First of all, I want to thank everyone for their well wishes throughout the past week. Mateo is home, he and his beautiful mom are doing great, and we're all adjusting happily and well. Thank you all.
I wish you all could have been there to dine at our two finalists' restaurants for the finale. If anyone had any doubts whatsoever that Michael belonged in the finale, I certainly hope this put those doubts to bed, because his food was really incredibly good. I mean noteworthily outstandingly good. As was Richard’s. The food that was served by both of these contestants in this finale was so good that the guest chefs all remarked that they were shocked at how well these guys were cooking. And the finalists' fellow contestants –- the ones who had not been selected to serve as sous-chefs for the challenge –- were dining with the judges, as you saw in the episode, and while one might have expected them to be a bit snarky and judgmental, they were not. They were simply impressed and excited, because they were just blown away by what they were served that night.
As a result of how successful both contestants' efforts were, I was at first on the fence about it… until I'd had a chance to parse it for myself and really figure it out. I've said before that it's like in the Olympics, when a skier wins a race by a tiny fraction of a second… except that here there was no timer to instantly assess who had won the race by that hair. I was on the fence at first, Gail felt that Michael should win, and the other two thought that the day went to Richard. Here's ultimately how I think it broke down:
I'm not even counting Richard's amuse in the equation, by the way, because it was not part of the challenge. The challenge, as far as the food was concerned, was to create four courses. If anything, Richard's amuse could have harmed him, because it could have taken his time and focus away from the four dishes we were going to judge him on. Luckily it didn't, but he was not going to score extra food points for having made it. It lent to the overall restaurant experience, and it set the tone for the evening by establishing Richard's "tongue-in-cheek" theme, but that was all it did for him. And before anyone jumps all over Richard for copying Thomas Keller's Oyster and Pearl dish… no, he didn't. Richard's dish was an altogether different dish, and was in no way a knock-off of Keller's.