Top Chef Las Vegas Recap

By Jason Lee

December 3, 2009

Saucy little minx.

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It's finally here. The Top Chef finale in Napa has finally arrived. We've gone through two dozen Quickfire and Elimination Challenges, and four chefs are left standing. And guess what? It's the right four. There's a reason why, over 12 episodes, not a single chef other than these four won an Elimination Challenge. That's how dominant they've been.

This is the first time in the history of the show that the most talented, most capable chefs made it all the way to the finale. In Season 1, we missed LeeAnn. In Season 2, Cliff was disqualified before the finale. In Season 3, Tre was left out. In Season 4, Dale imploded during Restaurant Wars. In Season 5, Jaime got tripped up on seafood.

Finally, the true contenders make it all the way to the finale. And what a group of contenders they are. We have Kevin, who makes deceivingly simple-looking food with a comfort food sensibility. We have the Voltagio brothers, who ooze innovation out their ears. And we have Jennifer, the tough-as-nails, no nonsense, when-she-smiles-it's-like-the-sun-coming-up executive chef for one of Eric Ripert's restaurants.

I've been rooting for Jen since the very beginning – mostly, I think, because I see a lot of myself in her. When something has to get done, she puts her head down and works to get it done without a lot of theatrics. She's a natural leader but can be her own worst critic. She genuinely wants to befriend those around her but won't go out of her way to do it.

And she's ridiculously talented.


Jennifer arrives first at a Napa Valley train station awaiting the others. She says that being in the top four is nothing to her – she wants to win. Michael arrives next and remarks about the strong abilities of all four chefs – but he's shooting for the title. Kevin shows up and tells us that he won't be happy with any outcome other than him winning. Bryan arrives last, wielding the largest umbrella in the history of Napa Valley. He says that he really missed his son while he was away.

A train arrives at the station...TRAIN CHALLENGE! I'm calling it right now. They're cooking on the train. I'm sure of it.

Padma steps off with Michael Chiarello. You might remember him as the runner-up to Rick Bayless on the first season of Top Chef Masters. Padma is sporting a ltitle baby bump and Jen refers to her as a "hot pregnant mom." I idly wonder how Padma is going to endure a Top Chef finale in Napa Valley (with the wine a'flowing) while pregnant...

It's the last Quickfire of the season and the four chefs will be working with Napa Valley's signature ingredient: the grape. They have a full pantry and will be allotted 30 minutes to cook their dish in the train. And oh by the way, this is a High Stakes Quickfire. The winner gets an all new third generation Toyota Prius.

I think I just crapped my pants. Holy cow, what an amazing prize. You can almost hear the drips of drool coming down off of the cheftestant's faces. Jennifer comments on how her current car is so old that it doesn't even have a CD player.

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