'Top Chef: Texas' names its winner
March 1st, 2012
11:33 AM ET

'Top Chef: Texas' names its winner

After 29 chefs (and what felt like 29 episodes), “Top Chef: Texas” crowned a winner.

In the end, Paul got the Food and Wine magazine feature and added $125,000 to his already sizable stack of winnings. And it was never really in doubt.

OK, that last part is a lie. This was one of the tightest finales in the show’s nine seasons, with Tom saying it was the best food they’ve eaten.

For the final challenge, Paul and Sarah had to create a four-course tasting menu. A bunch of booted “Texas” chefs and two established American chefs each made a Quickfire dish, which Paul and Sarah blind taste-tested to determine teams.

Paul’s first pick turned out to be master chef Barbara Lynch, and he rounded out his crew with Ty-Lor, Keith and Pretty Chris.

Sarah had a strong group with Nyesha, Heather and Grayson. Unfortunately she also chose Tyler, who made the quickest exit in “Top Chef” history after flubbing basic butchering on day one. Both chefs blatantly avoided making eye contact with this guy, like when some hack cruise ship comedian is looking to pluck a volunteer.

When it came time to plan the dishes and cook, though, Paul and Sarah were in command, determined not to let anyone derail them. As Sarah put it: “I’m trying to get Tyler to feel like he’s part of the group, when really I don’t give a s***.” For once, I agreed with her.

For Paul’s first course, he presented chawanmushi (which the Google machine says is a Japanese steamed egg custard) with spot prawns. The first group of judges said it was exceptional, citing the silky smooth texture. But for the second rotation, the batch was an overcooked mess.

Next was grilled sea bass with clam dashi, radishes and mushrooms. The whole dish exhibited Paul’s deft use of contrast, and the broth was “brilliant.”

For the third course, Paul served congee (rice porridge) with scrambled eggs, uni and smoked albacore. It wasn’t as interesting as his other food, but was well-executed and confident.

Dessert consisted of coconut ice cream with puffed rice, Thai chili foam and a bunch of mystical-sounding stuff. The spicy foam played well with the (slightly too crunchy) rice.

Overall, it was described as a “sexy meal.” Dude is the mailman: he always delivers (but unlike Karl Malone, Paul got himself a championship).

Admittedly, Top Chef Nation – myself included – has been pretty rough on Sarah this season. But last night she showed she deserved to be in the finale.

She started off with squid ink tagliatelle with spot prawns (what’s with all the spot prawns?) and coconut. Gail described this as one of those out-there dishes that was so delectable, you wondered why nobody had thought it up before.

Next was rye-crusted trout (under-seasoned) with pickled beets (raw), the one “meh” dish of the night.

Third was veal cheek with sweetbreads and polenta. The polenta in the first batch was a Goldilocks porridge nightmare, but Sarah smoothed it out for the second judges’ visit. While the veal cheek was “luscious,” the dish lacked texture.

All the judges swooned for Sarah’s hazelnut cake with white chocolate ganache – especially Padma, who said despite her hatred of white chocolate, it was one of the best “Top Chef” desserts she’d ever had.

Overall, Sarah’s meal was dubbed “incredible.”

The judges concluded that while Sarah had a slight edge in the first course, Paul convincingly won the second and third, and the dessert was just barely Sarah (Tom preferred Paul’s). While Paul did what he knew and nailed the details, Sarah successfully stepped out of her comfort zone.

As I obsessively analyzed the chefs’ confessional room demeanor and Sarah’s giant grin during the “Watch What Happens Live” promo, I concluded she snagged the win.

Did I mention I’m not a body language expert? Like so many other challenges this season, the victory went to Paul. Commence obligatory/adorable crying with the parents.

Meanwhile, Sarah whined that she thought she deserved to win. But hey, she didn’t blame Bev!

So, yes, this season was prolonged and sometimes underwhelming. But it finished strong and the most deserving chef won. I’d take that over a more consistent season that ends with a Hosea or Kevin S. fiasco any day.

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Filed under: television • Top Chef • TV recaps

soundoff (16 Responses)
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    March 3, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jackson

    Somewhere deep, well not deep as depth doesn't really play into the chef's hat, and its odd fibers, all loosely locked and starch held. Excuse the aside, but I'm not convinced they chose the right Paul. And am concerned about the wires, his ramblemancy, and their choice based on food taste and not food form and fire. Form and fire.

    March 3, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. KAY

    Sarah was a mean girl. I am glad Paul won. She was a backstabber and I thouht people her age stop behaving the way she did once they left high school. Go Paul!

    March 2, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jenny g

    i am glad paul won. They were both good chefs but she was part of the mean girls crowd. karma will get you every time

    March 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Susan D

    So happy that Paul won!!!! Good guys don't always finish last! (maybe you will stop being such a mean girl, Sarah)

    March 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    I'm so happy for Paul and I'm extremely happy he won. He seems to be a genuinely good and decent person. I agree with everyone Paul is by far the best Chef; consistancy is everything. Sarah wasn't very nice to a few people and she got just what she deserved! Good luck to Paul; we all know you'll be successful!

    March 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Killer in the kitchen

    The right person won all that pig did was talk junk and backstab everyone, then gives the one "my mom is a single mother who raised me." Should have been my mom had a one night stand with some random dude when she was doing body shots at the bowling alley bar and 9 mos later she's on welfare and food stamps with me wa wa wa, did she teach you how to treat people like crap you lost because of Karma so put that in your crepe and cook it....

    March 1, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gimcy

    I was hoping for a Paul vs Ed or a Paul vs Lindsay final. I was so disappointed that it was Sarah that I didn't even watch the last episode. But I'm so glad Paul won. Hope they go back to a more enjoyable format next "season" and quit trying to make the contestants look like idiots. Just let them COOK!

    March 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kate

    I think that they were evenly matched. The first course win was Sarah's, the second course win was Paul's, they both needed to re-work their third courses, and the fourth I'd give to Sarah. Paul's meal was pretty egg-heavy, which can be nauseating, but his mistakes were few, so that's why he won.

    As to the most annoying season, that would be DC. I can't remember a single chef from that season. The challenges were dismal!

    March 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Academic Socialite

    This whole Texas thing was really the worst season of Top Chef ever. Between the two last chefs, Paul deserved to win, no question. Each week he seemed talented and humble, while Sarah just managed to be a blow hard, getting worse every week. In the end, her only redeeming quality was that she was slightly less annoying than Heather.

    March 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chuck roast

    rooted against Sarah from the first time she opened her mouth, While Paul was obviously the cream of the crop, thought Ed would have been best opponent

    March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. San Jose

    Even though this was the very worst season of Top Chef EVER, I still have hope that it will be better in the future... only because Paul won. I stopped watching about half way through the season when I started noticing all the good chefs were being sent home. I tuned in to the last 5 minutes last night, telling myself that if Sarah won I would NEVER watch the show again. I'm pretty happy I can watch this show in the future. 🙂

    March 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. zarf21

    Good for Paul. Sarah's obviously a more-than-competent chef, but that off-kitchen backstabbing all season long was a real turnoff. Sometimes nice guys DO finish first.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. Julia's Child

    The right chef won. Not just because he's a decent person but he was far and away a more consistent chef. That being said, I am so glad that rude bully did not win.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • William

      I am with you she bashed everyone and treated like crap it's called Karma

      March 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • neochef

      as a chef of 35 years myself, i have no idea how sarah made it half way through the season...i have been watching top chef since season 1 and i disliked sarah more than any other contestant from the first show onward. it would have been the last time i ever watched top chef again if sarah would have won.

      March 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |

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