Goodbye neon lights, hello wine country! Top Chef moved to Napa for the first of two finale episodes, just in time for harvest season. And a crush party! Note: We reveal the winner and losers below. The cheftestants rolled into Napa refreshed, ready to cook and sporting new hairdos. They boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train with Michael Chiarello and Padma (She's pregnant! And has bangs!) and got to work on their Quickfire dishes highlighting grapes. The Elimination Challenge had them catering an end-of-season crush party for 300 guests using only local ingredients. Here are a few of our thoughts on the episode:
- My local is better than your local. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were asked to make two dishes – one vegetarian and one with a meat protein – using only locally grown and raised ingredients, with the exception of salt and pepper. Kevin was feeling confident because his restaurant in Atlanta is "100 percent local." Bryan said he cares more about local food than Michael does. Michael, however, said he is like rubber and Bryan is like glue which totally makes him more local. OK, we made that last part up.
- Ropey vs. toothsome. The judges weren't fans of Kevin's "ropey" brisket, which he preferred to describe as "toothsome," saying he wanted to avoid using meat that was too tender on top of polenta and turning the whole dish into mush. During the deliberation, the other chef's applauded his spin job. Tom, however, said it was nice to hear Kevin "wax poetic," but he wasn't buying it. We've heard the word toothsome used a lot lately too – when it comes to meat, is it just code for overdone?
- Pasta that sweeps you away. Bryan's goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms may have needed a bit of salt and the fig-glazed shortribs could have used a bit more fig flavor, but his dishes were still strong enough to give him the win. Gail said she was "swept away" by his pasta. Who hasn't been there?
- A foot in every season, and both of them out the door. We should have known when Jennifer started talking about how proud her mentor Eric Ripert was of her and how she had to win because "second place is still a loser" that she wasn't long for the competition. We were really hoping that she'd make a triumphant return. The judging in the elimination challenge kept us guessing until the end. Some of them seemed to like her goat cheese dish, but it was also deemed too salty. Michael Chiarello, after proclaiming that he'd never had basil and goat cheese together (for real?), said it “was a foot in each season, which is what harvest is all about." We couldn't help but love that. As for the duck dish, the judges seemed to enjoy it at first, praising the "local quacker" and the "duckiness" of Sonoma ducks, but at one point, Tom said it "never really came together." But small mistakes have big consequences at this stage in the game, so Jennifer was asked to pack her knives. Her face really says it all.
What did you think of the episode? Top Chef Las Vegas Roundups Week 12: The Mini Bocuse d'Or Week 11: Big Gambles on the Strip Week 10: Hold the Meat Week 9: Restaurant Wars! Week 8: Top Chef Las Vegas: Of Pigs and Pinot Week 7: Like No Dinner Party We've Ever Had Week 6: Angels and Devils Week 5: Foam on the Range Week 4: All Things French Week 3: The Best of Plates, The Worst of Plates Week 2: A Shot At Love With Tequila (Images: Bravo)