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Top Chef season finale recap: Keeping it Local

In part one of the finale the four chefs cook on a train and then head to Napa Valley before one is eliminated

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Top Chef Jennifer C
Trae Patton/Bravo

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

Okay, before we get to all the ”and then four became three” business, I have to talk a little about what really threw me for a loop last night — everyone’s whacked-out hair. Jen’s was frizzy, Kevin’s was flat, and Padma had bangs — and a baby bump. I can uniformly say that whatever time they had off had changed their hair for the worse, and Bryan’s monstrously large umbrella was like a cherry on top of this weird first five minutes of the episode. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can continue.

The gang was in Napa Valley for part one of the finale, and for their last elimination challenge, Kevin, Jen and the Voltaggio brothers had to create a dish using Napa’s signature crop — the grape. The whole ”but there’s one catch” was that they’d be making their dishes on a moving train, which made for a bumpy ride and some motion sickness for Kevin. Swaying was of course an issue, as was space, but in true Michael V.-style, the younger Voltaggio hogged the largest tabletop area on the train, leaving big bro stranded.

As for the dishes themselves, Bryan and Kevin didn’t seem to get the memo that they were supposed to highlight the grape. Bryan’s was a roasted hen with a concord grape reduction along with bacon that overpowered the grape and Kevin’s was a honey and fromage blanc mousse with glazed grapes that needed more ”grape love,” according to guest judge and former Top Chef Masters contestant Michael Chiarello. So they weren’t terrible, per se, but next to Michael’s couscous-stuffed grape leaf, which used also had a grape kebob skewered with the vine itself, they might as well have dropped a dollop of Smuckers grape jelly on their plates and called it a day.

Chiarello fawned over Jen’s sautéed chicken liver enough to admit that he would yank it for his own menu. I figured that compliment alone would give her the win, especially considering how much the show has been building her comeback. But no, it was Michael and his grape-tastic dish that won the last quickfire challenge of the season. Chiarello waxed poetic about Napa and its grapes, and since Michael’s dish told the best story about the squishy little thing, he won, which was a sweet deal for him not only because he won a Prius, but also because that meant that Bryan would never win a quickfire during their run on the show.

In case we hadn’t noticed, Michael pointed out later in the episode: ”There’s definitely a sibling rivalry.” Well, you don’t say, Michael! But it was kind of sad for Bryan when he said they both wanted each other to do well and move on to the next round only to be followed by Michael saying he’d do whatever it takes to move on, even if that left Bryan in the dust.

NEXT: Local flavor