As this season of Top Chef comes to a close, we’re left with four contestants for the finale double-header. Kevin, Jennifer, Michael, and Bryan have all played the game extremely well. Most followers of the show had guessed that the four dubbed as the “Four Cheftestants of the Apocalypse” would be the ones to make it to the finals. It should be no surprise as to where my loyalties lie in this case – my choice to win the competition is Kevin Gillespie. Kevin, only 26 years old but still suffering from early-onset male pattern baldness, has struck me as one of the most creative, thoughtful chefs on the show.
First, look at him. You could just hug him. He’s been compared to Yukon Cornelius, ZZ Top, Action Hank… any man with a beard that rugged has to be one bad mother. He’s also won the most elimination challenges and quickfires. He also has more total top appearances than any other chefs. Yet, for a guy who is the clear frontrunner, you wouldn’t know it by the way he talks to you. Unlike Michael Voltaggio, whose clips have shown him slagging other chefs without (and with) provocation, Kevin doesn’t have anything bad to say about the other contestants. You could call this politically correct (look at how he describes Robin when she starts becoming a pain) but you could also see it as empathy and understanding.
I also love the way he tackles and attacks the challenges. He breaks it down to their core and rebuilds it. Not deconstructing, mind you – even though he hit the deconstruction challenge out of the park, if I remember correctly. No, what Kevin does is step back from the competition and think about what’s laid in front of him and get to the core of what’s going on. The vegetarian competition with Natalie Portman displayed this to a T. Even though Kevin’s dish wasn’t the most pleasant to look at, he nailed the core of what the audience wanted. Vegetarians wanted a hearty, filling meal that wasn’t made out of meat. Kevin’s mushroom and asparagus platter was flavorful and hearty – something that the others forgot to do by either going overboard with presentation or just failing (Robin). It’s a tough one to do, but Kevin’s ability to analyze and work within the confines of the challenges is what’s kept him on top time and time again. This is a guy who turned down a full ride scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to cook food, because it was his true calling. I can respect that.
Top Chef is a grueling competition that takes no prisoners. Kevin’s been able to keep his cool and take things one step at a time, which has helped his longevity. On the other hand, Jennifer has clearly been on the downslope the past few weeks, but with the break in between the normal competition and the finale, it may give her some time to recover. She’s clearly the underdog at this state of the competition and the others will underestimate her at their peril.
All that being said, I’d be happy with any of the current four chefs winning the finale. They’re all highly talented and they produce winning material week in and week out. Though Michael Voltaggio can be kind of a jerk (I can’t recall him saying something nice about another person other than his brother), he does have a lot of skills and if he hits one out of the park in the finale, no one couldn’t say he was unqualified to win. With only two more episodes to go and the finale in Napa, anyone could win this. Let’s rock and roll!