Tom Colicchio

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

on Dec 2, 2009

It may not make sense to you but it was clear to us immediately that it would be Jen who would be going home. What it came down to was that both of her dishes were way too salty. Jen’s overseasoning of both her dishes stood out to the judges like a sore thumb. We had our conversation at Judges' Table about whom to send home, but it was pro forma; we already knew and were in complete accord.

There was more of a discussion about who was going to win, where each of the remaining three made excellent choices and also made minor mistakes. With Michael’s egg dish, he did not take care that the whites of the eggs were perfect, and the balance was off as regards the size of the egg (too big for the veggies). And the proportions were similarly off in his strange-yet-good foie terrine in turnip soup with pear. Gail felt there was not enough foie to soup.  I liked it a lot, though. He took a risk and created a dish where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Kevin’s braised meat was not braised enough and was stringy, but it was still really, really tasty, and the polenta he served with it was really good. As for that little radish and carrot dish of his, it was pretty amazing for such a simple dish. We unanimously marveled.

Bryan’s dishes were both strong. One was slightly underseasoned but still well-conceived, well-executed, and good. He had the most minor of mistakes made that day and presented two strong dishes, garnering him the win.

Jen is a great competitor, who is her own worst critic and as a result, at times, her own worst enemy. She made a good call to switch gears when the coals weren’t hot enough. It was hard to see her go, as it would have been to see any of the four. As with any one of the four finalists, Jen could have won the title of “Top Chef” – it really came down to how things went on a given day. As with an Olympian who can lose the gold by one-one-hundredth of a second, when you get to this point you can have a great day or a bad day, and it can come down to a few extra pinches of salt.