Top Chef Episode 14- Finale Part 2


top_chef_tvLast night was the final episode of what has been an impressive season of Top Chef. The challenge was as straightforward as it has ever been, make the meal of your life. A panel of imposing restaurateurs, including our own Stephen Starr, sat in on the final judges table and helped crown the next Top Chef.

Recap, Dishes, and the new Top Chef after the jump.

Elimination Challenge

Create a 4 Course Meal.

Guest Judges – Stephen Starr, Bill Terlato, Donatella Arpaia, Sam Nazarian, Drew Neiporent, Sharon Voltaggio, Kathy Gillespie.

Prize – $125,000 and THE TITLE OF TOP CHEF!!!

  • The chefs drew knives and were assigned 2 sous chefs from the pool of eliminated contestants to help with prep and service.
  • Kevin was stuck blessed with Preeti for prep and Ash for his dinner service. Bryan drew Ashley to prep and Jennifer Carroll for service. Michael’s prep chef was Jesse and Eli helped get plates out for dinner.
  • The Chefs meal had to consist of 4 dishes.
  • The first course was a dedication to their mom and highlighted a favorite childhood food memory. The second course had the chefs using a mystery box containing Pacific Rockfish, Dungeness Crab, Kabocha Squash, Meyer Lemon, Matsutake Mushroom and Anise Hysop. The third course was entirely up to the chef, while the 4 course must be dessert.
  • The Dishes
  • Kevin
    1. Childhood Inspired Dish- Southern Fried Chicken Skin with Squash Casserole and Tomato. The judges loved the authentic Southern flavors.
    2. Mystery Box- Pacific Rockfish, Roasted Squash, Crab Broth, and Roasted Matsutake Mushroom. Kevin’s broth was fantastic, but his mushroom was rock hard.
    3. Chef’s Choice- Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Brussels, Broccoli, and Caramelized Ham Jus. Stephen Starr didn’t think the belly was tender enough. Kevin mess up pork? Blasphemy!
    4. Dessert-Roasted Banana, Toasted Peanut with Chocolate Bacon Mousse and Bacon Brittle. You won’t be seeing a bacon gelato at Pizzeria Stella anytime soon; Stephen Starr is not a fan of bacon in desserts.
  • Bryan
    1. Childhood Inspired- Sardine, German Butterball Potato, Heirloom Tomato, and Panko Bread Crumbs. The judges didn’t care for Bryan’s take on Tuna Casserole. They thought it was under seasoned and was crying for some acid.
    2. Mystery Box- Rockfish Sous Vide, Kabocha Squash, with Curry and Meyer Lemon. Under seasoned was the verdict for this dish as well. “A blind date you don’t want to go on because it’s boring”. Ok?
    3. Chef’s Choice- Venison Saddle with Puree of Sunchokes and Orange Juniper Sauce. Finally, the judges liked one of Bryan’s dishes.
    4. Dessert- “Dulce de Leche” Cheesecake with Fig Sorbet, Poached Pear, and Basil. The dessert of the night.
  • Michael
    1. Childhood Inspired Dish- Cream of Dehydrated Broccoli, Fried Broccoli , and Spot Prawn. Stephen Starr was given undercooked shrimp, but the fried broccoli was a hit.
    2. Mystery Box- Dashi-Glazed Rockfish, Sweet and Sour Crab Salad with Squash and Meyer Lemon. The fish was perfectly cooked and this was the best squash application of the night.
    3. Chef’s Choice- Fennell Scented Squab Breast, Pistachio Cassoulet, and Textures of Mushrooms. Gail Simmons didn’t like the mushrooms, but the squab was spot on.
    4. Dessert- Chocolate Caramel Coulant, Butternut Squash Brulee, and Butternut Ice Cream. The cake was overcooked, but the squash brulee and ice cream seem to have made up for it.

Top Chef – Michael Voltaggio

Thoughts

When you look back at this season and who was the actual top chef, the answer should be Kevin Gillespie. Sure, Kevin has taken fewer risks than anyone in the contest, but he has been (arguably) the most consistent and dominant chef on the show since Hung. Bravo may have been getting a little too cute with their verdict because, in reality, the title of Top Chef is a lot less important than the exposure the show brings the contestants. You can point to Bryan’s quiet demeanor and “boring” food as a reason he went home, but I find it hard to pinpoint exactly why Kevin is not the Top Chef. And I was pulling for Bryan.

Michael took the most risks of anyone this season and they paid off. He had a few weeks where he was clearly the best chef in the kitchen. He also had other weeks where he was serving raw eggs and cursing Kevin’s success. But in the end, Michael did show the combination of creativity and technical skill that is needed to win this contest. Ironically, I handicapped Michael as the favorite, along with Jennifer Carroll at, with odds of 4-1. I like to point that out to make up for the fact that I had Eve in the finals.

As far as Jennifer Carroll goes, the appearance on the show was a smash success for her. Even though she didn’t win, I would argue that she is the strongest female contestant to appear on any season of Top Chef. Hopefully, she has opened the door for other female chefs to get the chance they deserve in Bravo’s kitchen. (Paging Marcey Turney and Lynn Rinadli).

Burning Questions

Did Michael deserve to win?

What Philly Chefs would you love to see appear on Top Chef? I’m going with David Katz, David Ansill, Jonny Mac, or Todd Lean.