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If you’re left scratching your head after the finale, you’ve come to the right blog. I was actually there in Napa in October, at the table eating the food, discussing it there and at the Judges’ Table, and yet based on how the episode was cut, it had me wondering up until the end whether my memory had failed me or not. It hadn’t. I think that what we have here is a classic case of building drama, of not tipping one’s hand, of leading the viewer (or misleading the viewer!) to keep the suspense till the final moment. Allow me to share a bit of what didn’t make the final cut:
I want to start by reiterating something I wrote last week, something that Kevin actually echoed in this week’s episode. This year’s finale put to the test four outstanding young chefs. None is a finer chef than the others. On any given day, any one of the four could have beaten the others; it was just a question of to whom the day would go that particular day.
You’ll notice that in keeping with their high degree of professionalism, the chefs all helped each other where necessary. For example, Michael pointed out to Kevin when something was starting to boil over. He just couldn’t help himself: When you’re in the kitchen, whether you’re a chef or a cook, and you see something – anything – going amiss, it’s your responsibility to point it out. So these chefs couldn’t stop for the sake of the competition. They helped one another all the way through. And while they did so habitually, I believe they also did so because while they each badly wanted to win, they wanted their competitors to do their best as well. They wanted to beat their competitors on the strength of their own dishes rather than through errors in the dishes of the other two.
In our first season, when there were only two finalists in the final episode, the judges sat down for each contestant’s meals separately. With three chefs, this would take far too long. Nonetheless, I do wish the contestants’ dishes had been staggered this season, even by five minutes, rather than presented all at once for each course. Also, I don’t believe four courses are enough for a final challenge; I think they need to be asked to make a fifth.
That said, though, we had four courses to compare and contrast, so let’s.
Kevin’s first course dish was remarkably flavorful and told a great story. To all of us it seemed more like an amuse or a canapé than a full first course, but the puree was really great, the chicken skin was crispy, all the elements were truly wonderful. (I could get more technical than “great” and “wonderful” but those are the terms the dish inspired.) So while yes, he could have worked chicken into the dish as well and made it more robust, in my opinion, it was hands-down the best in terms of flavor of the three dishes presented.
Bryan’s sardine dish was very bland. Apart from the sardine itself, nothing seemed to have a lot of flavor. And Michael’s first course was not his strongest. He tried to stay true to the idea of making a likeable dish of something he hadn’t liked as a child, but the prawns were overwhelmed by the broccoli, and the dish needed acid. I disagree with those at the table who felt the prawns were undercooked – I actually thought they were cooked perfectly, and the broccoli was properly crispy. Everything was well seasoned and well-executed, but conceptually, the dish didn’t quite work. So, for me, Course One went to Kevin.
As for the second course, Kevin’s matsutake mushrooms were a bust. They were far too tough to eat. You must slice a matsutake thin. In fact, it’s often served raw. But other than that, the broth was beautifully done and the rest of the dish was very good. Bryan’s dish looked beautiful and used everything inventively, but there was not a lot of balance. Everything was one-note and very soft, texturally (when you sous-vide fish, it tends to be soft). Nothing really sang out. It was a solid dish, but it wasn’t exceptional.
I have been a long time viewer but am finished..This season again proves it takes arrogance to win NOT talent...you ALWAYS choose the same type...not the best talent.! It is boring and Cliche ! DONE! Stick a fork in it..!
I love that Michael won! His food always looked the most intriguing to me. If I had to choose a chef's food that I thought it would be a treat to try once in my lifetime, it would be Michael's, despite his brashness. I didn't find him as distasteful as some of unpopular competitors throughout the seasons. Michael is very, very talented.
I would have been happy if Bryan had won too. I love the Voltaggio Brothers. Kevin is so, so boring.
While I had hoped for Bryan or Kevin to win, any one of the Top 4 (including Jennifer) were more than capable of taking the TC title. Michael got the villain edit (and admits that kind of how he is in his Q&A article at one of the Washington newspapers today).
Based on overall likability of dishes, I would eat at Kevin's restaurant in a heartbeat, as well as Bryan's. Michael's dishes are, for the most part, just not my style.
But congrats again on the absolutely BEST Top Chef season ***EVER***. Please keep the caliber and quality of cheftestants chosen for next seasons this high, and the viewers will continue to enjoy watching ultra-talented chefs do what they do. (I really wish someone would invent the darn Smellavision and Tasteavision sets so we could enjoy as well!)
Reading this analysis makes my head scratch. Michael two, Bryan 1 and Kevin 1. Should be a bit more technical that I would hope. Often thought about entering as a contestant, but his really puts me off.
Great great season Tom. I was a bit concerned that the producers were going to try to work Robin back in as their curveball. I'm glad they let the cooking take center stage for the biggest Top Chef night of the year.
Once again I can't believe the ending. I'm amazed that Michael beat Bryan and Kevin. I guess for TV you had to make the finale exciting by having the two brothers vie for the title. With Brian already having his own restaurant, you had to give it to Michael. Unbelievable. I used to enjoy this show so much, and yet, this season was hard to get into. Now, with Michael winning, I'm left to wonder if the show is about being a Top Chef. Or, if in this season, with brothers, it's about helping the weaker brother attain his dream. That's sad. Kevin and Brian were so much better throughout the season, and in the finale. I can't wait for next season. Whoopee.
While I know Kevin would never blame the loss on Preeti the point is that he drew the weakest staff to help and then has other issues to worry about than just the food.
They should have drawn knives for the order to pick their help. I am sure you depend on your staff and if you have to worry about their ability to deliver enough help they would not be in your kitchen. She was a distraction he didn't need. Then again Bryan got the best (my opinion) of the draw and he didn't win.
You were there and I wasn't but a leader's shine always reflects his staff.
After thinking that Kevin would probably will all year, but hoping for Bryan, I did an about-face tonight and not only was rooting for Michael, but was pretty confident that he would win too. His passion translates itself beautifully into his food. And while the judges do not decide based on the chefs' personalities, I appreciated his honesty and genuineness throughout the season. He's real. Kevin seemed like he was trying hard to be liked and be the nice guy, but when he vented about Preeti, it was a glimpse of the the real Kevin. Bryan is so subdued, that it almost seems like he was going through the motions. Although his cooking was impressive, it seemed like he was lagging Michael and Kevin a bit all season. And while Kevin presented some great, "simple" dishes this season, I do give the edge to cook as well as he did while taking as many risks as he did. Degree of difficulty counts, my friends--otherwise a tasty fruit salad could win a challenge. All in all, they are three wonderful chefs. I wish them all the best.
This was such a fantastic season--thanks for the excellent blogging to let us in on the finer points of the judging.
When it was announced that brothers would be competing, I thought it was likely a gimmick. So glad to be proven wrong. I will follow all top four chefs' careers avidly, and can't wait to eat their food.
Disappointing that Kevin didn't win but I guess Michael was the best that night. I do think the whole season should be taken into account but only for a tie-breaker. Next season 2 finalist and a 5 course meal!
You are by far the judge I respect most. I was completed captivated by Top Chef this season--and I don't even enjoy cooking!! Kevin was always my favorite contestant and has inspired me to visit his restaurant this weekend when I'm in Atlanta. I think his work was amazing throughout the series. For that reason, I think he deserved to win. I think he won the heart of viewers because he's so "real" and also very talented. Bryan is also talented and a real prince. Michael is another story entirely. He may have won and is of course talented--but seems like a major jerk. He's the only one other than Mike that I actually hoped would lose. He's too cocky and needs a good helping of humble pie.
As always, I'm happy to hear your explanation, Tom, but I do not remember sending one person out of the room before during the final elimination. I don't want ever to think the fix is in on this show, but making sure that the two brothers were up there for the final decision seemed ....overly convenient. And contrived. And annoying.
I enjoyed this season but....that note made it all weird for me.
I don't understand why Kevin didn't win. Week in week out he showed what it's all about! He won more quick fires and eliminations I believe than anyone!
Why show us all those weeks if the outcome has nothing to do with the sum of the parts!
He was more mature than Michael, had a better attitude, he cooked better tasting food than Michael and his brother.
I understand the complexity of most of the food that Michael prepared. I understand that Kevin cooked with simple ingredients, but you sure did make it seem to the viewer that the best tasting food was prepared by Kevin!
I am very disappointed! Does it TASTE great! You win! Kevin!
Mr.Colicchio I do agree with your statement. While I was on facebook and seeing other people routing for there Chef. I was at a crossroads, those three men reminds me of Three Stooges, a craftmen in there own right. But it was a delight to watch them and there professional behavior together like a good skit. You can see the love they have in the last four standing. I would had the finial with the four, and called it aday. All were "Top Chef" in my book. All total and honest, the last three was polished and the next Wolf-Gang,Emeril, or Bobby Flay. Sorry, but those are American that paved away to shows like yours. But these three men could give them a run for there money. Not to sell my cooking heroes short, but there are new ones in town.
I still believe there has to be some component of carry-over from previous challenges when tallying the final decision. (Or maybe I just really, really wanted to see Kevin win.)
Kevin should have been in the top 2 at least!!! Through the entire show it was pretty much a toss up between Kevin and Michael. How in the world did Bryan come out 2nd place? I believe that the two cute brothers at the end might have been for more "show" than actually cooking! Nothing against Bryan, but Kevin should have been standing there with Michael at the end!
I've watched every Top Chef show (from it's inception) and have to say that I'm disappointed with the outcome from this season. Bryan or Kevin should have been the winner. Yeow! Even after reading the 'final' blog from Tom C., this will make me think twice about investing the time next season.
Yes, I was disappointed in Michael's win. I did not think he should of been there in the first place. He could not cook an egg and some how he beat out Jennifer. But is was pretty much the Michael and Bryan show all season. I guess you have to keep the drama going. Overall I think Kevin should of won. But is all subjective to the judge's taste anyways.
Glad to have read this blog! Based on the finale, I was pretty upset with the outcome and regretted spending so much time watching this season only to have the result seem unfair. In the future, the editors should stick to "reality" and let the story be told as it occurred. I was ready to write the show off for good until I read your post. Thanks for sharing and acknowledging the discrepancy :). Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!
There was too much dictated to the finalists in the episode as opposed to other seasons where one dish was a twist. The first dish was added late. The second dish had to use the box ingredients and they had to use desert. Therefore, there was only one dish the chef was allowed to create on their own from the start. Top Chef has jumped the shark as LUCK has entered the finale or perhaps there was something else at work....
Based on what I was seeing tonight. I do think Kevin had dropped the ball on few dishes and he was my favorite. Bryan may not be the most unique chef but he is solid track record. Michael is the type of person that undermines a kitchen. I spent 12 years in food services from cook to general management and there is more to being a great chef than unique food. I agree with one of the guest tricks are not food. It maybe how the show was cut to present Michael in this light but doubt it. After watching top chef for all seasons I am done with the show. The show appears to be rigged over the last few season. It is gone from favorites and face book. I will stick with Chopped and Iron Chef.
I appreciate your breakdown of the meals, and will defer to all the judges, since we can't actually taste the actual dishes. Michael certainly had the better night, and won the second course, which served to compare the finalist on an even ground. Bryan and Kevin are outstanding chefs, and have their own restaurants; so, this will help showcase Michael and bring him to the next level.
I would love to see the four finalists, Bryan, Michael, Kevin and Jennifer work together to produce a multi-course meal for the Bocuse d'Or against an international set of chefs, perhaps some from Top Chef Masters. I think they have all arrived, and can compete with the best. Thank you for bringing them to America's attention! Good Luck with Top Chef 7!
I know you say the Sous Chefs did not affect the performance, but lets be honest. You paired each brother with a top 5 Chef and Kevin got stuck with Preeti and Ash. Seriously, Ashley was also a highly skilled chef. I found it very anti climatic to allow the teams to be so lopsided. You can't tell us that having Eli or Jennifer was not a big advantage over the rest. It seems unfair that the winnner of the most Elimanations gets stuck pulling knives for the most important meal of his life. First downer finale for me since Blaise lost. Please do not use that format again in the finale, BAD IDEA.
I have watched top chef for atleast 4 seasons now and am so disappointed with the outcome. I felt that you and the judges gave me false direction on how their dishes tasted. Out of all three contestants you made me feel michaels dishes were the least successful. I am considering not watching top chef next season due to this misleading editing. By the way I did not like Michael throughout the entire show.
Thanks Chef, And Kudos to my fellow southern Chef Kevin we do cook great soulful food in the south and Kevin was our Top Chef.
This was helpful to read. I was stunned that Bryan didn't win! Getting more of the details helped. Bryan is still my favorite - and he's from my hometown where I grew up!
We ate at Craft in NYC over Thanksgiving holiday - perfection! Thank you!
What ever happened to the concept of cooking "the best meal of your life" for the final? I was just as disappointed in the challenge as I was in your final decision. You guys really need to cut back on the gimmicks & let the finale be about cooking, not plot twists & gimmicks. It's pretty ironic that in a season when you had probably the best talent pool of chefs to work with, you went for gimmick after gimmick. As Donatella said: we don't need that.
Thanks for the explanation Tom. It was a great season and even though i was rooting for Bryan I was glad to see Michael win and show emotion. It was a great season and I cant wait for the next one. Top Chef Fan
Chef Tom: Next season, could you please choose the Top Chef based on the entire season, not just on one meal??? And why didn't these outstanding chefs get to cook with the likes of Todd English, Michelle Bernstein, and Rocco Dispirito or "the best of the rest" of the Top Chef contestants? It seemed very unfair, especially to Kevin. While he may not think that was the case, this viewer did.
Kevin might say that Preeti didn't effect his mindset and performance, but that is because he is a decent person.
Anyone that watched the show could tell that both those things occurred.
Boo to the person who decided to allow all the previous chefs back into the finale. It was too unfair.
In the finale, the Chefs should have as close as possible to equal footing and their fate should be decided by their skill.
This didn't happen. Too bad, it had been the best season of Top Chef up to that point.
And the poor choice in allocating sous chef's ruined it.
Too Bad indeed!
I don't understand why the final competition can't simply be: cook the best meal of your life (five courses, do a dessert, don't do a dessert, whatever). No, twists, no mystery boxes where an ingredient may show up that someone may have never used before, no drawing of the knives where you end up with random sous chefs. Just cook your best food. Of course they may need a sous chef, so bring in three equally talented professional, established chefs (e.g., the season where Rocco di Spirito, Michelle Bernstein and Todd English helped out). I'm not saying that the twists necessarily had any impact on the outcome of the competition but generally speaking, I would prefer to see the final three be able to cook exactly what they want with no twists or gimmicks or luck of the draw. The whole rest of the competition can be about the twists and crazy rules. If you can survive all of those eliminations, you should be able to then do what you want.
Love this show but so disappointed Kevin did not win. He was clearly the best chef throughout the entire season. He is the only one who cooks food I would actually like to eat. Perhaps most importantly, I BELIEVE that he is cooking from the heart. Not so with the arrogant brothers.
maybe kevin was not the best tonight, but you mention in your blog that it could of been anyone's night. Here's the thing, I believe that kevin was handicapped with the drawing of knives. I know the argument, you never know if your help will show up, well this is not "Top Sizzler's Chef". And by putting up to chance any of the contestants chances of winning by sandbagging them with less experienced chefs like ash and pretti(regardless of who had to work with them) is garbage. It's a shame when Top Chef is decided by who picked the best knives, rather than who can cook the best food. Shame on the idiot who figured it would be more exciting to throw everything up to chance! Whoever that was owes Kevin about $125,000. I'm sure that there are somethings that we don't see as viewers, but I did see that Kevin was by far the most talented and consistant winner of all the challenges. Congrats Kevin, while it sucks that you didn't win on TV I would eat at your resturant over the brothers grimm anytime! Good Luck!
Thanks for the great blog, it really helped put into perspective what the judges were considering with each course. This has been an exceptional season, and the best yet! As a Top Chef fan for the entire run thus far, I have never felt more invested in the outcome than with the Brothers V, Jen and Kevin. They were so professional, talented, and an absolute joy to watch.
Well it just ended & I'm at a loss for words! What a horrible decision, even worse than when Marcel won. Yes I know I'm 2000 miles away and didn't taste any of the dishes and have no culinary training, but wow. Admitedly watching from home we have no clue all that really goes on during the competition but Michael should have been gone long ago. Yes I was hoping the Kevin would win and would have been ok with Bryan winning, but Michael. MIchael but be a very fine chef but should he have won? NO! Sorry just my opinion but Bravo you blew this one!
Great season of Top Chef. Thanks for keeping it mostly high-brow and making it about the food and the competition.
On that note, I'd much rather see an honest non-manipulative edit for a finale. I don't and doubt many others watch this show for the big suspenseful moment at the end. Luckily, we get to read this blog to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.
Kudos to you, Chef Tom, and to the Magic Elves. As I said on Chowhound:
"I'll be back next season.
I'll be there for Top Chef Masters.
I'll be there for Top Chef Junior.
I'll be there for Top Chef Pygmies vs. Miss America, if they have it.
Well played, Magic Elves. Well played."
I thoroughly enjoyed this season. I'll be in Atlanta for the New Year. Craft and Woodfire Grill are on my list of places to go.
I am glad that I read this blog after watching the finale. I was disappointed that Kevin did not win. He has such a simplistic view of food that I can appreciate. His dishes are not too complex. They are just right. He was also consistantly in the top as were the brothers. I realize after reading this that the finale was just not Kevin's night. I really hope that the brothers were not sent to the final three just for drama. I would have liked to see what Jennifer could have done.
Kudos to all of you Tom. I've watched every TC season, and this was bar far the best-- because you emphasized the talent, rather than some sub-par soap opera (as in last season). I'm disappointed that Bryan did not win; but at least I was not left feeling as if you chose Michael for some reason other than talent. He is absolutely adorable, but most importantly, he IS very talented. I don't doubt some viewers were put-off by Michael's sometimes juvenile attitude, but I understand that the sibling rivalry added some entertainment value. I'm just glad that it did not over power the show. There was never a moment during this season when I was surprised by a cut. I hope the producers will continue to recognize that TC fans are serious; we see the show as more than "reality" TV. We learn from watching the show. I've learned more about Chefs from this series (and the spin-off-- TC Masters) than from any other TV program. Again, congratulations on a fantastic season.
Thanks, Tom, for doing such a great job with the blog (and, of course, the show!) all season! This has been my favorite season and, while Bryan was my personal favorite, I knew I would be thrilled for whichever of the top 3 won. I certainly do hope next season is made up of chefs as talented and pleasurable to watch as this one was.
As much as I like this show, it's so annoying to have to read your blog to figure out what went down and how. Can't the show, you know, show us. I hate having a WTF moment after each episode.
So I guess the show's faulty editing has led me to reading great blogs by you. Makes me wonder if I should just skip the show from now on??
First off, I think Top Chef is a great show even though most of the food I would never it. I am a simple man with simple taste buds. But to see thnigs done with food in the ways they are cook and served, it has my intrest.
But I am really pissed off at the ending of this season and not only that, most of the weeks. How can you people sit there and tell someone they must go based on one meal? Kevin should have won, not Michael. Kevin won the most challenges or does that not matter? Let me answer my own quesiton, course it don't. Don't matter he was the top most of the time, Jennifer either for that matter but lets boot her as well. After all, Top Chef is no different then any other tv show, it wants raitings and what better way to keep the raitings coming in each week then to have brothers in battle? So Kevin got sent out first so there was time for last minutes calls to friends and family to inform them the brothers were left standing and to hurry and tune in to see who wins.
And out of the brothers, you so called experts still got it wrong. Bryan is the better cook/chef. So what he didnt win and quickfires, he rocked at the main courses more so then Michael. Kevin, Bryan and Jennifer all did better. But like I said, it had to boil down to the brothers in the final show. While I think Top Chef is a great show, you people managed to drop it down for me. I am not sure I will bother watching next year. Seems that until you people can look at everything the chefs have done and not just 1 night or 1 cooking session, whats the point? The one you like has a bad night they are gone no matter how well they did prior to that.
I still say Kevin should have won it but I would have been happy with Bryan taking it but to give it to Michael for one night of service and not take Kevin and Bryan's past into consideration, Michael's too of course, is just dumb. Michael should have left the night Eli did. Overall, Eli, Jennifer, Bryan and Kevin were all better.
Great season. Really enjoyed reading what you had to say about every episode. Only question i have is ... can i get an autographed copy of your book?
I love your show, I watch it every season and though I wanted Kevin or Bryan to win, I do realize, that we are merely viewers. You and the other judges are tasting the food. Thank you for the comments clarifying everything. Is it possible to have a season where the top 3 finalist from all previous seasons battle it out for Top Top Chef? I think that would be really interesting and nice to bring back some old faces to prove themselves against some of the others.
thanks for the explanation.
i don't think michael is a top chef, i just don't.
if you look at restaurant wars - his brother Brian had to handle Michael's behavior issues, and he comes across as a chauvinist.
if you look at Bocuse D'Or Michael V. was the one who embarrassed you to the stellar judges at that table- remember the cucumber... he is just another Hung- loud bossy pushy -- not much else..
But Gayle's comments about Jen being a "female chef" and the production asst/former contestant also refers to Jen as the best "female chef" in her blog entry.
and then Michael V, Eli and the other Michael and all their chauvinism and ageism toward Robin.
And Robin staying on for the sake of television intrigue.
It all just drop the level of prestige of the win for me.