This is it. The moment we've been waiting for. The Top Chef finale is here and only one cheftestant will take the title of Top Chef. It's been quite a season packed with seafood, surprises, and sweaty chefs laboring over their delicious creations. The starting point was Charleston, South Carolina with its rich history and affinity for shrimp, and then the chefs moved south of the border to beautiful Mexico where the competition turned into a DIY adventure full of extremely fresh ingredients and a bit of a lost in translation moment (think Chef Sheldon unsuccessfully hunting for cheese at the market place).
Chef Brooke and Chef Shirley fought hard throughout the competition to make it to this point. Shirley, a fierce competitor from season 11, effortlessly infused her dishes with a story from her Chinese background and Brooke, returning from Season 10, started strong, but fell short toward the end -- only to return to the competition after winning Last Chance Kitchen.
But the season 14 finale is all about family, with the episode featuring several reunions of eliminated cheftestants, loved ones, co-workers, and close friends.
Chef Brooke rose to the occassion, coming back to the competition, through Last Chance Kitchen, with a different mindset. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Dish, she said the hardest part was watching fellow Chef Sheldon pack up his knives. The two first met in Seattle and instantly fell into a sibling-like relationship. During his elimination, Brooke told Bravo what was running through her mind, "I just felt like ‘no, it’s not your time to go.’ My rock, the guy I could lean and talk to about anything was just taken away from me, and it was a really a hard time for that to happen." Luckily, Brooke got to reconnect with Sheldon, and even select him as a sous chef, for the finale cookoff.
When it came to serving a restaurant full of people, for the dessert option, Brooke chose flan for a particular reason. The cheftestant shared in the episode that her mother would make the treat every time she would visit. Brooke's take was to add aged rum and chamomile with candied cashews to celebrate the bond with her mother.
Meanwhile, Shirley has been serving up a story with dishes since the beginning. She has been heavily influenced by her Asian background and has infuse this style into many of her dishes. Shirley's heartwarming tales from her childhood eats and their inspiration no doubt propelled her this far to the finale. And the last meal was no exception.
Shirley created a menu prior to the meal that was "filled with my favorite food memories I made with my loved ones," judge Gail Simmons read outloud before tasting each of the chef's four dishes. Shirley also got to serve her mom and sister, with the former saying she was proud of "beautiful, Shirley." Her rice pudding was inspired by her mother's sweet tooth and philosophy to finish every grain of rice with the dish appropriately named on the menu as "Mama said 'always finish your rice.'"
Another dish from Shirley also incorporated her father's favorite, braised piglet shank with lentils. The dish was named "dear baba," the Chinese word for father.
With all the love, it was surprising that the two cheftestants could still compete. Whose inspiration won the judges' over to claim the title of Top Chef? Watch the video above to find out!
-Reporting by Laura Rosenfeld