Top Chef Finale: Under Pressure

It's over, it's finally over. After one of the strangest, least captivating seasons yet, it all came down to Carla, Stefan, and Hosea last night. There was disappointment and heartache. Mistakes were made. Twists were thrown at the cheftestants. In the end, it all came down to one big meh (spoilers after the jump)...


That meh was Hosea winning, and, in the context of last night's show, he deserved to. That doesn't mean I was happy about it. I don't know what it is about Hosea that annoys me so much. Maybe it's the fact that his food seems competent but lacking in creativity and what the judges call "soul" and Carla calls "love." Maybe it's because he's always talking, giving some voiceover that sounds written by Bravo producers, telling us how excited he is about the guest judge, how important such and such restaurant is. Maybe it's because of the whole Leah thing. Yeah, I guess it's a combo of all of the above.

I would have been fine if Stefan won, with his classical technique and charming asshole act, and of course, I would have been thrilled if kooky Carla pulled off a surprise win. Reality TV is at its most pleasurable when it rewards the underdog or the asshole. Last night, the win went to the dopey middle dog.

Past runner-ups showed up to serve as finale sous chefs. Stefan got Marcel from season 2, Hosea took faux hawk Richard from season 4, and Carla got Casey from season 3. The pairings all seemed eerily suited to each other...until tragedy struck.

Casey, thinking that her dishes sounded a bit too simple for the finale, convinces Carla to sous vide her beef and make a cheese souffle instead of a tartlet. These could be reasonable ways of upping Carla's game, but instead the water bath sucks the soul out of Carla's food. It's all very sad, and Stefan even comforts a crying Carla while they await the judge's decision. It's times like these that we really love him. He's a jerk that occasionally does something nice, the complete opposite of Stefan, who seems like the sort of dude who plays nice only to disappear the morning after.

So Carla's blown it with the sous vide beef. Stefan scores the best dish of the night with his squab and cabbage. Everyone likes Hosea's foie gras and scallops, though Tom says he's had it before. Guest judge Rocco DiSpirito says he's tired of foie gras. Gail shakes her head at the comment, and guest judge Wynton Marsalis says "Rocco's crazy, I could eat foie gras all day." Oh the drama.

There's no drama in the final course. Stefan makes some precious dessert plate with suckers and ice cream and chocolate squiggles--so not finale material. Carla forgets to turn the oven down for her souffle and can't even plate it. Smartly, Hosea eschews dessert and serves up some perfectly cooked venison, sealing the win. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Carla was supposed to score a surprise upset, not try sous vide for the first time. Or Stefan was to easily, smugly sail to victory.  But not this, not this.

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