Congratulations to Stephanie for an impressive and well-played 16 week run and an amazing performance (other than the cake) last night. As happy as I was for Stephanie though, I truly felt Richard's pain, what a heartbreaker for him.
As for Lisa, I think you all know by now that I didn't think she deserved to be there and the fact that at one point I thought the judges might give her the title made me want to cringe. I was quite happy when they awarded the title to Stephanie.
One of my problems with the judging of last night's and every season's finale is that the judges' decision is based solely on the last meal prepared. In my mind, it should encompass not only the courses prepared for that meal of a lifetime challenge, but also the competitor's overall performance, both in terms of style of leadership and culinary skill over the entire season. In my mind at least, being a Top Chef has just as much to do with leadership and management ability as it does with culinary vision and talent, and Lisa fell short in that leadership category by a long shot, often being combative and overly aggressive.
The final Elimination Challenge last night was not a new one. The finale often finds our final three competing knife to knife to cook the best meals of their lives, and hopefully the judges' too, but I always love to see the talent they find for the sous-chefs and last night's was exceptional. To have Eric Ripert, April Bloomfield (one of my favorite chefs and if you haven't had her burger and her gnudi you need to visit The Spotted Pig now), and Dan Barber as your number two is pretty incredible. I got a real kick out of Stephanie looking over Chef Ripert's shoulder as he filleted her fish, though I am not sure that Chef Ripert did. But he was a good sport.