So there you saw it -- the two chefs left standing, cooking off in a head-to-head competition, course by course. Live. Before the judges, of course, but also before the nine previous Top Chefs, in the hopes of joining their ranks before the night was out.
I can imagine that the format of this final challenge placed new pressures on our two remaining chefs that they hadn’t had to contend with before, as they cooked in front of an audience, had to juggle speaking with the judges while overseeing the preparation of their dishes, and served the audiences (including their own families and friends, come to cheer them on), the judges and the nine Top Chefs. They also had the pressure of getting feedback on each course right on the spot, which could provide a shot of endorphins after cooking a winning course and a shot of nervous adrenaline after a loss.
Because we were giving Brooke and Kristen that immediate, individual judge-by-judge feedback, we judges did not discuss the dishes among ourselves to reach a consensus…which, in turn, means that you the viewer were not let in as much on what exactly we were tasting and what our thought processes were in the judging process as you normally are. And so here is my more in-depth assessment of the dishes placed before us:
I find it interesting that they both decided to start off with salads. Both were good dishes; Brooke’s was a more interesting dish. Its big flaw was that the ears were overdone -- they were fried too much. We thought at first that CJ was erring in how he was cooking them, but it turns out that no, this was actually how Brooke wanted them cooked. Curious. At this stage of the competition, you first look at the dishes to see if they’re even good ideas, then you look to see if the dishes were executed the way the chefs wanted them to be, and were seasoned well. If so, then you look to see whether there were flaws. Was the salad overdressed? Underdressed? Kristen’s dish was flawless, but Brooke’s pig ears were overfried. You can see that we all thought so, which is why the course was handed to Kristen.