Hugh Acheson
on Feb 50

It is the eleventh season, in this the eleventh hour. We have whittled down to Nina Compton, the Italian chef from St. Lucia and Nicholas Elmi, a very talented, French trained from Philly. One has been on a consistent tear all season long and the other has been on a frenetic journey of highs and lows. One is prone to calm introspection and the other is prone to stressful bouts of loathing everything in their wake.

The venue is Maui and that should provide a comfortable backdrop for all of the chefs involved. Clear your mind. Namaste. My mind was clear and freed of all worries, but that may have been the MaiTais. You really should in this lifetime get yourself to Maui and hang loose. It is a phenomenal island full of wonderful people. My family and I ventured pretty far and wide in our little rental car: a wonderful MaiTai lunch at Mama's, awesome sushi at Koiso, a little Mom and Pop joint, a super fun meal at Star Noodle, and many great meals at the Andaz where we based. It was by far the best work vacation ever.

We are privy to some foreshadowing content that shows a very clear truth: this was a really difficult call to agree on. It was a long, long night. I remember the last stretch in Alaska after the Texas season and that was a long night but not nearly as neck and neck as this decision. Trust me when I say this: it was as close as the show makes it out to be. It really was.

So we start with drinks on the couch where Nina and Nicholas are relishing in their position. Nicholas is itching to get this over with, and Nina is as well, but as always Nina has a certain island-calmness about her. They are both picturing themselves wearing that crown and walking a runway made of truffles and foie gras.

I try to imagine Nicholas as a character in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but draw a blank on how we fit he angry chef into the show. Ideas will be vetted.

120 comments
juka
juka

Oh please! You are all so busy coddling Nick and encouraging his bad behavior and undeserved "win." I hope he realizes he does not deserve to be Top Chef and most of the comments here back up my position.

Andrea-fromRaisingPeanut
Andrea-fromRaisingPeanut

I see both sides of all the comments below. But here's my TWO cents: I do think a Top Chef should be more than just a great cook. It's not just all about the food. If you look back at the judges table over the seasons, their decisions have been based on food, but other characteristics also factored into their decisions: respect for judges' criticisms, incorporating the judges' feedback into their food, how they handle themselves in stressful situations, etc. The judges discuss all those other characteristics. So, that being said, I wish they would have factored in the lack of salt and the way the dining experience was made "awkward" by Nick's temper. A TOP chef should NOT lose his temper. Sure lots of chefs do, and worse than Nick's. That, in my book, does not a Top Chef make. 

jjc2924
jjc2924

I thought it was very telling when Stephanie called in to WWHL and said that Nick is one of her closest friends, but that she thought NINA should have been the winner because of her skills as a chef. 


Sarara
Sarara

Hugh, I feel sorry for you for even having to rationalize the outcome of this. What an embarrassment for you. The audience isn't stupid. Top Chef has lost credibly, and sadly, it's hard to feel much respect for the judges. You have lost a lot of viewers here. I hope it was worth it.

puchitwo
puchitwo

It was very clear that Tom just wore the rest of the judges down to comply with his decision in the finale.  Displaying the clock  was a give away.  Nina was far more consistent and if not for immunity, Nick would have been long gone.  I have been a fan for many seasons.  This regrettably will be my last.  Apparently, I am not alone.  Tom, put that predicament in your sous-vide and smoke it.    

ffranco
ffranco

I don't have a problem with Nick's temper if it helps produce consistently excellent food. What I do have a problem with is the clearly superior chef (Nina) losing to Nick who would have been eliminated the week before except for a fluke. 


That's a function of the way the rules of the game are set up. But if the rules result is this kind of miscarriage, then maybe they need to be looked at and perhaps revised.

dscholey
dscholey

This was a pathetic ending.  It seemed pretty obvious for the last few episodes that Nick was being groomed for Top Chef regardless of sometimes bad, often uneven food throughout the season.  Should have been a Shirley & Nina finale.  Especially after the outburst in the kitchen loud enough for customers to hear.  I, for one, am a "customer" of Top Chef that probably won't be coming back unless there is a change in management.And LCK is just an opportunity for Tom C. to pick the person he wants to return to the show.  Needs to be a contest that allows the chefs to be anonymous.  Sorry, but Tom C. has lost all credibility with me (and looks like many others).  I already stopped watching LCK.  Hugh, I sure hope that all the blog responses are reviewed by the people who run this show.  And I wish that you would find another show to be on so that I could continue to watch you.  I loved your cookbook, you're the best!

dottie7
dottie7

Seems like Tom C.'s vote held more weight than any of the other judges in this last competition. We had the sense that Hugh, Padma and Emeril wanted Nina, while Tom and Gail were pushing for Nick. Agree with a comment below that Nick's undercooked duck didn't seem to be considered at all. More importantly, this show needs to change in terms of how judges weigh the last challenge. They need to take into consideration the contestant's performance during the entire season. Nick blew it so much that Nina's winning cooking from start to end of season would seem to count for more here, but clearly was not a factor in the final decision. It should have been. The wrong person won, certainly if you look at the entire season. I think Tom even admitted that Nick's timing more than anything kept him in the competition. Consistency and overall excellence is not rewarded and it should be.

PlanetLynjo
PlanetLynjo

If Nick is ever wondering why his restaurant is empty - it will be because we are all eating at Nina and Shirley's!

Sunnygirl808
Sunnygirl808

I've been a fan of Top Chef purchasing all the seasons on iTunes.  I looked forward every week to the day of the next show.  I am totally disappointed that after all the weeks and tough challenges the chefs were put through preparing the better meal is the only factor in determining the winner?  Did I miss something but wasn't the finale like a restaurant war with each chef not only needs to prepare a better meal but in charge of the name of the restaurant, menu, service, etc?  Was Nick's food that much better than Nina's that him yelling so loud that the judges could hear meant nothing to the "dining experience"?  I realize that a person's character, integrity and professionalism doesn't play into deciding who is the Top Chef.  I hope that Nick will look into anger management counseling so that he can really take care of his beautiful children and wife.  I am sad to feel like I no longer have a desire to keep watching Top Chef.    

sakibetty
sakibetty

*sigh* So basically, if you never use salt, yell at your co/workers, handle stress poorly, and struggle to be on top... you win! Nina was always as cool as cucumber, had rave reviews every show (even when she accidentally left something out or added something), and stood for a pretty good cause. 

I just don't get it. Throughout the season her menu was always attractive to me, and his was like... corn tumbleweeds!? what. FISH FOAM. WHAT. Gaaah! I would never eat at his restaurant, nor would I ever work with him. Emeril, Padma, Hugh... I believed you! And -this- it how it shakes out?! 

Woe to me... woe to us all...

alphonse
alphonse

I don't understand everyone's distain with Nick winning. It's not a popularity contest. It's not about Nick's hotheaded personality. It's about who cooks the best in the finale. The judges did not make a decision lightly. They needed well into the night and part of the next morning to come to a decision. We did not taste the food. The judges ate the food. Nick cooked better by a narrow margin. Ether decision was alright with me. In fact I like Nina better. She's nicer. But it's not about being nice. Top Chef is not about who won the most contest during the season. Shirley did. She did not have the two best meals to go on in the finale. Nick and Nina did. Nick had the best dish then. He was on a roll, after slumping for a few weeks. At the begining, Nick had some victories too. Toward the end Nick was in the bottom three times with a thinned field, but never had the worst dish to be sent home. The only time he could have been sent home was when he had immunity. He lucked out per the rules. When the finale rolled around, he cooked the best. I believe the decision was right. Nina might have won more contest. Nina might be the nicer person. But Nick cooked better when it counted, in the finale.  Except it. Or be bitter about a cooking show thats been on for 11 season's. The best chef won, not the nicest. It was close.  

sushigirl926
sushigirl926

Nick may have won the money to open his own restaurant but he will never be successful in this business with a temper like that. No one in their right mind will work for him or with him the way he belittles his staff. He was even muttering under his breath that he was gonna lose the finale because the plates weren't being expedited right. Love how he blames everyone for his failures. Good thing Carlos wasn't his expediter or he would have blamed him for losing.

Sherridan
Sherridan

I thought it was a great season. I liked all of the chefs and New Orleans was awesome!

Though Nick is not a passionate chef....like most of them are. He has a chip for sure.

But please change the rules. No immunity allowed in a team challenge, I know it's a game but it brings out a good strategy to sabotage ones team members when you have immunity.

TazBo
TazBo

What. A. Cop Out...


Boys Club to the max. I'm done with this show

StaceyChristina
StaceyChristina

Ive been yelled at by Chefs but never in ear shot of diners. Chefs I had working relationships with. 

Nick was a guest in Hawaii. 

Why have them create restaurant settings  if they are only judged on their food?

The viewers have been served a nice hot steaming plate of bull.

diving61
diving61

I think that Nina was robbed.  SHAME on the judges for not selecting the consistent chef (NINA).  If the judges, reviewed what the viewers were shown, then they would NOT have had a problem selecting Nina.  I know that I will have to think twice about watching Top Chef again.......SHAME ON THE JUDGES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jval
jval

Fellow fans, friends - I. am. done with this crap show of "Top Caterer" and drama driven reality show... they have truly lost their way with regards to celebrating the art & passion of food and of the craft that is cookery. Top Chef *used* to celebrate the craft & the art of transforming food. I've no stomach for this fallacy that used to be a true chef's competition. Why would anyone embark on the faux journey of self-discovery & self-fulfillment through this competition that celebrates marketing & brand promotion over artistry. The fact that the best chef was not awarded is disheartening enough - the fact that this show now celebrates mediocrity through the exploitation of the losing talent to promote the mediocre talent in a 'dramatic finale' is laughable. Aside from the lovely Padma, there are some talented palates judging - but nothing can compensate for the truly degrading, drama-driven reality show that Top Chef has become. Yes, Nick was a dick the entire season, yes, there were better chefs that left before him, yes the judges *and* producers contribute to the perpetuation of mediocrity - but honestly... immunity is not a relevant concept here - it's a cooking competition!? Bring your best & you win the right to move forward. Period. Cash & prizes are fine, but immunity to screw up next round is not reality & not fair in a competition of skill & talent. I'm done.  It's no longer a real competition - it has become the "real chefs of wherever they land that season" - it's no longer about the artistry of food transformation. Bottom line, the best chef did not win - this might as well be Real World Cookery by MTV, oh wait - except there are a menagerie of self-promoting judges that assume they are qualified.

Good bye Top Caterer, you no longer have any value as a real chef competition. We will miss you. Rest in peace the rest of Bravo TV, the go-to channel for pure, unadulterated drivel...

hdc77494
hdc77494

Nick should be kind to himself? I've got an idea. Nick should be treated like he treated every other person in the show from day one. No one should show him an ounce of respect, compassion. common courtesy, or be in any way fair, or take any responsibility.  He had the seasoning wrong all season. His mistakes resulted in other people being sent home, and one of his tantrums could actually be heard by customers in the dining room.  Somebody really liked this jerk, but not the fans of the show.  OK he won. I seriously doubt he'll ever be capable of running a kitchen much less a restaurant. People will hire him when they want to run off the entire existing staff.

cosmic93
cosmic93

So hard to believe.  I mean, Nick delivered one judge a dish that was so undercooked as to be inedible.  That's hardly the level of consistency I would expect of a 'top' chef.


First time I've ever seen a major cooking competition won by a "chef" who can't even deliver edible dishes to all of the judges.  Makes you wonder... are the judges' standards really that low?  Or is that how far the producers are willing to go in order to force a win?  Remember, the disclaimers for this show clearly state that the producers are allowed to influence the outcome.

JudyAC
JudyAC

You and your fellow judges seriously disappointed me with your choice.

angiekay
angiekay

I have watched every top chef for years.  One thing remains consistent.  If you can't get the seasoning figured out, or under season dishes, you're done.  This is the basic concept of cooking.  So funny the judges have no tolerance for this until this season.  Never mind that Nick is a complete DB.  

baileydog
baileydog

I think that it is very telling that Tom no longer writes blogs--he doesn't care what anyone else thinks and it was clear that he was tired of having to constantly defend himself from what so many Top Chef fans felt was unfair judging--it's like he is thumbing his nose at the viewers. In fact, I really believe that he purposely likes to upset everyone by picking the person nobody wants--it makes him feel all-powerful.  It was wrong for Nina to be asked to create this most important menu, and to not inform her that there was no ice cream machine--I really think that this omission of information cost her the win. Very, very unsatisfying season.

lemonade
lemonade

Be good to himself!?!  Nick should try being a little decent to the people around him.

azuremountain
azuremountain

I could tell by the look on Hugh's face that he was a bit bulldozed. To digress, when is Hugh writing a book? Maybe he could explain a lot of technical food stuff to the average person in a funny way. I would buy that one. I'd rush to buy it if he told us what he really thinks about Top Chef, but then he would lose his chair at the judge's table, no doubt.

MichaelP
MichaelP

Enjoyed your post, Hugh. And I can certainly see that there was a mixed opinion on this final decision. It was enlightening to read Tom's tweet about the scoring of the dishes. If Nina had gotten even one vote on dessert, and more than just one vote on main, this would have been indeed a tie. As it was, it was close, as it should have been with such talented chefs.


Perhaps some of the vitriol leveled against Nick was because it seemed as if there was going to be a Nina/Shirley showdown. When that didn't happen, people were disappointed and blamed Nick. And on top of that, there was the Nick immunity controversy. To review: Immunity means that you are immune to being eliminated even if you cook the worst dish. So, IMO, the hating began there, continued when Shirley was eliminated, and culminated in the finale.


Without tasting either of their food, hands down I would have preferred Nick's. More nuanced, more technically skilled. One person's under seasoning is another's salt lick. Once Nina served her third course, which had winter vegetables in the middle of Hawaii, and the fourth course of a dessert not worthy of a first year culinary student, she sealed her fate. It showed, IMO, a lack of understanding.


I've worked with plenty of chefs. Most of them have tempers that would make Nick's seem like he was a stoned out yoga instructor in a hammock on the beach. Imagine you're in the situation where you bust your butt all season to cook as well as you can, and then have everything jeopardized because of an incompetent wait staff. What did we want Nick to do, go all Tony Robbins and try to inspire them to achieve their full potential while putting the fish on the left? No, it's 'hey, get the f'ing spoons out as I told you'. Bravo. Had this been Marco Pierre White dealing with this wait staff, there might have been a stabbing.


Good season, good judging, great franchise. Well done.



kc71603
kc71603

Much ado about nothing.  I see more negatives on Nick's side but what does it matter at this point.  You are right though that Nina's will be fine.  She doesn't have 'island calm' but a maturity that Nicholas lacks.  I just didn't like him . . . sorry.  A better final would have been Nina v. Shirley or Nina v. Louis.  That probably would have been too tame a finale for the network.  As my 9 yr old says . . 'Me so sad".

ana.lili
ana.lili

I woould have loved to see what carlos and shirley would have done in the finale. this finale sucked and carlos' place in the finale was robbed. nick should have been gone long time ago and was given many chances. but i guess this is tv and not really about the food. 

Lapgai
Lapgai

Not since Season 9 with Heather going after Bev have I been more saddened and utterly disappointed with Top Chef.  While I'm sure Nick is a great dad and husband, he has some serious anger management issues as a professional working chef.  As a father, I can see myself doing whatever it takes to provide for my family.  As a father being an example to my kids, I couldn't stomach the actions and bullying from Nick that I saw this entire season. 

While I'm sure Bravo/TC producers and editors needed to provide drama, it still left a bitter taste once it was done and portrayed Nick, right or wrong, as a complete asswipe.


Maybe it is time for a change in judges.  I wouldn't mind having Emeril, Hugh or Curtis Stone as a head judge.  I understand it's a reality cooking show and there will be good guys and bad guys, I just don't have to like or spend my money on their endeavors, which I will not do in Nick's case if he opens a restaurant.

whatever001
whatever001

So I guess all a contestant need to do to be Top Chef  is under season your food consistently and be a douche all season, oh and not be African American or a woman.  Worst season ever! With that said I am sure Marcel from season 2 is jumping for joy knowing he is no longer most hated contestant.  Bravo TV. has ruined yet another great show.

momofdkkm
momofdkkm

I believe this may be the last season of Top Chef I ever watch.  We have become a society in which it is ok to bully others, be unkind to those who we believe are "beneath" us and marginalize individuals who are in a complex, sub-positions.  Nick was rewarded throughout the show whenever he swore and screamed at his competitors, or in this situation, his food servers.  I was appalled that Tom did not think this was something to consider when choosing a winner.  He continually berated others.  He was not gracious.  He threw his teammates under the bus when he had immunity.  


Nick stated that he is going to open his own place and will not work for others again......I am confident when I say that he will have difficulty keeping good staff.  He is arrogant and rude.  There is a reason why his previous employment hired everyone except HIM.  


Tom chose Nick well before the finale and it showed.  He needs to apologize to Nina and to the fans of the show.  


Top Chef rewarded a bully and unkind person.  Makes me sad that we can't do better as a country......which unfortunately at this point in time, includes and/or begins with reality shows.

truebeliver
truebeliver

Nick has consistently been on the bottom.  He should of went home in the French/spanish challenge. He has a horrendous attitude and treats his staff like crap.  This is a travesty.  Nina has consistently excelled on her dishes.  She was the clear winner.

Jeanine2
Jeanine2

Completely understand how the game is played but I'm still upset that Nina was not crowned the winner last night. It's okay though, she has the cooking chops and the personality ( see Fan Favorite win), she'll be fine just like Carla was when she didn't win.

Namju
Namju

What shocks me is how many people are dictating who should have won...when they never tasted the food.  I believe many people are making the fallacy of letting the "popular" contestant dictate emotional bias over objective assessment...and the only people who can make the assessments, are the judges, who tasted the food.  Who out of this internet audience, tasted the food?  Hmm?


Once Top Chef turns into a popularity contest, that's when I'm going to stop watching the show.  I have a lot of respect for the judges.  I thought Nina would win for sure, because she would be a strong political win as well.  So I was pleasantly surprised that it does appear, the judges stick to what's MOST important--the food.  Which is the whole point of hte show.  Once they want to turn it into a popularity contest, they should rename the show "Top Popular Chef"...it can be the American Idol the food world.  A classy standard, to be sure.

jelliebean
jelliebean

I remember at the All Star Reunion Tiffany saying she was glad she lost season 1 because if she had won it would have validated her nasty behavior. Well I guess Nick was just validated for being a nasty human being. He comes across as a mean, greedy and selfish person.  He treated some of his fellow contestants and the wait staff like crap. I hope he watches the full season and is ashamed. Not sure I will tune in to the reunion. I think I might be done with Top Chef. Very disappointing.

Scorpion1
Scorpion1

My biggest problem with this whole season is why Nick kept getting passes to begin with. I know I have said it before, but every season Tom eliminates chefs for what he always says is cooking 101. He has stated season after season, that a chef that can't season his food properly has no business on Top Chef. And Tom is the main person that complained about Nick's under seasoning challenge after challenge. Sorry but I think the wrong chef won.


And Nick did make mistakes, Emerald couldn't even eat one of his dishes and another dish was by Tom's own comment way under seasoned.


Then on WWHL Tom said it was so close that it was so hard to pick a winner. That if they would of made a decision  based on who had cooked best all season it would of have been Nina, and Nick was just a little better on the last challenge. Well if it was that close that they couldn't make a decision why shouldn't they have taken into account who was the better cook throughout the season? Makes no sense to me. If that's the case why even have a whole season just have all the chefs prepare a meal and pick a winner. Tom clearly stated Nina was a better cook. Is it Top Chef for the night.

jerseygirl_aatrh
jerseygirl_aatrh

Oh come on people, even Nina knew she had lost because she is self ware enough to know she had the two weakest dishes of the night. She wasn't sure if having the strongest dish of the night(her pasta course) was enough to carry her through. Her main course was not under seasoned, it was not cohesive and was met with a lot of criticism.  And her dessert was basically a pedestrian nosh. Nothing Nick made received such harsh criticism.  And the judges loved her enough to take into consideration the in between bites, which they didn't do for Richard in Season 8 (they literally said they were "throwing the amuse out" in weighing the two meals).   They even tried to take points away from Nick for that moment he yelled at his incompetent staff.  Those extra considerations still didn't push her over the edge. To me it was clear they wanted to give the more consistent chef the title.    

And let's not forget, skill wise Nick was top contender from the beginning of the season.  Nina herself says this about Nick. Just because Nick played the game and chose to hang on to his immunity, he became the villain of season 11. He immediately knew what he had done was unfair to Stephanie, but it's part of the game.Ah and Nina admitted that she would have hung onto her immunity given the same situation. Hell, the producers were probably banking on a situation like this when they left in immunity so late in the game.  (Ah, Bravo...always looking for cheap drama.) 

I definitely wanted a Shirley & Nina finale as well, but folks Top Chef is a game show of sorts, not a board exam to determine who is the best chef.  Nor is it a popularity contest.  I was always kind of indifferent to Nick  on the season, but the level of hate he is getting for decisions NOT made by him, makes me jump in defend the poor guy.  

Chryno
Chryno

@sushigirl926  umm, have you never heard of Gordon Ramsay? Not a nice person at all, yet he has 15 Michelin stars and loads of success. 


Personality and temperament have nothing to do with a restaurant being successful or not. The only thing that's important is the food. 

juka
juka

@hdc77494 Agree. Nick should realize that he is a fraud and most people do not respect the decision.

juka
juka

@baileydog Or he is a coward who cannot take the heat from his unfair, sexist judging. Tom needs to pack his ego and go.

greysalton
greysalton

@lemonadeEveryone picked on poor Nick. You have to realize that he won with a stained Sushi knife and ovens that change temperature on their own. Luckily for those around  him he never did go midieval on anyone.What a pain in the butt. He must  be a really good chef,  but surely is a big pain in the ----.

Sherridan
Sherridan

I want Hugh to write a book too! I love Hugh.

fanaticfoodie
fanaticfoodie

@MichaelP  Wow! What a thoughtful description of the season and the situations.  I missed Tom's Tweet.  I will look for it.


One really important comment you made that I must have missed was the concept of a "winter" vegetable. I know none of the judges liked Nina's swordfish flavor profile, and I understand kale was part of it, but I really didn't get to see what she did with this dish.  I just know that she herself knew she blew the dish.


I am laughing so hard about your Tony Robbins statement.  Kitchens are not Zen places.  The Dalai Lama ain't showing up there anytime soon.  It's just too bad that this show does not take service OUT of the equation.  Two experienced maîtres d'hôtel would take front of the house problems away from judging comparisons.

Georgi
Georgi

@truebeliver  he did not go home because he had immunity.  that is how he has gotten through this entire season, but there were many times before that episode he should have gone home.  there are not many chefs who make it through like he has who do not know how to season their food.

Sarara
Sarara

@Namju   Obviously viewers "can't taste the food". The point its the the judges who did taste the food consistently judged one contestant's as superior to the other, including the finale.

haydenrd
haydenrd

@jerseygirl_aatrh I think you are wrong wrong wrong, Nick's wins including the finale 3, Nina's wins without the finale 3, Nicks lows 5, Nina's lows 2,  Nick highs 2, Nina's highs 7,  now explain to me how Nick was the most consistent based on these numbers.

kc71603
kc71603

@jerseygirl_aatrh  


I can't point out the number of inaccuracies in your assessment but the most blatant misconception is that Nicholas was the more consistent chef of the season.

fanaticfoodie
fanaticfoodie

@jerseygirl_aatrh  EXACTLY.
--The two best chefs? Nina and Shirley.  
--The really strong dark horse who could have won? Louis.
--The guy who managed to survive because he had strong enough chops and had something to prove for his family? Nick.


The judges KNEW their decision would take away from their honest and totally earned regard for Nina.  They also knew that for the time on Maui, Nick was in it to win it.


Thus, he won.