Top Chef Episode 13- Finale Part 1

Top Chef moved out of Vegas to Napa Valley last night for the first part of the two-part finale. Bryan, Jenn, Kevin, and Mike have been the strongest chefs all season and were given the penultimate test of catering a local Crush Dinner Party. Michael Chiarello was guest judge, Padma got bangs….and pregnant, and Gail Simmons stopped by to sit in on Judges Table.

Follow the jump for recap, reaction and Jennifer Carroll’s Blackfish Menu.


Create a dish featuring grapes on the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Guest Judge -Michael Chiarello

Prize – 2010 Toyota Prius

  • The chefs arrive in Napa and wait at a train station -“So…we’re taking a train?”- Mike
  • The Napa Valley Wine Train pulls up and the chefs are given their last Quickfire of the season. They are to create a dish highlighting Napa’s signature crop, the grape.
  • They would cook and serve their dishes on the train which turned out to be a test of space and stomachs.
  • Mike- Grape Leaves Stuffed with “Cous Cous”, Vinegar Glazed Grape and Grape Vine Scallop Kabob. This dish was pretty cool as Mike really took all aspects of the grape and used them on his plate.
  • Bryan- Hen with Brussels, Bacon , and Concord Grapes. Chiarello got on Bryan’s case a little bit for using Concords when so many other Napa grapes were available.
  • Kevin- Honey and Formage Blanc Mousse with Glazed Grapes, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt. The only dessert made during the Quickfire. The olive oil was a nice touch, but there wasn’t enough grape flavor in the dish.
  • Jenn-Chicken Livers , Cabernet Grapes, Wild Mushrooms, and Tendrils. Chiarello announced his plans to steal the dish for his restaurant.
  • Winner: Michael. We are at the point in the season, where no one gets ripped like they used to, so everyone had a chance to win this one. Mike embodying the task and Napa Valley the most to drive away the winner.


Create 2 Dishes for a Crush Party for 150 people.

Guest Judge: Michael Chiarello

Prize: Spot in the Finale: Part 2

  • The chefs were quickly given the task of catering a Crush Party for 150 people. They must create 2 dishes, one vegetarian and one local protein.
  • They are whisked away to an awesome local farmers market and given 5 hours to cook.
  • The Dishes
    • Bryan – Goat Cheese Ravioli, Delecata Squash Puree, and Bronzed Fennel; Fig Glazed Shortribs with Celeriac Puree and Wax Beans.
      The judges were impressed by the execution of his ravioli dough, but thought that both dishes could use a little more seasoning.
    • Kevin- Roasted Beets and Carrots with Carrot Top Puree and San Andreas Cheese; and Brisket with Pumpkin Polenta and Marinated Root Vegetables.
      The judges went crazy over Kevin’s vegetarian dish. They didn’t like the toothsome quality of his brisket.
    • Mike- Vegetable Pistou, Tomato Coulis, 63 Degree Egg, and Fennel; and Turnip Soup with Foie Gras Terrine and Poached Pear.
      Michael’s vegetarian dish was more successful than his protein due to his large, raw eggs.
    • Jenn-Chevre Mousse with Honey Mushroom, Braised Radishes and Basil; and Braised Duck Leg, Confit Duck Breast with Squash Puree and Foie Gras Vinaigrette.
      Jenn’s use of flake salt sank her mousse into a salty oblivion. The judges raved about her duck for its natural duck flavor. Tom did question for Jenn not using the grill because the coals had gone out on her watch. This was after he noted how much he liked the dish. A little odd.
  • Winner: Bryan. He is the Tim Duncan of Top Chef. The Big Fundamental has not been in the bottom of any challenge this season and has quietly coasted to the finals.
  • Coming Back to Broad Street: Jennifer. Issue can be taken ( and I am taking a big spoonful) on why she comes home over Mike. Her duck dish was very well done and better than anything Mike put out. Sure, she may have over salted her mousse, but Mike served raw egg whites. Regardless, Jenn put up a great fight all season and has made Philly proud. She has a great venue to come back to and the future looks bright for her. Congratulations to Jennifer for a great season.

Burning Questions

-Did Jenn deserve to go home?

-Now that she is gone, who are you rooting for? I vote Bryan

Jennifer Carroll Guest Chef Dinner @ Blackfish (Desserts TBD)

December 7, 2009

Foie gras torchon, brown butter, white balsamic, texas shrimp

Nantucket bay scallops, celery root, truffle butter

Pork belly, local mustard greens, golden raisins, cider nage

Unilateral salmon, “beets in forms,” king richard leeks, tarragon cream

Liberty farms duck, cauliflower couscous, duck jus