On Bravo’s web site, various Top Chef Las Vegas finalists and judges discuss who they thought should have won and why Michael actually won. (No one addresses his obnoxious attitude.)
In BravoTV.com’s “burning questions” feature (and by “burning,” they mean “fire in outer space,” because as one would expect from a network web site, they’re softballs), Michael explains that his emotional reaction came because “I was standing there knowing that my brother won. I was standing there thinking, ‘Bryan won, Bryan won.’ … I wasn’t standing there thinking, ‘Oh I have this one in the bag,’ like I have in the past. Honestly if Bryan had won, I wouldn’t have said, ‘Well I don’t think he should have won; my food was better.’ Because honestly, at that moment, I thought Bryan had put up a better showing than I did.” He adds that “even Bryan thought Bryan won! We all thought Bryan won. When it came down to the critiques, it really came down to the seasoning.”
Kevin agrees: “I truly didn’t believe that I would win, but I did think that Bryan had the better day,” he said. “It seemed to me that he had the only flawless dish of the night. They said some pretty harsh stuff to me especially, but also to Michael. It was surprising I thought.”
Although two people who were standing right there say it was a surprise, it wasn’t so surprising to the judges. Tom says the surprise came from the editing. He writes that “based on how the episode was cut, it had me wondering up until the end whether my memory had failed me or not. It hadn’t. I think that what we have here is a classic case of building drama, of not tipping one’s hand, of leading the viewer (or misleading the viewer!) to keep the suspense till the final moment.”
However, he says that “at the end of the day, Kevin won the first course, Bryan won the last, and Michael won the middle two, giving him the ultimate win. The equation is pretty much that simple.”
Toby Young disagrees. He says the judges “assessed it round by round. But that didn’t give us a clear winner. For me, Michael won the first round with his spot prawn and the second round with his rock fish, the third round belonged to Bryan, whose venison was marginally better than Bryan’s squab, and the fourth was won by Bryan with his cheese cake. So, in my opinion, that meant two victories a piece.” Michael won, Toby says, because “Michael’s boldness — his willingness to take risks — gave him the edge.”
Toby also adds that Padma thought Bryan should win. “Tom initially thought I’d be rooting for Kevin because he knows what a fan I am of Kevin’s cooking, but I quickly made it clear that I thought Michael was the better chef on the night. Gail wasn’t as convinced of that as I was and Padma wanted to give it to Bryan,” he wrote.
Gail Simmons agrees, although after spending six paragraphs recapping the episode (yes, Gail or whoever’s writing Gail’s blog, we watched the episode: we’re reading your thoughts to get, you know, your thoughts), Gail’s only insight is to say that “Michael stretched his capabilities a little more than the others. He showed us so many dimensions of himself and his cooking abilities and confirmed with each course how diverse a chef he is. Not to mention the fact that it all tasted really, really good.”