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Bravotv.com: You had time off and you came back — what were your assumptions about what any of the twists might be in the finale based on what's happened in previous seasons, or how did you prepare for the finale while you were at home?
Obviously once we found out where the finale was, I did research on Napa Valley. And then my preparation for the finale was to change my strategy a little bit, in the sense that I wasn't going to "dumb down" my food, but make it a little more simple, and let the ingredients speak for themselves based on the region of the cuisine we were doing. As far as twists, obviously you always expect to see former contestants in some capacity.
Bravotv.com: Usually maybe another course, did you think that would happen?
Yeah, I was definitely expecting another course. I made sure that I brought extra ingredients that I could tie into an extra course no matter what, so I wouldn't have too much thought into making an extra course at the last moment, almost have an idea of what I would want to do, and then use whatever we were given to put everything together.
Bravotv.com: What was going through your mind when you saw what the ingredients were in the mystery box?
None of this stuff goes together!
Bravotv.com: So what did you do to make it work?
I think first you had to look at the quality of the ingredients — some of it was OK, some of it wasn't so great. So my idea first and foremost take the stuff that wasn't good and try and make it taste better. I really just concentrated on flavor, because the ingredients, if they don't go together, obviously you need to make them mesh, so come up with an overall theme for the whole dish, then make all the ingredients work with that theme.
Bravotv.com: Did Padma's pregnancy affect your menu at all?
I think all of us, out of respect for Padma, we weren't going to serve raw fish. We asked her if her pregnancy meant no raw seafood. She then said to us, "I'll taste it, I'll judge it, but I would appreciate it if you guys didn't."
Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction when your mom came to the door of the hotel room?
I can't remember what we were expecting; I think we thought Tom or Padma was coming to the door. We can always tell when something's about to happen. So we were waiting for that twist, and then when saw it was just our parents, we were happy and surprised.
Bravotv.com: You had to draw knives for your sous-chefs. If you could have chosen sous-chefs, whom would you have wanted?
Mike Isabella and Eli.
Bravotv.com: And what was your reaction when you selected sous-chefs?
Well I got Eli, so I was happy, because Eli was like my little son on the show. He has a very similar style of food. He likes the kind of food that I cook, so it'd be easy to dial him into my whole situation. And as far as Jesse is concerned, I was actually excited to be able to work with her.
Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration for each dish?
The inspiration was to just cook simple. Not overdo or overanalyze everything, and just put tasty food out. If you look back at the season and what people were most successful with, at the end of the day it wasn't the tricks and the presentation and all the things I did; it came down to flavor and in some cases it came down to salt, so I just made sure the food was seasoned properly, cooked properly, and tasted good.
Bravotv.com: When you saw who was going to judge, and these are all people who have money to invest in restaurants, and you want to open your restaurant at some point, what was your reaction?
I was like, "Shit." The first person I saw at the table was Sam, and Sam actually owned the last restaurant where I worked. That made me a little bit nervous. Sam's a great guy. I didn't think he had any ill will towards me but at the same time you have some of the most successful restaurateurs sitting at one table, and they pick chefs based on meals like that, so I think we were all nervous.
Bravotv.com: How do you think you sous-chefs worked out?
I think my sous-chefs worked out great. Jesse was my prep horse the night before, so she got all the little stuff done that I needed to get done. Eli was there to make sure I crossed my Ts and dotted my Is. He helped me finish my sentences and get my food on the plate.
Bravotv.com: Do you blame Eli at all for the cake, or was that your fault?
The cake was totally my fault. I stuck it in the oven, and obviously nerves got the best of me, and I just totally forgot about it.
Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction to Padma announcing you won? You probably had the most stoic reaction of any winner we've ever had.
Well, I was standing there knowing that my brother won. I was standing there thinking, "Bryan won, Bryan won." So I was ready to turn and hug Bryan and say, "Hey man congratulations, you deserve it." And then when she said my name, emotions just took over. I was like, REALLY? I was shocked. I was in shock. I had no control of anything. I wasn't standing there thinking, "Oh I have this one in the bag," like I have in the past. Honestly if Bryan had won, I wouldn't have said, 'Well I don't think he should have won; my food was better." Because honestly, at that moment, I thought Bryan had put up a better showing than I did.
Bravotv.com: Kevin even says he thinks Bryan won. Did that change your mind at all?
I mean I think even Bryan thought Bryan won! We all thought Bryan won. When it came down to the critiques, it really came down to the seasoning. It just shows how important it is to make sure you don't forget seasoning — you don't forget to put salt on your food. I think a lot of times that separates a good restaurant from a great restaurant. You think well this food tastes a little better, and sometimes it's just salt.
Bravotv.com: Well you cried, and you weren't very emotional this season — are you a big crier?
No, I never do. I never do. I think it was everything added up. I think my mind, my body knew how to react to the whole situation and I think my head exploded at that moment. But I mean honestly, we had been standing in that spot for hours, so my legs were sort of hurting. I'm like, "Aww, I get to relax now."
Bravotv.com: What are you going to do with the prize money?
The first thing I'm going to do is open accounts for my daughters so that they have money, but money they can't touch until they're 18. Bryan and I have great parents, but we are sort of self-made. We went after our own careers, Bryan put himself through college, and I didn't go to college. I want my daughters to have some piece of this, something to start with. And the rest of it? I don't know. I'm a car guy. I'll probably get myself another new car. But it's $125,000 dollars to help jumpstart your career, so obviously that money is going to go towards that as well. I'll invest it in myself, in the sense that I want to grow a brand.
Bravotv.com: Did you feel as the younger brother that you had something to prove when competing against Bryan?
I don't think I had something to prove. Honestly, when it came down to that moment, I didn't want to win. I didn't want either one of us — I was hoping they'd say, "You both won! Congratulations it's the first time in Top Chef history!" Because you can't celebrate when you know your bother is standing next to you, and he doesn't have the same thing to celebrate about. I worked for a chef one time and he went to take the Certified Master Chef test, and it's one of the hardest tests you can take. There were ten people in his class, and he was the only one who passed. At the end of the whole grueling process, he didn't have anybody to celebrate with, because no one else had passed. So it just kind of sucked, at that moment.
That's nice for Michael. But honestly if you combine all the quickfire and elimination challenges that Kevin won he really should be Top Chef. I still don't think the winner of any of the seasons should come down to the last dinner only especially when you have no control over your sous chef and it turns out to be a weaker one like Preeti. The entire season should be taken into account. But that's that.
I think it is too bad that the luck of the draw on sous chefs ruined what up to that point had been the best Top Chef season so far.
Give your chef's opportunities, not hurdles in the finale.
Congratulations on your win! I thought it was really sweet that you cried, it brought a whole new dimension to your personality. Have you and your brother ever thought of opening a restaurant together or would that be to much family time? Good luck with your restaurant!
Finally Michael exhibits some humility. Congratulations to him, but judges and Bravo network - BRYAN WON THIS SEASON AND EDITING THE SHOW UP UNTIL THE LAST 30 SECONDS TO KEEP FANS IN SUSPENSE IS NOT THE WAY TO KEEP FANS.
Unbelievable!!! Never In the years of watching Top Chef have I been so disappointed with the judges. Kevin clearly should have been Top Chef. He represents those of us sitting at home trying to figure out what's for diner and kicks it up a notch to make everything come together like you are tasting food from an upscale restaurant. He I think along with the other 58% that voted should have been the one. I know that we didn't taste the food but its not always about the taste its about who the person is as a chef.
This was a poorly structured last episode: too much in regards to the mothers, and not enough about the food and prep. Why not just have them make the "best meal of their lives"?
Michael: Please announce what restaurant you start/run/work at - I want to make sure I never go there.
The fact that Michael and Brian ended up being the last two contestants was purely a decision of the producers. The producers had that decided from day 1. Why else were the mothers there? I thought it was bad when the Brit (Stephan) lost -- he was an jerk, but the best chef. That was also a decision made by the producers, but this season's last episode was just stupid.
Brian and Kevin: good luck.
I haven't watched Top Chef before, but once I heard that two local boys that graduated from my sons high schools I had to and was hooked. As someone who had moved to Frederick, MD 8 years ago and has made this home, I have been so proud to cheer on both of the brothers. Obviously, I leaned more to Brian, as he has a restaurant here, but I am pleased that a Frederick native won. Haven't made it to Volt yet, but plan to, my friends have said it is wonderful. The best three chefs made the finals. I lived in the south for a long time and liked Kevins cooking also.
Been watching every season and am suprised judges made such a mistake. Cant say I'll watch another as they clearly dont know what TOP Chef represents. Brian would have been the clear choice. Time for a new show to surface with a judge panel that has the knowledge and taste which can identify real talent when they experience it. Padma?? Backround?? Gail Simmons?? Magazine writer?? How about some cooking experience?? Tom is the only judge with the credentials to properly JUDGE a true Chef! Its a real shame you cost a true chef his big chance with poorly experienced judges. So long Top Chef.
America is not happy with this result. This has been a wonderful Top Chef series, with Michael clearly kept in just to keep the competition with his brother exciting. It was apparent from tonight and their track record that Kevin (my favorite) and Bryan (my second favorite) were the best. What a weird ending to this otherwise interesting season. Seems to me that the reunion of the contestants in Atlanta this past weekend garnered the ones who were truly talented and supportive of each other and good food. Maybe they were sending an unintended message about celebrating good food, camraderie in the kitchen and having each other's back. So the brat wins because that is so called good TV - but not in my book - tune me out for next season. I know we were not present tasting the food, but this last episode seemed like such a weak way to truly test the merits of the chefs. Seemed like a way to generate surprises and keep everyone on their toes for next year, but hey, I will not be watching. What a bummer let down after a good season.
Congratulations Mike. You were the best man. Did you know that Hung predicted your win before the show even began. I like your spirit and singleminded approach.
i have read the blogs and i have watched every episode -- i still believe bryan should have been the winner.
Michael, you are probably the better chef of the three. On that night your brother Brian beat you and deserved to win and be Top Chef.
Congratulations, Michael! This was one well-rounded and toughly contested season with none of the unnecessary drama of the previous seasons. I was gunning for you with your dashing creative flair all along and am very happy that you won. Here's wishing you good luck and many more successes in your culinary career.
No disrespect what so ever to Michael, but I strongly believe that either of the other two (Kevin or Brian) should have won. I'm not sure really how both of them lost tonight???
I really expected Bryan to win. I mean he was never in the bottom. I don't cook so I in no way claim to be an expert but the show really set it up to look like Bryan was the better chef. I congratulate Michael because I know he probably needs the win more for his career but there is something to be said for Bryan's consistency under pressure and that's what a Top Chef means to me.
This stuff is soooooooooooo riduculout! Sorry Michael you showed a lot of amazing things this season; however, in my opinion, Bryan was the winner - hands down
BRAVO! Bravo. You got it right. CONGRATULATIONS! Michael Voltaggio! Well done, well deserved.
Although in the Bryan camp, I thought all three finalists worthy of the title Top Chef. There should be no sour grapes from anyone. This was the best Top Chef finale. And the best Restaurant Wars ever. All 3 of theses chefs will go on to deservedly bigger things.
TOP CHEF GETS IT RIGHT THIS SEASON! This is Top Chef!!! Mike deserved to win. This is not Top Personality...we had the same problem last year. Stefan was robbed last season. Mike or his brother deserved to be Top Chef. Kevin was a great guy, but the judges kept calling his food simple. I'm sure it was tasty, but I'm glad they chose the better technical chef.
BRAVO TOP CHEF! You got it right!
I must say I was really, really disappointed with Michael winning. My vote was for Kevin but if it wasn't going to be Kevin than it had to be Brian. He consistently put out better food than his brother and quite frankly his attitude at times really turned me off from him. I agree that not having a sous chef that was up to task did Kevin in. I was so shocked about this win, it was obvious that Michael's food was not loved by all the judges. What were they thinking!!!!!!
From the comments and blogs and the previous episodes, Kevin should have won. Simple as that. Missed the show but I don't think I am going to watch the replay. Too disappointing.
Please don't ever bring in sous chefs that you know have problems in preparation.I do think Kevin should have won. Maybe Bryan based on tonights dishes! Michael, I do hope you will be thankful for what you have won.I saw a little glimmer of the kind of man I hope you'll become. Do good things with the money and make your Mother proud!
Congratulations Michael! I wish you all the success you deserve, please open a restaurant in Tampa or Orlando! I am always interested in people who cannot taste the food and still try to judge from their living room. They needed to listen to the specific comments at the dinner table as well as at judges table. While I liked Kevin and his food seemed to be tasty, it is interesting that some people still don't get what "Top Chef" means. It should be the culmination of taste, inventiveness and presentation. I think Padma stated this during the Bocuse d'Or episode. Kevin won during that episode because of taste, always the most crucial, but not because of presentation. Tom and another judge said his dish would have been rejected as too simple. In the end only the judges know how things tasted, and we humble viewers can only marvel at the presentation. Good luck to all three finalists, best season so far!
Congratulations Michael. You exhibited craft with art and passion. Clearly cooking's in your DNA as well as your soul. Been cheering you on all season and believe the judges made an excellent choice.
Wasn't happy with Michael winning.Should have been Kevin or Bryan.Michael has a chip on his shoulder and no respect for the other chefs. How many times did he say "i cook that on my day off" like kevin shouldn't bee there.In my book The winner was Kevin, but atleast we didn't have to watch people making out.
Congats goes out to Micheal and I think he really did a great job on this dinner. I think the two brothers were by far the better chefs. Kevin has really shown that simple and southern food really does have a place in fine dining. Well Micheal I hope you do one day own a restaurant cause I want to be on the waiting list for reservations. Maybe brian will be there with you I know you can call it "Revolt".
When I watched your success in tht Retaurant Wars episode, I said Michael is going to win this.
I was pleased with the top four that went to NAPA, all well deserved, but I saw something in you almost from the very first show, so thanks for a wonderful season, and keeping the competition so tight, and interesting.
Best wishes to you and your family.
(P.S. I have a 71 Mustang grande, and it's pretty cherry)
I 100% think that the correct chef won. Michael Voltaggio was so strong the entire season, and he didn't let up in the finals. He is creative, smart, talented, and so masterful when it comes to food. I think that no matter who won last night, all 3 of the finalists will go far in their careers. They are all obviously very good at what they do, and all in their own way. Of course, I can't wait to get more of Michael V!
This was the best season of Top Chef so far.
Padma is such a beautiful pregnant woman!
wow, both me and my husband are foodies, and we both were shocked at the choice of Michael over Bryan. We live within a stone's throw of the birthplace of the brothers V and were pleased to see local talent rise to the occasion. And all three are talented chefs, probably the best finale grouping of the show's history. However, once Kevin was out, Bryan was clearly more the refined, honest and thoughtful chef of the two remaining chefs. Remember the weirdness of the Bocuse D'or competition with Michael claiming cauliflower was a Mediterranean flavor? And his snark on Kevin's winning vegetarian dish? We have quibbled over past decisions in the season finales, but knowing we haven't tasted the food made the quibbles an academic exercise. But this decision really offended us more than any other.
What a crock, another disappointing season ending. Yes Michael was good but why would the judges rave about Bryans food the whole way through dinner, while dissing Michaels then turn around and give it to Michael. What a let down I'm done with this show from now on. I was pulling for Kevin the whole way and his soux chefs Fu*#ed that up for him. I can't wait for my next trip to Atlanta to eat his food. Way to go Kevin.
Congratulations to Michael, although I think Bryan should have won the title. From the comments the judges made on Michael's dishes last night and the comments made about Bryan's is was clear that they preferred Bryan's...not sure what made them pick Michael over Bryan.
At the end of the judging, it well seemed like Bryan was going to taking it home. I feel that the speech that each one gave to the question " why do you think you should be top chef" made a big difference. Staight out - Mike made a refreshingly frank comment that he din't want Bryan to win, and spoke his soul out with the words that followed. You could tell that the judges were moved. However much you argue that the judges only judge the food, not the personalities, you can't deny that fact that after several weeks of togetherness, the judges connect with the chefs in a personal way as well. To me, Mike's creative talent topped by a soulful speech won him the top honors. Bravo Mike !
This whole season has been about Michael. He is risky and a rebel. I think that not only is he a top chef but probably a genius too. This is the first season I've really gotten into Top Chef and it was because of the brothers. I'm thrilled for Michael. He deserves it. They're all amazing but he just had that extra "thing" that set him slightly ahead of the competition. And not sure if anyone else noticed, he wore converse all stars. Right on.
I am not a blogger but I just had to put my comment up on the finale, What an utter disappointment!!! All through the challenge I thought this could not possibly be the final challenge...there has to be something after this and this challenge is just to knock it down to two chefs. On Mike winning, I have no comment except to say I do not think he would have been as gracious as Brian was if he had lost. If you watch his face at judges table during every episode he clearly was a poor loser through every challenge. As for Kevin, he was my favorite and I was let down that he did not win, however if Brian had won I believe it would have been an acceptable choice.
Corey C: I TOTALLY agree with you! KEVIN should have been the WINNER!! He will always be this season's winner to me and to many other viewers, I'm certain! Sorry Top Chef, but you really got it all wrong this season!!!!!! Being a Top Chef not only means serving good food, but being a good person, as well. Kevin is and does both. He is a class act and Michael could really learn a thing or two from Kevin. Also, I get the feeling that Bryan has always played second fiddle to Michael and this win will probably make Michael's ego bigger than ever. I have a feeling that Michael's ego will become as big as the state from which he hails. He won't be able to fit in the kitchen's door........
While I agreed with the final 3, I definitely didn't agree with the final decision. Michael's shrimp wasn't cooked properly, his cake wasn't cooked properly, and yet, in the end, he was chosen as Top Chef? So maybe the judges couldn't agree on whether to choose Bryan or Kevin and so Michael won by default? I don't know. The only thing I know is I'm very disappointed with this season's finale. Doesn't give me much hope for the next go-round.
Your attitude about who your sous chefs were is commendable. Congrats for the win. Unfortunately, I agree with you that it seemed as though it should have been Bryan. His entire meal seemed more refined and had less flaws. As for your plans for the purse that you won by a nose, it seems foolish to blow any amount on a car. You just won a car too (or did you forget?). During the season, you griped that you wanted to open your own restaurant. Well, now you can.
Going To Volt this Friday night for a birthday celebration and cannot wait! This would be our 5th trip and it keeps getting better. Would have preferred Bryan to win, but oh, well, it wa great fun to watch this season and look forward to next.
Congrats, Your love for food shines though in every dish you made on the show, although I wanted Bryan to win, you both are amazing chefs, good luck, open a restraunt so we can come try your food! Best season ever they mind as well stop running the show because they'll never top this season!!!
I really love Top Chef and have watched every episode. I have predicted the winners each year like clockwork up until last night. Kevin won more challenges than any other contestant and that should have stood for something. I know that each week they only judge that week's food but in the finale contestants should be judged on their performance for the whole season. I think Bryan and Michael are great chefs, but believe on the basis of merit Kevin should have won. He had some really awesome dishes last night (as they all did) and if it was truly too close to call they should have looked at the whole season. As for the judges saying that Kevin's first dish was an "amuse" and not a full course - it seemed appropriate to make the first course like an appetizer and given that they were thrown that curve at the last minute - it was a great rendition of his mom's fried chicken done with time restraints. I truly wish the other contestants the best in their careers but am very disappointed with he outcome.
I know this is a cooking competition but I still really, really, really wish that Kevin could've taken the big prize. Congratulations though to Michael V. - best wishes
I was so disappointed that Bryan didn't win; I like Michael, but I thought that Bryan deserved to win...he's obviously the most experienced and classically trained among the three. Bryan, you're still the winner for a lot of us!!!
Congratulations Michael for winning and Bryan and Kevin for being classy competitors! I have seen every Top Chef and this was by far the best finale - no "major" drama, just good cooking. I also admired the comraderie shown during the finals, where the chefs genuinely respected each other and even gave "heads up" at times. For example, Michael is sometimes given a bad rap for being too abrasive but I think he is just focused. He mentioned to Kevin about his sauce boiling, which shows that he has a focus of just helping produce great food. The brothers story added another personal dimension to the show and it was great to see two people who truly care about each other at the end of the day. Your mother must be so proud!!
Congratulations Micheal. I was pulling for Bryan, but all of the top contenders were GREAT. Truly all top line classy professionals throughout the entire season. A real pleasure to watch all of them this season. All will go on to bigger and better things.
Congratulations.. so happy for you.. I have loved this season and all of the chefs were top notch and great personalities. It has been so nice to watch because the former drama and self-centered meanness of past seasons wasn't evident or important. We got to see great talent and cooking. I never could have predicted a winner. I loved all of you, especially the final four. I was sorry to see Jen go, and then, there were only 3 winners. I still think all 3 of you are equal. I hope that your win does not affect your wonderful relationship and close family ties. You and your brother are amazing. I love how you thought to put the prize money into your daughters' future and education. when you are a parent, that is the ultimate goal of your career.. to work and educate our children to levels that we did not achieve. I am a teacher with a Master's degree and literally worked my whole life to be able to educate my kids to a higher level. That is a smart decision you will never regret. Pay it forward.. Best wishes to you and your family. I am sure that you and your brother will fare well in any restaurant or business endeavor that you seek after such a wonderful showing of your talents on this show.