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Passing the Torch

Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard breaks down the Season 5 finale course by ourse.

By Stephanie Izard

Before I get going I wanted to give a quick-shout out. I was down in South Beach this past weekend and was lucky enough to have a couple of meals at the Ritz where Jeff is the chef.  The food was delicious, especially the crispy oysters that got him so close to a second chance in the finals. Wish him the best and recommend you go enjoy some snacks and sangria at his place on the beach.

I, of course, had to leave the beach eventually and am back in Chicago getting ready to watch the big finale. I hope that whomever tonight’s winner is did as I did and kept the outcome to themselves (for the most part) and gets to enjoy the priceless moment when he or she can share the win with family and friends. That is when it finally starts to sink in and fun begins.

Nice little twist this year with some of our favorite past contestants coming back to help out the final three. A three-course meal does not seem that difficult, but with the pressure of the finals everything is a bit harder.  Plus having Tom tell you that use can use any ingredients you want almost makes it more difficult than having guidelines; way too many ideas start to flood your mind.

Drama already between Hosea and Stefan of course. They have not exactly been friends this season and I guess boys will be boys, so it is sure to be an interesting fight to the finish. Carla, you are making me nervous once again. There is nothing wrong with not using sous vide, especially if you are not familiar with the technique. You are better off sticking to your talents and strengths in the finals and not trying something new at the suggestion of your "sous," especially if you are working with someone for the first time and have no idea what their skill set is. Casey is a very talented chef. I had the chance to cook with her a few months back, however, this is Carla’s chance to win as the underdog. 

Here comes the twist: an extra course. Loving the king cake. Who knew Tom could be so playful? King Hosea not surprisingly passes the alligator to his "nemesis."

Passed hors d’oeuvres …
The chefs all showed the judges that they could not throw them with the added course.  Hosea was impressive with bold flavors and a creative presentation on the shot glasses. Carla had a refreshing looking shiso crab dish that looked beautiful. Then Stefan was able to pull off alligator by making a delicious soup. Pretty tied at this point.

First course ...
Both Hosea and Stefan go for raw fish dishes that were beautiful yet sounded not to have very bold flavor. Stefan used a technique of freezing and slicing that impressed some though not Tom. Carla pulls ahead with a dish that really popped with flavor and impressed everyone at the table.Second Course….
Carla brings out what is said to be her “meat and potatoes” that really does not have any reflection of her. Hosea pulls out one of my all-time favorite combinations of scallops and foie gras which seems to go over well, though Rocco is a little over foie (I will never get over foie).  Stefan pulls out another strong dish with a perfectly cooked squab that was very representative of his style. 

Third Course …
Hosea “keeps it safe” by not doing a dessert. The venison dish looked great. I myself am a fan of blackberries and mushrooms, though Gail did not seem to think the fruit really fit. Stefan has shown to be strong all around with his ability to make desserts. This dish, though I am sure it tasted great, was a little dated-looking as some of the judges pointed out. Carla unfortunately really lost it here. I really feel for her as I think some poor decisions right at the end caused her a chance for the title. I know I have learned not to second-guess myself and to follow my instincts, which I am sure Carla feels now. I wish I could see the direction she was going initially with the cheese tart.

It is all coming down to a close finish between the two boys. Hosea and Stefan both put up very strong meals and it seems to be coming down to who had a better progression and perhaps who had more soul in their food. As Toby pointed out, Carla clearly puts her whole soul and heat into her food, but this just was not meant to be. (Pretty sweet that she just won 65% of the phone-in vote.)

Congrats to Hosea! It really does come right down to the end, and he had the best meal of the night. 

Best of luck with all of the new opportunities you and your fellow competitors have and will come across. Just keep true to yourselves and your craft, and enjoy the ride!

Guess the best team always pulls it out in the end.

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef Season 21 Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

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