And the winner is . . .
You know it by now. In an oddly staged Iron Chef-meets-The Voice final elimination challenge, Brooke Williamson and Kristen Kish went head-to-head in front of a live studio audience in the last challenge of a 2-part finale. Prior to the challenge, the finalists were instructed to plan five courses, with no direction other than they must use scallops in the second course and snapper in the fourth. All the food they ordered was provided as specified, and they chose their sous-chefs in advance. (Brooke chose CJ and Stefan while Kristen went with Sheldon and Lizzie.) So far so good . . . all they had to do was show up and make the best food they could. Their only twist was the live audience – Brooke was visibly shocked when she walked into what I’ll have to call Top Chef Stadium – but that wasn’t a deal-breaker for either one. Judges chose a winner in each round, and the first cheftestant to earn three votes would earn the title Top Chef.
It was a bold finale format, and one that seems overwhelmingly unpopular, if you rely on Twitter as a measure. Props to the producers for trying to come up with something new and innovative, but there was a fatal flow that was obvious to viewers by 50 minutes past the hour . . . we all knew with 10 minutes still left in the challenge that Kristen would win. The chefs were just starting to make their snapper dishes, and Kristen had already won won rounds 1 and 3. There just wouldn’t be time left in the hour to make and judge that last dish.
The decision to use this format for the finale wasn’t just a spoiler to viewers, but it kept us from recognizing Kristen’s surprise and delight at winning a well-deserved Top Chef championship. I was thinking oh, Kristen is going to win. Bummer for Brooke while they were still concentrating on their dishes.
To enjoy Kristen’s joy, watch this clip of the winner being announced:
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Ultimately, Top Chef is all about the food, right? Here are the creations these two amazingly talented chefs concocted for the finale. The links will take you to the recipe on Bravo.com:
Top Chef executive producer and judge, social action filmmaker, and bald salad ruiner Tom Colicchio compared the dishes one by one on his blog, explaining his and his fellow judges’ votes. Basically, he said Brooke threw away the third course by choosing to make fried chicken:
Don’t get me wrong — I like fried chicken. I serve it at Craftbar. But if I were going head to head in competition, I would never have made the dish Brooke made — it was a nice little dish one might find at a bistro, a corner restaurant. You cannot win Top Chef with that dish. And as you saw in the episode, all the judges had the same view of Brooke’s choice that I did. They were all a bit mystified that Brooke was serving them the dish she placed before them, and the course went unanimously to Kristen, whose velvety bone marrow dish was complex, elevated, nuanced, and really beautifully prepared.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the best part about this season were the talented, charming, personable female chefs. It was great to see Lizzie Binder get so close to the end and then to have an all-female finale. Watch Brooke and Kristen here talk about the final challenge; I love that they have genuine respect for each other. Both women are talented with great strength of character, the best kind of role model:
Well, it’s been a fun season, and thanks to Bravo for your sponsorship; I’ve had a blast as a Top Chef Influencer. Top Chef Twittering was fun, too – I got a secret thrill every time Tom Colicchio sent me a direct Tweet and thought it was great how Lizzie and Brooke reached out to thank everyone who supported them. I’ve met some very fun people doing this, especially Kelley from Kelley’s Break Room. She is hilarious and you should stop in on her blog when you get a chance.
Now I can’t wait for Season 11!