Top Chef recap: The Return

The winner of Last Chance Kitchen returns
Ep. 16 | Aired Feb 20, 2013

YOU'RE AMAZING Just the way you are. But Sheldon, you didn't bring your usual self to the challenge.

David Moir/Bravo

Dear Top Chef fans, I'm extremely, extremely sorry the recap is so late this week. If this were a restaurant, I'd be comping your meals right now. Please know that I had good reasons for the tardiness -- but in any case, it won't happen again! With that out of the way, let's get started on the finale, part one.

This week, The Bachelor went on hometown visits — sorry to even bring that up here — and now Top Chef visits our not-so-final two in their natural habitats. In the many months since filming the season, Sheldon looked much the same, but he was getting some high-end restaurant experience at Vintage Cave, a fine dining establishment in Honolulu, to gain some new techniques — the sort of techniques Brooke already has. But Sheldon looked much more at home grilling on the beach with his wife and kids. So many pierced ears!

Then we zipped on over the Pacific to Brooke's home in Los Angeles. She seems to live the rather typical life of a hip, young mom and wife, worrying about kids, paperwork, and finances. We were introduced to Mr. Brooke, whom Brooke hired as her sous chef. Let's think about that dynamic for a second. Perhaps Brooke's sous chef in life just naturally enjoys taking orders. "Knead my bread!" They went out to dinner with that familiar face Roy Choi and Sang Yoon of Father's Office gastropub, who called Brooke his "favorite protégé." At this point in the episode, I knew that my previous favorite Kristen was probably going to come back, but I think my allegiance has shifted to Brooke. Kristen killed it in Last Chance Kitchen, but maybe it's just that I've had more time to grow to appreciate Brooke and her consistently great dishes.

Sheldon and Brooke visited Tom's restaurant Craft in Los Angeles, where Padma greeted them in a hot pink dress and a crazy gold necklace that made her look like she belonged to a female warrior tribe in the Star Trek universe. She announced the winner of Last Chance Kitchen, and as came as a surprise to precisely no one, in walked Kristen, who had been so wrongly eliminated in the first place. I'm glad to see Kristen back, but I bet Sheldon and Brooke were secretly hoping someone like Carla or Danyele would be the one returning. I'm just so glad CJ's campaign to get back on the show didn't end up working. It reminded me of when Malibu Chris shamelessly self-promoted himself to win Fan Favorite -- both these guys have crazily inflated egos.

NEXT: Tom pulls a Gordon Ramsey ... not really.

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