Our happy new Top Chef!
A wrong has been righted: Kristen Kish is our newest Top Chef! In the finale (which saw the return of Sheldon as one of Kristen's sous chefs and Kuniko as one of Brooke's), the two finalists had to go head-to-head on a five-course menu for a huge crowd, with the first chef to win three courses taking the overall win. I have to admit that while I appreciate Bravo wanting to change things up after nine seasons, I didn't particularly care for this structure or the Iron Chef-like format, though of course it was nice to see the chefs' families cheer them on alongside previous winners (hi Hung and Paul!).
All ten of 'em together. Cute!
Kristen made a chicken liver mousse for her first course that I was drooling over; the judges called it "very simple, very classic, very you" and complimented its "velvety, airy" texture. She took the first round. For the second round, both chefs had to work with scallops; Kristen cured hers and served it with bitter orange, lemon, and apple. Although the judges found the dish flavorful and delicious, Brooke took the round. Part way through the episode, Kristen's journey was played back, and we were reminded how she started with her pal Stephanie but was the only one to make it on the show. There was also a flashback of Kristen sharing her plans to visit her birth country of Korea, saying that she needed to see people who looked like her. And finally, we got a sweet moment with her adoptive father who told her, "Kristen, you're my top chef" when she was first eliminated. Aww.
Back in the game, Kristen served bone marrow with a celery root puree. Although Tom seemed to question Kristen's decision to steam the mushrooms in the dish and Padma commented that she wished the food was hot, Kristen took her second win with round three. The fourth round had both chefs cooking red snapper; Kristen served hers with leeks, lettuce, tarragon, and uni/shellfish nage. The snapper was beautifully cooked with a "spot-on" texture, though Gail found the leeks difficult to eat because Kristen left them long. Hugh disagreed, saying he didn't mind using the knife. The round and the game went to Kristen in an unfortunately anticlimactic moment, though we got to see Kristen's dad tell her how proud he and her mother were. Kristen ended the season saying that she's going to use her win to make herself a better person and a better chef. With tears in her eyes, she thanked Tom for "this whole Last Chance Kitchen thing." And there we have it, our first Korean American female Top Chef! Congratulations, Kristen!
Victory hug/defeat hug
We're still winnowing down the top forty on American Idol; this week the girls were up first. Singing a stripped-down version of Demi Lovato's "Skyscraper" was Juliana Chahayed, a 15-year-old who I don't believe we've seen before (but there are just SO many contestants, who knows). Juliana has five siblings and writes songs with one of her sisters; the family's musical talent comes from their father, who sings in Arabic and accompanies himself on the doumbek drum. Juliana played the acoustic guitar during her performance and took, what I thought were, oddly timed, loud breaths that distracted from her ethereal sound. Keith could tell she was nervous because she was struggling to stay on pitch, but he compared Juliana favorably to Jewel and Taylor Swift. Nicki complimented the fact that Juliana is one of the only people in the group with a signature sound, but since she's "very, very, VERY timid," she might not stand out against the bigger voices. Mariah added that Juliana has an angelic, celestial quality. Unfortunately, Nicki's prediction was right, and Juliana didn't make it through in the end.
Everyone commented on how huge that guitar looks
We've only seen Jett Hermano in little bits on screen until now, but we learned this week that she's 25 and a legal assistant. When she was 18, Jett walked away from a full ride at the University of Washington to pursue her music career. Phew, would not have wanted to be in the room when she had that conversation with her parents. Jett also did a stripped-down piano version of Rihanna's "Only Girl in the World." Keith loved the unique arrangement, saying that she brought out the sexiness of the song. Nicki liked Jett's breathy falsetto, but she was waiting for the climax of the song and never felt it. Randy agreed, saying that he thought Jett would get up from the piano when the tempo picked up. Hmm, you mean like Shubha did last week? Jett also had no luck getting through to the top twenty.
Jett really feels the music
On guys' night, Gurpreet Singh Sarin rocked bright yellow pants and a bright yellow turban, explaining how his turban and beard are part of his Sikh religion. Loved that he was able to give straightforward insight into the Sikh religion on primetime television! Gurpreet sang James Morrison's "Nothing Ever Hurt Like You," and I'm sorry to say that I found the normally affable guy kind of low energy during the song. Keith wished that Gurpreet had whipped out the acoustic guitar like before, and Nicki agreed, saying that there was an intimacy he had earlier that was lost this time around. Randy called the song "terrible," though Gurpreet replied that he respected Randy's honesty. We found out that Gurpreet's father plays sitar and he plays tabla, but despite that and his promise to bring the guitar back, he did not advance.
At least he looks bright and coordinated
Our pal Bryant Tadeo from Hawaii also took the stage. After his intro video, in which he talked about the sand and surf of his home state, it was a little odd to hear him sing "A New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel. Keith said that Bryant really made a connection with the live audience, but it might not have come across on TV. Nicki said she liked his last note, with its falsetto and runs, but she nothing else; Mariah said that Bryant sounded professional and appreciates his raw talent. That wasn't enough, however: Bryant also didn't make it. Man, rough week on Idol for our peeps.
Bryant shows off his great sleeves
Tu also wasn't having a great time on Project Runway. This week, the designers had to design clothes for "mature" clients, and Tu was paired up with Bonnie, a self-described bohemian who seemed like a great match for Tu. But when Tim arrived for his check-in, he noted how "very ambitious" Tu's design was for the timeframe they had. On top of that, we saw another designer who said that Tu "can't sew for sh*t." When Tu once, again didn't, have anything to try on during the model fitting and then had to beg partner Kate for last second aid just before the runway show, doom seemed to be in the cards. The duo landed in the bottom two, and Tu was quick to recognize that the dress suffered from bad sewing. Nina commented on "the overabundance of fabric swallowing her up," and Heidi asked, "What happens if you undo the belt -- will it all fall apart?" Everyone looked horrified when Tu exclaimed, "Yes!" Guest judge Joan Rivers said, "He's 11 years old. You haven't got a f*cking clue in hell who you're designing for." Sounds bad, right? But another team actually messed up even worse, and Tu was safe. Pull it together, man! And not with a thrown-on belt!
The belt holds all the power -- and the fabric
I wish I had different things to say about the Sung Park character on Monday Mornings, I really do. But there isn't much else to report when he keeps getting the same treatment: once again we see Dr. Park treating a patient harshly -- this time a former patient, whose spasms he cured with brain surgery, returns seeking help for a mysterious and constant strong sexual desire. He showed no pity for the woman or her husband, simply saying, "Sex good. Help prostate." The patient decided to sue the hospital for Park's mistake (it's unclear whether an error was actually made by him, since he simply says "Always right" about that and all matters). I had a brief glimmer of hope when we saw Park at home looking at papers the night before the deposition: we see the little girl from the photo on Park's desk, and an Asian woman with no accent shushing her, "Your father's working!" But that was it! Nothing else was revealed about his wife (I assume the woman is his wife) or what the doctor is like outside the confines of the hospital. Nuts.
At the deposition itself, the patient's lawyer started by resassuring Park he could reiterate "if at any time you do not understand my question." I don't mind that Sung Park doesn't speak English well, and I don't necessarily mind that he's very brusque; though the former does not explain the latter, and we get no nuance telling me the show thinks otherwise; Park's only explanation about the woman's condition is "brain mysterious," and the deposition only came to an end when Park exploded, "You should be ashamed! I give you life back, you come back with lawyer for money. Where is your honor?" As if a vague, only semi-relevant mention of "honor" from an Asian American man wasn't bad enough, he spit out "No honor you!" three times, then "Especially you...shame everybody" to the lawyer. I ask again, who wrote this?? This is some Mr. Miyagi dialogue happening right here. The most ridiculous part, though? The senseless shouting worked! The patient came back to the hospital to tell Park that she dropped the suit, she was indeed ashamed, and that she drew a portrait of Park smiling. What is going on here?!! A Korean American man blathering about honor is enough to fix an egregious, sociopathic lack of empathy? Physician, heal thySELF.
The look of a man surrounded by no honor
Bringing me back from the brink was an actual doctor, American theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, who appeared this week on The Colbert Report. Outer space, guys! Let it (and Dr. Kaku's flowing hair) soothe and calm you the way it does for me right now. Ahh.