Image credit: David Moir/Bravo
After the two losses, Brooke needed the next round more than ever, and she didn't hesitate to snap at her sous chef Stefan to keep his mind on food, not weird groupie-girls. As Tom said, this was potentially a $125,000 dish. Brooke went for surf and turf, as she had earlier in the season. Her braised pork cheek and red snapper with collard green slaw and sorrel puree with pomegranate proved to be another one of her complex, unlikely but surprisingly successful combinations. Gail loved the interplay between the proteins, and the pomegranate gave the dish a much needed tart and crunch. Kristen presented red snapper with leeks, gem lettuce, tarragon, uni, and shellfish nage. This round appeared to be pretty neck-and-neck, but the judges one by one voted in Kristen's favor. I have no doubt that Kristen's dish was delicious, but I was frankly surprised that the judges didn't try to make it a five-round competition. But then I forgot, the judges NEVER make a decision just to enhance the drama of the show. [Cue the epic eye-roll.]
But let's not forget the important thing: KRISTEN WON TOP CHEF! And a deserving winner she is. It's a huge accomplishment to be the front-runner from the beginning and bounce back from an objectively unfair elimination with an incredibly impressive run of wins in Last Chance Kitchen. I have no doubt that Kristen had the better night and earned the win; you knew her dishes were excellent when Gail had to reach to find criticisms — having to use a knife to cut through leeks or having to dig through a leaf or two of greenery to reach the scallop? You always try your hardest, Gail, and we love you for that, but your complaints just showed Kristen's dishes were damn near perfect.
However, I'm not just trying to be a b-hole here when I say I wouldn't blame Brooke if she felt a little short-changed by the night's proceedings. Tom and Padma didn't even throw a single vote her way the whole night. They made the finale look like a blowout win for Kristen, which I doubt it was. I'm being hyper-critical of Tom and Padma because they lost a lot of trust from me when they eliminated Kristen. They, much more than any of the other judges, got a ton of backlash for the decision, and I can't help but think they were trying their hardest to make amends. If you look at his Bravo blog or his Twitter feed after the Kristen elimination episode, you know that Tom especially was defensive and embarrassed about how things went down, saying that he would have voted differently had he seen the episode. When he tasted Brooke's good dishes, he spouted off some generic compliments but then would vote Kristen with little hesitation. Of course, I wasn't there to taste any dishes, but it definitely piqued my B.S.-meter when Tom and Padma were the ones who were so one-sidedly pro-Kristen. Brooke, who won more challenges than anyone else, and not just because Kristen wasn't around, deserved better. I appreciate Kristen's precise, simple dishes, but I think Brooke should have gotten more props for going the more ambitious route and coming up with surprising combinations.
Anyway, even though I complained about some aspects of the Seattle season, it was way, way better than the joke that was Top Chef Texas. What a great final two and a great winner!
Do you think Tom and Padma were a little too motivated to give Kristen a decisive win? Are you excited that there's finally another female winner?
Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter