For only the second time in ten seasons, we’ll have a lady Top Chef. Brooke and Kristen are battling it out in front of a live audience of 300, including the previous nine winners and the judges: Emeril, Gail, Hugh, Tom, and Padma. They’ve each chosen three sous chefs from among their previous competition: Brooke’s chosen Kuniko, CJ, and Stefan; Kristen picked Sheldon, Josh, and Lizzie.

Kristen’s not used to plating for 300 people. CJ is burning Brooke’s pig ears.

First course:

Kristen – Chicken liver mousse with frisee, mustard, prune, hazelnuts and pumpernickel. They love it.

Brooke – Crispy pig ear and chicory salad, six-minute egg, apricot jam and candied kumquats. I think this is the dish she got featured in Zagat’s. And why do they have to call it an “X-minute” egg? Why can’t they just say “soft-boiled”? The juges love it, too.

To my surprise, Padma announces that it’s time to anounce the winner of Round One, and that the first chef to win three rounds will be Top Chef. Yikes, I wasn’t paying any attention to the actual comments because I thought they’d be summing all the dishes up at the end! And I’d thought the previous winners were also judging. I’m confused, but I’m thinking they’ll give it to Kristen because they did call Brooke out on the burnt pig ears. This makes the two of them having the same ingredients for Rounds Two and Four even more interesting.

Hugh votes for Kristen. Gail votes for Kristen. Padma says if she gets one more vote she wins the round. And Emeril votes for Kristen! Thanks for nothing, CJ.

During the making of the second course, we revisit Brooke’s journey to the finale. Gail checks in with her family and friends, who are seated at a table fairly close to the front. Her son is passed out in daddy’s arms.

Second course:

Brooke – Seared scallop with salt cod puree, crispy speck (juniper flavored ham), black currant and mustard seed vinaigrette. I think Kristen was right when she said that’s got an awful lot going on for the protein, but it does fit in with Brooke’s stated intention of delivering big, bold flavors. The judges like it.

Kristen – Citrus and lavender cured scallop with bitter orange, Meyer lemon, and apple. The judges love it. Gail votes for Brooke. Emeril votes for Brooke. Tom votes for Kristen. Padma votes for Kristen, so Hugh has the deciding vote. He votes for Brooke. I have a feeling this will happen all over again and the dessert will be the determining dish. That’ll be interesting, since Brooke’s was definitely better last time.

They have 34 minutes to prep Round Three, so they run back to their kitchens. Now we get to revisit Kristen’s journey, and Gail checks in with her friends and family.

Third course:

Brooke – Vadouban fried chicken with sumac yogurt tahini and pickled kohlrabi fattoush. She explains she’s trying to redeem herself from the fried chicken debacle. That doesn’t usually go well, and the judges give mixed reviews.

Kristen – Celery roote puree with bone marrow, mushrooms, bitter greens and radishes. Again with the mixed reviews.

Emeril votes for Kristen. Tom votes for Kristen. Padma votes for Kristen. I’m not surprised. When CJ finds out, he assures Brooke they’ll win Round Four. Of course you will. It’s Round Five you have to win.

The nine previous winners give the finalists advice. OMG, Michael Voltaggio has a nose ring in his right nostril and it is so gross! Maybe if he does go on Arrow, Ollie can off him for failing Top Chef viewers? Then we have a bit of a history lesson for those of us who haven’t followed the show since Day 1. I don’t mind admitting that TWOP is the reason I started watching this show and a couple others.

Fourth course:

Brooke – Braised pork cheek and red snapper with collard green slaw and sorrel puree. The judges love it.

Kristen – Red snapper with leeks, little gem lettuce, tarragon, uni and shellfish nage. Nage appears to be the same thing as a court boullion. I think the judges only like it, but I expect Brooke to win this round so the dessert round will decide. Gail votes for Kristen, and I suddenly notice there’s only three minutes left of the video. Wow. Either it’s going to cut off, or Kristen’s going to take it now. Emeril votes for Kristen. TOM VOTES FOR KRISTEN!!!! I’m not loving his soul patch, but right now, I’m loving him.

Way to go, Kristen Kish. As an adoptee myself, I sincerely hope you find the answers you are looking for in Korea. Congratulations.

Nina Lisa

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