Top Chef season finale recap: An Unsavory Winner

A chef who's apparently incapable of running a functional kitchen won the title; and Tom Colicchio made it happen.
Ep. 17 | Aired Feb 5, 2014

SAINT LUCIA VS. NEW ENGLAND Who will come out on top?

David Moir/Bravo

On the day of service, Nicholas ruled over his service team like some sadistic drill sergeant. He was sooooo ready to start yelling from the get-go he could taste it. He was just looking for reasons and he found them easily. Yeah, Nicholas, that's the sign of an awesome person — treat people who have no choice but to listen to you like garbage and make them look incompetent on national television. Creating a hostile work environment doesn't actually make people perform better.

For the service, the judges split into two groups so the chefs were forced to serve up consistent food throughout different times of the night. (For purposes of clarity, I'll group all the judges' comments together). We started with Nina's restaurant, which blended her island roots with new Italian techniques. Before the first course, she served a delightful-looking bread course with breadfruit and a whipped foie gras butter with curry salt on top. It may or may not have counted as an actual course, but Tom and Gail loved it.

Nina's actual first course was a tuna and escolar tartare with tomato water and jalapeno. Tom loved that you could taste the island in the basil and chili threads. The second course was one of the most popular of the night: an orrechiette with roasted goat sugo, cherry tomato confit, and whipped goat cheese. Hugh called it "sublime."

The third course was the first misstep. Nina's spice-rubbed swordfish had great flavor, but the dish was lacking some crunch. Then Nina saved things with a simple intermezzo, which was super-pretty and fun to look at, like a weird sushi popsicle. It was a compressed dragon fruit and frozen papaya skewer. It wasn't one of the actual courses, but as one of the judges said, "It's a little something extra." Lastly, her dessert predictably didn't go over great. Her chocolate zeppole was tasty but a bit small. If Nina had been more like Nicholas, she would have yelled at the ice cream maker for failing to exist.

Now over to Nicholas' restaurant, where he started the night off by screaming at his service staff about plate placement. All season long, he struggled with underseasoning his dishes, and his first course — a crudo of hamachi and tuna — needed more salt, which all the judges agreed on. The second course, spearheaded by Jason, was an over-thought dish of shrimp bisque and scallop noodles. Some members of Tom's group seemed to love the dish, but the others didn't.

NEXT: The judges can hear you yelling!

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