Hello my little Cap'n Crunches! I call you that not only because I really would have liked to try Richard's original dessert idea –- Cap'n Crunch ice cream, but because the Cap'n himself retweeted an image I took of my breakfast one morning!
Anywaaay, at the beginning of every season, I select (in my head) who I think is going to win the title, and I'm usually right. I won't reveal when I've been wrong, but at the beginning of this season, I chose the three chefs I thought would make it to the end when asked by my Assistant Editor: Tiffani F., Angelo, and Richard. This doesn’t necessarily mean I think they're better chefs than the other chefs, but after watching seven seasons (I didn't watch the first one in real time), I'd like to think I have a good idea of what it takes (strategically, etc.) to be named "Top Chef." I actually can't remember if I told my co-worker who I thought would win ultimately. Either way, the finale was f---ing awesome. Forget last week, this week's had me so fired up, I could barely contain myself. There is nothing better than watching great food being cooked, and Mike and Richard both brought it.
Before Mike and Richard could cook their food, though, they had to exchange some passive-aggressive barbs back in the hotel room before they headed to the kitchen to select their sous-chefs. Like so many of you fine commenters have requested for our judges, Mike and Richard had to do a blind taste test of bites the eliminated chefs created. Mike was really trying to get Jennifer Carroll, but alas, he couldn't seem to figure out which dish was hers. On a side note: my Editorial Director just had a fabulous meal at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert, and couldn't stop raving about the trout! Anyway, instead of Jennifer, Mike pulled Jamie, which he didn't seem too jazzed about, but guess what? She did a great job! Richard pulled Antonia, and although he was concerned about her emotional state after just being eliminated, she came through too.
Unlike previous seasons where the chefs were simply asked to create meals of a lifetime, this season the chefs had to create their dream restaurants. Mike went the rustic Italian route. Let's start with his restaurant. The judges were separated into two groups, one starting at Mike's restaurant, Iz. The first group consisted of Tom, Gail, the dreamy Curtis Stone, and the adorable (and svelte!) Art Smith. Everyone seemed to love his meal. But Gail loved his meal. She would not stop talking about the pepperoni sauce! Seriously, if you ask her about it today, she'll pause and go "Mmm pepperoni sauce." Like she did on the phone with me today. Seriously. Watching the Extended Judges' Table footage, you can see that while all the judges said the decision was a very difficult one, Gail was probably Mike's biggest proponent. After their meal at Iz, they headed to Richard's restaurant, Tongue & Cheek, while Padma, Hubert Keller, Alfred Portale, and Lidia Bastianich went to Iz. Richard's restaurant was obviously playful, all of the dishes somewhat blending modern cuisine with classics. His oyster amuse started him on the right foot, and each subsequent dish was received well, until the dessert. Well, the dessert was probably the biggest point of contention since the first group of judges had the grainy foie gras ice cream. Spike was an excellent spy, heard the diners' problems with the dish, reported back to Richard, and Richard was able to change the dish. The second group with Tom and Gail, therefore, got better ice cream. In the end, I don't think it came down to the dessert, but it was obviously close. Like Tom said, both chefs deserve the title, but in the end Richard won. And thank G-d! I can't even imagine the breakdown he would've had had he not!
Michael wasn't pleased with the outcome. He has a lot to be proud of, and although some of you think I've been harsh on him this season, I can't wait to try his food! I think in the end, viewers got to see how far he's come as a chef, and his new restaurant will be a big success!
Well, honestly, this season has been exhausting, but it's not really over! Join us next week for the reunion, which I had the pleasure of attending, and it's a good one. Just watch: