After 15 chefs in the competition, 14 eliminations, and two Last Chance Kitchen battles, the winner of Top Chef Season 15 was finally revealed Thursday night. Finalists Adrienne Cheatham and Joe Flamm went head-to-head to prepare the meal of their lives for some of the biggest culinary movers and shakers during their last stop in Colorado in Aspen.
Adrienne and Joe both prepared some of the best food the judges had ever eaten in a Top Chef finale, but there could only be one winner. Beware of MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!
The person who took home the title of Top Chef for Season 15 was Joe. However, the Chicago native is still getting used to the idea of calling himself Top Chef. "It feels incredible, now it actually feels real," Joe told The Daily Dish ahead of Thursday night's finale (clip above). "To actually be able to have this moment now with my family, my friends, my wife, my sous chefs who were holding down the fort when I was gone and being able to now really experience this moment, it's unbelievable."
It was only a few episodes before the Season 15 finale when Joe's dreams of becoming Top Chef almost didn't come true. He was eliminated from the competition during one of those dreaded Sudden Death Quickfires in Episode 9 and headed into Last Chance Kitchen for one final shot at the title. "You're in the competition. It's so stressful. It's so much. It's like you get kicked off, you're so disappointed. But at the same time, you're almost relieved. You're like, 'OK, this heavy weight is off me.' And then you walk back in to Last Chance Kitchen, you're like, 'Oh, man, here we go. We're in this again. We're going.' I was like, I'm not even sure if I'm ready to be back," Joe recalled. "And then we did the first one, I won the first one. I was like, 'All right, maybe I could be back in this. Just keep it loose and see where it goes.' And then I won another one. All of a sudden, it's like, 'Holy sh--, if I pull another one of these off, I'm back in this. This could still be a thing. And that was a really crazy feeling to have.'"
Joe said that after getting the boot from Top Chef one time already, the pressure to win the competition was no longer there, which helped him relax during Last Chance Kitchen. "Well, I got eliminated already, so now what? What are they gonna do to me? If now that I get kicked off Last Chance Kitchen, are they gonna take me outside and shoot me? It can't get worse than this, so I'm just gonna cook and have fun. That's why I came here originally. It's like, I want to cook and have a good time and enjoy this," he said. "So it's like I need to do that right now. And then if it's over tomorrow, it's over tomorrow, whatever. I still go back to everything I have. I'll be all right."
Joe continued to carry that positive attitude with him when he returned to the competition in Episode 11 on through the finale where he chose eliminated Cheftestants Joe Sasto and Fatima Ali as his sous chefs. "You know, it's funny, when we cooked that finale dinner, it just felt so good. It felt really natural. It felt like a really great service, cooking with Joe [Sasto], cooking with Fati. I enjoyed cooking that dinner so much that at the end of it when I put it out, I felt really strong about all my dishes, and I felt really good about the dinner we did," Joe explained. "I was like, I don't know if we won, but I'm totally happy with it. I was like, I don't care what happens. We did it. We did it right. I got to cook with two people that I love and that I care about and share the kitchen with them. It was like, if we win this, if we pull this off, awesome. If we didn't, we still f---ing crushed it."
Still, Joe admitted that "it was hard to tell" whether he or Adrienne would be going home with the title of Top Chef. "Adrienne's food looked incredible. It looked great. You could tell she was firing on all cylinders. It's gonna be a foot race," Joe said. "I was nervous but good energy. It was like, OK, she's bringing it. Like, she's not giving me sh--. We're both putting up the best we got, and we'll see what happens. I saw her food, and I was like, that looks awesome. So it's like my sh-- better be on point."
Unsurprisingly, Joe said he thinks judges made the right call with the winner. "You know, we had so much fun doing it, I think it just transferred right into the food," he shared. "They saw it, and I think we executed [it] super, super well and just smart, beautiful, concise food. That's the perfect representation of what I want my food to come off as."
Other than a sweet call to his wife Hillary, which we saw at the end of the episode, Joe said he celebrated his win just by having a beer with Adrienne in their hotel in Colorado immediately after the finale. He has bigger plans now that he can shout his Top Chef win from the rooftops. "We're about to celebrate it, about to burn down Chicago Thursday," Joe joked about partying it up in his hometown. "Think Philadelphia post-Super Bowl."
Get ready to party, Chi-Town.
Relive Joe's winning moment from the Top Chef Season 15 finale, below.