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Review: Top Chef - Season Finale: Part 1

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 3rd 2009 2:45AM
season_finale_part_one_top_chef_season_six(S06E14) Well, if you think this competition was getting easier, forget it. This is the toughest Top Chef I can remember. These final four were all excellent and as they gathered for the last leg to the finale, you could see that it was game on.

Unlike other seasons, there aren't any obvious villains in this group. Who are you rooting for? I don't know. I like them all in some ways, and yet there isn't a clear favorite either.

I like Kevin, but the Voltaggio brothers have been excellent, too. Their food really does look good enough to eat! And Jen, for all her insecurities, has been great throughout. Tonight would be a close call. More after the jump.

At the start, the final four were at a stop waiting for a train. They were not in Vegas anymore. It was the Napa Valley Wine Train. Yes, the last Quick Fire challenge would be on the train, and the high stakes would be a Toyota Prius. Sweet.

Michael Chiarello, Top Chef Master winner finalist, was the guest judge, and since they were in Napa, the challenge was all about the grape. Or should I say grapes, because there were many, many varieties from which to choose. The four had to pick the right grape, then cook a dish with it on the moving train. In 30 minutes (including the time to put on your chef coat!). Chiarello is Mr. Napa Valley, so he presumably knew his grapes.

Jen made chicken livers, but Chiarello liked them. Kevin didn't use enough of the grape to please Padma and Michael. Bryan's use of the Concord grape was a mistake; it's not from Napa. So it was Michael who won the Quickfire for using everything from the grape, including the vine. All that was left out were the pits.

The elimination challenge had the chefs catering the crush party at Rutherford Hills winery. Only local products. Two dishes -- one vegetarian, one with local protein.

After a trip to a local market with all the produce and food on display, the four made their selections. Was it a bad omen that Jen was still editing her choices even as she was checking out? On the other hand, both Bryan and Kevin chose beef dishes that they had to know needed more than five hours to prepare properly. Michael had his head in the clouds with an egg dish, which is always risky unless they're in a quiche or scrambled.

Well, they all managed to make beautiful dishes despite the level of difficulty. Nobody was perfect, but with goat cheese ravioli and braised short ribs off the bone, Bryan took the win.

Kevin's brisket was tough -- "ropey" -- but his simple, yet perfect, beet and carrot vegetarian dish was a big hit. Michael's eggs were uneven, but that turnip soup with foie gras looked super impressive, and the flavors worked on the judges (except Gail). And Jen's duck was also a success, but she didn't grill it on the wood-burning stove and she said she was going to.

Bryan was the winner -- he made the products "sing," according to Chiarello. Tom said it was a tough decision, and looking at the remaining three, I had no idea who they were sending home.

Jennifer was told to pack her knives. Damn that grill! Colicchio really held it against her that she was too scattered about keeping the fire burning and didn't crisp the duck skin. The duck was "ducky," but they wanted more.

So it's the Voltaggios vs. Kevin. It's a trio that's very strong. Maybe the strongest ever. The finale will be fun to watch.

[Watch clips and episodes of Top Chef at SlashControl.]

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I believe Kevin deserved to lose the competition not only because his cooking was merely unsophisticated comfort food, but because he was diabolical and played dirty on at least two occasions: He messed with Jennifer when, in the guise of being helpful, he misinformed her with unsolicited assurances that when the grill flame goes down the coals will be very hot. Similarly, in season 5 Carla was misguided by someone else's ideas causing her to change her approach and it cost her the competition. The difference being that Carla's sous chef had nothing to gain by sabotaging her. Jennifer thanked Kevin only to find later when the flames went down, contrary to Kevin's ideas, there was no heat. In the round being judged by Bryan's mentor, and former employer of both Michael and Bryan, Kevin had the nerve to ask Bryan how to cook meat using technique inconsistent with what he claimed was his "style". He then won the round because of the reliability of the technique he employed which was in fact Bryan's--not because his food was great. For this he won a 30,000 dollar prize and the opportunity to be the representative in a competition he was the least suitable being the most elementary albeit solid chef.

December 13 2009 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I cannot stand Michael and his sanctimonious attitude. He thinks he is so much better than everyone else because his dishes are so complicated. But Tom has said it best before, simple, if done well, is better than the complicated. Simple, clean flavors has been the mantra. Kevin absolutely rocks and I hope he wins this, but if he falters, it better be Bryan. He is so much more mature and he understands it's a much better thing to help your fellow chef out rather than hosing them as Michael would. Michael is a poor sport and a horrible loser. I hate that he won the car last night, just because of his attitude.

December 03 2009 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


I totally thought Jennifer got ripped off too!! It really pissed me off, but you can watch this episode for free at freetvshowshq.info.

December 03 2009 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a devout Jenn fan so this one was tough but you had to know it was about to happen. They has to keep the brothers, it's been the theme all season. Although I absolutely can't stand Michael. I hope he goes down in flames. I'm pulling for Kevin although a win for Brian would hurt Michael more.

Last thought is that this season hasn't been the most entertaining in terms of drama but these final 4 seem so far ahead of any other contestants from any other season - it's been fun to watch

December 03 2009 at 1:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Jennifer's poor performances in Las Vegas and being in the bottom 3 for many weeks is what got her eliminated. I don't think Kevin was ever in the bottom. The brothers competition makes for good TV. Kevin is consistently good and has won many challenges. It was Jenn's time to go.

December 03 2009 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think each of the cheftestants had problems this episode, however small or big they were. I think what ultimately did Jen in over Michael was the consistency over the season, she faltered whereas the others kept it together (mostly). I think these 4 have been the most talented the shows had (at least all in one season), next week should be interesting, because I think in the judges' minds at least they're on an even playing field.

December 03 2009 at 10:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joel Keller

On his blog, Colicchio claims that Jen was the clear choice because both of her dishes were too salty. He even praised her for thinking on her feet when it came to the duck. I wonder why those sentiments didn't come through in the edit.

December 03 2009 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Jen was robbed also. At the beginning of the season I thought she was going to take it all. She had some failures in there, but she still held on. Michael has had a strong season but I think he has declined a little the last few episodes. If we had even one more week of the final 4, I think Jen may have sank him. That said, it was great to see Brian get a win. I would love to see him beat his brother after all the slamming, but in the long one, I think it will probably be Kevin in the win.

December 03 2009 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The decision making process is not making any sense. During prior episodes, judges always mentioned that if something is not going well in the food making process, improvise, etc. Remember the episode where Michael had problem that the electric stove in the kitchen is not working and as a result his food corraborated with Eli was undercooked.. The guest judge said that chefs often travels around the world to prepare dishes for clients. The good chefs must be able to adapt to the situation and improvise. WHY is Jen penalized because she could not grill the duck and had to improvise with a different style cooking. IT's all about DRAMA not the cooking. Michael should have be gone because of the unappetizing eggs.

December 03 2009 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Allison Solow

Good catch on the Top Chef Masters line -- I've corrected it.

Thanks, all!

December 03 2009 at 9:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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