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A not-so-famous person famously said, in regard to the Best Actor category in the Oscars, “[i]f you want to know who the best actor is, let them all play Hamlet. Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Makes sense to me. And so Eric Ripert and I hit the food markets at the crack of dawn to pick proteins for the chefs to play with in this final challenge. We wanted a whole fish to feature in the fish course. The rouget was small and very fresh. We selected the slipper lobster because it’s a crustacean that most Americans have never cooked with. Of course, there’s nothing all that different about how it needs to be cooked, so it was a bit of a red herring (metaphorically!!!). I was hoping someone would pair the cuttlefish with the duck, but no one did. The duck was the most interesting of the proteins –- one could roast or confit the leg and roast the breast. Or one could make a stock, if he chose to remove it from the bone. The pork could have been used with the second or third course (but Angelo’s choice to use it with the first shifted the focus to the pork, featuring it instead of a vegetable, a poor choice). So there were plenty of options with these proteins, and plenty of opportunities to be highly creative in designing the courses, much as three different actors could have delivered three entirely different –- and equally valid and interesting –- interpretations of the Danish prince.
Let’s break it down course by course: As I mentioned above, Angelo’s first course did not actually complete the challenge. I liked that he made the noodles, but no matter how you slice and dice it, pork belly and noodles do not a vegetable course make. Ed’s corn dish was good but not great. Whereas Kevin took a relatively standard dish and gave it a lot of flavor. It was extremely well made, and hands down the best of the three, with Ed’s in second place.
So, the first course standings: First place: Kevin. Second Place: Ed. Third Place: Angelo.
I agree completely, based on what I saw. In particular, I loved how Kevin ended the meal with an exclamation point of a dessert. It looked fantastic!
I have to say this was a very disappointing finale. My husband and I have watched Top Chef every season since the beginning and this season really felt like a waste of time which is so sad as it has always been our favorite show. I will never understand how you can have a competition for a "Top Chef" that is only based on one meal. Since the "game" you talk about is obviously not going to change it's format I think I'm going to need to change the channel next season.
The finale was much better than the season! I was pulling for Angelo but I have to give congrats to Kevin. The only point I disagree with Tom is the outcome would not have changed without the illness. It's much harder to plan a meal on your sickbed.
Well my suport was mainly towards Angelo winning, I did see some weakness in his confidence level these last two weeks. Congratulations to kevin, who admittedly I had underestimated. his food looked incredible.
Last weeks comments to Tom's Blog somebody was still talking about Pea Puree--Incredible! That issue was put to bed weeks ago.
I'm looking forward to next weeks show - I'm without a doubt that the Pea Puree issue will be revisited.
See you next season.
Thanks, Tom -- your explanations make perfect sense and I agree that this time, Kevin was the clear winner. I am amazed by all of the haters posting on FB and elsewhere that Kevin had the advantage by having Michael as sous-chef or that Ed should have won. Didn't Angelo have a clear advantage going into Singapore and having Hung to assist him? And how could anyone think Ed still deserved to win after his showing in the finale? I have not always agreed with the decisions and was very disappointed when unfortunate mistakes or snafus caused great chefs to get sent home... but the fact of the matter is that the greatest chef of all time may have a bad night or mistake and get booted. There is an element of luck in winning (or losing...) In the end, Kevin pulled out all the stops, did is best and prevailed. If you ask me, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy!
It is difficult to entertain the idea that the best chef out of all the contestants could not cook good rice and beans and has never, ever used a wok. Though this show is one of my favorites, this season was highly disappointing.
Watching the show all season, seems like a roller coaster First Angelo was up, then Ed, and Kevin was along for the ride...But you could tell, Kevin was just waiting to get stronger, saving his sprint for the end. He came from no-where as Angelo lost a little momentum and Ed was just plain stupid to put his dessert on the line with Elan. It really was one of the best finales...Kevin's dessert looked like a work of art and it was great to see him reach his full potential (although knocks to Bravo in the misleading promos-making it seem on the two-shot that the finals were between Ed and Kevin, with Angelo out of the picture) Bottom Line-Great Season-ing!
I don't really see how you could say Angelo wouldn't have performed far better if he had the presence of mind and wherewithal to conceptualize and cook his dishes at full strength. After all, he served pork belly and noodles as a vegetable dish...surely not a decision made by a man of sound mind.
Dear Tom, the best part of this season was that EVERYBODY GOT ALONG! There were no huge personality clashes, no ego trips, no attempted scalpings, no drunken sabotage, no screaming fits, no extraneous romances, no cliques.
It was all about the cooking, it seemed. The first 2 seasons were ruined for me by animosities, especially toward Tiffani and Marcel. Not a good idea.
Though I LOVED Tiffany and thought she should have been given a pass to the finals, the work on the entire show was great over all and well-deserving of another Emmy. Congrats.
I think the rules should be changed and the winner not be based on one nights dish but on the whole season
The results seemed correct. Ed did not deserve to win, it was obvious without even tasting the food, that his dessert was second-rate. He chose to simply hand off the dessert to his sous chef, who was probably the weakest of the 3 sous chefs by far. What's interesting, is that if he had been pair perhaps with Michael Voltaggio, he could have handed off the dessert, gotten a superior dessert from his sous, and actually won the challenge. So the luck of the draw did affect him. (But he did deserve to lose -- Need to show up with 1 solid dessert)
Good for Kevin. Ed and Angelo acted like the title was between them. Ed blew it by making a bad dessert, what a moron. He was too cocky. Angelo is too winey, I am tired of his constant moaning. Congratulations Kevin.
I have no problem with the results as you described them, but that's not what came through the final editing of the show. The judges' discussion conveyed that Ed's first course was the best, while Kevin's was "timid", that Angelo's second course was the preferred offering, that Kevin's third course edged Ed's because of execution although Ed's conception was preferred, and that Kevin's dessert won but that Angelo's was close behind. That representation of the judges' opinions does not add up to a clear winner. Indeed, for many weeks, your version of the discussion at judges' table has not accorded with the (edited) version shown on TV. I'm sure your version is more accurate--you were there the whole time, after all. I'm cross about this season's shows because they seem to have doctored the "reality" in reality TV in order to mislead the audience rather than to surprise the audience.
Say whatever you want...Kevin would never have won without Voltaggio. He was pretty inconsistent all season. It was between Ed and Angelo. I guess the results speak volumes about winners from prior seasons as well. Disappointing end!
Thank you Tom for sharing your thoughts and for the additional comments on the "Last Supper" for this season's three finalists. I am a great fan of Top Chef, since season 1 (my favorite of all), and I have enjoyed very much watching some of the most mouth-watering dishes week after week, and not to mention how educational this has been; from ingredients I never knew existed to the most exotic nomenclature for dishes all new to me, and the list goes on. The judging is also quite an experience to watch, however little is shown to the viewers. More so this season than in the past, a number of times, chefs were seen in the kitchen, during the challenges, tasting their food with the same spoon they use to stir the pot..taste, stir, taste, stir... (repeatedly). Were they (the chefs) aware that they were being filmed? Do the judges know about this.. the not so hygienic practice? What was even more repugnant, was the fact that Angelo repeated this practice especially the day after his illness. I am sorry but I could not resist from mentioning it. It makes me wonder what goes on behind the scenes, the kitchens in restaurants we the customers never see.
Congratulations for a well-deserved Emmy! And congratulations to Kevin for his win of Top Chef! Maritsa
Congratulations to Kevin! I think he showed remarkable progress -like Carla from a few seasons ago, he started out slow and once he learned what the judges were, he adapted to the situation and usually came out on top. Plus he was a likeable personality (unlike Angelo). Yes, Angelo was a stronger chef but in reading this blog (I haven't seeen the finale yet), it seems that he might have choked or became too overconfident since Asian food is supposed to be "his thing". What about doing a Top Chef in NJ (Tom's hometown)? There are quite a number of good restaurants in just the Morristown area (where I work). The restaurants are eclectic, sometimes rustic in nature but they are goood and they remind me of Old Montreal (including how many of the patrons eat late and many of the restaurants are BYOB). How about it?!
Maybe Top Chef has reached it's peak and now it's going downward because it's true that this season's cooking was NOT high caliber. To see Kevin as top chef is not only a dissapointment, but a joke. Kevin as a chef is mediocre. He lacks creativity and his choices were comfortable and safe, too homely to be called top cuisine and even less, top chef. What an insult. With this choice Top Chef has jumped the shark and now it's over.
Mike V won Top Chef not Kevin. Had the chefstestants left alone on cooking day, Kevin would not have won it.
As with before, we have to take the words of the people that taste the food as to who is the winner (except in Top Chef Masters, where it appears the critics bring their personal feelings into the judging as evidenced by Jay Rainer clearly downgrading Moonen over his sustainability arguement, or James Osland consistantly giving lower ratings to Michael Chiarello in season 1). What I think bothers me still is that contestants are allowed to break or bend the rules. 2 of the chefs used protiens in what was supposed to be a "Vegetable dish". How does pork belly or fish fit into that? It just seems that if you are going to make rules like this, they should be enforced.
I understand the point in concept that all the chefs have to use the same ingredients or protiens to make their dishes. To me, that would make a great pre-finale challenge. I believe that in the finale however, the chefs should be given the loosest possible guidelines as to what they should to make, and allow them to fully express their points of view and skill on the plate. I think it is a little bit confining to force all the chefs, in the finale, to force them to use certain ingredients that they might not otherwise. That works in early parts of the season, but at the end, they should be given limited instruction (4 courses including a veg, fish, main, and dessert) to show off their absolute best.
Wow Tom. For you to say that Kevin's dish was the best that you have tasted in any finale ever must make Kevin very proud. I know you say it as you see it, so I believe you. I'm glad that Kevin won. I was hoping that it would either be Ed or Kevin. I was hoping that the better chef prevailed and according to you that is what happened. I wish all the chefs the best in their culinary careers and thank them for a great season of top chef.
I hope this show gets fixed for next season...none of these chefs did I watch and say "gosh, I absolutely MUST try their food"
"If we just wanted to ascertain who was the best chef, we could simply go to their restaurants. That’s not the goal here. The goal is to determine a winner to a game, and we’re playing according to the rules of the game at hand."
Tom should post this every week to quiet the cries of people complaining that Cheftestant X was too good to be sent home.
"Remember: It’s a game. "
Thank you! No one needs to get too hurt, the best chef could have gone home first, if they didn't play the game appropriately, it's meant to be all in good fun, so i'm happy for Kevin, even though I was Team Angelo, oh well doesn't diminish Angelo as a chef=)
When I saw Ed's dessert, I knew that was it for him. Actually when I saw his sous-chef, I almost switched channels (already a handicap for Ed)! But it was the finale. Glad to see Ed holding his own & being the head chef of his menu (outside the dessert - I agree w/ you there, why didn't he have anything up his sleeve?). Hung worked his butt off for Angelo. I still think Kevin lucked out with the strongest sous. Well, this was a rather lackluster season. Even if it was in DC (my hometown) and we had "peagate 2011." I'm glad for the lack of major drama, but the cooking skills seemed mostly sub-par. Too bad Tiffany didn't go to finals-she was a terrific contestent and very likeable. C'est la vie.
I enjoyed this season- I thought all the cheftestants were interesting- maybe not as talented as some in other seasons. I think every season has had very talented- and not so talented chefs. I loved watching all the chefs this season. Some were animated and some were subdued- with personalities. I am looking foward to watching next season!
Tom, I find it laughable that you can honestly say that working with Michael V did not completely raise Kevin's game. You might as well just given the title to Michael. Frankly, I can't believe you would even allow that much influence from past winners. It was basically Hung vs. Michael vs. Ed and Ilan. Unless you guys do an all-stars season, I'm done with this show. Very disappointing season. -Elaine
I'm glad that you point out that Top Chef is a game, and that if the goal were simply to judge the quality of the food, then a mere trek to all the restaurants of the cheftestants, with subsequent comparisons, would do the trick. Restaurant food usually takes some time to develop and perfect, sometimes even years. So the main reason I've loved this show is that it showcases the spectacle of chefs who don't have the benefit of time and experimentation to take a dish from inception to perfection. Their true cooking skills, along with their ability to think on their feet, are therefore at test.
It's been interesting that in all seasons, no home-trained chef has made it far into any season, much less a finale. It goes to show how exceptional someone like Heston Blumenthal really is. There's really no substitute for the mentoring that a truly great chef like Daniel Boulad can supply to a young, aspiring chef. However, I hope that in a future season, we'll encounter just such a home-schooled chef who has so passionately devoted himself to the craft and art of cooking that he's conquered it through sheer grit and determination.
Thanks for being around!
Good on you for admitting that the cooking was not as consistently high caliber as that of last season. I think that's what made this season such a disappointment overall - not that the food was bad, but that it was particularly difficult to follow up of such a strong and successful season. If these guys had followed the NY season, I doubt there would have been much clamor.
Thank you for taking the time to break down the dishes for us. This really was a very interesting read, a wonderful insight into the minds of the judges, and a treat for fans. It'd be really wonderful (not to mention disarming to a lot of the "you sent my favorite chef home last night" critics) to see you do this more often in the future. Also, I loved hearing the diners' comments last night - their insightful and penetrating commentary on each of the dishes strong suits was rich with both professional courtesy and joyful appreciation.
I do hope that in the season(s) to come, you take more advantage of the host city's culinary strengths, and not just the city as a tourist destination. NASA and the CIA specifically: both of the accompanying challenges felt awkwardly manufactured. By contrast, the Palm Steakhouse challenge was wonderful, as was Marcus Samuelsson's Ethiopian quickfire, as they drew deeply both from the location and from its food. Congrats on the Emmy, congrats to Kevin, and good luck in the seasons to come.
Tom, Glad you brought up the Hamlet quote, as it is hard to compare apples to oranges. I think what was integral to the success of this finale is that they all had to cook with the same proteins. It reminded me of the penultimate challenge in Hung's season when they all had to make a dish using chicken, potatoes, and onions; give them all the same ingredients, and see what they come up with. It's the best way to make what can be considered a level playing field for chefs of different styles. Kevin observed that this was where creativity would come into play, and his certainly did. I am glad Angelo got to compete, because in order to be considered the best, you have to beat the best, and Kevin rose to the challenge. Congratulations! P.S. You can avoid the while foie gras dispute in the future by simply providing enough for the contestants so they don't have to fight over it. We've seen it happen before. And don't tell me it's too expensive- you just flew a bunch of people to Singapore and gave away a ton of cash and prizes. I am sure some company out there would be happy to be the "official foie gras sponsor" of Top Chef!
great to hear your comments, Tom. I thought it was fairly obvious that Kevin was going to win after the run down of the dishes, but it was interesting to hear that it wasn't very close. It was made to seem that the veggie course was between Ed and Kevin, second course to Angelo, third to ed and fourth to Kevin (which, I get, was obviously done on purpose).
Also interesting to hear that Kevin's food was the BEST of any finale. Sure, he was not the strongest chef all season, but he showed up when it counted. Congrats, Kev.
From a viewers perspective this season was a let down right up until the finals where it finally seemed tight and competitive. It was great seeing the past winners. Ed in part 1 and Kevin in part 2 salvaged the season for me and I would have been glad for either to win. I have said here before that any season had a disadvantage following the last, but the bright spot for me has been reading this blog. The incite into the production of the show has taken a bit of the shine off the competition, but my lower expectations allow me to view the show as what it is... entertainment. And I have been entertained!
Great season! I enjoyed it very much. Can't wait til next season.
For those that say Kevin was coasting all season... take a look at his stats prior to the final cook-off: Quickfire wins - 1; Quickfire top finish - 3 Elim wins - 1; Elim top finish - 3
And as Tom describes above, Kevin took risks, was creative and cooked the meal of his life! Congrats!!!
Thanks for all your work on the show and for taking the time to write an informative blog for all the Top Chef fans.
Tom, (if I can be so informal) once again we the viewers get to see someone bob through the season, more at the bottom than the top, and in the end do one good meal and claim the title of Top Chef. Sort of like playing a horrible round of golf only to eagle the final hole. Still can't dismiss the fact that I shot a 120 for the round. Doesn't make me Arnold Palmer. This season leaves me more disenchated than any before.
Great post, Tom, and congratulations to Kevin! I was really hoping he'd win and apparently he won big. Hope I get to taste his food someday.
You have to be kidding. Just change the name to Top Meal. That's what it is. I loved this show so much, but I'm done. I thought to last night and woke up feeling the same today, so it's not just being pissed off about Kevin winning. It's about your flawed methodology which you stubbornly cling to despite so many people who point it out. It's fine for the regular episodes, but not the finale. I think TC has jumped the shark.
You could tell just from watching the finale that these three chefs really stepped up to the challenge in the last 3 weeks! I knew Kevin was going to take it when Eric Ripert raved about the way he cooked his fish in the second course. It was a great ending to an incredible season of delicious food! Too bad we didn't see a Thanksgiving challenge!!
For once in a long while, I finally agree with the decision, based on the information in TC's blog and with what the viewer was shown. The last one I agreed with was Hung's win.
An interesting breakdown, especially since, based on the editing, I would have said that Ed won the first course, Angelo the second, and Kevin the final two. I wonder if the other judges would have ranked the courses in the same way. Still, Kevin seemed the deserving winner.
Tom, I know you don't participate in the editing, but you're an executive editor and must have some influence over editing policies. The misleading editing to create fake tension is a serious drawback to the show. I and most of the people I talk about the show have all noticed it, starting late last season but getting very bad this season. In the finale, for example, I and everyone I've spoken to thought Kevin had the worst vegetable course.
No one is going to stop watching the finale because they've figured out Kevin is in the lead. There's no need for this kind of editing. Please speak with the editors and have them stop being so manipulative. Fake drama is not what we like about the show.
Congratulations Kevin!,Well Played !Well Done1Knife Well Pulled! Michael was the man who could take Kevin's visions and put them on a plate Picasso-Michael is a visionary genius with a skill set to back that up.During Restaurant wars the NY times critic said how beautiful Kevin's plate was and that Kevin should paint. Those two were a dream team.No egos. They were friends and they had worked together..And good on Kevin, having perfected a desert during his down time that Michael could have only made better even better for him. Bad luck for Angelo getting really sick, but good luck for him he picked Hung. Hung was the only guy with that kind of speed and skill set to do the work of two people and check his ego and really listen to Angelo on the phone and then pull the major weight the next day with grace,staying within Angelo's vision. Really bad luck for Ed he picked Ilan.Ed figured he had it in the bag with Angelo sick and he never considered Kevin a threat.He lost to himself.Ilan is an egomaniac who was apathetic to whether Ed won or not.Ed was getting pissed off ,like Richard did with his sous chef ,in his finale and Kevin(LAST YEAR) got frustrated with his sous chef, in his finale. It cost all three of them the title. In reverse, I really do not believe Josiah would have won, if Marcel had been his sous chef ,instead of Richard, If Michael V. had been Ed's sous chef ,there was no way that Ilan's glob of pudding cake with salty whip cream would have gone anywhere ,but the garbage. Ed lost right there and he deserved to lose. Ed was way too cocky and with the help of Ilan ,it bit him in the ass. SO I SAY IT AGAIN Congratulations Kevin!!YOU ARE TOP CHEF!And YOU DESERVE IT!
Yeah, right. He completely had an advantage! Kevin was mediocre at best this season. It should have been tiffany!
Thank you, Tom, for breaking the competition down for us. Your insight and commentary balance the show the producers and editors want us to see.
You can argue this point all you want, but if Kevin didn't have an advantage over Ed or Angelo, then I'm Lady Gag-a! Really? So, the fact that Angelo was sick and Hung had to prep via phone, the fact that Ed and Ilan didn't have a really good repoire, and the fact that last year's winner (probably the best chef that ever won TC) worked for years with Kevin at the Ritz and could work effortlessly together because of their familiarity with each other simply had no bearing! I don't even know how one can say that with a straight face. I even saw something Kevin wrote explaining that Volt knew how to prepare everything as his sous because of their working together in the past. The argument re: Best Actor/Best Chef doesn't even apply here...it was best team and an unfair advantage for Kevin. Not that I care, really. Angelo cooking Asian all season and Ed cooking fritters in so many challenges, well, found them boring to watch as well. Hope it's worth watching next season. I really do. I enjoyed the amateur MasterChef show this year more than Top Chef and that's saying something...
I LOVED that the three finalists had to cook with the same proteins--absolutely the best idea to judge them head to head. It was clear, even just watching not getting to taste, that Kevin had produced the best meal. And his reaction to the news that he was Top Chef was priceless--"I am?" Loved it--congratulations to Kevin!
I was happy with the outcome of the finale and the whole season. Last year was a little bit to predicatable. Congratulations to Kevin! Now I can feel better about being from Jersey.
Loved the finale!!! I was pulliing for Ed but sounds like Kevin was truly the winner. Big fan.......Love the show!!
As usual, the program edits skew public opinion. Obviously, if we had heard the entire judges' discussion (as well as tasted the food) we may have ALL reached the same conclusion! As for Angelo being sick, thought he was a bit of a whiner all season, but you know, stuff happens in competitions, athletes break a leg, have a family issue, actors get laryngitis. no one stops the NFL season til everyone's well. This is the Top CHef format, presumably all contestants know the rules going in, as do viewers who can switch the channell if they don't like it.