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Tweet, tweet: Top Chef has a winner



A funny thing happened on the way to the “Top Chef” finale: Michael Voltaggio opened a Twitter account.

Now, I know that not everyone tweets. I also know that there are a ton of celebrities, reality and otherwise, who do tweet and keeping track of them all would be an exercise in futility.

But what was strange about it was that his brother Bryan is a master tweeter and even the show’s other finalist Kevin has a little-used verified account. When I found out mid-day yesterday, just hours before the ‘Top Chef” finale that Michael had JUST started tweeting I thought, “Hmmmm, that’s interesting timing.” The guy, as we’ve seen, doesn’t do things willy-nilly and isn’t the most verbal time-waster on the block so I’ll admit I went into the finale wondering if said Twitter account meant my favorite hot-headed Voltaggio could be gearing up for a “Top Chef” victory or merely just for hanging on to his 15-minutes of fame after the final judges’ table.

Honestly, that mere fact of Twitter was the only hint toward who this season’s winner might be because, until the second the winner was announced, I had NO clue who might win.

None. Zero. Zilch.

For the first season that I can remember, no one obviously choked on the prospect of dethroning Hosea (thank goodness). All three chefs were in top form, not that they didn’t make mistakes, but no one seemed to make bigger mistakes than the other one.

That said, I do think Kevin got the short end of the stick. And I’m not just saying that because I had picked him to win forever ago. I say that because from the first few minutes of the episode, he was at a major disadvantage. That’s when the three remaining chefs — Kevin, Michael and Bryan — were assembled to get their final challenge: a three-course meal. They also got their first twist: Their former competitors would be their soux chefs, and instead of getting their pick, their helpers would be determined by drawing knives.

Knowing that anyone’s winning chances could be royally upset by the pick of a knife is pretty nerve wracking, especially when loose cannon/bad cooker Robin is in the mix. Scary, scary stuff. Out of all the horrible combinations that could have been had, Bryan (Jennifer and Ashley) and Michael (Jesse and Eli) did pretty stinkin’ well during soux-chef roulette. Kevin? Not so much, as he ended up with Preeti, whose inability to shuck clams sunk her from the season’s first moment. He did get Ashe as a second soux-chef, which was a turn of good fortune because though he wasn’t great as a chef on the show, he works as a soux chef in real life and doesn’t mind taking orders. Yes, it could have been much, much worse, but I still wouldn’t blame Kevin for being less-than-his jolly pig-tattooed self over having Preeti on his team.

Preeti didn’t (?) disappoint, working incredibly slow, just piling on the stress for poor ol’ Kevin, who clearly wasn’t taking things as well as earlier in the competition (getting a Facebook fan page for your beard can do that to a guy).

Meanwhile, Bryan was working like a man with a plan, showing off the wooden, military precision that is his staple. His brother, Michael, meanwhile, was having trouble with the one course he can’t control: The first one, a challenge in which the chefs must use all the ingredients in a mystery box to create a dish. For someone so exceptionally creative to be stumped by a wooden box full of unpronounceable food was a feat, but it also might have been the stress of going up against your own brother and the Simple Food Sensi of the South in the finale of a reasonably popular reality show.

But of course, those “Top Chef” producers are masters at turning up the heat on the old pressure cooker and they decided to add a nice off-balancing doozy: Mama. No, not host Padma, who is due in 2010 with a bun from her very pretty oven, but the cheftestants’ moms. On the morning of the biggest day of their reality television career’s, the guys get a knock on the door and see their mothers standing there. Of course, the Voltaggio boys have to share theirs, but the surprise is indeed both lovely and distracting for them just hours before such a big meal. Even worse, their moms came with a twist: The chefs now had to make a fourth course based on their favorite meal as a child. Oh, and they’d be serving it first. Oy! Love you, Mom, but ...

They got to work and it’s actually really nice to have the mom component as a viewer because we got to learn a little something about the guys other than they like to cook.

The meal in itself was gorgeous. Nothing weird or out-of-place or sub-par in their group. And no hints as to which way the judges were going to go either, as there was nothing blatantly horrible, nor anything amazingly, hands-down the best.

I really do, by the way, think that the meal was actually very good, not just edited to look that way. In the past (especially the season when Stephanie won) I felt that the monkeys in the editing room were really messing with us and trying to make us think someone might win before surprising us in the end by having the judges award the prize to someone else.

This time, I felt like the editing was pretty fair to each of the three contestants and that no fancy tricks were necessary because they were, indeed, the best three chefs in the competition. Now, if Robin had made it to the finale like the evil Lisa did the year Stephanie won, we might have had something to discuss.

Therefore, going into the final judging I wasn’t shocked by anything anybody said at all. It was all comfortable, made sense and was expected (especially waaaay too much time letting sometimes judge Toby Young make some snide one-liner that only sounds funny because he says it in a British accent).

First, the judges told Kevin he was NOT the winner, which was a bummer because I do think he is a fabulous chef and seems like someone who would just be fun to hang out with. But I’m sure they had to do it that way to leave us with the brother vs. brother drama. Of course, they had set it up nicely: Do they reward the “safer” older brother or the “risk-taking” younger brother?

Playing back in my mind while awaiting the verdict on the couch was the idea of the risk that Michael had taken just within the past 24 hours: Joining Twitter. I say “risk” because the timing of it was very suspicious and was poised to add a bunch of fuel to the fire for people who over-think stuff like that like me.

So, when “Michael, you are top chef,” fell out of Padma’s pretty mouth, I wasn’t that surprised, though I was. He was a fabulous competitor, daring chef and really deserving winner, and I am all for it, even if I had been plugging Kevin for weeks.

So congrats, @mvoltaggio. I shall read your tweets as a loyal subject of your “Top Chef” throne.


Random thoughts:

• Speaking of Web stuff and the Voltaggios, check out www.voltaggiobrothers.com. Looks like it’ll be a fun forum to learn from those guys.

• Kevin and Bryan couldn’t have been more gracious. Congrats to them, too.

• I’m sooooo happy with this season, I’m giddy. Yeah, I said it, giddy.

• Can this season be topped or is it just downhill from here?


ilovelucy 8 years, 6 months ago

It redeemed Michael a bit when he cried. On another note, a friend of a friend plans to eat her birthday meal at Volt the day after Christmas. I'm SOOOO jealous! Thanks for your entertaining blog. Lucy

supercowbellninja 8 years, 6 months ago

awesome season and awesome blog! What show will you be following next???

randysavage 8 years, 6 months ago

I watch this show, and Padma is an idiot. I get why she is on the show (pretty face, adds diversity to an all white "judges table"), but why do they allow this woman, with limited (a generous assessment) culinary credibility, to judge the chefs? Every time she opens her mouth I question my watching this show. Gail isn't far behind in that respect, either.

I was pulling for Kevin, but NBC/Bravo/Judges wouldn't let a homestyle chef win, it's all about fancy-pants chefs with a bad attitudes and really cool tattoos (Read: Voltaggio, Michael).

mom_of_three 8 years, 6 months ago

Padma was a cookbook author before she started hosting TOP CHEF. And I am very disappointed with the outcome. Kevin was consistent, and didn't deserve third. Should have let the contestant with the most victories get the choice of chefs. But I don't know. Michael is just a big jerk all around, and who wants to inflate that ego any more. They didn't do it for Marcel in the 2nd/3rd season???

Sarah Henning 8 years, 6 months ago

Lucy- That's awesome about your friend. SWEET. Glad you liked the blog:)

Supercow- Thanks:) I think next is "American Idol" plus whatever pop culture fun stuff we can fit in in between.

Randy- Did you watch the first season? Katie Joel was a horrible host with no credibility. And then "Top Chef: Masters" with skinny-mini Kelly Choi hosting ... argh. I wanted to enter her in a pie-eating contest. Padma is definitely the best of the three of them, hands down. And Mom is right, Padma was a cookbook author. Yes, her credentials are light otherwise, but I do think she does a good job as host, if not judge.

Mom- You are very right about Kevin being consistent. He really, really was. And he was great all season and very gracious, as well. I really didn't think Michael was that big of a jerk — I found Eli and Mike I. much, much more jerky/grating. But I do understand why you feel that way. I'm sure Kevin will do fine even without the win. Stefan and Fabio have done well for themselves and they didn't win, so I think Mr. Kevin will be just fine:)

Brandon Weber 8 years, 6 months ago

I've watched every season of top chef and this was by far the best season. True, professional chefs battling it out in the kitchen not a drama rama. They have definitely raised the bar for next season, if there is one. I too was rooting for Kevin but it really was any ones game that day to lose. Michael was really the most inventive through out the season a I think that's why he ultimately won. I think Kevin would have pulled it out if he would have made something different than the pork belly, which he had made before, and better dessert. That dessert just didn't stand up to the brothers, even though Michael over cooked his. I think all the top four chefs will go on to be great and love to go to any of their restaurants.

Steve Bunch 8 years, 6 months ago

I keep wondering why our "news"paper pays staff to write articles about their favorite TV shows, what today's man and woman on the street are wearing (and why), not to mention asking them about their astrological signs and little secrets, and the trials and tribulations of breaking in a new puppy while contemplating a colonoscopy. Oh wait...I forgot. We're idiots.

justthefacts 8 years, 6 months ago

I am bummed that Kevin didn't win. He was my favorite from the get-go. But at least he took away some cash from all his wins, and will compete for a spot on the American cooking team. The brothers were too impressed with themselves (esp. Michael) for me to get on board their fan club. Kevin just seems like a really nice person, who happens to be an excellent chef as well. He needs to open a restaurant called "Normal"; Normal cooking for normal people.

mom_of_three 8 years, 6 months ago

Michael would sit and criticize the simplicity of Kevin's dishes and that he was better and it reminded me of big headed marcel. If I ever go to Atlanta, I am going to check out Kevin's place.

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