Tom Colicchio

Tom explains how the smallest of details can either win you or lose you the title of Top Chef.

on Dec 2, 20090

I’m very excited that our season finale is set in Napa Valley during “the Crush,” the time of year when the grapes are harvested and, literally, crushed to make wine. The aroma of crushed grapes actually hangs in the air, the community pulls together around this collective endeavor, and there are celebrations at wineries throughout the valley. Michael Chiarello was one of the first chefs to settle in Napa Valley and make a name for himself, originally with Tre Vigne … and now, thanks to his efforts and those of Thomas Keller and others, the region has become a leading destination for lovers of food and wine. In fact, I think it’s actually rated second nationally, right behind Disney/Orlando. And yet, as upscale as it’s become, it is still a farming community at heart and in practice; it still has those farming roots, which I think is what keeps it on an even keel. I’ve been going on and off for the past 30 years (I can’t believe I just wrote that); I love that it is one of the little pockets of our country wherein people are growing food to complement the wine.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I thought the challenge – cooking two dishes, one vegetarian, one with a local protein, and both with all-local ingredients, was great. Our four finalists did, too – I’m sure you noted their exuberance while exploring the ingredients available to them to select from. Everything was grown and/or raised within 100 miles of where we were, and everything was exceptionally fresh. It was almost a hindrance, as the myriad gorgeous options derailed the chefs’ original thoughts but then it was hard to focus in that short time period on replacement dishes with so many ideas swirling about in their heads. This certainly happened to Jennifer.

This was the strongest group of chefs ever to going into a Top Chef finale. All four are highly accomplished. And it’s the first time that the four strongest chefs in a season actually made it to the finale – no one snuck in through a side door to get there – as evidenced by the fact that between the four of them, they always won the Elimination Challenges. No one made any excuses for their dishes at this Elimination Challenge, and everyone performed very well. At this stage, with these chefs, no one was going home for a bad dish; we knew that it was going to be about small details.  

242 comments
Awani
Awani

Though some people that Eggs are vegetarian and not using eggs defines a vegan dish, general consensus amongst vegetarians do NOT include eggs in their diet. That was a huge mistake in my opinion and disregard for those who consider themselves vegetarians - as Most vegetarians would NOT eat that dish. I am not one of them.

Jose António Olim
Jose António Olim

While living in a country differente can compete for Top Chef.I live in Portugal and I am Chef Executive of the kitchen, I am responsible for 4 hotels, 4 stars, I would like to know how to participate, was a challenge even not winning anything, just to participate it was a victory I am a person who dare.

curiouscustomer
curiouscustomer

Tom,

How much salt to you eat per day? The Goverment says we should not have more than 2400mg/day and less than 1500mg is considered low. But all you say is salt this and salt that. I am realizing now because of the internet how loaded food in sodium. Even breads and grains are insanley high in salt.

How about a low sodium season of Top Chef. Now that would be a challenge.

Ron Randall
Ron Randall

Tom,

I appreciate your feedback, your professional perspecitve, and, after watching the final show, completely understand your point of view on who should have won this season based on the final show.

Still, I have one question for you. Based on the entire season, which restaurant, of the final four, would you most like to visit first?

Cheers! Ron

johnpmc
johnpmc

Sorry, Vegetarians mean no animals killed. Eggs are in fact the fetuses of chickens which are animals. Eggs are not vegetarian food. Just like eating fish is not vegetarian. I call a fowl on Mikes "Egg" dish. My sister used to do a good business selling egg free cakes to vegetarians from India.

Vegans do not use any animal based products so they do not eat honey or milk.

I'm an omnivore and enjoy vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, honey and milk. But the rules were broken and you awarded the rule breaker.

Cass
Cass

Sadly, it's Christmas (party) time in the city and I forgot to use my DVR last night. Hoping I'll see the finale this week on a repeat broadcast.

But, wow! Michael? Hmmm. Not sure what to say, but, given what I've read, once again your team's editing was misleading. I can't believe you guys won an Emmy for editing when it seems to irritate (dare i say it, piss off) so many viewers and when it leaves your faithful fans so clueless and disappointed. Can't your editors include some footage at times that showcase the dishes better. I'd rather know what I'm seeing than be shocked every week by a nonsensical finish.

Cass

linda scott
linda scott

Thanks for another great season. I was pulling for Kevin to take the honors. His food was consistant, and looks like something I would like to experience. The brothers made for good drama, but as far as personalities go, Michael seemed too arrogant and self centered. I think Brian is a more likable guy and a great chef as well. Looking forward to next season and to the reunion show! Thanks, Tom for your wonderful presence, you make the show special each season!

Po
Po

Tom, thanks again for the explanation. The editing made the panel's decision clear as a bouillabaisse. It seemed as if Jen was unfairly eliminated, but your account clears that up. I agree that these were the four best chefs and I was glad that they all made it to the end. That hasn't always been the case. I wonder if any of these four might have won on some previous, weaker seasons.

Anne
Anne

Well now that Michael has been named Top Chef, I will just have to deal with the results. I was rooting for Bryan, however I see how Bryan messed up. From the time he picked Pette, Kevin went downhill. I feel bad for him because I liked his comfort food. Congratulations on an excellent season. This is my first time watching TOP CHEF!

gerard flood
gerard flood

Great last two episodes, being a PHILLY guy i was rooting for jen so thanks for the explanation. This was the best season so far,the last time i was on the edge of my seat this much was during the wold series the last two years

mmc
mmc

Chef Tom, When Padma announced Michael as Top Chef I turned the T.V. off and it will stay off.Can you tell me what you all were thinking?If you judged on these dishes and the sum total of all the dishes on this season, Kevin should have won.He was consistent, made delicious,thoughtful, wonderfully tasting and well presented food.Not to mention he was a gentleman at all times.If soley based on tonights dishes Bryan should have won.He too was understated but seemed to make delicious dishes.He also was a pleasure to watch interacting with the other chefs. A totally great guy.Michael was showy, promised a lot but did not always deliver, and was arrogent, thought he was so much better than anyone else, and talked about the other chefs in a derogatory way.He even talked down his own Brother. No loyalty there. I can't believe your decisions and please explain what led all of you to this.It doesn't make sense and I, like so many am so upset!

ChaineCR
ChaineCR

I was very surprised at Jennifer's dismissal. I have judged several young chefs competitions, including 2 at Johnson and Wales in Florida. To me, the fact that Jennifer recovered and made a wonderful duck dish when something went wrong (the grill), and still created a strong duck dish that utilized the entire bird, would count as a big plus in her category and not a negative, especially when she was the only competitor to fully utilize all parts of the protein (since sustainability and conservation of resources was part of the challenge).

Cori "VIP" Ridley
Cori "VIP" Ridley

Seriously? This is the second season in a row that the finale makes no sense. What are you thinking?????? I would love to know what it is that put Michael on top, because it did not come through in the final episode. He's good but not as good as Brian or Kevin.

SAWhite
SAWhite

This is going to be a tough one tonight. Can't wait to see the results. I think Kevin could be the one to beat tonight.

Jaime77
Jaime77

I am staying in a hotel that doesn't have 'Bravo'. Is there a way that I can see tonight's finale online??

Laura Jean
Laura Jean

Dear Tom,

I look forward to reading your blog about the finale after tonight's show. But having just read today's article in the NY Times that mentions your family's latke assembly line, I wondered if, in the spirit of the season, you would provide some more details of the celebration for those of us in "mixed marriages" that come together over food. Happy Chanukah! Merry Christmas!

Valerie, NY
Valerie, NY

Finally Bryan's dreams will come true, Congrats! can't wait. I much prefer Bryan to his brother whom I find to be a little rough around the edges. Along with fine cooking should come fineness which Michael lacks, his deamenor on the show was unpleasant to watch and as we all know "God don't like ugly".

PVMIND
PVMIND

Vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products.

Vegans do not eat eggs and dairy products.

LATE

Michael should have gone home. GO JENN!

topchefwannabe
topchefwannabe

my understanding is "vegetarian" means egg, milk & cheese are ok. "Vegan" is no dairy. The requested a vegetarian dish

Bad cook
Bad cook

Okay, l will bet my money that Bryan will be crowned.

Why? He has not been awarded any prize at all throughout the series, in spite of the many elimination challenges that he won. On the last show his brother Michael was bestowed with a new Prius for winning Quickfire while his success in the more demanding elimination challenge brought Bryan zilch. Bryan also turned down his share of the $10K from the restaurant war in protest of money rewarding 'bad attitude'. Chef will make it all up with the ultimate prize.

Bryan is a class act who turns out enticing food that supposedly also taste good, and with flair. He deserves the title.

TJ DiLullo
TJ DiLullo

I couldnt read through all 212 comments, and would be surprised if there weren't one from Michael C. himself - he started restaurant Tra Vigne, not Tre Vigne - I know this because it was and still is one of my favorite restaurants in the area. Hate to be a schmutz, but something tells me you would want to know Tom. Top Chef is my absolute favorite chef show and you and the team are amazing!

Katerina
Katerina

Love the show. My comment is really a question, could someone let me know what was the blazer that Tom wore on the pictures for the Bocuse D'Or fundraser posted on the Bravo site? love the blazer, want to buy one for my husband. Could smne let me know who is the designer and the name of the style? Bravo site really should have details on Padma's and Toms wardrobes, most of the time - love them! Thank you.

MJ
MJ

My favoriate season. Everyone I know wants to see Brian win hand down. Keven playing it safe, and asking others for help on cooking stragities to make himself look good?? Well safe is not good enough thats not a winner in my book... Brians going to bring home the big bucks. He's the best cook, and the best man for sure..... :)

Bernice
Bernice

Although the three finalists are all very tlented, I believe Kevin should be Top Chef. He has been praised constantly for having great flavors. Bryan's praise is often aimed at his technique, not always taste. Michael and Bryan have also been more "hit or miss", in technique and/or flavor. Kevin's consitently great FLAVOR's should win him the title of Top Chef. Good Luck, Kevin !

snowbird
snowbird

I really hated to see Jen go. She had come so far. I also understand more when I read Tom's 2nd blog-he does know what he's talking abt. But I would still rather eat salty food than a raw egg. I do believe that Jen was let go first because she's a gal & 2nd you wanted a big final competition show w the 3 guys who are really all even in their abilities to cook. Not happy w/ you guys, but still love the show. A class act!

Diane the PI
Diane the PI

I'd love to see one of these fine chef's wash their hands. They touch everything, hair, face, clothing.......Can the camera one time zoom in on a unique handwashing moment?

tinkerbell
tinkerbell

I Love this show! This season has been the best yet. I am rooting for Michael but if Bryan wins I won't be disappointed. Kevin's dishes are just to simple and he does not have the techical skills like the brothers have. This is not a personality contest this is about who is "Top Chef" and that title should go to Michael!

Wendywoo
Wendywoo

I'm tired of the brother rivalry thing every week....there seems to be some gimmick every season. However, I'm glad there is no foam and science lab freezing going on. I have to say , I can't imagine much worse than a semi-raw egg white in a bitter green 'soup' !

ChicagoChris
ChicagoChris

Tom, first off thanks for the complimentary strawberry shortcake at my 40th birthday dinner at the MGM Craftsteak this summer. Second, I think someone should address why a southern California Pinot Noir (Sanford) was allowed to be served at a Napa Valley harvest party! That seems to be kowtowing to the sponsors a bit too much, no? The chefs all had to stay local with their ingredients, couldn't the Bravo wannabe sommeliers have seen fit to do the same thing? I love TC, but was very disappointed to see so much Santa Barbara Pinot rather than Sonoma Coast or Russian River versions.

Rivercitychef
Rivercitychef

Tom,

I have only one question about the episode. How was Michael's vegetarian dish able to qualify for vegetarian when the main component was egg? I would have assumed that by using a poultry protein, that would have disqualified it.

Aud
Aud

Chef Tom. Thank you for all the added information your blog has brought to the viewers. One request, next season bring back the palate quick-fire, it was sorely missed. Thank you

Jayesh
Jayesh

Thanks TOM & TOP CHEF TEAM...Wonderful season.... First time no fightings... snide comments and rude behaviours...(or it was edited?...just joking)...only pure passion for food..and cooking.... thanks again ....waiting for a mega finale.....

Katieb
Katieb

After a very disappointing season 5. Not just the winner but the whole behavior and language used by everyone. What a wonderful season this has been. They has been such class acts. All these competitors and the talent has been the absolute best. There was a couple bad apples and Michael and Robin, thinking they were better than they were, but that is to be expected on a competitive show. Mike cooks Great food this can't be denied but he really doesn't get much else. (too bad) Jen said it the best, that they all wish the best for each other and want each other to good but at the same time they want to win. I think that is true and you really know these are great competitors and that they respect each other for each of their talents. (except Mike) Great job on picking some classy talented Chefs this season it has been a pleasure watching. GO BRYAN!!!!

Cass
Cass

I've been reading various comments on the blogs on this site and this egg controversy and detailed explanations is akin to reading a right to life vs. choice controversy. Ugh! My comment was akin to one made on Gail's blog...why focus on an egg dish...when it was a VEGETARIAN DISH...i.e., shouldn't vegetables be the focus...as they were with the other three. Regardless, and on another note, everyone has their favorites...Michael, great chef, but found arrogant, pompous, narcissistic, lacking in humility by many...Bryan, great chef, considered too bland, too serious, doesn't season things enough (sidebar: in my opinion, he ignores the quickfires because (a) he's not good at off-the-cuff quick thinking or cooking, or (b) he doesn't think it matters)...Kevin, great chef, complaints: two words--too simple.

I think it interesting that Tom often has made note of Jennifer's lack of confidence and the fact she changed a couple of dishes towards the end of the challenge because of circumstances (isn't that what every talented chef is required to do on occasion)...plus, in the last challenge, Kevin told her the grill was hot and would work well. Isn't anyone irritated that Kevin one a challenge b/c of Bryan's help and hurt Jennifer in this challenge? Regardless, Jennifer, despite fear and nervousness, came through repeatedly and demonstrated that she worked well under pressure and time constraints several times--she won 4 quickfires. Kevin also won 4. Michael won 2. Bryan won none. Isn't this an essential part of the competition? Or am I the only viewer that is disturbed by this lack of attention to this element of the competition?

For the record, Kevin has been the most consistent chef of the show. Even though Bryan never was in the bottom two at elim, he was, more than once, in the bottom two in quickfires. Based on my scoring system, that I shared in previous blogs, Kevin has 16 pts., Michael 13 pts, Bryan 12 pts.

I have to admit, I'd rather eat Kevin's or Bryan's (or Jennifer's)dishes than Michael's...I don't want decompressed meals or necessarily overly-thought out menus that need to be consumed by putting all the pieces of a dish together for one tasty bite.

Wish the egg/cheese controversy could be dropped with respect to vegetarian dishes. The show is about the best dishes served based on the challenge described...and, while I didn't taste the food, I still think I'd rather have had Jen's salty dish over Michael's egg with mushy vegetables--albumin or no albumin...

DLC
DLC

Tom, the quote below perfectly sums up why this season has been fabulous.

"This was the strongest group of chefs ever to going into a Top Chef finale. All four are highly accomplished. And it’s the first time that the four strongest chefs in a season actually made it to the finale..."

Thanks for a great season! Looking forward to seeing who takes it.

PS - Ilan still sucks. :p

Andi47
Andi47

Hi Tom, I've always enjoyed your blog as a well-written insight to the behind-the-scenes side of Top Chef. Well done. As someone who specializes in early vertebrate embryogenesis, I can't restrain myself from clarifying some definitions. An unfertilized egg is one cell, just as you say, not an embryo. Most commercially available chicken eggs are unfertilized. Upon fertilization, you have a zygote: one cell body containing two parents' genetic contributions (sperm DNA+egg DNA). This is typically considered the onset of embryogenesis. Following a myriad of cell divisions, the embryo becomes essentially a hollow ball of cells (rather flattened in the case of chicks), called the blastula. This is the stage at which you'd use the terms "blastodisc" or "blastoderm"--the latter meaning the outer cell layer of the ball. There's a surprisingly coherent overview of these stages if you look up "embryogenesis" with wikipedia, another lovely resource is offered through "the visible embryo;" although the latter is all couched with respect to human development. If you eat an unfertilized chicken egg, you are eating one cell and a lot of fats and proteins that are prepared to form an embryo. You could not be said to be eating an animal, or killing an animal, unless you awarded full animal status to every red blood cell or skin cell of an animal. If you are eating a fertilized chicken egg, you are eating an embryo, and likely one that has at least made it through a few cell divisions (in birds, fertilization is internal, and by the time the fertilized egg is laid, the first several cell divisions have usually already elapsed). Whether one considers a small collection of divided cells to be an animal is morally grey territory that probably impinges on other of their political views. Keep up the good work with the blog--my husband and I admire your erudition and your unrelenting focus on the execution of the cookery. We'll miss Jen, but continue to cheer for Kevin (gotta love a nerd who can cook). Clean, classy cooking, FTW!

MooBoo
MooBoo

What a great season this has been! I will be sad to see it end. I am rooting for Michael but will be happy for any of these 3 men to win. I was disappointed that Kevin won the d'Or because I've watched those competitions. And the quick fire judge said it all in his description -- a side would be something like a zucchini woven into a basket. This was not the time for Kevin's simple food to win! It actually seemed insulting to d'Or competitors.

Valerie, NY
Valerie, NY

"Congratulations, you are Top Chef". Those are the words that are going to be said to Bryan, I will be eagerly watching on Wednesday to see if I am right!

msboxer
msboxer

Thanks for your helpful addend. I always wondered why the decision did not necessarily match the tone of the comments. Now I know. I believe that you fairly and carefullly evaluate the food and don't beliee it is based on "ratings". I think you conduct the evaluation as carefully and professioally as these cooks conduct their preparations. I love the show and "live" for the episodes. Great television.

maxine kressel-taub
maxine kressel-taub

i have been an avid viewer of top chef. watching your show has given me many ideas on running my own restaurant in long island, ny. this season your choices of candidates has by far improved from your first season. all of them were a joy to watch and to see the fellowship and respect grow each episode was so very encouraging especially on a competive show. i applaud all of you. by jove, you finally got the right recipe for success.

ShellyB
ShellyB

@Bhumerang, first you say Mike's eggs should be disqualifying, then say people should have made pasta or gnocchi in the vegetarian challenge. Guess what? Fresh pasta and gnocchi require eggs. If Mike had been in the wrong, Bryan would have been too for his ravioli.

To those saying eggs are a protein and not vegetarian, sorry, protein has nothing to do with vegetarianism. Protein is found in almost everything you eat, in some quantity. If it wasn't, vegans would die because you have to eat protein to live. Lentils, nuts, and tofu are examples of proteins to vegans.

As to animal products not being vegetarian, you're confusing vegan and vegetarian. Vegans don't eat animal product. Vegetarians will eat some, depending upon why they're vegetarian. Many people are vegetarian because they won't eat animals that are killed. Products such as milk and eggs, which leave the animals producing them alive, are fine to them to eat. There are lacto-ovo vegetarians, and they make up the majority of vegetarians.

Valery, NY
Valery, NY

Congratulations you are now Top Chef - Bryan. Let's see on Wednesday if I am right!

Arolem
Arolem

Chef, thanks so much for your good comments, and the update. I really do think the blog allows us to understand the judging, where the show's editing creates drama and suspense.

For all of you criticizing Michael's use of eggs in his vegetarian dish--did any of you notice that ALL three of the others used cheeses? As Chef Tom points out, this part of the challenge called for a vegetarian not a vegan dish. Had it been a vegan one, all four chefs would have been disqualified, so why pick on just one contestant?

Lima
Lima

Why is everyone so negative about Michael? You have to realize w/reality TV there is a lot of editing and having a "bad boy" makes it more interesting. And for those of you predicting Kevin will win- Michael is the one in the middle when Padma looks strainght ahead and announces the Top Chef winner. I am rooting for one of the Voltaggio bros. to win. They are the true gourmet chefs. It has been a great season.

Kathy from Austin
Kathy from Austin

Tom,

I just went on the Bocuse d'Or website to leave a donation in honor of Kevin.

THEY ARE NOT SET UP TO RECEIVE DONATIONS!!

I am stunned that the competition has all this new found publicity but no function to receive donations.

Someone needs to work on this and try other avenues. Can you post a link to make a donation in honor of Top Chef and Kevin?

JenRobbers
JenRobbers

Jens dish must have been wayyyyy over salted from Gail and Padmahs reactions when they tasted it. WOW!!! I just dont understand how judge Michael could say such nice things about the dish. I guess the shows execs were just being kind to Jen and didnt want to embarrass her on air by telling her bluntly that her dish was awful and inedible. I hope this is the case and NOT that Jen really created a great dish(little salty) but the execs would rather keep the brothers together to create more of a rivalry(it didnt work)??? Personally I would have much rather seen Mike go home because I think Jen is finally finding her own and starting to peak as a chef.It would have been sooooo great to see his bubble busted by Jen!!!!(That would have been a great moment on the show!!!!)Now we will NEVER get to see the look on his face after being eliminated as the WEAKEST LINK--GOODBYE!!!!That would have been PRICELESS!!!! Now we will just see him as a champion(gracious I hope) or as one of two runners up--- that really was a wasted moment on the show. I really am not so interested about the rivalry between the 2 brothers---I mainly want to know who is going to beat Kevin???? And also I agree with the other comments about Mikes attitude--very immature and childish-- is he still a teenager??? Im not saying he cant cook, but he sure needs to work on his professionalism. Mb he will watch the episodes and realize how unprofessional he comes across. Mb his brother can give him some lessons in humility and maturity OR mb it is his brother's presence that is bringing out the worst in him????? Good Luck to all 3.

Elena
Elena

First: BEST SEASON EVER!!!!

next, I just wanted to say thanks for the additional post clearing up the issue around Mike's eggs. I am a novice, and while I really wasn't sure until the end whether Jen or Mike would be going home (because as clearly as the panel of judges do make the reasons behind their decisions, usually, I'm not there tasting the food) I really love Jen and it was good to have a better understanding of why she was eliminated and not Mike. I agree completely she is her own worst enemy. I was glad she rallied here toward the end and went out with her strength more intact and not just because she was struggling mentally and emotionally with the competition. Jen, you are incredible and an inspiration to me - beating yourself up does you no service at all! Everyone one of these final four deserve to win, I am convinced, and nobody but nobody performs 100% every single day of their life - we all make mistakes. Two more excellent chefs will also make mistakes in the last episode. Girl, just let yourself be human.

Tom I want to tell you and Padma how much I enjoy and appreciate Top Chef. This show has in a real sense changed my life. I am completely a novice, an amateur, and do not aspire to reach these professional levels, but I genuinely love food and love to cook, and I have learned SO MUCH just from watching and listening each and every season - from the judges to the contestants. Every dish, every competition, every mistake, every success, every judge's comment, has been like fireworks in my brain. I did not know what I did not know! Top Chef has opened up doors in my head that I didn't know were there. I am having so much fun now with every stage of meal planning and preparation, and really simple things, like getting a 4" thick porterhouse to cook medium rare evenly all the way through, are just so exciting and give me such a sense of accomplishment. I am able more and more to cook the way I always wanted to cook - by playing with ingredients, not recipes. Everything I am doing now is just getting basic, basic basic techniques and information down, but how liberating that really is! Simple food with fabulous taste and texture (although my palate is not particularly complex!) is totally where I want to be. Virtually everything I prepare now comes from the freshest ingredients, and because i make EVERYTHING from scratch (more and more anyway), it's not even really more expensive. Last week - my first venture into baking pastry; next up - making pasta! Anyway thanks, you guys look like you are having a good time, I know you have your own reasons for producing and participating in the show, but you really have brought a lot of joy and inspiration into my life through Top Chef, and trust me, my family is also glad! Thank you!

AlphaSleuth.com
AlphaSleuth.com

Like many viewers, I was shocked that Jen got sent home. But Tom's explanation that the editors snipped some of the more critical comments about her food makes sense. Looking forward to a great Finale!

Rachel413
Rachel413

great season, chef. i was really sad to see anyone go, and it will be almost hard to watch the finale (but i'll find a way). i thought jen had a lot of talent, but her nerves undid her a few times, maybe this challenge also. michael v is an artist but not so sure he's a leader- he needs to grow up a lot. kevin and bryan are the strongest 2 in my book- well rounded as leaders and cooks. but very different, and i am totally torn. what a great season. whoever suggested a "best of" competition of past cheftestants had a great idea.

Kathie
Kathie

Best of all the seasons! The judges got the top 4 right and then the top 3. This has never happened before. The last four chefs were always professional, and Kevin and Bryan seem like genuinely nice people. This season was as classy as Top Chef Masters, which I hope returns. Any of the last three could be a top chef, but I hope it isn't Michael.