Top Chef season finale recap: The Classiest Chef Wins

Paul and Sarah square off in what was supposedly the closest finale ever
Ep. 17 | Aired Feb 29, 2012

YOU WON. No, you won. No, you did. Okay, I won.

Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

So we've finally crowned our winner. I'm exhausted just from watching and writing about this long and downright weird season. We started things off with two qualifying rounds in which the cheftestants had to fight for the opportunity to just compete. We had an eclectic roster of celebrity guest judges that brought us Charlize Theron, Patti LaBelle, and Pee-wee Herman. We witnessed some of the oddest and least culinarily (just made that word up) relevant challenges in Top Chef history. We endured far too many cookout/"catering" events. We test-drove Last Chance Kitchen, which provided some dramatic, exciting twists. We also met some of the least likeable competitors ever to crack an egg in the Top Chef kitchen.

Regardless of my feelings about the remaining contestants as reality TV characters, I have to take my hat off to both Paul and Sarah. No doubt they've been just as frustrated with parts of the competition as we have as viewers, and they did give us an interesting finale. That's not to say I'm going to go easy on either of them. (Editor's note: I know everyone reading this knows who won, but let's pretend we don't so we can relive the "suspense").

For the Final Challenge, the top two chefs had to make a four-course tasting menu from the restaurant of their dreams. Of course, we all know the drill. They also get to hire a team of sous chefs made up of eliminated competitors.

The Challenge to Become Paul or Sarah's Bitch had some random twists. Some of the more recently ousted chefs weren't in the running, and in their place were some early losers: Collin the vegan beardo, the girl who couldn't open her pressure cooker, and Tyler Stone, the moon-faced, cocky novice who got eliminated within minutes for committing unspeakable acts upon a pig carcass. On the other side of the competency spectrum were master chefs Barbara Lynch and Marco Canora — I don't understand what was in it for these two other than the embarrassing prospect of not getting picked.

Apropos of nothing, I love how reality TV competitions often feature two contestants with the same name, one spelled normally and the other spelled tragically: Tyler and Ty-lör of Top Chef; Lindzi and Lyndsie of The Bachelor (okay, neither of these is normal); Tarzan and Troyzan of Survivor (ditto). Just one of those factoids that makes life just a little more splendid.

NEXT: Sarah makes a gamble... and loses

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