Well folks, it’s been a long and bumpy road, but we’ve finally reached the end. Top Chef Season 4 is no more. In last night’s bittersweet Finale, Stephanie Izard was crowned the new (and first female) Top Chef! It was bitter because, while I was thrilled for Steph, I couldn’t help but feel so sad for Richard. Both of them were worthy of the title and coming into the Finale, either of them could have taken it.
Unfortunately, whether due to nerves or over-analyzing, Richard, in his own words “choked”. While he produced a fantastic and inspired meal, there were elements of it that just didn’t impress the judges enough to tip the scales in his favor – and he knew it. The look on his face at the Judges’ Table was heartbreaking. He was crushed!
Stephanie, on the other hand, kept on an even keel the whole way through. She was calm and cool, carefully and methodically creating the meal that would change her life. It wasn’t a mindblowingly spectacular performance, but it was enough under the circumstances to garner the win. Who knows how things would have turned out if Richard had been a little more focused in the kitchen. All I can say is THANK GOD THAT NASTY B*TCH LISA DIDN’T WIN!
Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? As the episode opens, all three finalists talk about what being Top Chef means to them and why they should win, blah, blah, blah. They then are summoned to meet with Padma and Chef Tom, where they find that there will be no Quickfire Challenge. Instead, they are greeted by three celebrated, world-class chefs, Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin)  , April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig)  and Dan Barber (Blue Hill) , who are each standing behind a huge pile of celebrated, world-class proteins. It seems that each of the Finalists is to be paired with one of the Chefs and their aforementioned proteins, from which their menus will be derived. Each chef will act as a sous chef for the Finalist they are stuck…er…paired with.
Stephanie gets to pick first and she chooses Chef Ripert (Duh! Who wouldn’t?). Richard looks a little nauseous over this and he selects Chef Barber, leaving Chef Bloomfield for the other one whose name I have blotted out of my mind.
Chef Tom explains that their final challenge is to create a four-course tasting menu for nine diners starting with fish, moving to poultry, then red meat, and finishing with dessert. Dessert? WTF? I don’t remember dessert being required in any of the previous Finales, do you? Stephanie is definitely not happy about that development! (Ya know, instead of traipsing all over Asia, it might have been a good idea to get a few simple dessert recipes under your belt – just in case, Steph. I’m just sayin’.)
Anyway, Stephanie decides that her menu is going to present simple, clean, fresh flavors. Richard’s food is going to reflect his culinary journey from where he’s been to where he’s going. Too bad that they’re both the same place! “The Other One” is going with a totally Asian menu with big and bold Thai and Vietnamese flavors, cuz that’s what she does best. Big surprise! Wasn’t she the one who called Dale a one trick pony for relying so heavily on Asian dishes?
On Day 1, things are moving right along for the Finalists and their “sous chefs”. Then, on Day 2, the inevitable wrench is thrown in the works. Tom Collichio strolls in and announces that all three of the sous chefs have “called in sick” and will not be coming to help anymore. Ack!!! Oh, shit!!! This is NOT good news. All three Finalists suddenly look like they’ve been bashed in the head with a meat mallet. But, with even less than no time to spare, they press on. This is where Richard really starts to lose it.
Finally, it is dinner time and the judges’ panel is gathered round the table with some famous Puerto Rican chef whose name escapes me right now, and none other than Tim Zagat 
. Now, I don’t have to tell you who HE is, do I?
So, here’s the menu du jour……………
First Course – Fish:
Stephanie: Red Snapper, Truffled Clam and Asparagus Broth and Asparagus Salad
Richard: Scallop with Mango and Pineapple Vinegar
The Other One: Grilled Prawns with Chili Basil Sauce and Crab and Homemade Potato Chips
The judges liked all three, but Steph and The Other One seemed to be the favorites.
Second Course – Poultry:
Stephanie: Seared Quail Breast over Lobster Ravioli with Mango-Lobster Sauce and Quail Egg
Richard: Guinea Hen, Chicken Egg, Foie Gras and Spring Vegetables. He calls it “Which Came First?”.
The Other One: Tom Kha Gai Soup with Dumplings
The judges really liked Stephanie’s’ dish except for the undercooked leeks on the plate. Richard got props for the “whimsical” nature of his dish, but the judges were otherwise underwhelmed. The Other One’s soup was a huge hit and won the round.
Third Course – Meat:
Stephanie: Lamb with Maitaike Mushrooms, Braised Pistachios, Blackberry and Olive Tapenade
Richard: Pickled Radishes, Mirin Broth and Pork Belly
The Other One: Wagyu Beef with Chayote and Cucumber Salad, Hot Sauce and Garlic Chips
Richard’s pork belly was pretty much a flop. The judges thought it was under seasoned and not crispy enough. The other One’s wagyu was just meh. Stephanie’s lamb dish was a triumph! The judges admit that they were skeptical about it when they saw it on the menu, but they absolutely loved it.
Fourth Course – Dessert:
Stephanie: Ricotta Pound Cake with Tropical Fruit and Banana Creme
Richard: Banana “Scallop” with Bacon Ice Cream
The Other One: Thai Black Rice Pudding with Lime and Mango Cream, Taro and Toasted Coconut
The judges didn’t care for Stephanie’s cake. I don’t blame them. It was beneath her. They did like The Other One’s pudding and gave points for it’s originality and tastiness. (Uh oh! I don’t think I like where this is heading!) They also loved Richard’s dessert combo.
At the Judges’ Table, it is painfully clear that this has become a contest between Stephanie and The Other One. Poor Richard just stands there hanging his head. After deliberating into the wee hours, they reach a decision. The new Top Chef is………Drumroll please……..Stephanie! Woohoo!!!
That’s all there is, and there ain’t no more.
I just want to take a moment to thank all of you fabulous readers who made this Top Chef journey with me this season. Even though I can’t give prizes to everyone, you’re all winners in my book. I’ve enjoyed every comment and the chance to get to know some of you better. Although Top Chef is over for now, I hope that you will continue to visit me here in SGCC Land. I promise you won’t be disappointed!