Posted by: Gregg | June 13, 2008

“Top Chef: Chicago” finale thoughts

For such a stellar season of the hit Bravo reality show, the finale really disappointed.

One of the main problems was, of course, that Lisa really didn’t deserve to be there. Sure, she outlasted her competition, and I fully give her credit for that, but she outlasted most of the field by being the second-worst chef on most nights. She never really tried to blow anyone away. Even when cooking for the finale, I never got the sense that she ever stretched her boundaries, swung for the fences, or tried to take her cooking to the next level. (Pick your metaphor.) She never grew over the course of the competition; her attitude was “I cook what I want in the way that I want, and screw you if you don’t like it”, which is not in any way the point of the show. Also, she had a complete shitbox attitude from day one, and if I was on the show I would have been sorely tempted to throw a chafing dish at her numerous times.

Second reason: Richard choked. He was arguably the best chef wire-to-wire, and one who I would be the most eager to plunk money down to eat at his restaurant, but the man choked when it mattered most and admitted as much to the judges. (To his immense credit.) Richard’s weakness was always his tendency to be overly complicated and cute with his dishes – on the second day of the finale when Colicchio told the group they wouldn’t be getting help from the celebrity chefs, he wasn’t able to react and change his game plan, which finished him. Had he been able to adjust on the fly, he might have had a chance – I took one look at the frenzied expression on his face and knew it would be over. That, and the liquid nitrogen.

Which left Stephanie. I’m glad she won, but only one of her dishes for the finale was in any way transcendent. You’d normally expect two or more courses from a chef to really kill the judges for the finale – this is supposed to be the greatest meal you’ve ever prepared, after all. In fact, her lamb dish with the pistachio braise was only one of two dishes in the entire episode to wow the judges – Lisa’s soup concoction being the other – which indicated to me the entire blahness of the finale. I got the feeling she won because she was the only person left, as opposed to someone who earned it. I just wish the judges would have called a do-over, like that Restaurant Wars episode from last season, just so they all could take another whack at it.

Again, great season, immensely entertaining on the whole, but I expected more from the finale.
(Now I have a new season of “Project: Runway” to look forward to. Whoo-hoo!)


  1. I totally agree. My only relief on the final show was that Lisa did not win. That attitude ultimately assures us that we won’t be seeing her until they do the Top Chef season with past competitors (like Survivor: Fans and Stars). She threw people under the bus and never bothered to say a nice thing about anyone.

    Some Lisa moments:
    “He didn’t follow the rules.” Which I think saved her, but got the other guy booted.
    “Group hug.” Probably the most awkward moment of the show when the three finalists were meeting at the airport.
    “You won 1 and 3, and I nailed 2 and 4.” Basically telling Richard to his face that he had no chance.

    And that moment when she got all mad that no one congratulated her on not getting booted off.

    I had high hopes for Richard, but when his ‘one thing’ was liquid nitrogen all I could thing was: gimmick.

    Luckily after that episode I was able to catch my favorite cooking show Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

  2. I thought Richard was a shoe- in for #1 until the final episode. At least Lisa didn’t win. She should have been sent home before Antonia.

  3. I agree with WellHell. Lisa didn’t make it to the Final Four because she was one of the best. She never sucked enough to be sent packing. And I was wicked pissed when she threw Andrew under the bus. Didn’t she ignore the rules for a previous challenge? She didn’t go home. But then, I had a soft spot for Andrew. He came in second to Richard on more than one challenge and I thought he was the better chef. Certainly better television. Guy’s a nutball. I like that in my realitycooktv. Yay, Steph! And that Richard. He is a class act all the way. He and Stephanie were two of the nicest people I’ve ever seen on reality tv. I’d eat their restaurants and have beers with them.

  4. Andrew was my personal favorite, too. He looked like he really enjoyed what he did and would have been a great guy to be in the kitchen with despite his obvious ADD issues.

    Lisa’s almost universally hated on every show recap I’ve come across – she’s like Wendy Pepper from the first season of Runway.

  5. i agree 100% with the entry and all previous entries. I’m disappointed that Richard “choked” because none of Stephanie’s stand out in my mind. But I’ll take either as Top Chef over Lisa. I will forever dislike Lisa after she insulted kielbasa (I’m Polish) and clearly showed that she had no idea that it was made out of pork

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