‘Top Chef’ Crowns a Winner

'Top Chef's Final Two: Sarah Grueneberg and Paul Qui (Photo: Bravo)

Top Chef: Texas” served up a winner Wednesday in the Season 9 finale. The final two cheftestants, Paul Qui and Sarah Grueneberg, battled it out in a Vancouver kitchen to see who would take the title.

The final challenge had the chefs creating a four-course tasting menu in the restaurant of their dreams. They got help from some eliminated contestants, as well as two master chefs thrown into the mix, Barbara Lynch and Marco Canora, to serve as their sous chefs. In a new twist, the sous chefs had a cook-off, preparing meals for Paul and Sarah, who selected their team based on a blind tasting. (It was nice to see fan favorites like Malibu Chris and Grayson return; Mean Girl Heather and Tyler the Butcher not so much. P.S. Where was Big Bad Bev?) The chefs also got a surprise from home: their families were flown in to enjoy their loved ones’ final meal.

After preparing two extravagant menus that head judge Tom Colicchio said was the best food they ever had in nine seasons of the Bravo show–including All Stars–the judges’ table had the tough task of picking a winner.

But in the end, Padma delivered the line, “Paul, you are Top Chef!”

The quiet, nervous Paul dominated all season, winning nine challenges and collecting the largest pot of cash prizes than any other cheftestant this season. Sarah cried and said she thought she deserved to win, but congratulated Paul nonetheless.

The finale put a lid on one of the show’s weaker seasons. While the chefs were undoubtedly very talented, the personalities weren’t as strong or charismatic as previous years. Pretty much the main storyline cooked up all season was bullying Beverly, which wasn’t much fun for anyone to watch.

The gimmicks this season also weighed the show down from the very beginning, starting off with the 29 chefs who had to cook for a spot on the show; the web-only “Last Chance Kitchen” fell flat; the unnecessary trek across Texas; a high number of silly stunt challenges (riding Pee Wee Herman’s bikes around town and begging to cook in a stranger’s kitchen???) — it all left a sour taste in our mouth.

So congratulations to a well-deserving Paul Qui, but let’s hope “Top Chef” gets back to basics and the joy of cooking next season.

Don’t forget to tune-in next week for the “Top Chef: Texas” reunion show on Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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