This season’s finale was truly an embarrassment of riches. Two extraordinarily talented chefs with wildly different cooking styles put all they had into the last Elimination Challenge. I loved this final challenge because being a chef is more than just understanding flavor profiles and acidity. At its core, it’s about communication. With every plate, a chef’s vision is sent out onto the table for someone to literally consume. It’s one of the reasons being critiqued is so difficult. Sure chefs have egos—you need one to be so ballsy as to send your vision out to 200 diners on a Saturday night. But they also have imagination and heart, and the food expresses those in a pretty raw way. So to be judged poorly can feel intense, whether the criticism was about execution, technique or concept.
Consider that for a moment when you remember that 12 of the country’s best critics were the diners for this finale, and they were judging dishes that were so personal and intimate. If this was a straightforward challenge to create four spectacular Top Chef Masters dishes with limited time to shop, prep, cook and plate, it would have been difficult. But to have to make each of these dishes a revelation really made it worthy of the finale. Chris is a passionate and emotional chef on any day. But for Kerry, a chef who prefers to express himself with spot-on technique rather than personality, this final showdown had to be extra tough.