On every season of Top Chef, the initial group of culinary hopefuls gets whittled down until just two contestants are left to compete in the finale. Here in the high-altitude Season 15, fans watched as Chef Adrienne Cheatham consistently adapted her fine dining skills to reach the final round, while Chef Joe Flamm successfully survived three rounds of Last Chance Kitchen to hop back on his path to the finale. CinemaBlend had the delectable pleasure of speaking with both talented finalists, and I learned why Joe finds the Top Chef finales to be the prime offerings.
The finale, I think, is always the best, because it's always just straight-up 'Here we go,' you know? Cook your best meal, I'll cook my best meal, and we'll see what happens. I think it's the truest point of the season, where you just go chef to chef, and it's the closest to pitting your restaurant against theirs. There's not some crazy obstacle. You're not fighting a bear while riding a moped cooking an omelet while you're on fire, you know? You're just cooking your best dinner versus their best dinner.
I have to think that Joe Flamm's words right there echo the thoughts of millions of Top Chef fans out there. Not because we're all now thinking about a moped cooking an omelet, but because Top Chef's annual finales are enjoyable for reasons outside of just wanting to see who wins. And Joe nails arguably the main reason: it's all about the simplicity of watching two established chefs trying to out-cook one another. For fans who love food as much as the contestants do, it doesn't get more exciting than an extended no-frills battle sans Quickfire Challenge.
Over the course of its run, the Top Chef judges and challenge-creators have put hundreds of contestants through the wringer and then some, and later seasons have randomly upped the ante on how weird and uncomfortable some of the meal concepts can be. Season 15, for instance, offered up a tie-in with Top Chef Junior where contestants could only use kid-sized cooking tools, as well as a challenge where the chefs spent a cold and snow-covered night camping in the mountains, creating meals using only camping equipment. This season also threw an additional wrench in the works by changing up its Last Chance Kitchen format, though it ended up being negligible when Lee Anne Wong had to leave the competition.
One can sometimes grow weary of gimmick-driven episodes -- Joe Flamm was temporarily ousted for an edible flower challenge, let's not forget -- and so it's always a comforting joy whenever Top Chef hits its finale and puts the spotlight entirely on the two finalists' skills in the kitchen. (As well as whatever sous chefs they're usually allowed to use.) Let's all toast to that.
When I asked Adrienne Cheatham what she found exciting about the finale, she put the focus on just having a good time cooking with her season-long buddy.
I'm really excited for people to see the food that we do, and that we actually genuinely want one another to do great food. And [that we're] just interested in having good fun cooking our food.
Unlike the reality show finales that sap viewers' time with countless reels of previously seen footage, Top Chef caps each season with what's usually the most enjoyable and intense challenge. And having two such friendly, talented and charismatic finalists can only mean fun things are ahead.
Viewers will see whether Joe Flamm or Adrienne Cheatham comes out on top when Top Chef's finale airs on Bravo on Thursday, March 8, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Check out what happened to Season 15's Fatima Ali after production, and head to our midseason premiere schedule to see what will whet your TV appetites in the near future.