Last chances paid off for at least one person as the show we called ‘Top Chef Seattle’ sputtered to a close Wednesday night. Kristen Kish, who was booted off the show unfairly early, returned for the finale through the online “Last Chance Kitchen” show and took the title. Kish and runner-up Brooke Williamson had seemed well-matched, but Kish edged her out just enough for the win.
The finale, filmed live in L.A. before an audience of family members and past Top Chef winners, was a lackluster end to a slow season. “I’m disappointed with Top Chef’s representation of Seattle. It was the TV equivalent of coming here to eat at Buca Di Beppo,” said the Surly Gourmand. Imagine what he’d say if more than 11 of the 17 episodes had even featured the city! Still, here’s our final roundup of the show’s highlights and lowlights. Thanks for playing with us over the past few months, and hey — maybe one day we’ll get that all-Seattle version of Chopped.
The format: Although the finale was edited to feel we started watching around the 10-minute mark, it turned out to be an Iron-Chef type battle where each chef had to cook up to five courses for a live audience of 300 people. Judges voted on who won after each course, and the first chef to win three rounds took the title. The only requirements were that the second course had to feature scallops and the fourth course had to highlight snapper.
What happened: It was over after round four, with the scorecard reading Kristen, Brooke, Kristen, Kristen.
Sous chefs: Each finalist chose three former competitors. Brooke went with Kuniko, CJ, and Stefan; Kristen chose Sheldon, Josh, and Lizzie.
Styles: Brooke’s dishes were mega-complex, Kristen’s more spare.
Downfall: Brooke tried to redeem herself for a fried-chicken failure earlier in the season, serving up super-charged vadouvan fried chicken wings for her third course. The flavors won applause, but star judge Tom Colicchio told her “I get why you’re doing it. Although I’m still not sure why you’re doing it.”
Disturbing: When the most attention-grabbing moments of the show were Padma-esque sex-drenched commercials selling cat food.
Significance: The post-mortem headline of a blog post by judge Hugh Acheson was about how we shouldn’t dwell on the winner being a female chef for only the second time in Top Chef history. “This chatter about another female Top Chef winner is nice and all, but they are all CHEFS. The only thing different about it that I can sit with my daughters, point to the screen and say, “See, you can be like that. Nothing stands in your way,” he wrote. OK — that seems quite significant enough to me.
Future plans: Kristen will use part of her $125,000 grand prize for a trip to Korea, where she was born. And even though she won before the dessert course, it was pretty sweet to see her white-haired father embracing her at the show’s end. “I’m proud that I got to make them so proud,” she said.
Photo by David Moir/Bravo