'Top Chef' Finale Recap: Kristen Kish Defeats Brooke Williamson
The Top Chef finale last night saw Brooke Williamson and Kristen Kish face off for four rounds of dishes before a live audience of 300 people.
The first to three wins out of five dishes would be hailed the winner. Adding to the pressure, each chef had a table consisting of family members that got to enjoy (or choke down) the courses they were producing. After they selected their sous chefs – Brook enlisted Joshua Valentine, Sheldon Simeon and Elizabeth Binder; Brooke took Stefan Richter, Kuniko Yagi and Chris "CJ" Jacobson – the battle commenced.
For the first dish of this Iron Chef-like finale, Kristen produced a chicken liver mousse with frisee, mustard, prune, hazelnuts and pumpernickel, which the judges unanimously adored. Brooke made a crispy pig ear and chicory salad, with a six-minute egg, apricot jam and candied cumquats. The judges found Brooke’s pig ears (cooked by CJ) to be burnt, and therefore declared Kristen the winner of round one.
Round two required both chefs to use scallops in their dish. Brooke put together a seared scallop with salt cod puree, speck, black currant and mustard seed vinaigrette. Kristen opted for a citrus and lavender cured scallop with bitter orange, meyer lemon and apple. Initially the vote was split with Gail Simmons and Emeril Lagasse voting for Brooke, and Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio standing behind Kristen. Hugh Acheson’s deciding vote made Brooke the victor in the scallop challenge.
Brooke’s third dish consisted of a Vadouvan fried chicken wing with sumac yogurt tahini and pickled kohlrabi fattoush. Kristen went with a celery root puree with bone marrow mushrooms, bitter greens and radishes. After the judges complained about Kristen’s over roasted mushrooms and their sticky fingers from Brooke’s wings, they gave Kristen the win.
The fourth course, where Brooke needed a win to have a chance at the title, she made a surf and turf of braised pork cheek and red snapper with collard green slaw and sorrel puree. For the win, Kristen made red snapper with leeks, little gem lettuce, tarragon, uni and shellfish nage. Although the judges took issue with Kristen’s leeks and praised Brooke’s sorrel, they awarded Kristen the win and the title of Top Chef.
Kristen, after battling her way back from elimination with five “Last Chance Kitchen” victories, rightfully earned her win. She’ll be taking her prize money to pay for a trip to visit her homeland of Korea for the first time.