I'm happy with how the competition turned out. That might have something to do with the unbearable smugness of having "called it" when Linda and I were trying ot outguess the stove at the round of six, or with the actual merits. Here's how I figured it.
Whether Hosea deserved to make it into the top five or not, once he did, he deserved to win the final competition. His weaknesses during the season seemed to result more from his concern (to the point of near obsession) with Stefan as with any weakness in technique or imagination. Those of you who spent time in any high-level competition are familiar with the consequences of "letting" your opponent "into your head."
Pnce in the final four, Hosea had the opportunity to go home and prep for New Orleans. The break did him good, because when he got there he was a far more confident, focused and relaxed chef who responded to the specific challenges instead of Stefan's smack. I think Leah's elimination ultimately worked in his favor as well. It's worth repeating that to do well, you've got to get out of your own head.
Fortunately for Hosea, not only did he peak at the right time (at least according to the judges), the other chef's self-destructed.
While I give Carla all the props in the world for the many things she does well, she doesn't seem to have the self-confidence to be a great chef. She has the creativity and the execution but not the leadership. Sometimes you have to say no. Sous vide a sirloin? It's so wrong, and yet so wrong. In Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Ynez and all the other California central coastal valleys they wept.
Also, there's something you see every season in the finals -- and that's the chef who, with the competition on the line, is so insecure (s)he tries something for the first time. That's your cue, as a watcher, to say "buh-bye."
Stefan is a talented and (by and large) disciplined chef, who chose New Orleans and the "Final Four" part of the competition as his opportunity to phone it in. It was very clear last week, when he should have gone home instead of Fabio. (It was close between them. But in my view, Stefan ultimately prevailed because had some carry-over from winning so many previous competitions and because he was (and is) better television.)
Stefan would have won the $100,000 if he hadn't frozen the salmon. Why did he freeze the salmon? To be sure to get better looking slices (thinner, more consistent) at the expense of quality. Think about it. He either lacks the knife skills to do the dish right, or he was unwilling to take the time and concentration it takes for a gravlaks type of presentation. Either way...
Also, it's a mistake to say that Hosea wasn't bold in his choices and solid in his execution. His first three courses were seafood. You might not regard that choice as bold, but it is. The venison was as perfectly blocked (butchering skills) as I've ever seen a piece of meat. It might have been done by machine -- but it wasn't, it was a demonstration of perfect knife work. It was something the judge's never saw, something one can't really see on the plate. But it's there nonetheless paying the on-the-plate dividend of everything done comme il faut. Class, compare and contrast with Stefan's salmon.
One man's opinion,