And the new ‘Top Chef’ is…
March 31st, 2011
10:17 AM ET

And the new ‘Top Chef’ is…

After 16 episodes and more than 30 challenges, we have a new "Top Chef."

(And if you don’t want to know who it is, stop reading now.)

“All-Stars” has pushed the chefs throughout the season, so the final challenge last night wasn’t the standard “cook us the best meal of your life.” Instead, Richard and Mike are charged with putting together a four-course tasting menu for the restaurant of their dreams.

The final two consider who from this season's eliminated contestants they would or wouldn’t want to work with as sous chefs. Mike would love to work with Jen and wants to avoid Jamie. Richard would pick Jen, Dale or Angelo.

The season’s contestants are indeed back for the finale (except Dale L. for some reason), but it isn’t a simple schoolyard pick. Instead, the eliminated contestants make an amuse bouche, and Richard and Mike pick their sous chefs based on a blind taste test.

(I had the chance to watch last night’s finale at a viewing party hosted by Richard's restaurant here in Atlanta, with a crowd that was pulling for their hometown hero. That move definitely got a big “Ohhh!!!” from the audience.)

Richard gets Spike, Angelo (who received a big cheer from my fellow viewers) and Antonia (another big cheer).

Mike picks Tiffani, Jamie (I now know what it sounds like when 75 people guffaw at once) and Carla (cheers, which I think were more for Carla than for Mike selecting her).

On paper, it would seem that Richard has the stronger team. But Mike’s Angels (his words, not mine) prove to be just as capable in the kitchen, including Jamie.

The planning period with the sous chefs does provide interesting insight into different approaches to the challenge, though. Richard encourages collaboration from his team and finds ways to play to their individual strengths. Mike also hears lots of input, but ultimately decides to go with his own ideas.

Some people might argue that Mike was being dismissive of his team’s ideas, but this is supposed to be HIS restaurant and HIS vision. I think it’s completely in bounds for him to say, “listen, this is what I want to do, now go execute it.”

That’s especially true in this challenge, which is like Restaurant Wars Part II. We see from both Mike and Richard that there’s more going on than just cooking. You have to prep the wait staff, select wines and keep the kitchen running smoothly. All on top of preparing what’s likely the most pressure-packed meal of your career.

In the run-up to service, two interesting things happen at Richard’s restaurant. First, he decides to serve foie gras ice cream as part of his dessert. This got a big response from the viewing party, because Richard’s had a foie gras milkshake on the menu at several of his restaurants, and it’s a big crowd-pleaser.

The second thing is that he employs Spike as his front-of-house spy. So if a dish doesn’t get the best reaction from the judges (say, if the foie gras ice cream is considered “controversial”), he can change it on the fly for the second wave of judges.

Ultimately, both meals are incredible. First course goes to Richard’s hamachi over Mike’s beet salad. The second course (fish from both contestants) goes to Richard as well, following this exchange:

Padma: Now, Tom, you said Mike’s fish was the best you’d ever tasted on the show.

Tom: I tasted that before I tasted Richard’s.

Third course went to Mike, whose pork shoulder (with pepperoni sauce that Gail is probably still raving about) outshone Richard’s beef dish. The fourth course went to Mike as well, thanks to a dessert that was more universally embraced than Richard’s risky ice cream.

So if you heard an explosion around 10:59 p.m. E.T., that was just the sound of my eardrums bursting as the viewing party erupted at the following five words: “Richard, you are Top Chef.”

Mike had a great season, showed growth (both in his cooking and his personality), and put out a tremendous final meal. But in the end, Richard was just better. He’s one of the best chefs - if not the best chef - to appear on any season of the show. I think he’s spent more than two years agonizing over his initial finale loss, so it was great to see the joy and relief on his face after this victory.

Do you think the right chef won? Any surprises for you in the finale? Sound off below!

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Micki

    Richard was my favorite from the start. He took chances with his dishes and never played it safe! He seemed to always end up in the middle when it came to juding but finally came through as the BEST! Congratulations, Richard!

    April 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. wyl

    Your day will never be good until you search for . Wanna know why? Why don't you start now?

    April 1, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tki

    Ugh! Richard! I guess he deserved to win but what a sore loser whenever he did lose a challenge. It was always the judges fault and he'd always be rolling his eyes in disgust when he lost.
    Maybe if he concentrated less on his outdated hairstyle and more on his personality, he would've been easier to root for.

    March 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. kimsaad

    best man won as a chef and a man w/ integrity. he respects food to the highest level

    March 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tammy mcgraw

    I love Carla she's great

    March 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. easy

    Richard cheated. He ALWAYS cheats.

    March 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      What???!!?? When did Richard cheat???? I NEVER saw Richard cheat, but how about when Mike STOLE (CHEATED!) Richard's 'chicken oyster' recipe idea after seeing it in Richard's book??? And that was also the quickfire that would have gone to Antonia, but she had forgotten to plate two dishes – and what did Mike say when Antonia lamented that she couldn't believe she had done that? Quoting Mike, "Oh yeah Antonia, thanks for the five G's!" While laughing! What a jacka$$!!!!!!! I was SO GLAD (!) that Richard won over Mike just for THAT!

      April 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. EmSeeDubayou

    So was Padma a little hammered at her watch party?

    March 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. EmSeeDubayou

    Richard is such a whiner...ohhh, I'm so broke and I'm no good and I need the money...dude owns 4 restaurants...STFU.

    And trim that ugly beard and wear an age appropriate haircut.

    And quit your whining!

    March 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Blondie

    If It couldn't be Carla...Richard deserved to win. He's got a humble heart like Carla. Mike's obnoxious, immature personality is very off-putting not to mention his misplaced sense of self-confidence. Blaise is a rock star – Mike is a wannabe.'re still the whole package – sweet, talented, and an all around great gal!

    March 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • EmSeeDubayou

      karla a potential winner – are you serious?
      richard a humble heart – are you serious?
      really? are you serious?

      March 31, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DenverSteve

    I just wish Bravo would stop showing the preview of Padma saying "you are top chef"!!! This is the 3rd season in a row that they show you who wins. You know where the two contestants are standing and you see Padma say you are top chef... Complete give away!

    March 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Matty

    Did I think Richard was going to win between the two of them.. yes. Did I think Mike I. was improving and showing more creativity yes. I've eaten at both of their places and liked Mike's food better, but Richard's places are burger bars so it is comparing Apples and Orangles as they say. Do I think Blais is the best chef ever on the show? No way. I think that the top 3 from two seasons ago could beat him. I think Jenn Carrol with an A game could beat him. Saying that someone is the best chef ever is a matter of what dishes were pitted against which dishes as well. In any case, I do applaude the creators decision to go a different route with their finale... I liked the blind choosing of the sous chefs from ALL of the other episodes. I still think it would be great if the chefs could bring in their own sous chefs who know what their personalities are like, but this is better than it was in the past. Glad to see no one wanted Marcel. I would like to see a Mope off between Blais and Jenn Carrol. I've never seen two people more mopey and grey looking than those two.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • EmSeeDubayou

      I wouldn't turn my back on Jenn with her cooking knives...she appears to be a little off balance (PSYCHO).

      March 31, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. A

    I called Richard's win the whole season.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jack Cornhole

    I bet those two enjoy diggin for one anothers Fudge Monkeys.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pstrychef70

    I have to say, I had him pegged from the very beginning. I loved him in his season, and I find the All-Stars to be his final redemption. Well done, Richard, well done!! You have got to be one of the most humble of chefs that I have ever seen. You are awesome!!

    March 31, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Karla

    I've been so disapointed before that I had to see the end (watched Richard win) then rewind to the beginging to watch the show. Needless to say I was very very happy!

    March 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Myrna in NJ

    I was rooting for Richard. After Mike won a quickfire with an idea that he had stolen from Richard, that did it for me; I did not want to see him come out on top, even though he worked hard and improved his skills during the break before heading to the finals. Richard is talented, creative, and honorable; imo, the best man won. .

    March 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  17. melissa

    I am absolutely thrilled that Richard won, although I do admire Mikes confidence. He proves to be inovative in the presentation of every dish.

    March 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Hobbits

    Very disappointing. Richard would whine about every dish and how terrible it would turn out and then get upset when he didn't win. To give the top prize to a guy that runs a couple hamburger stops in Atlanta shows how off-course Top Chef has become. It was definitely my last season of watching what is clearly a show about personalities and not cooking. Can't imagine a worse choice winner both as a chef and as a person.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      Clearly you have never been to Flip Burger! It is not just a burger shop!

      March 31, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Stevie7

    The right chef one. Mike does a great job of making other chef's dishes (Jose Andres', and even Richard's!), but Richard is definitely more creative, more outside the box, and executes better.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  20. dml

    I totally disagree with I guess everybody on here. I was so tired of Richard looking like he was about to lose his life after after freaking challenge. Honestly the guy is going to have a stroke. What an uptight freak. Besides you knew from the begining that was who would win this Top Chef. No surprise this season.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  21. namey namey

    It always feels like things are good in the world/karma bank/universe when the nice guy finishes first. On top of that he actually was the best. If that was not enough he did it humbly and gracefully. The gods are pleased and so are we.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  22. brian

    Great season! I'm so glad this continues to be a quality show and hasn't lost any of it's integrity.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      Seriously? Integrity? This show has gotten more and more slanted by what the producers want, dramatic TV. After this season’s pushing of Mike down viewer’s throats, I won’t watch it anymore.

      March 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Nadenna

    Richard totally deserved to win, but we talk about how DRUNK he was at the Bravo watch what happens now event. what a idoit he looked like

    March 31, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Jono

    Foie gras can be produced humanely. It is actually natural for geese and ducks and some other migratory birds to gorge themselves and store much of the energy in their livers. This is a natural survival strategy as they must have rapid access to large amounts of glucose while they fly for thousands of miles with few stops and no guaranteed food sources along the way. Their livers are a natural storage organ for glycogen that can quickly be converted to glucose and dumped into the blood to feed the breast muscles. This is not true for fat, plus they need the fat for insulation and buoyancy so this is why the enlarged liver is natural for them. They can easily be feed to produce this delicacy in a humane manner (well as humane as eating an animal can be). I have seen farms that do this with “free range” healthy ducks waddling up to the farmer to happily eat grain from a funnel down their throat. I know it sounds horrible and indeed could be done in a horrible fashion, but keep in mind, birds have no teeth so it is also natural for them to swallow their grain whole and this can be done gently. Of course this can be overdone resulting in unhealthy animals, but that also results in an unhealthy looking liver that can not be sold as whole foie gras. There is incentive for this to be done in a natural, healthy, sustainable way. The consumer (especially chefs) will decide how do get there product. Local restaurants in my small southern college town can get foie gras from local producers, and yes, you can visit the farms and they animals look as happy as the wild ducks on the lake. Not perfect, but not industrially inhumane.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  25. B-Riggs

    I would have liked to see Angelo vs Richard in the finale. Angelo got screwed in the finale of his season by that illness, and he had a bad break this season. Regardless, I'm happy Richard won over Mike. The better chef won. They mentioned Richard has 4 restaurants already on the show, so I can't imagine he needs the money, so despite Richard being the better chef, Mike probably could have benefited more from winning.

    I still think the best part of the season was when Jenn stood up to the judges at Judges Table.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  26. cymph

    I'm stoked that Richard won, Mike showed a ton of growth but I do believe they picked the right chef. I pulled for Richard in his original season and thought he got robbed so this time around was even more deserved, especially because he seems like a good guy and a devoted dad/husband without all the pretension someone of his caliber could have.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  27. ego

    I knew Blais was going to win this time around...he deserves it. I just hope he gets a haircut with some of that money...because he really needs one badly. It's also amazing that such an incredibly talented chef is always doubting his abilities, no matter how many challenges he wins.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  28. jeckel

    I feel redeemed! Richard had my undying loyalty during his season, and I cried when he "choked." I fretted as badly as he did as he wound his way to the finals - GOOD JOB, Richard. Congrats!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Ram C

    Richard deserved the win. And I am happy that the final turned out to be a great affair as far as the food goes. I would've loved to see a Richard vs Angelo finale. Angelo was my favorite.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Mr.Marcus

    I was very relieved and glad that Richard won! Mike was too dam confident and he beat out Antonia with glee. Hated that. Other than that good job Mike, even better job Richard. Congratulations! Go Top Chef!

    March 31, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  31. Brooke

    Sooo happy that Richard won! He deserved it!! could not believe the early eliminations of Jen, Angelo, etc.. Was scared top chef was going to disappoint us by not having the top in the end.. thank u for a good show!

    March 31, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  32. Zenith

    The past tense of shine is shone? Lol
    I thought is was shined.
    It was a great and entertaining show. Can't wait to get to ATL!

    March 31, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • MaggieJS

      If you're talking about shining, like the sun shines, which is true in this case, it is "shone." If you're talking about shining up the car or the silverware, it would be "shined."

      March 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • reidmct

      Either way, they sure shone us how to cook! 😉

      April 22, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Dan

    I am glad Richard won. I think Mike has an abbrasive personality and a huge ego.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  34. Gerlinda

    We here in Atlanta are incredibly proud of our hometown boy, Richard Blais. Top Chef the Tour will be revving up in a couple weeks, with stops all over the country. Watch 2 of the chefs go head to head at Atlanta's Westside Provisions District on April 25th. More here:

    March 31, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  35. Nick

    If you check out the extended judging, it doesn't appear as close as the edited judging made it appear. Basically, all judges (including those who didn't make it to the judging table) except Gail picked Richard.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  36. yikes

    Immaturity, ignorance, and illiteracy all rolled up in to one person. Wow.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  37. Iowan

    It was a great season showing; liked most cast members. Thought Antonia beat Michael in the 15th rough. Glad Richard won but he needs to stop berating himself and his work; he can be humble without making his work sound 'unworthy'.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  38. TamOk

    I was rooting for Richard from the beginning. He seemed, like everyone else from this season, that winning this season would mean more than winning their own season.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  39. mark in nyc

    jealous, are you???????

    March 31, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  40. Nurse Lisa

    we thought the endless cuts to Richard's agonizing over every possible thing that could go wrong, was telegraphing the "almost sure thing" outcome from the start of the series. Glad he got some much deserved redemption rather than another opportunity to whine and stress over his fabulous food. Must admit as the season unfolded (esp. when Mike made a winning recipe out of Richard's book for Paula Dean) that we were surprised Mike made it as far as he did – but bravo for him too. He and his food have earned the all-star distinction and kudos for his mastery will continue.

    March 31, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  41. Josh

    Still at it schmuck?

    March 31, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  42. Baker1

    I was so pleased to see Richard win Top Chef. Clearly, his food was the best all season long. It was always so creative! If I ever find myself in Atlanta, I'll be sure to go to his restaurant. (It was also nice to see Carla win fan favorite. She always made me smile.)

    March 31, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  43. danyel

    i think this was the best season by far. my favorite contestant has always been carla but i'm still happy with the turn out. richard really deserved it. for him to get to that exact spot on his season and lose it made this win that much more meaningful for him. go richard!!!!

    March 31, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • flo

      Yes! I agree!! Good for Richard!! The doubled prize should make up for time lost!!

      Team RIchard!!!! Wooo Hooo!

      April 1, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  44. HeddyLynn

    They both did a great job, but I am SO pleased Richard came out on TOP. Chef Law still reigns supreme as far as I am concern & all is right in the world. WOOOO HOOOOO RICHARD!!!!!!

    March 31, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  45. Josh

    You really have nothing better to do then make jokes a 12 year old would find lame? I feel for you pal...

    March 31, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  46. Tom

    As much as I like Richard and wanted him to win, I do wish he'd stop using ingredients from abused and diseased animals. Foie gras, more and more, is being left off menus due to the abusive practices and reality that you're eating a part of an abused, diseased animal. If he'd cut that out of the menu - no matter how tasty it may be - he'd be a better chef and person.

    March 31, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Iowan

      totally agree!

      March 31, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Avid Eater

      Boo Hoo, food is food. If you don't want to eat it, fine, but, don't stop those who do. Be it foie gras, whale, veal or whatever. It's not like smoking, as that affects everyone around the smoker. Food doesn't cause anyone who isn't eating it sickness or cancer.

      March 31, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Seriously, Tom. I understand that foie gras feels somehow more cruel or worse than other meat products, and it's certainly an easy target because of it's luxury status. However, the number of foie gras ducks in this country versus the number of factory farmed chickens alone really doesn't warrant, in my opinion, the harsh response. If you're against animal cruelty, I would direct your attention to the millions of chickens factory farmed by corporations, rather than the foie gras ducks raised by smaller producers.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • jillejo

      I have seen how the geese are raised for Fois, and to say they are "diseased" is ignorant.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn

      "Food doesn't cause anyone who isn't eating it sickness or cancer."

      I take it you've never lived around a corporate hog farm.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomIsAPansy

      Tom, I agree. Richard should have used more veal and clubbed baby seal. Goose liver pate is so last year.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobbin for Crapples

      mmm...Tom...wanna join me in a game of bobbin for crapples?

      March 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      I used to think foie gras was cruel. Then, I was educated and learned that migratory birds livers naturally swell up before migration (they store up fat for the long trip). Foie gras is the liver of a migratory bird that is fat and ready for a long flight. This would also be when hunting seasons are scheduled. While I agree that animal processing of any type can be inhumane, when I learned precisely what fois gras is, I began enjoying it again.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mac

      I'm not going to try to change your mind, but I wish you'd actually check things out before you repeat something like this. Foie gras is no more cruel than other farming method – frankly neither are "clubbed baby seals" but I guess people will follow the sensationalism.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Top Chump

      I once knew a chef that would drink too much and would often try to plant his chickens.

      March 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • BJ

      AMEN Tom!! I agree wholeheartedly. I love the show, but I would give anything if Top Chef would use it's platform to reject such cruel products as foi gras and endorse only humanely raised and handled animal products. They could do such good that way. There are so many reasons to reject factory farmed meats as well, from global warming to of course, the incredible cruelty inherent in mass production of beef, chicken, etc. I love Richard and am glad he won, but was so disappointed by that ice cream choice.

      March 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  47. nashvilledeb

    Absoluntely Richard should have wone! I was thrilled.

    March 31, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  48. K-dub

    Richard and Mikey were my top two from the start, I loved them both on thier seasons and still use Mike's catchphrase "Whatever-evah" (which I didn't see much of this time around darn it). I was so excited that they both made it and would have been happy either way. I almost wish they could have split the win or have both been given $200,000... since it seems the judges were evenly split and agonized over the choice. Great job to both of them... and I'm sure Mike won't be jobless for long!

    March 31, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • KC

      What is this, third grade? They had to pick a winner not split it at the last minute.

      March 31, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Katie-DId

      Mikey will be fine...he'll soon be opening Graffiato in Washington D.C.

      March 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  49. Justin

    You forgot to mention that the free free milkshakes and burgers were a nice touch at the party.

    March 31, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Ab

      I guess you were there. Man are you lucky! Go RICHARD! Loud cheering in my house when he won.

      March 31, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |

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