Team Top Chef's Senior Editor breaks down the finale and reveals who she thought would win from the beginning.

Feb 29, 2012

Let's start with Paul's meal:

Paul named his restaurant Qi -- a play on his last name, and I honestly couldn't tell you why he removed the "u." Anyone else have any ideas? Tom liked the simplicity of his menu. He started with Chawanmushi, which was well-received by the first group of judges but was overcooked for the second. When I asked him he said he did "absolutely" consider not serving it, but honestly I think he would've been penalized more for that. What's sort of amusing is that he was originally going to make crab but it went bad overnight. He also almost didn't buy the prawns, but thank G-d he did. At least he was able to satisfy one set of judges rather than zero. He moved on to a grilled sea bass with dashi. Then, the congee. Some of the judges didn't think the congee was a natural progression, but props to Hugh for commenting that the items in the congee provided that "meatiness" and richness of a third course. Final course was coconut ice cream with puffed wild rice, mango, and thai chil foam. Rice was overcooked for some, but I would've ordered this dessert. It just sounded sort of genius.

The only other challenge to Paul -- albeit brief -- was working with Barbara Lynch. We've seen time and time again on Top Chef, especially on Masters, that going from being a head chef to a subordinate can be difficult. Ultimately Barbara was able to curb her style and listen to Paul, who she said she admired. That was a nice compliment.

On to Sarah's meal! I have to be honest, Sarah's menu is the one I would've ordered because I'm a sucker for heavier foods. It's actually something Im trying to train myself to choose lighter foods when given the option. Hey, I bought kale this week -- we can't ask for much more than that. Sarah started with spot prawns and coconut. The judges were wowed by the tartare on the pasta. I've never seen that before and I would've loved to try it. Next up was the rye-crusted steelhead. Unfortunately her beets weren't cooked through. Next was the braised veal cheek and veal sweetbread. Hugh reveals in his blog that her sweetbreads were overdone. And half the judges got bad polenta. So, overall that dish was a miss. And the dessert -- a hazelnut cake -- was universally loved and lauded for its ingenious white chocolate cookery. And, don't worry -- even though Heather helped with dessert, it wasn't' Ed Lee's recipe!