After months of watching the contestants duke it out, Bravo's Top Chef: Las Vegas finally came to a nail-biting finish last night, with Michael Votaggio emerging as the victor! He may have been crowned the season's best overall chef but with 14 episodes of stunning presentations, we feel a number of dishes deserve their day in the sun.
Show after show, we were blown away by how beautiful the cuisine came out (even if there was too much salt, or the lamb was undercooked). A lot of this, of course, is credited to the finalists, the Voltaggio brothers, who both had extensive culinary training and pushed the envelope not only with technique and flavor, but plate design. The emulsions and reductions, the purees, and the garnishes were always artfully arranged and one of the main appeals in this year's culinary drama.
What makes a compelling plate? According to Chef Eve Felder, an Associate Dean at the Culinary Institute of America, "it's about balance, unity, focus and focal point, but doing that in a loose and relaxed way. For a top chef, their first impression is when their plate comes to the table and the customer says, 'wow.' " That was certainly our reaction to many of the featured dishes but for the true jaw-dropping beauties, see our top ten dishes of the season.(Above)
Michael Voltaggio's Cod with Parsley Sauce, Billi-Bi Croquette, and Zucchini Tenderloin
Michael's cod dish was one that helped his team win the restaurant wars challenge. "It was melt-in-your-mouth, sustainable, delicious," said guest judge Rick Moonen, "brilliant." As far as presentation, the greens, yellows, and oranges gave it a fun, cheery feel, and the parsley sauce curly cues filled with olive oil had the beauty of stained glass.
Bryan Voltaggio's New York Strip Steak with Parsnip Puree
Bryan came up with this dish when the contestants were asked to create something based on one of their vices. Bryan's was drinking bourbon and smoking a cigar after eating a great steak and you can easily see his inspiration in the design of the plate. He used dehydrated parsnip skins, twisted and glazed with bourbon reduction as a garnish to represent the cigar and bourbon, then added color with a bright green sunchoke puree and a few dollops of carrot sauce.
Eli Kirshtein and Ashley Merriman's Grilled Spot Prawns with Red Beet Crème Fraîche Sauce, Gnocchi and Kale
Anytime you want to add color to your dish, beets are the first thing you should reach for. In Eli and Ashley's prawn and gnocchi appetizer dish, the beet crème fraîche sauce creates a dramatic stage for the rest of the ingredients. The prawn tail shoots to the side for a compelling shape, and the herb salad of celery leaves, tarragon, cilantro, chervil and chives make for a lush contrast. Judge Toby Young called the dish a "Monet."
Hector's escargot and mushroom dish had one of the most compelling formations of the season. The snail covering sets the tone for presentation; the escargots are arranged in a curve that seems to mimic the spiral of the shell. Even with a muted palette, the use of space and shape is alluring.
Bryan Voltaggio's Frozen Coconut Lychee and Dark Chocolate Mousse
In this dish, Bryan was all about contrast. Normally Top Chef contestants are shaky on dessert, but the Voltaggio brothers are not ones to turn down a challenge. He used liquid nitrogen to quickly freeze the coconut lychee, and a beet port reduction to garnish the chocolate mousse. The striking black-and-white effect is stunning. You could almost frame it for the wall.
Click here to view the rest of the top ten dishes!
What was your favorite dish from this season's Top Chef?