his whole meal, including dessert, a delicious donut filled with peach preserve, complimented by blueberry ice and peach ice cream. It was a great finish to a fabulous meal.
David took us around Toronto with every course of his menu. He started with steamed pickerel with pickerel bourride, mayonnaise, pickled onions and summer vegetables. This was supposed to be the French inspired neighbourhood of Yorkville, which I don’t completely get, but would have forgiven had the fish been really stand out. In reality it was a bit flat. Next we went to Little Italy for ‘Tuna three ways’ albacore tuna crudo, tuna mayonnaise and ‘tuna of chianti’ poached pork. Of course it looked amazing, because David always has a really imaginative presentation, but again, I think he played it a bit safe with the flavours. Going to Little India was tough for David too because Vikram was there, seeking deep flavour, more than Indian French fusion. He could have sold us if it just had that certain pizzazz, but it came up short. I can only imagine how he felt getting voted out of the competition, then winning his way back in and fighting for the title under pressure. I’m confident his food is of the best calibre, but this wasn’t the ideal meal for David. Except for his dessert. His corn pudding was a knock out in every way, and showed us how a chef’s mind takes a brewing notion and develops it into a refined food sensation.
Overall Trevor did great and really impressed us with how he’s grown over the competition. He started out lame though, bringing a little, simply prepared, one bite amuse to the table. It was too insignificant for only four courses. He took us on a great journey though with his melt in your mouth char dish and it was all up hill from there. His ‘veal doppleganger’ roasted veal loin with mushroom farce and braised veal shoulder ravioli, had Lisa bowing down to him and had all of us seriously considering him for the top title. His dessert was really good too, considering where he’s gone with desserts before. I like his blueberry tart a lot -- but it was no corn pudding!!!
And that brings us to Carl, who you all know by now is the winner. Yes, he threw us for a loop with his third ‘course’, a sorbet that didn’t fit expectations of this challenge, but did in fact taste great. I would rather have not seen a ball of ice at that moment, but I understand his reasoning as far as meal progression goes, and frankly, everything else prepared was so top notch he really did call out for being named Top Chef. From the local smoked trout salad, to his perfectly cooked elk loin to his sweet and delicate peach cobbler with brandy caramel sauce, spiced ice cream and candied walnuts, Carl’s talent and passion shone through.