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Best Finale I've Ever Seen

Eric Ripert comments about the tense finale and toasts the season.

By Eric Ripert

Full transcript after the jumpI am Eric Ripet, chef of Le Bernardin, commenting on Episode 16, which is the finale of Top Chef All-Star.

How to Watch

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

So in this challenge, they have the opportunity to create their own restaurants. It's the finale. It's prestigious. It's a very exciting challenge for sure. So in between Richard and Mike of course is an exchange. "I'm going to win. You're going to lose, you're gonna. . ." Of course, it's expected. At the same time, I think they have a lot of respect to each other. They have been through that season, which was a very difficult one. They have, I believe, created a strong relationship, a friendship. And, yes of course, they're saying "I'm better, or he's weak. I'm this and I'm that." But it's good television.

So I like the panel of the judges. Lydia is an authority, and she's the queen of gastronomy in America. Alfred is a pioneer, and one of the kings of American chefs in America. You have also Hubert Keller from San Francisco, who's an amazing chef as well. Again, the usual suspects, Tom and Padma and Gail. I mean, it's really, it's really a good panel.

So I like the process of choosing the sous chef. It's basically a blind tasting, and then they pick whoever did the best dish. And they have some surprises. They see Jamie going with Mike, and I don't think he was too thrilled to have her on board. But, then, you know they work really well. She does a good job. They work as a team. She's a trooper. She's doing a great job. I like the process. I like the process of the blind tasting, and at the end that was a good team, both of them. So we started with Mike’s restaurant.

Mike has, I think, a good strategy. His restaurant is a little bit rustic in a sense, compared to Richard’s restaurant. But he seems to be well organized. The food is coming out. It looks like the food is well executed. We hear some "wow" here and there. So he has some very strong dishes. He has also some weak dishes. I mean, the first appetizer, I think, that he's serving with the mozzarella, is a little bit weak compared to what Richard is doing. But then he redeems himself with the fish, and then the meat. The problem is the dessert. It's basically a crème caramel, a flan. And it has been boiled in the oven, so therefore instead of having a silky texture, you have a texture, which is very different. It’s harder. It has some little bubbles. It's grainy. But, you know, except that, he's doing really, really well.

Like Tom said, and as a viewer, you can see that it's one of the best finales we've ever seen.

Richard's restaurant is pretty sophisticated. I like the name of the restaurant as well, Tongue and Cheek. And he starts with a very clever canapé, amuse-bouche, which is oyster with the crème fraiche pearls. And everybody seems to love that. It's kind of surprising. And I think it's like basically saying, it's a statement. It's like, "This is going to be like that. The dinner that I’m providing today, it's going to be sophisticated with a twist." And I like his dishes. I think he has a little bit of a problem towards the end with his dessert. But he addressed in between, so some of the judges have the dessert that is not necessarily amazing, and then because I think Spike is listening in the dining room, he can find out what's going on, and he adjust, and he has something a bit different.

It’s very close, in between Mike and Richard, and until the very end you don’t know who’s going to win, but again, Richard is a bit more sophisticated. And I think Gail say it very well, when she says “Mike has a restaurant where you want to go eat during the week, and Richard on the weekend.” It’s more like a celebratory, maybe concept. The food is more sophisticated, again like I said. And if you pull out a menu with great dishes like he did, very strong dishes, like the hamachi, that Tom was very impressed with. And on top of it, that hamachi dish -- not only is it powerful and it’s clean and it’s complicated in a sense because he has some sweetbreads with it -- to make a successful dish like that is difficult. So to me, Richard win. I’m not surprised. I mean, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Mike. But I congratulate Richard, of course.

Mike is not happy. Well, I can understand that. I mean, it has been a long season. He has been preparing himself. He has been doing some great cooking. He was basically on the rampage in the Bahamas. He was winning. And to see Richard winning I understand he's disappointed, but, c'est la vie.

So the season has been very interesting to watch on TV. And it was very challenging for all of them. It has been basically a rollercoaster of challenges, and it has been very emotional for the contestants.

I love watching the All-Star season this year, and I'm sure all the contestants are very happy that they have been able to participate in such a challenging season. Congratulations to all of them, and again, especially to Richard -- and Mike.

So I'd like to toast everybody. The judges, the contestants, obviously the winner, and the best way to do that I think is with a nice shot of tequila, so cheers.

It's very good. Like the season!

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