RECAP: Paul Qui Wins Season Nine's Top Chef – Texas
The 17-episode extravaganza of Bravo's ninth season of Top Chef is finally over, and though it was a close race, Austin's own Paul Qui walked away as the winner of the season, beating out contender and runner-up Sarah with his four-course menu cooked and served in the restaurant "of [his] dreams," which turned out to be Coast in Vancouver.
After overcoming some minor and not so minor hurdles — like crab meat that had gone bad overnight — Paul coolly did some improvising and substituted prawns in his first course. The final product started with chawanmushi, an egg custard dish with edamame, pea shoots, and the spot prawns. The next dish was grilled loup de mer (literally translated "wolf of the sea," or sea bass) with clam dashi, mushrooms, and pickled radishes. Congee, or rice porridge, came next, cooked with slow-scrambled eggs, kale, and smoked albacore. For dessert the soon-to-be winner served coconut ice cream with Thai chili foam and jasmine gelee.
Sarah's four courses at Vancouver's Black and Blue also delighted, but fell short of her competitor's. She served squid-ink tagliatelle, also with spot prawns and coconut. She chose rye-encrusted trout with fennel sauce for her next dish, braised veal cheek with crispy sweetbreads and polenta for the following course, and hazelnut cake with candied kumquat and roasted white chocolate ganache for dessert. The desert did not delight. "I hate white chocolate," noted host and judge Padma Lakshmi.
Both Sarah and Paul's families were there to dine and root for their respective loved one. In the end, it was a tough call, but Paul just barely came out on top, winning the $125,000 award and the coveted "top chef" title. "I'm top chef!" he said in an interview after the announcement, chuckling slightly. "Padma says it, I look over at Sarah, then I looked at my parents. And then I'm like, 'Oh, my parents are crying, so I guess I'm top chef.' Yeah, it hasn't absorbed yet."
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