Although the outcome of Top Chef Seattle may seem predictable, the actual finale turns out to be anything but. Instead, Wednesday night's episode closes with a bang, a big reunion and Padma prancing around in a siren-red dress.
The show pits favored Kristen against whiny Brooke in a battle format that's more Iron Chef than Top Chef, with a ceremonial kitchen, hilariously dramatic music and a whooping LIVE AUDIENCE. Padma shrieks with the meth-fueled gusto of a game show host.
That audience looks to be 90 percent Top Chef contestants, including all nine previous Top Chef winners. Seeing those faces assembled at one round table brings a lump to the throat — not from nostalgia but horror, realizing how many nights have been spent watching Top Chef on TV. And no one should ever have to see season 5 winner Hosea's bald head again.
Aided by rejected contestants such as Lizzie and Dallas chef Josh Valentine, Brooke and Kristen will prepare dishes in a face-off. First to win three rounds is the winner. Kristen decides to "keep it simple," while Brooke brags about her bigger, bolder flavors.
One of the hardest things about watching this go down is Emeril, spooning up food from a bowl. Is his seat too low or is it just his big head that makes him look like a 10-year-old eating cereal?
Kristen quickly wins two rounds; Brooke only one. Here's where they stretch the ending as long as they can in order to fill the episode. The minutes tick down, and Tom Colicchio finally mutters the winning name: "Kristen." His announcement is a noticeable anti-climax, but she outdoes him when she says, "I won," with nary an exclamation point.
She'll head to Korea to reconnect with her native country. We'll file this conclusion as a successful effort on the part of the Top Chef producers to freshen the format and pray they don't find another reason to bring back Hosea. Ergh.