If it had been anyone else competing in the finale I may have been worried, but that night at the ranch I was reminded that this was no ordinary country shindig: The four chefs who were cooking for us are without a doubt four of the strongest, toughest, and most focused people I have encountered in a long time. They have traveled with us across the country via Miami to Newark, New York, and finally the Roaring Fork Valley to show just how determined and talented they are. If they could make it through the 12 previous challenges, the late nights of grueling conditions, unfamiliar kitchens, and our often unforgiving critiques, they could surely make it through this.
Personally, I was proud to show off their skills to our diners and also a little saddened knowing only one of them could emerge victorious at the end of such a long and winding road. As we say time and again, we are beyond the point of mediocre food and mediocre ability. Each of the four dishes prepared were tasty, interesting, and showed great skill, which made it especially tricky to choose who to eliminate. In order to do so we had to carefully deconstruct each element and nitpick every choice they made. Quickfiire winner Casey's Mushroom Crusted Loin of Elk with Cauliflower Duo was elegant and flavorful, and the addition of her smoky tomato butter added a smooth finish and a complex counterpoint, but her meat was slightly undercooked and the cauliflower concoction was confusing to the eye and the palate.