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Top Chef Finale: Surprising Missteps Lead to Squeaker Ending

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Season 4, one of the snooziest, frustrating-to-watch installations of Top Chef is all over folks! The final meals have been plated and the Top Chef has been named—but not without some serious sweat, tears, and a few celebrity chef cameos along the way. This time Bravo decided to nix the cheesy “live finale” concept we saw last year—a decision no one is complaining about. Instead we watched our final three compete head-to-head in a very straightforward, not too exciting, four-course final challenge, each one aided by a different celebrity chef. Stephanie, who tied with Richard in Elimination wins, drew the lucky knife and got to pick her ingredients and chef first, selecting Eric “the Ripper” Ripert for her sous chef. Richard picked Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Lisa was paired with the Spotted Pig’s April Bloomfield. There was one twist however: the celeb chefs “called in sick” on the day of service, forcing the three cheftestants to “live and die by their own hand,” as Tom put it. (Rather melodramatically we might add.)

Richard was cockier than usual last night, making commentary whenever possible about his chefly skills ("he's the only artist") and making it no secret that he believed Lisa didn’t deserve to be there. Meanwhile he was more nervous than we’ve ever seen during prep between his liquid nitrogen experiments (which impressed Eric Ripert) and talking to Tom Colicchio about his menu. Lisa was cool as a cucumber in preparing her Asian menu, "getting along" well with Chef Bloomfield and pulling out a solid meal that seemed to go over well with the judges. Stephanie was visibly nervous but steady, and the editing mostly focused on her failure of a dessert (probably to make us think she wasn't the obvious winner). The final meal was served to the VIP guests/judges in attendance: a gruff Tim Zagat, Alfredo Ayala, the three celeb chefs, and of course Ted, Gail, Padma, and Tom. Favorite dishes included Lisa’s soup, Stephanie’s lamb, and Lisa’s black rice pudding. Richard choked last night, as he admitted later in judges’ table, blowing what might have been his shot at winning by forgetting to season his food properly. Although the editing made it seem like a squeaker, after hearing the reactions to Richard's dishes, Stephanie was the obvious choice. She became the first female to win Top Chef, and then everyone cried.

Highlights: Richard teaching Eric Ripert some molecular gastronomy and his "shocking" comments during judges' table.

Outcome: Stephanie Wins Top Chef.
—Kelly Dobkin

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