Photo: Virginia Sherwood / Bravo
We have to admit, it's been a rocky season. At first, we weren't quite sure if we were invested in the notion of "all star" cheftestants from seven seasons of our favorite cooking competition show. Many of these folks weren't tops among their season -- would the hunger to win be there? Would the competitive, overconfident, back-stabbing spirit thrive?
But as we settled in with a big glass of wine for the finale -- watching Richard Blais
futz around with a gigantic canister of liquid nitrogen, Mike Isabella
hone his super-rustic Italian flavors, and Padma
fumble around with some awkward "live" interludes from the finale afterparty -- we got that warm, fuzzy Top Chef
feeling just like we do during the best seasons, and realized just how far all our friends had come this year.
You see, at first, we weren't quite sure if the stakes were high enough, what with Jen
's early-season walk-off, weeks of Jamie
's "who gives a crap" performance, and Fabio
's oh-so-canned judge flirting. And then the proverbial almost-ran chaff fell away from the Top Chef
wheat, leaving only the ones who were in it to win it -- and that's when things got really interesting. Carla
proved not only to be the mega-entertaining ex-model personality we knew her to be but also a stunning purveyor of comfort food. Antonia
shone as a competitor worthy of being with the best (and, in a plot twist straight out of a soap opera, ended up being Mike's cousin!).
Luckily, some of those awesome finalists at least got to be sous-chefs for the finale, although the method for choosing them was a bit unorthodox: Each eliminated All Star had to make a dish for Richard and Mike to blindly taste. Though the matching dishes to their creators was fun (no one got who they expected!), in the end, the sous-chefs ended up playing less of a part than they have in previous seasons, save for Carla's slight overcooking of Mike's dessert, and Spike's invaluable -- if totally unsubtle -- reconnaissance work for Richard ("Thomas Keller loved it!").