We started this season of Top Chef 4
in Chicago with 16 chefs (and two faux hawks), and now we are in Puerto Rico for the finale, with the numbers whittled down to three (and one).
Will molecular gastronomist/adorable geek Richard Blais
, who's seemed like a ringer for much of the season, march on to victory and dash many viewers' hopes for the first female Top Chef
? Will Stephanie Izard
, who has been wobbly but with many moments of serious brilliance, steady herself and bring home a win for the distaff team? Oh right, and then there's Lisa Fernandes
. Will she win and royally tick off a lot of viewers who don't feel like she deserves to be there?
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There's no Quickfire for this final competition, so the chefs just get right into the final competition. Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio introduce three big name judges: April Bloomfield, Dan Barber and Eric Ripert. Each chef has his or her own table of high quality proteins. The cheftestants will each get to work with one guest chef acting a sous chef, and they will get to use the proteins the guest comes with. The challenge will be to create a four-course meal – including dessert – for nine guests. They will serve head-to-head.
Stephanie and Richard are tied for most number of elimination wins, so they draw knives to see who picks sous/proteins first, and it's Stephanie. She picks Ripert, Richard picks Barber, and so Lisa is working with Bloomfield.
It's a bit of a Freaky Friday in the kitchen, with the often-tense and grumpy Lisa working with a great deal of cheer and positive attitude, while the usually confident and lighter-hearted Richard seems testy and on edge. Stephanie is doing her usual thing, veering between a sure hand and self-doubt.
The sous chefs help the cheftestants for prep the first day, but when they return the next, Tom tells them they are on their own. This seems to throw Richard off a bit, but Lisa manages to keep her cool. Stephanie continues to be Stephanie, worrying about her dessert.
Service starts, and the best dish for the first course seems to be between Lisa and Stephanie. Second course is clearly Lisa's, as everyone loves her soup. Stephanie has a good dish for that course, but her garnish is undercooked. Richard's courses seem to be missing proper final seasoning. His third course is also a miss, but Stephanie's wows everyone with being both tasting and encompassing an unusual flavor combination of olives, pistachios and blueberries along with the meat. Lisa's meat is not cooked properly and her sauce is a repeat. For dessert, though, Lisa is again praised for her Asian-style rice pudding. Richard uses his banana scallop idea again, but his bacon ice cream is original enough to win points. Stephanie's cake does not go over well.
In judging the chefs are all praised for putting forth their best effort, but it really sounds like Lisa had a stronger performance throughout the entire meal. The judges criticize Richard and he admits with sadness in the end that he feels he choked. It's quite heartbreaking to see; everyone who goes into Top Chef obviously thinks they should win, but Richard really seemed to many viewers as well to be the strongest chef, almost like he was pre-ordained to come out on top. To realize one bad night just probably cost him the title seems truly sad.
After more deliberation, the judges call back the chefs…and it's Stephanie who wins for having the meal the chefs would most like to have again. We do, in fact, have our first female winner.
We'll be talking with all three finalists over the next couple of days, so head back here for those interviews.
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)