If there’s an episode of Top Chef that could make me emotional, it was this one. Not because the food was so spectacular or that I’m an emotional train wreck. It’s simply because I sympathized with Carla’s plight so much, and felt so bad for her, that I just saw she had messed things up. You can probably guess Carla’s not the new Top Chef this season by this opening paragraph. To be honest I was rooting for her to win going into the finale, but she let her inexperience leading a kitchen cloud her judgment and turned over the reins at key points to her sous chef.

The finale while running an hour long didn’t feel more than 15 minutes in length. It was simple, Tom told the cheftestants: “Make us the best three course meal of your life.” They didn’t have to do a dessert, and any protein was up for grabs. On top of that the cheftestants would be cooking at Commander’s Palace to serve their meal to twelve judges and guests including team Euro’s Fabio and jazz musician Branford Marsalis.

So who’s there to help the finalists out? Richard, Casey, and Marcel walk in – please note these are previous Top Chef finalists that did not win. The knife drawing commences and Hosea chooses Richard, Stefan grabs Marcel (what a perfect pair), and Carla gets Casey. Everyone seems to have gotten who they wanted, but the drama is about to begin.

Immediately upon entering the kitchen for the two hour prep Hosea snatches the foie gras and caviar, causing Stefan to blow a gasket. While these two are bickering, but still preparing their own food, Casey is quietly whispering suggestions to Carla. Carla, the classically trained French chef, has succumbed to Casey’s wiles and agreed to do a sous vide steak, something she has never done. Please, please, don’t let this happen. Carla! Stick to what you know, it’s what brought you to the finale and had you as a real threat. Casey then convinces Carla to go with a soufflé rather than the tart intended for the final course, and Carla’s fate is sealed.

Personally I don’t like a surprise during the finale challenge because the cheftestants are supposed to be doing their best meal, but Tom springs one anyway. The cheftestants will have to do a passed appetizer before the guests sit to eat. They use a traditional King Cake to see who gets the baby and not only chooses the protein they’ll use for the appetizer, but that person doles out the other two proteins. Hosea wins and takes the red fish, gives Carla crab, and sticks it to Stefan with alligator. Stefan bitches about the alligator, but it doesn’t faze him one bit in the kitchen.

The dishes this week were generally top notch, with a few notable exceptions. Stefan’s halibut and smoked salmon Carpaccio is watery because he froze the fish to get the thin slices – something that Marcel, the sous chef, told the cameras he would never do. While Casey has good intent, and Richard states he’s working to help Hosea win, it’s clear Marcel is still out for only himself. Remember the sous vide steak? Yeah, it’s tough and the soufflés never even make it to the plate.

The judges discuss the dishes as they go around, and Tom later declares Stefan’s squab as the best dish of the night. Surprisingly Fabio is honest when asked his opinion and weighs in favor of Hosea over Stefan, even though it pains him to do so. It came down to Hosea’s venison finale versus Stefan’s “pedestrian” dessert.

At Judges Table the cheftestants are asked why they should be Top Chef and Carla breaks down a bit, saying if she did her food she should have won. Everyone knew that she was out of the running thanks to her capitulating to Casey’s suggestions. Hosea’s menu was strong, and Stefan had some highs and lows. And with all of that Hosea is our newest Top Chef.

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