Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio defends Hosea's win and make a suggestion for future finales.

on Feb 27, 2009

Ditto, the ice cream in his dessert course. Stefan’s interest in creating something visually appealing was at odds with his coaxing the best flavors and textures from the ingredients.  While one certainly does not wish to serve unattractively presented food, a chef should never select presentation over taste, as Stefan did twice. If one needs to be chosen over the other, pick taste. But I’ll go a step further and say that a top chef needs to find a way to solve that dichotomy and achieve both. And aside from my comment, above, about the ice cream, don’t even ask me about Stefan’s dessert course. I don’t even want to discuss that train wreck.

Hosea, on the other hand, did not go into this challenge with confidence. He sweated it out and gave it his all. While diners commented that his first course was a bit bland, it just lacked salt.  It was a fresh plate, not overly messed with, and I appreciated it. Carla’s deconstructed bouillabaisse worked well, but I actually liked Hosea’s dish the best of the three first courses.  We know Carla’s tough meat wrecked her second course. Hosea’s second course was terrific.  Yes, we’ve seen scallops and foie gras before, but we’ve seen Stefan’s squab course before, too. Both dishes were strong, and it was a close call between the two.

Of course, Hosea’s venison blew both Carla’s nonstarter dessert and Stefan’s dessert course away. Hosea’s was not the most inventive, but it was a solidly executed, very good dish. And while some of the diners wished for a dessert course, we expressly stated that the chefs did not need to do one, so there was no penalizing Hosea for his choice to showcase another savory course.

End score: All three made good appetizers; Carla made one strong course and self-destructed with her other two; Stefan made one strong course and two problematic courses; Hosea made two extremely strong courses and one that would have been great with more salt. Of the three cheftestant finalists, the winner was clear.

Some people have expressed indignation at the result, insisting that Stefan was clearly the stronger chef. Perhaps, perhaps not. Irrelevant. This is a competition, and Stefan blew it. Were it about who is the stronger chef, they needn’t have cooked anything for the finale — we could have sat around and discussed the merits of their work and just handed one of them the win.  In last year’s Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, with their 17-0 record, were clearly a better team than the Giants, but do you stop the game in the third quarter and just hand the trophy to the Patriots or do the Giants need to win by 20 points to win the Super Bowl? No.  The team that plays best in the Super Bowl wins. Plain and simple. And often the sportscasters comment on how one team did not play up to their potential and actively lost the Super Bowl.  Here, people can be as upset as they like, but Stefan blew it. He didn’t earn the win. Even his guy Fabio clearly commented that Stefan did not cook up to his potential. No one will argue with the fact that Carla actively lost this challenge. Well, so did Stefan, regardless of how he played the rest of the season. How you played the rest of the season might get you to the Super Bowl, but if you lose the Super Bowl, you don’t bring home the trophy. If you are one of those who are up in arms at Stefan’s loss because you believe he is the finer chef, by all means, please go patronize Stefan and enjoy. One of the things I truly appreciate about Top Chef is that it provides great exposure for all the cheftestants and connects food lovers with chefs they have come to appreciate.