Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

March 6, 2013

Padma does *not* hug the loser.

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Previously on Top Chef, the final episode was not in fact the final episode. I have only myself to blame for this. I naively believed that the elimination of Josh directly placed Sheldon, Brooke and the winner of Last Chance Kitchen in the finale. Also, I was swerved by the episode being titled “Finale” on my TiVo. I am a sucker for stuff like that. Instead of Top Chef being the finale, the returning Kristen and Brooke advanced to the last round (I hope) while Sheldon was eliminated from the competition.

I am conflicted over this turn of events. Midway through the season, I had indicated that such a final duo was not only predictable but a best case scenario result for Top Chef. In the interim, a lot has happened involving Kristen. She was mistakenly blamed by the judges for Josie’s failures at Restaurant Wars. Then, she went on an epic winning streak at Last Chance Kitchen. Finally, she has earned her way into the winner’s bracket and now the finale of the show. All of this is great for Kristen.

Sheldon got a raw deal. What is the difference between him and every other player voted out this season? All of them got a second chance. Sheldon did not. Had he cooked in a three player finale and finished in third, I would have no problem with the outcome. Since last week’s challenge was considered a semi-final event, Sheldon becomes the only player removed from the game after a single failure. I should add that there were at least two occasions during the season where his dish was worthy of elimination. Still, I feel like Sheldon was at least somewhat screwed by the decision to slot the winner of Last Chance Kitchen in the semi-final.


At a minimum, Kristen should have been required to do something above and beyond her cohorts in order to advance to the finals. The best two chefs this season will compete for the title of Top Chef. I have no problem with that aspect of the events. My issue is with all of the players up to and including Kristen and Josh participating in a double elimination competition while Brooke and Sheldon are in a single elimination competition. I believe the situation should be handled like the College World Series wherein the winner of the loser’s bracket has to defeat the winner’s bracket champion twice. Alas, I do not get to make these decisions so ignore my venting about an aggravating aspect of an otherwise impeccable season of Top Chef.

A matchup of Kristen vs. Brooke represents one of the three best finales in the history of Top Chef. The others I would place in this conversation are Kevin Gillespie vs. the Voltaggio brothers in season six and Richard Blais vs. Stephanie Izard in season four. Blais vs. Mike Isabella in season eight would be fourth, but as well as Isabella performed in the finale, I do not believe anybody is under the illusion that he is the equal of Izard. The point here is that Kristen vs. Brooke is a titanic matchup. One of the two finest chefs this season will win, which does not happen anywhere near often enough in reality television. This will be the third consecutive season for this feat on Top Chef. Who will join Paul Qui and Richard Blais? I am rooting for Brooke, who has accomplished so much personally and professionally this season. I suspect that Kristen is hungrier and has more to prove, though.

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