Scallops. The course went to Brooke, though I myself actually preferred Kristen’s scallops, and I’ll tell you why: I think that Brooke had too much going on in her dish. The scallops themselves were beautiful -- as good as they get -- and I think that a lot of what she did distracted from that great product. Kristen, on the other hand, focused on the scallop and the beauty of the scallop, which was very lightly marinated with some acid to bring out its flavor. I would have liked the opportunity to discuss this course with the other judges to hear why they were selecting Brooke’s dish over Kristen’s -- perhaps they would have convinced me. Likewise, I would have liked the opportunity to have made my point about allowing the scallop to shine. When the dishes are both very good, as they were here, making the decision between them very close, the judging can benefit from discussion.
I honestly don’t know what Brooke was thinking here. It was anyone’s game -- each chef had one course’s win under her belt -- and she handed this course to Kristen before she even began cooking. Why, oh, why did she choose to make fried chicken? Before you get your ire up, thinking I’m being a food snob, hear me out: as evidenced by the fact that we had pig ear’s on the premises, our chefs planned their menus well in advance and the ingredients they needed were preordered for them. Brooke didn’t decide on the spot to make that fried chicken for her third course, she planned it in advance (along with the rather uninspired sides she put with it). For the title of “Top Chef” she was tasked with planning the five very best dishes she could make, not to redeem herself from a prior challenge that took place quite a bit earlier in the season. I had little doubt going into this finale that Brooke could make good fried chicken, despite how the earlier challenge went, and I didn’t need her to prove that to me. I needed her to create for us one of the very best dishes she is capable of doing. Don’t get me wrong -- I like fried chicken. I serve it at Craftbar. But if I were going head to head in competition, I would never have made the dish Brooke made -- it was a nice little dish one might find at a bistro, a corner restaurant. You cannot win Top Chef with that dish. And as you saw in the episode, all the judges had the same view of Brooke’s choice that I did. They were all a bit mystified that Brooke was serving them the dish she placed before them, and the course went unanimously to Kristen, whose velvety bone marrow dish was complex, elevated, nuanced, and really beautifully prepared.