Finally, finally, finally, we are in Singapore, which means Top Chef viewers are now only one episode away from being able to reclaim their lives and try to forget about Angelo’s fermenting Asian “passion.”
The first installment of the two-part finale kicks off in a street market, with all of the chefs wearing shorts. Ed tells us that he takes what he does very seriously. Kevin describes how his wife’s fetus is pummeling her from the inside. Angelo’s passion simmers. And then Padma introduces us to Seetoh, the “king of Singapore street food!” He leads the contestants around the market and they taste a lot of food and are introduced to an old man who’s been “frying the same noodles for the past 40 years.” Which is about the same amount of time it will take to forget seeing Angelo ask Ed, “Do you like black cockles?” and Ed replying, “Not as much as you do.”
For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs are told, unsurprisingly, to cook street food using a bunch of local ingredients. Angelo freaks out because, despite being “100 percent Asian inside,” he can’t read the names of the ingredients, which are listed in Cantonese Chinese. Kevin freaks out because he’s never, ever used a wok. And everyone sweats a lot.
Padma and Seetoh arrive to taste the dishes. Padma berates Kevin for never having used a wok before: “What’s WRONG with you?” she demands, going into high Mean Girl mode and giving us a terrifying glimpse of the sort of shit her high school classmates had to put up with.
Seetoh pronounces Ed’s stir-fried noodles with black pepper sauce and steamed lobster the best of the lot. Ed wins both the challenge and immunity, and Angelo takes in the news with a look that suggests extreme constipation.
For the Elmination Challenge, the chefs will have to work together as a team to cater a party for 80 hosted by Food & Wine editrix Dana Cowin. There’s just no escaping that Dana, who at this point in the show’s history has become as much of a constant as Whole Foods exterior shots and corporate product placement.
What follows is predictable sniping between Ed and Angelo, who takes to making such
Jack Handey-worthy pronouncements as “Everybody’s hearts are on the line. This could be our last beat.” Also, he claims he didn’t want Ed’s lousy immunity anyway because “it’s a double-edged sword.” Instead, he promises, “the spark in the forest has been set, and those flames are going to be burning!” Guurl!
Aside from Ed and Angelo’s bickering, which in light of Angelo’s earlier pronouncement takes on a strangely homoerotic urgency, kitchen preparations are mainly tension-free. Except when Kelly decides to open a tin can with a chef’s knife, and then the camera cuts to big splotches of fresh blood on the floor. Thanks.
After their prep is finished, the chefs go prawn fishing. It’s wonderful.
On the day of the soiree, a bunch of glittery people show up to attend what must be one of the most boring “parties” in recorded history, since all they’re allowed to do is sit at a table and eat while their hostess sequesters herself at the grown-ups’ table with the rest of the judges. In the kitchen, the chefs cook their dishes a la minute and struggle with the confused waitstaff. Kevin has a moment of suspense when his cockles won’t open. And then they open. And that’s about as suspenseful as the whole challenge gets.
At the judges’ table, everyone has wonderful, orgasmic things to say about Ed’s sweet and sour pork with crispy rice and banana fritters, the latter of which make all the ladies at the table start heaving their bosoms; Tom declares them “perfect stoner food.” They like Kelly’s chilled cucumber yogurt soup but find the fish to be a bit too grainy, and think her seared prawns could use more heat. Kevin’s 63-degree egg and congee gets big props, though Seetoh wants more crunchy elements. And Angelo’s lamb tartare is a big hit, but his spicy shrimp broth is on the salty and saucy side.
The judges declare Ed the winner for the second time in the episode. He’s happy, though mainly it seems because he’s “beat Angelo twice at his own game.” Angelo, for his part, is weeping openly while he waits for the judges to tell someone to pack up their knives and go. When Kelly’s told that she’ll be going home, Angelo continues to cry, though not for Kelly, but for himself, because he’s getting to realize his destiny, his fate, his entire reason for existence. And we’re left to wonder: We know that Angelo will cry for himself. But who will cry for Angelo?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 9, 2010