Deciding on the loser was more difficult because both Leah and Jamie produced very weak dishes. I was initially inclined to judge Leah more harshly, if only because I was so impressed by Eric Ripert’s original dish. I’m not a big fan of mahi-mahi, having been disappointed by it too often in the Caribbean, so I was blown away by the version I ate at Le Bernardin. Truly, Chef Ripert had taken a sow’s ear and turned it into a silk purse — or made lemonade out of lemons, as you say in America. Leah’s dish was much more like the tasteless, rubbery mahi-mahi I’ve encountered before.
In the end, though, it was right to send Jamie home. She’s a competent chef, as she’s demonstrated throughout the season, but something went horribly wrong with her braised celery. It was so poisonous, I couldn’t even taste the black bass. Leah’s dish was merely mediocre; Jamie’s was inedible. In Top Chef, as in the Super Bowl, it’s not about your track record, it’s about how you perform on the night.
For more about Toby, visit his Web site at www.tobyyoung.co.uk