We all knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight between Richard Blais and Mike Isabella on “Top Chef All-Stars.” But I think these two guys exceeded their own expectations as well as those of the viewers and judges and also their fellow chef-testants. The episode began with Richard and Mike chilling in their hotel suite–and with host Padma Lakshmi telling the eliminated chef-testants that they would be making a small bite (they call it an amuse-bouche) which would determine who the two finalists would be having as sous chefs on their respective teams. Mike wound up with Jamie (ha!), Carla and Tiffani; while Richard had Spike, Angelo and Antonia. Nicely done for Richard.

The challenge was to create the restaurant of their dreams, and Richard called his Tongue in Cheek; while Mike’s was Restaurant Iz. The judges were Padma, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons; and guest judges were Lydia Bastianich, Hubert Keller, Bill Terlato and Alfred Portale.

The judges liked everything, but had only tiny critical things to say about a few of the dishes.

Richard made oysters with creme freche ice balls; raw hamachi with crispy sweetbreads; pork belly with black cod cutlet; short ribs with red cabbage marmalade; and finally, cornbread with foie gras ice cream. Wow.

Mike made a salad with spiced beets and a chocolate vinaigrette; halibut with kumquat marmalade (is marmalade trendy right now?); pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce; and a rosemary caramel custard. Wow for him, too.

At the judges’ table, Colicchio said he thought what Richard and Mike made for them was the best food they have ever had at any finale on the show to date. That’s pretty amazing, considering not only that this is Season 8, but also that this is “Top Chef All-Stars” we’re talking about. So while the judges tried to deliberate, Mike and Richard were bundles of nerves, as you might expect. But this was it…the moment of truth.


“Richard, you are Top Chef.”

Sweet! It was so deserving and Richard may have been the most worthy champion on the show yet, for sure. And Mikey Iz got second place, which he claimed was “first loser.” Um, his words, not mine! But I think this is great for Richard and will launch his career into the stratosphere. Congrats Richard!

Thanks for reading, everyone!