We started with Kristen’s liver mousse and Brooke’s crispy pig ear salad. The chicken liver mousse that Kristen made was technically faultless. The mousse felt silky and velvety, although it was quite a big scoop… the presentation of Kristen’s was the only thing that I felt was slightly strange. The mousse was underneath all the frisee, so when I went to look for it, I couldn’t find the mousse, I had to dig through the lettuce for it a bit. But the flavor of hazelnut and prunes and chicken liver to me was sublime. Rich, with that nutty-toastiness from the hazelnuts, and the sweetness that cut through the fat from the prunes, and then that bright, dressed frisee just gave it a bit of freshness and bit of crunch. It was delicious.
Brooke’s dish was equally appealing. That six-minute egg was the most perfect it could possibly be; it was just set. The yolk wasn’t too runny, but it was loose enough to still create a little bit of a sauce. The chicory was so well-seasoned and so bright, and the pigs' ears were a fun, smart and tasty addition. Mine weren’t as burnt as other people’s, but Emeril’s and Tom’s were significantly burnt, to the point where you could not overlook it. My issue with that plate was that the candied kumquat and apricot jam were with the egg, and the crispy pig ear and chicory were together in the salad, so the egg was totally separate from the pig ear on the plate. They just weren’t talking to each other as much as I wanted them to; they looked like two separately plated dishes. They ate well, so it’s not that it was wrong to separate them, but I didn’t know why she needed to do that. Why not place the egg right on top of the pig ears; so that when you cut through it, it dripped into the salad? Isn’t that’s what she wanted you to do anyway? I think when I asked her, she might have said it was do-it-yourself a little, but I don’t want it to be left up to me, I want it to be a fully-composed thought, orchestrated and controlled by the chef who made it. I was looking for a little more of a point of view. That’s why, for me, Kristen took the first course.
Second dish… both were incredible. But for me, Brooke absolutely won the scallop course. The scallops they were given were so pristine and fresh, they actually came in their shells, so part of the task was opening, cleaning, and preparing them, before you even could cook them, which was an enormous task, and both chefs did very, very well. But it did add a lot to the use of their time and their sous-chefs. The dishes were both brilliant, and I would be right at home in any of the finest restaurants in the country, I mean that truly. Kristen served hers raw, just slightly cured, with citrus and lavender, and she made a Meyer lemon and apple garnish. The contrast of its tartness with the sweetness of the scallop was really outstanding. Her preparation showcased the raw scallop’s beautiful texture. I really appreciated that she held back, and didn’t feel like she wasn’t doing enough by keeping it raw and clean. She presented us with flavors that were so fresh, bright and clean. For me though, there was something about Brooke's dish that proved why she is such an excellent chef. In the same way that she impressed us when she combined squid and sausage in the Anna Faris and Chris Pratt episode, or mussels and frogs legs on the ship -- Brooke can take very disparate ingredients and work with them in such a way that you can’t believe you’ve never eaten them in that combination before. That to me is just exceptional, and this scallop dish was another example of it. The scallop and salt-cod were a great combination. But then she added speck a healthy dose of mustard seed. Somehow they didn’t overpower anything, but instead balanced it all out. The mustard gave her dish a tang which really elevated the richness of the salt-cod and contrasted with the sweetness of the scallop, and then she added romanesco – a cauliflower hybrid, that was just slightly charred, and served in perfect bites. Everything else on her dish was very soft in texture, and very muted in color, but the romanesco brought it all together. It was an unusual dish and the flavors really worked! it inspired me, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen or tasted before. Whereas I couldn’t help but feel with Kristen’s dish that, although beautiful, I’ve eaten it in some combination or variation before.
I was out-of-town for the finale and my hotel didn't have BRAVO!!! Could have watched online, but I wanted to be surprised, so waited til I got home to watch rerun On Demand. What a bummer! As much as I liked Kristin, I felt that Brooke got robbed. I like the comment by pineview8850, that "the best of the losers" beat the "best of the winners". Should Kristin have been eliminated in the first place - HELL NO! But, she was. So, we didn't get to see her in the regular competition up against Brooke and Sheldon which is what should have occurred. Josh being in the competition so long was ludicrous. In that dumb finale, I feel Brooke got ripped off. She had to depend on other chefs to properly execute her dishes, and I got so fed up after the first course that I turned off the show. What a let down after a very enjoyable season in general. Also, I feel that Tom was very partial to Kristin in LCK. From the description of the food, I think Lizzie should have beat out Kristin in the bass and spetzle vs. pasta with pomegranate seed LCK. While Kristin is a superb chef, I believe that Brooke could have beaten her if the season - and the finale - had been done properly. Congrats to you, Kristin, but, Brooke, you're my pick for the Top Chef this year! Claudia T.
Hi Gail- I was a bit torn on the finale but after reading you and Toms blog I understand why the format was the way it was. I loved both finalists and I'm glad Kristen won. She still had to beat Sheldon To make her way to the finale. Based on what the food was shown on TV it seemed very obvious that Kristen did a better job. I think you provide good insight and seem very unbiased to a lot of your critiques. You guys have a lot of Harsh critics out there but no matter what you and Tom do a great job And I will still love and support the show!!
Good season. As I posted on Tom's blog, thanks for the entertainment of the show & your blog. Only request is to never do this "live" finale again, which wasn't nearly as entertaining as a standard show--we want to hear your deliberations! More suspenseful, too.
Last, I'm hoping for another season of Just Desserts.
Gail, I really wish you could try to put yourself in the place of the viewer. I don't understand how you can tell a chef to "make the best meal of your life", and then mandate the protein in two of the courses and not even allow them to serve the entire meal. You make a lot of excellent points about the reasons for the judge's decisions, but very little of that came through in the actual show. This finale was a little heavy on the spectacle and a little light on actual food content. I am also tired of the whole "female chef" thing being made such a big deal of. Women will really be true equals, in life, not just cooking, when we don't have to point out their gender.
While the finale must have been exciting for the live audience, it was kind of a flop for the tv audience. After the fourth course it was apparent that Kristen had won, since there was not enough time left in the hour long show to have a fifth course prepared and judged. Both Kristen and Brooke certainly seemed to be the standouts in a rather mediocre group this season. But it was enjoyable just the same.
I started out enjoying the 10th season and then after about the 5th show it was almost too evident who was going to win. Brooke or Kristen won the quick fires and 98% of the time,one of them would win the elimination challenge. Neither of them were in the bottom,maybe once for each. I picked Kristen to win after realizing that Brooke and her could have something bad happen to their dish,then 1 judge would say that since everything else was so good on the plate that they could over look what she had done wrong. They won most of the money or the prizes that were given away. I think it was very important that a female win this season,and no matter how good or bad,it seemed that one of them always came out the winner. Josie should have been booted out after the 2nd time she messed up her dish,but it never happened. I loved the judges,Wolfgang Puck and Emeril and the others as well. But it seemed that everyone had their minds made up about who the winner was going to be before they even tasted their dishes. Padma and Tom gave an exceptional amount of praise to Brooke and Kristen and a lot of terrible things were said about the other contestants. I just feel the season was predetermined and if the next season is like this one I will pack my knives and go.
We did not watch this season until my roomie started watching one of the later episodes(restaurant wars). The challenges seem duller each year, and we're heartily sick of Tom and Padma, who seem incredibly smug with precious little reason. Padma should not be given a vote, given how much pot/cigs she smokes. How can she taste any of the food? Neither of us likes Emeril, either. LCK seems like a stupid device meant to cover up all the inadequacies of the judging. Adding an extra person does not seem fair to the finalists from the main competition. Tom always seems incredibly biased, so I don't trust him as a single judge. TC needs to switch to a blind tasting; judges should submit their votes anonymously, then discuss them after informing the audience and contestants of their decision. Lately, there seems to be too much fudging of the votes; the finale felt ridiculous in that regard. Padma complained Kristen's second dish was cold, then proceeded to vote for it. Gail complained about the leeks in Kristen's dish, then voted for it. None of the comments/votes seemed to make sense. Kristen smokes like a chimney; how could her palate be all that good? Chicken liver mousse? Oh, please. In what universe could the judges keep letting the supremely inept Josie keep sliding? More to the point, why was that obnoxious loser even included in this season? I like CJ and Stefan, but it seemed silly to include them with new contestants. Why not hold redemption seasons from time to time, as they do on Chopped or Next Iron Chef? Last night's pathetic attempt at a finale will return me to the ex-TC viewer category. Why should I waste my time, when the winner seems predetermined after just a few weeks? Brooke, you're TC in our household. All the best to you.
alexfromNE I agree with a lot of what you said about the season and I do believe the the winner was predetermined this time. I just haven't figured out why Josie got to slide through the whole time before they finally told her to pack her knives. I have always loved TC,but if the next season is like this one was,I will have to find another show.
What a lousy finale--I knew who the winner was because of how much time was left-- no time for a dessert round so it had to be Kristen. What a let down to a great season. Btw Love LCK. Both finalists were great.
How disappointing a finale. Could Tom have been more obvious, get rid of him. Gail was lovely as always. Hate this format. It appeared that Brooke pushed herself, made interesting dishes. She took chances. It also appeared that Kristen played it safe and the editing made it look like the judges were not bowled over by their review of her dishes, but she wins? Maybe I'm getting a bit jaded, but the past TC shows were more interesting and exciting. Feeling a big let down with this ending.
You bring an elegance and humble quality to TC and I'm so glad you're still part of the lineup.
@mellowyellow I disagree. I think Gail is a snob. Only blogs when she feels like it. Brings out obscure nick picking nonsense when judging. GAIL and Padma.... pack your bags and gooooooooooo
I have been a fan of top chef since it began. My favortite show on television. The finale last night was such a disappointment. The format was not exciting.. didn't showcase any of their cooking throughout the event and made it a spectacle versus staying true to the show. I felt bad each round for the chef that lost to be cast as a "loser" of the round in front of their family, colleagues etc. Then to have to go back and cook with that knowledge I believe tested their resilience more so than their cooking skills.
Truly disappointed in the finale of a season that prior I could not wait to watch each week. I hope you will make some changes next time around.
You are the sunshine of the group. You use the most perfect words to discribe the food. I truley watch it becuase of you!!
Great finale. Always so sad to see a season end (I've watched every one!)! I thought Kristin would win from the very beginning, as I think a lot of people did. I think why some have mixed reactions now is that..... as the season progressed without her.... we all got to watch the other chefs and get to know them better. Blessedly, ALL the final chefs had great character and talent...... so when Kristin came back in we felt more personally connected to Brooke (even though I watched every LCK:) ). Bottom line, no one can find fault with either Brooke or Kristin personally or as chefs.... what a beautiful thing. As is usually the case with TC..... the best character comes from the best chefs.
I love LCK..... love the idea of a 2nd chance for those fluke things (like Kristin being too classy to expose Josie!). And clearly, the rest of the judge's reactions in the finale support Tom's decisions throughout LCK. But I think TC would eliminate some criticism by having some shared judging in LCK. Clearly, Kristin is a standout chef. Save Tom the accusation of favoritism and share the judging.
Ok I feel like I need to clarify:)! So much great character in chefs that DIDN'T make the finals in all seasons. I should have said that, in TC, the JERKS rarely make the finals.
Bravo, Top Chef! The addition of LCK proves how a wrongly booted chef could have a chance to fight their way back to the finale and winning it all. I can't judge their food, but both finalists were equally deserving to compete in the finale based on their performance throughout the season. And in the end, for me, I was glad to see Kristen win, not only for being a talented chef, but also for having shown integrity and grace that marks a true leader and a great human being. Not a lot of chefs would have handled themselves as respectfully and bravely as Kristen had during this season. Bravo, Kristen!
Gail, thank you for your Cliffs Notes. Much appreciated! I do think Kristen deserved the win. That said, I really did NOT care for the "Iron Chef" format. Also I would have liked a camera on the previous winners table. Would very much have liked to hear their running comments on each dish. Perhaps part of the solution to my comments, yours & Tom's, is to make the finales longer. 1:20 or even 1:30 — Andy can wait. It was pointless to have only a few minutes of broadcast time left at the 4th course, making the end obvious & anti climactic. P.S. Your closing of "...two of 10, or 20%..." was spot-on!
It just seemed like Kristen's food - especially the first two courses - was very simple and nothing special. Usually Top Chef judges want the judges to step it up, and it seemed that Brooke did that. Still, we always enjoy your show:)
Everyone is truly missing the point. It is not about Kristen in LCK but she was put their to create drama and suspense. We all know Kristen didn't deserve to be in LCK, Josie clearly should have been kicked out especially her never ending problems with her execution, technique, and timing. But to put Kristen at LCK by Josie, it created a big stir (no pun intented) and controversy. It was clearly written on the wall. I predicted and told everyone Kristen will win it all and I gave my exact reasons and they all went according to exactly what I said. It was not a crystal ball prediction but it was clearly written on the wall. Kristen was meant to win it all. LCK is there for a reason, to create drama and suspense. Remember first and foremost about TOP CHEF, it is not just about cooking but a TV show. Think about it. TV shows are about creating drama, suspense, and a final conclusion. It is not just about fairness but great tv.
porc.bellie I think you are missing the point. These episodes are filmed months before they are aired. They could not possibly know there would be a controversy when Kristen was sent to LCK. As mentioned in the blogs, the judges don't know went on behind the scenes until just before the shows air.
The biggest problem with the "new format" for the Finale ,, is that the tv viewer was "left off the menu." In order to find out the judges comments, the viewer has to go to the TC web-site and read your blogs. I just as well not have watched - and simply logged on the site afterward.
I understand that it's a "Chef competition" ,, but it is also a tv show, which means that the viewer is an important ingredient too.
Also, would love a change to the host - I don't "hate" Padma like some commentators have posted, but I just would prefer Gail Simmons. She comes across very competently without ever sounding hateful or snarky. And I loved the "look" she gave Hughi when he made the knife comment. Definitely keep Tom. Would have liked more Wolfgang. And I liked Emeril a lot.
I really liked this (except Josie should never have been part of it). But I hated the format of the finale. I would have preferred to see all dishes (especially to see if either of them would have tripped over a desert since that has traditional been a tough course for the contestants). But most of all, I knew who won before the 4 th course was voted on as there was only 2 minutes left in the hour when the judges voted. Definitely hope that is a one time only occurrence I personally like LCK - it is not "unfair". Especially this year because all the chefs knew it was going on. It is new and different but that does not make it wrong. I hope they continue that. One thing I would like to see them add is some challenges that are a blind taste challenge. At least try it for a handful of times - especially when them are fewer contestants - they do it on Top Chef Masters with quick fires.
Kristen is a loser, not a winner. She was eliminated and to bring her back was a sham. Gee, what a finale. The best loser beat out all the other losers to come back one more time. So instead of the best of the winners we had the best of the winners versus the best of the losers. What could possibly be wrong with that concept? Brook won more rounds than anyone and deserved the win having never been eliminated. Brook got robbed and I've lost all faith in a show that retreads losers just so that they can try one more time. If that's the case why not bring all the losers back for a last shot? Shame, Top Chef isn't about the Top Chef.
The "best loser"????? Prior to her departure, Kristen had won the most challenges and never been in the bottom group. Then she was voted out (BY PADMA!) over Josie who was the worst remaining chef over a dish that wasn't even Kristin's dish all because Kristin had the highest integrity. took responsibility for everything and refused to speak ill of anyone else. What planet devoid of all basic logic are you from that you can't see that this was an obvious ploy by the producers to drum up ratings for a lagging show? Everyone, including Brooke, stated that Kristen was their biggest competition, so really just shaddup!
Not a sore loser,just seeing the unfairness,and how it was rigged,I knew the outcome too,as did all my friends,we all knew because of LCK Tom would pick Kristen every time to win,and he did and new final sucked and it was so unfair to us the viewers to have no suspense,no input on how they picked helpers,weird that Kristen got all 4 of the top chefs and Kristen only one. Tell me it isn't rigged... right... sore loser not,cause I like Kristen but think Brooke should of won.
The only thing wrong with the finale is that I will miss watching TC on Wednesdays, until next season! I am so thrilled that Kristen won, that I literally cheered and felt like crying. I was rooting for her all season, and the challenge of being eliminated, then winning TCK, then winning the whole thing is absolutely THRILLING!!!Congratulations to both Kristen and Brooke, who I would have been happy to see win, as well. This season was one of my favorites, and seeing Kristen come from behind to win was sure to make this season my favorite one, yet.
I'll miss you too Gail. Hope to see everyone back very soon.
Gail, the wrong person won! That is why LCK shouldn't exist - it is not fair for the ones who never got booted off or for the last 2 chefs left standing before the LCK winner enters the scene because they don't get a LCK chance at all! There are even tweets from other TV chefs that called TC Finale 2 a scam!! Just because Tom had a few comments about being on Brooke's side, he seemed to go the extreme other way to prove that wasn't right and in doing so took the rightful title away from Brooke! How can a judge say wonderful things about one chef's dish, have a few concerns about another chef's dish and yet vote for that chef's dish that they criticized?
Very, very disappointed with this year's entire season and VERY disappointed with the Finale!
Please - take LCK OUT FOR NEXT YEAR!
email@example.com The only thing flawed with TCK, in my opinion, is that it's for Tom, alone, to judge. It would have been more even had there been two other judges, or maybe have the other eliminated chefs judge the dishes, and their votes being considered. I honestly thought TCK, along with "Chef Favorite" was awesome and edgy.
It's funny how this finale was my favorite, and you are the opposite. We all have such different tastes, but, I have been very, very disappointed by some of the winners from the past years, so, I know what it's like to have a favorite and see them not win.
michele00724The only thing flawed with LCK is one judge? The entire concept is flawed and allows them to rig the competition. You actually believe Kristen won against all the other Chefs that advanced so far in the competion because she was Super Chef and makes no mistakes? If that is the case, why was she voted off in the first place? If that is that case, I have some swamp land in FL I would like to sell you.
firstname.lastname@example.org If Brooke should have won the finale, why didn't she win more of the finale rounds? LCK is actually an improvement on the original concept of the show. The winner has to consistently win, instead of merely avoid elimination. You could avoid elimination until there's just a handful left (ahem, Josie), but it doesn't mean you're a better chef. It doesn't make you grow as a chef, either. And the off-the-cuff decisions of five different people, in public, seem to me to be exactly how LCK detractors would prefer things to be judged....
email@example.com Actually, it's called good television. Very often on these reality shows, they will give hints that one has the better dish, fashion design etc, while the other one actually wins. If they told you everything they had to say, there would be no suspense or tension.
Don't get all tied up about this season's finale, it was fair but your girl just didn't win and maybe next year your person will be the victor. Remember this is supposed to be fun.
IF this final was fun u got me,was so boring,weird,they had to have time clock,no showing of chefs they picked,no best meal of ur live,no real judging,and we knew the winner cause of the time. IT sucked!!