Top Chef: Cook Your Own Food


Top Chef: New York
Season Finale Part II

Here is a quick run down on the main challenge:

  • Final Challenge: Create a three-course tasting menu

Someone usually chokes in the final episode. This one didn’t have so much choking as someone not sticking to their guns and cooking what they know. One thing I’m confused about is those that have watched past seasons of Top Chef would use a process that they know one of the main judges hates. Tom has not been impressed with sous-vide cooking in the past. I know that from watching the show. Any of these chefs that have watched past seasons should know that too. Why would you use it in the last meal you would be making for the judges?

Final Challenge

Tom was with Padma to explain the final challenge to the three remaining finalists. He wanted them to cook their best three-course meal. He said he wanted to see the fire and passion in the food. They would be serving it head to head for each course simultaneously. He said they did not have to make a dessert in the three courses. It was entirely up to them. They would be serving to 12 judges and distinguished guests. They would be prepping for two hours that night and then the next day have three hours to cook before serving in Commander’s Palace . They said they would have some help cooking their last meal. Around the corner walked in people that made it to the final three in the past three seasons–Richard, Casey and Marcel. The chefs got to draw knives to determine the order they would be picking their sous chefs. Carla got to draw first, but she pulled knife #3. Stefan was offered to pick a knife next, but he let Hosea go first. He picked #1 so Hosea picked Richard. Stefan picked Marcel, leaving Carla picking Casey.


When they went to go prep, they got to pick their proteins out of what was available in the kitchen. Stefan went into the cooler and started yelling about where all the foie gras went. Hosea had taken it all. Hosea gave him half of it after Stefan came storming out looking for it. Then later on, Stefan was yelling about Hosea taking all the caviar. When Carla was getting her food together, she wanted to keep it simple yet refined with meat and potatoes. Casey offered up the idea of sous vide beef. Carla had never done it before, but Casey said it was easy. It is the technique of putting protein in a bag and cooking it in water. I have seen it fail time and again in previous Top Chef seasons so I have no idea why someone would do it during the finale, especially if they hadn’t done it themselves before.


The day of the final challenge, the chefs walked into the kitchen with Tom standing there in front of a tray with weird ingredients on it. He said there was a twist to the final challenge. He said they were still going to make the best three-course meal of their choosing, but there would be an added course of an appetizer that would be passed around on a tray before the meal began. Each chef would be using one of the following ingredients: crab, red fish and alligator. They would determine who would use what ingredient by the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition of King’s Cake. There was a little golden baby doll baked into the cake. The chef that got the slice with the baby would pick their own protein and decide which protein the other two chefs were using. They started eating their pieces of cake and Hosea got the piece with the baby. Hosea picked the red fish. He gave Carla the crab and Stefan the alligator.

The sous chefs came running in after that was all determined. Hosea told Richard he was going to concentrate on the appetizer himself and keep Richard working on the plan they had come up with the day before. Stefan cut off the alligator tail and decided to work with that since it had the most meat in it. He was going to make soup out of it since he couldn’t think what else to make. Fried alligator bites? Isn’t that a traditional way to have alligator in New Orleans? Carla was freaking out about not  having enough time to make her three courses, let alone add an appetizer course on top of it.

Hosea Menu

  • Trio of Sashimi
  • Scallops & Foie Gras with Pain Perdu
  • Venison Loin with Wild Mushrooms

Hosea chose not to make a dessert since it wasn’t his strong suit. He did not want the last thing he made that season to be a dessert.

Stefan Menu

  • Halibut & Salmon Carpaccio
  • Squab with Braised Red Cabbage & Schupfnudeln
  • Ice Cream & Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Syrup & Lollipops

Stefan said when he had a three-course dinner, he wants dessert so that’s why he was serving one.  Stefan said in order to slice the fish so thinly for his carpaccio, he needed it frozen. Marcel told the camera later that if he wanted to freeze a nice piece of fresh fish, that was Stefan’s thing, but it wouldn’t be something he would do.

Carla Menu

  • Seared Snapper with Saffron Aioli & Crouton
  • Sous-Vide New York Strip Steak, Potato Rod with Merlot Sauce
  • Cheese Tart with Apple Coins & Marmalade

Carla came into the finale wanting to do a cheese tart, but Casey suggested a blue cheese souffle instead. Carla changed her mind and went with that. She seemed to be letting Casey direct her more than her directing Casey on how to help.


Before the food was about to be served, Padma introduced the judges and guests, including Ti Martin, Proprietor of Commander’s Palace; Susan Spicer, chef/owner of Bayona; John Besh, chef/owner of August; Rocco DiSpirito, celebrity chef and author; Hubert Keller, chef/owner of Fleur de Lys.  The usual judges were Padma, Tom, Gail Simmons and Toby Young. Toby got to show up for the finale! Fabio also got to stick around to eat the last meal.

Appetizer Course

Blacked Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Remoulade & Micro Cilantro

A lot of “mmm’s” were heard. John Besh said, “Everything complimented the red fish. It really jumped out.” Hubert Keller said it had “a lot of imagination.” He loved it.

Alligator Soup with Celeriac, Parsley Leaves & Puff Pastry

Rocco said it was fantastic. Hubert loved the consistency and the puff pastry instead of a crouton. He thought it really added something. Ti Martin said, “Lovely! Well done.”

Shiso Soup with Blue Crab & Chayote Thai Salsa

Susan Spicer said the crab dish was nice and “concentrated in flavor.” Tom said the crab was well cooked. Bradford Marsalis was there too! He said the crab really hit him. He could taste “all the flavors that accompanied it.”  Tory McPhail, executive chef of Commander’s Palace, said it was a good dish.

First Course

Smoked Salmon & Halibut Carpaccio with Micro Greens, Citrus Vinaigrette & Caviar

Tom said Stefan’s dish had two things he didn’t like about it. He couldn’t taste the halibut because the salmon was overpowering. He said to create it, he froze it and then shaved it thin, which made it watery.  Hubert Keller said he liked Stefan’s dish. Toby said that Stefan’s dish was perfectly executed, but a little bit bland.

Seared Red Snapper Over Saffron Aioli, Braised Fennel & Grilled Clam

John Besh said Carla’s dish was “something special.” He liked all the flavors. Tom said he liked the idea of her dish. Branford said it tasted great to him. Ti said it reminded her of her first time in France having fish soup so it was a “fabulous taste memory for me.” She said she would order again. Toby said that Carla’s dish had real personality.

Tuna, Hamachi & Black Bass Sashimi with Fennel Oil, Citrus & Fried Tempura Bits

Ti said she wanted to love Hosea’s dish, but it “didn’t pop. It popped to the eye, but didn’t pop in the mouth.” Fabio said Hosea’s dish was good, but it was missing seasoning for him. Someone said a little bit of salt would have gone a long way. Toby said the same about Hosea’s dish as he did about Stefan’s dish that it was perfectly executed, but a little bit bland.

Second Course

Pan Seared Squab, Braised Cabbage, Schupfnudeln, Foie Gras & Grape Jus

John Besh said, “There are very few American chefs can cook a game bird this well.” Gail agreed saying the squab was cooked beautifully. She said, “I love cabbage prepared this way. I think he gave us a very good sense of Stefan. It was very true to exactly who he is as a chef. There was an element of classicism that I liked.”

Sous-Vide New York Strip Steak with Seared Potato Rod & Merlot Sauce

Carla said her dish was comfort food, rethought and refined. Gail asked if anyone was finding Carla’s sirloin as tough as she was finding it. Tom said that was his issue with sous-vide cooking was that it “loses any spontaneity of actually cooking the meat.” Ti Martin said that Carla could make a sauce. She loved the sauce. Tom said the dish didn’t remind Tom of Carla. Toby said that when Carla was saying she was giving them her version of meat and potatoes, what he saw in front of him was the last thing he expected from her. Fabio said that he didn’t see it as a $100,000 dish. John Besh said she lost the soul that she had the first dish.

Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perdu, Apple Preserves & Foie Gras Foam

Not foam! It was like Marcel was on Hosea’s team with the freaking foam. That’s all Marcel did in season 2. Gail said that she could not stop eating Hosea’s dish. She loved the pain perdu since it added a sweetness and buttery taste to the dish. Tom said it was well done, but he had seen the dish before many times. Rocco said it could only be him but he was tired of eating foie gras, but it was a very good dish. Branford said he agreed with what all the judges said about all the dishes, but he did think Rocco was crazy since he could eat foie gras all day.

Third Course

While the chefs were preparing the dishes for the third course, Carla discovered that she forgot to turn down the oven on the souffle so it started to bubble and curdle. She decided not to serve it, but just serve the other half of the dish. She said it was the thing on the plate that brought it all together, but it was not good enough to serve.

Stracciatella Ice Cream, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Syrup & Banana Lollipop

Tory McPhail said he really liked the progression of Stefan’s meal with a bit of fish, then game and finishing it off with chocolate. He thought it all went well together. Tom said the ice cream and mousse were fine, but overall it was “eh.” He said, “It isn’t like a complete thought.”  Gail said it was “completely dated in presentation.” She said it “sings 1982.” Fabio’s question to Stefan would be, “That’s the last thing  you want to give to us?” Fabio said as much as he would like it to be, dessert was not the strongest thing of Stefan’s dishes.

Apple Tart Coin with Blue Cheese & Walnut Crumble

Gail said she was relieved that there was something missing on Carla’s plate in order to explain the way it looked. She said if anyone could have made a good dessert, it would have been Carla. She was disappointed that whatever happened in the kitchen, did not make it to the plate.

Pan Roasted Venison, Chestnut & Celery Root Puree with Wild Mushrooms

Tom said he liked Hosea’s dish a lot. He thought the venison was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms were nicely done and seasoned. Gail said she really enjoyed the venison dish. Padma asked Fabio if he had to choose between Hosea and Stefan overall, Fabio said as much as it hurt him to say it, he though Hosea closed out the meal in a much better way. Hubert said that not doing dessert could be seen as a safe way out for a chef that did not think they could do dessert that well.

Judges’ Table

Gail told Carla that her appetizer course was really well done. Carla said she wanted to do something bold and spicy. Tom said he really enjoyed the flavors in the first course. Gail loved all her flavors. She thought they were spot on. Tom said the sauce was good for the second course. Gail said everyone at the table loved the sauce. She said her major problem was the texture of the meat. Toby said it was rather polite, fussy, anemic little dish. He wanted something much bolder and bigger from her. That is what he came to expect from her. Tom asked how much influence did Casey have on her dish. Carla said Casey made a lot of suggestions, like the sous-vide. She said she would try it since she knew about it, even though she had never done it before. Raised eyebrows on Tom appeared! When they moved onto the cheese course and the missing souffle, Carla said she could not put the souffle on the dish. She told them about forgetting to turn the oven down. Carla admitted the souffle was Casey’s idea. Gail confirmed that Carla originally wanted to do the tart, but Casey wanted the souffle. Carla agreed but was selling it like she thought Casey had good ideas. Tom told Carla that it seemed like her sous chef talked her out of cooking the food that got her to the finale. He said he didn’t understand that.

Toby loved Hosea’s appetizer. Gail asked if he had cooked red fish before since its flavor was so bold. He said he had worked with it once before, but he wanted his entire meal to have strong, bold flavors throughout. Padma asked Hosea if he was happy with the seasoning of his sashimi. He said he was happy with the acidity, heat and presentation. Toby said it was very bright and light, but he didn’t think there was enough “citrus flavors in there to bring out the best in the dish.” Hosea said he wanted to give a nod to New Orleans in his second course so he felt he did that with the pain perdu. Tom thought it was all nicely done and the “apple compote was the perfect counterpoint to the foie gras.” He thought it tied it together nicely. Gail loved it. She thought it was the best dish he did all night. Padma agreed that she loved it as well. Padma asked how he decided on venison. He said it was one of his favorite meats. He wanted to end the meal with something big and robust. Tom said it was nicely cooked and the mushrooms were well done. Gail really liked all the earthy components. The blackberry didn’t add anything for her. She said the garnish was sort of a throwaway for her. Toby asked if Hosea thought it was a bit of a risk for his meal to not have an end. He had a beginning and two middles. Hosea didn’t think so with a three-course meal. He didn’t think dessert was necessary. He said he would rather showcase his flavor combinations in savory dishes rather than desserts.

Gail asked Stefan if he had cooked with alligator before. He laughed while saying no. He said it had very weird texture. Toby thought his appetizer was very well executed. Tom said the soup was seasoned well. Gail said in his first course, it tasted watered down. Tom said he didn’t get taking a piece of fish and freezing it so you could slice it very thin. Stefan asked if it tasted good. Tom found it to be somewhat bland. Gail loved Stefan’s squab. She loved the sweet touch of the parsnip. Toby said  the dish was his best dishes and it was the best dish of the night. Tom asked why he felt he should have a dessert if he didn’t need to have one. He said to have a proper menu, it needed to finish with a dessert. Gail asked if he wanted that dessert as the last thing the judges tasted from him. He said it would have been.

Padma asked the chefs why they thought they should win Top Chef. Stefan said he deserved it because he had been consistent overall. He had always served good food. Hosea said he put a piece of himself out there that night. All his food looked good and tasted great. Overall, he thought he did a great job with bold flavors and delicious food. Carla said she has proven that when she cooks her food, it is delicious. When she cooks her food, there is a lot of heart and flavor. She said she thought she was a Top Chef. She thought when she made her own food, it is good. She started to choke up a bit since she knew where she failed is when she was following Casey’s lead instead of her own.

The chefs were sent out. Padma said they could probably all agreed that Carla was out of the running. Tom said that he felt Carla would agree she was out of the running too. Tom said between Hosea and Stefan, they came from very different backgrounds. He said Stefan was more classically trained. Padma said that Stefan might be more technically skilled, but Hosea had a thoughtfulness in his dishes. Tom said that Hosea didn’t win as many challenges as Stefan, but his strong cooking got him there and he gave them a decent menu. Padma asked whose meal did they like the best. Toby said structurally, Stefan’s menu was better thought out. Tom said Stefan’s appetizer was great given the tough piece of meat he had to work with. Gail agreed saying that the soup was fantastic. Tom said with the first course, giving a frozen piece of fish and letting it thaw on a plate so you get a puddle of water was not good. Toby said that Stefan won with his squab. Tom said it was the best he had all night. Gail said not only was it executed beautifully, it told her about his history and how they want to perceive him as a chef. Tom said he could not get past the dessert. Toby said he didn’t think it was that bad. Padma said it was pedestrian at best. Tom said looking at the progression of Hosea’s meal, there was the spiciness of the red fish in the appetizer that led to his first course, that could have used a bit more seasoning but the progression made sense, which led to the scallop and foie gras, and transitioned into a heavier meat. He thought that was a nice transition of food. Toby said that out of the third courses, Hosea’s was the best, but the meal typically has a beginning, middle and end. He didn’t give them the end. Tom said it was a moot point since they were told they did not have to do a dessert. Gail said she was very satisfied with Hosea’s overall meal. She wanted a progression from light to heavy with each dish building on each other. She did not think Stefan’s menu did that as well as Hosea’s menu. Gail felt Stefan started off high with the soup, dropped with the fish, went up really high with the squab and dropped back down with the dessert. Tom and Gail were saying that Hosea had more soul in his food. Toby said if they would award Top Chef based on soul, then they should give it to Carla.

The chefs were called back in. Tom told Carla that when she made food from her soul and heart, they loved what they saw. Tom told Hosea that he put together a nice meal and is very steady across the board. Tom told Stefan that he had some amazing highs, but also some lows. Tom said they made their decision on how well the meal tasted overall from start to finish. Padma congratulated Hosea for being Top Chef.


  1. Did you agree with the judges pick?
  2. Who did you want to win overall out of three?
  3. Who did you want to win overall out of all the chefs, including the ones that didn’t make it to the finale?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.