Review: Top Chef - Season Finale, Part 2
by Kona Gallagher, posted Dec 10th 2009 1:15AM
(S06E15) Well, it's pretty hard to argue with a Top Three whose members have won twelve of the thirteen elimination challenges, as Tom tells us at the beginning of the episode. Some of you may think that Jen was robbed in favor of creating more drama by having the Voltaggio brothers in the finale, but I disagree. She had a several-week stint toward the end where she just fell apart and barely made it through elimination. None of these guys had that, so they absolutely deserve to be here.
However, it is mighty convenient that having brothers in the finale tugs at our heartstrings just a little bit more, since they bring the moms in for the final challenge. I love the idea of having the chefs create a first course that reminds them of childhood memories, especially since we got such good stories out of it. Kevin's mom loves fried chicken skin! Brian was inspired by the texture in his mother's simple dishes, while Michael was a picky eater who "hated everything." I guess he got past that.
I was excited when they brought back all of the previous contestants and had the finalists draw knives to see who their sous chefs would be. Most reality shows like this generally just have the most recently eliminated contestants come back, so it was cool that there was the opportunity to have some randoms who we don't even remember have a shot at working on the finale.
Unfortunately, the entire thing turned out to be a big waste of time, since Jen and Eli were chosen, who were the most recently eliminated. Beyond that, none of the sous chefs got to say anything, so they really could have gotten anyone to fill those roles. Usually in situations like this, the eliminated contestants at least get to do bitter interview clips about how the entire situation is completely jacked, but I guess Top Chef is too classy for that, or whatever.
Kevin said something during one of his interviews that I really agree with. He said that basically on any given day, any one of them could win this competition. I really believe that. They have always seemed evenly matched to me, albeit with very different skill sets.
Kevin can make simple food with deceptively complex flavors. Michael is probably the most inventive contestant on the show, and isn't afraid to take risks. Bryan is probably the most technically talented, and can pull off extremely complex dishes better than anyone else. It really is anyone's game.
This is reflected in the challenge, in which they all knock it out of the park at least once. For Kevin, it was his chicken skin dish. Bryan had his venison dish, and Michael aced the mystery box challenge. On the flip side, they all also had their weaknesses. Michael faltered when he undercooked his prawn and overcooked his dessert, while Bryan's first two dishes were too bland for most of the judges. Kevin's pork belly underwhelmed, but his night really went off the rails with his ill-advised bacon dessert.
The cult of bacon has become this trend that as a lifelong vegetarian, I do not understand even a little bit. However, I feel that it wouldn't make much more sense to me even if I did eat meat. It's one of those trendy things that I knew would annoy at least some of the judges, and that seems to be what happened. The dish was universally panned, and that's when I knew that Kevin and his magical beard wouldn't be taking home the Top Chef crown.
So it came down to who we probably always knew it would be: the Voltaggio brothers. It's fitting, really. They have wildly disparate styles, but the same intensity and work ethic. They've both been competitive with each other throughout the competition, but Michael, probably a bit moreso, owing to the fact that he's the little brother. That's why, when the judges named him the winner of Top Chef, I was really impressed with how gracious he was toward Bryan -- especially when he interviewed that it meant more to him to be in the top two with his brother, than it did to actually win the competition.
I was a little surprised with the ending, as I had always viewed Bryan as the front-runner, but I guess Michael's innovation really won over the judges in the end. However, when it came to the popular vote, Kevin won the Bravo text poll with over 50% of the vote. So that makes me wonder, do you agree with the outcome, or did the judges get it wrong?
|Yes, Michael absolutely deserved it.||144 (28.4%)|
|No, Bryan is clearly the more talented Voltaggio brother.||166 (32.7%)|
|No, Kevin was robbed!||197 (38.9%)|
[Watch clips and episodes of Top Chef at SlashControl.]