Though the food in last night's finale was the most complex we've seen this season, the competition was completely straightforward: Richard, Lisa, and Stephanie were finally given the opportunity to express themselves fully as chefs, with the added bonus of expert, skillful support, and no limitations on ingredients or equipment. What transpired is now known by all, so there is no point in me rehashing it here. Rather, I'd like to offer my take on all three of our winners (which is how I think of them), and the one among them who became Top Chef.
Let's start with Lisa. From my limited interactions with her I can honestly say she is not nearly the ogre she was made out to be. Sure, she was grating, kvetchy, and defiant. And yes, she often skated by at the expense of an arguably more gifted chef. But the food she prepared in last night's competition proved she at least deserved to be in the finale -- it was absolutely of a league with Richard's and Stephanie's. It just wasn't the best. Having Lisa on the show this season gave rise again to those two ardent yet opposing camps in the Top Chef blogosphere, at a volume unheard since Tiffani's spin as villain-du-jour -- those who are convinced we judges manipulate the results for the ratings, and those who would have us do so for their favorite (or most hated) contestant. I'm happy to say we do neither.