Mike Isabella, Richard Blais
Spoiler Alert: The following reveals the winner of Top Chef: All-Stars.
After a grueling season on Top Chef: All-Stars that included fishing, feeding Jimmy Fallon, a kitchen fire and snorkeling, Richard Blais and Mike Isabella face off one last time for the title that has already eluded them once.
Since there's no rest for the weary, no sooner had Antonia exited the premises than Tom and Padma revealed the final challenge: create a tasting menu for their dream restaurants. Fifteen of the 16 eliminated cheftestants return (where were you, Dale Levitski?) to cook an amuse-bouche in hopes of becoming Richard's and Mike's sous chefs for the final challenge. Each will pick three based on a blind tasting, foiling Mike's hope of selecting Season 6 pal and conch-extracting teacher Jen. He picks Tiffani, Jamie and Carla. Richard picks Spike, who apparently has jet ski reservations (had he not been selected), Angelo and Antonia.
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Mike, who dubs his place Restaurant Iz, assigns fish for Tiffani; cold dishes, Jamie; dessert for baking queen Carla.
Richard, fretting that he'll always be the bridesmaid, names his restaurant Tongue in Cheek. (Anyone else have a flashback of his chicken-or-egg dish from the Season 4 finale?) Angelo's in charge of mise en place, Antonia has vegetables, and Spike's overseeing front of house and dessert, which Richard switches midway to a risky foie gras ice cream.
The judges and eliminated cheftestants split into groups for dining.
Here's what they served:
Amuse-Bouche: raw oyster with creme fraiche
First course: hamachi with veal sweetbreads
Second course: pork belly and black cod
Third course: braised short ribs with mushrooms and beet radish puree
Fourth course: cornbread with foie gras ice cream and whipped mango
First course: spiced beet salad with mozzarella and chocolate vinaigrette
Second course: steamed halibut with kumquat marmalade
Third course: pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce
Fourth course: rosemary caramel custard
Both desserts get weak remarks the first go-around, prompting Richard to tweak his ice cream for the second group of judges. Verdict: He pulls it off.
Top Chef's Antonia: Mike didn't have it out for me
Overall, they both get high marks for their efforts — Mike for his finesse and subtlety and Richard for his flavors and creativity. While they wait in the pseudo stew room, Mike's wife, mother and sister, and Richard's uncle Scott surprise them. (Richard's wife is too pregnant to travel.)
After a lengthy deliberation, Padma crowns... Richard Top Chef! No choke this time!
Mike says he feels like he beat Richard, but didn't get the prize, while a teary Richard phones his wife to deliver the news.
What did you think of the finale? Did the right chef win?