I truly don't mean to diminish Stephanie's triumph, here, by mostly writing about somebody else. I love her to death. I adore her food, she earned this win, and she utterly deserves the title. She IS, as Ms. Lakshmi just informed you in that joyful moment, Top Chef. I'm absolutely thrilled. And there it was again -- that million-dollar smile!
But Richard's loss is the big story tonight.
When the nine of us sat down to dinner at La Fortaleza, his menu dominated the conversation for at least the first 20 minutes of conversation. It was vintage, verbaceous Richard; bold, cheeky, and promising. It was all about a chef with a fascinating, mysterious story to tell. It was also a little controversial; the list of four courses contained absolutely no information about the food. They were:
You Are Here.
Which Came First?
Be the Bacon.
and You Are Still Here.
Tim Zagat complained about the enigmatic descriptions, and I understand his point -- it's kind of nice to know something about what's coming. But I thought it was original, personal, and cool. I'm more than willing to put my trust in Richard and let him take me on whatever culinary journey he likes. I wish more of you could have tasted his work this year.
But somehow, that loose, improvisational, "listen-to-the-Force, Luke" spirit unraveled for him in the kitchen. You could see the writing on the wall when Tom visited during prep, and Richard seemed shockingly unsure of where his story was going -- at the worst possible time in the contest. That was the beginning of the endgame in this, the final battle that everybody thought was Richard's to lose.