Top Chef Recap

Finale Part I

By David Mumpower

February 6, 2014

Be careful, Nina. Stephanie used to lean on him like this, too.

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Previously on Top Chef, Louis earned the title of champion of Last Chance Kitchen. The previous winner, Kristen Kish, had eventually become the winner of Top Chef. Before Louis could enjoy such fanciful daydreams, the rug was pulled out from under him. Within the hour, Shirley and he were both eliminated from Top Chef. The final two players this season are Nick and Nina.

Since the first episode, Nina’s opponents have perceived her as the strongest player. Even though Shirley dominated throughout the second half of the season, the aura of Nina continued to intimidate the rest of her opponents. Nick in particular has exposited that if he wants to win Top Chef, the path goes through Nina. That point of view has proven prescient.

What can be said of Nick? Almost every controversy this season has involved him in some way. Nick butted heads with Carlos so often that they seemed to auditioning for Bravo’s remake of Moonlighting. The two gentlemen seemed evenly matched throughout the season before Carlos claimed victory in a heads up Quickfire challenge match-up, thereby winning a new car. His celebration was short lived as Nick and Carlos once again had a showdown for elimination. Obviously, Carlos lost. By the narrowest of margins, Nick became the victor in their feud.

Alas, that series of incidents will not be Nick’s lingering memory on Top Chef. Instead, the most noteworthy moment of the season for him occurred when he gained immunity during a Quickfire challenge. Then, he turned around and sabotaged his three player team. Nick was manipulated into crafting a corn silk bird’s nest. His teammates on the challenges, Shirley and Stephanie, literally begged him not to serve the dish because they knew it was terrible. He did it anyway because Nick is about Nick, first and foremost. He had a fantasy about impressing the judges by going outside his comfort zone and thereby hitting a winner.


The dish failed in dramatic fashion. Out of the six players remaining, Nick offered far and away the worst meal of the evening. As one would imagine from the wording, the corn silk bird’s nest proved to be inedible. Nick was offered the chance to fall on his sword in order to allow his teammates who cooked extremely well to continue in the competition. Nick declined.

Stephanie wound up being eliminated from Top Chef for what was described as the most delicious food ever for a “loser”. It was a miscarriage of justice although I maintained at the time and still believe that the producers rather than Nick carry the burden of failure here. Even on a top notch production like Top Chef, mistakes are still made. Nick capitalized on one to advance deeper into the game. Now, he is a single victory away from becoming the champion of Top Chef New Orleans.

In the process, he would become far and away the worst winner in the history of Top Chef. I mentioned in the Power Rankings a few weeks ago that Nick was mirroring Top Chef season 7 winner Kevin Sbraga. The analog is that both chefs were surviving rather than excelling. Think of the situation similar to The Amazing Race. That reality competition is not about the cream rising to the top inasmuch as the goal is to survive every week in order to have a chance at the finale. In an extreme example, a consistently terrible team who were already reality television stars, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, became champions of The Amazing Race by employing these tactics then getting hot during the finale. They never finished higher than third place until that last episode.

Continued:       1       2       3       4



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