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Stefan, Carla, Hosea, Top Chef

Virginia Sherwood/BRAVO

When in doubt, remember: Big, bold flavors.

That seems to be the philosophy of the aspiring tastemakers who make it to the prestigiousTop Chef finale--though we can't wait for the season when Tom Colicchio calls for bland, forgettable flavors--and it's what carried the day yet again for the latest winner of the hit Bravo series.

After 13 weeks of chopping and braising, emulsifying and sauteeing, finalists Carla Hall, Stefan Richter and Hosea Rosenberg were instructed to prepare the best three-course meal of their careers.

Which sounded simple, until the alligator arrived...

But even with that scaly twist, harkening the addition of an appetizer containing a traditional New Orleans ingredient to the contestants' menus, the finalists barely batted an eye.

Well, Stefan did, because he had to cook the alligator.

And he did a great job, but it was his arch-nemesis Hosea who was named Top Chef in the end after his meal was deemed the most satisfying from start to finish.

Hosea, Top Chef

Barbara Nitke/BRAVO

"It felt amazing to win, but to have it come down neck and neck with Stefan just made it all that sweeter," the 34-year-old Boulder, Co., resident said after sealing up the win.

"That was the icing on the cake. This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I know a lot of people are going ot be proud of me for this. I could not be happier."

You know who could be happier? Carla's fans!

Is it just us, or was Casey Thompson brought back solely to sabotage the love-peddling caterer?

While past contestants Richard Blais and Marcel Vigneron served as quiet sous chefs to Hosea and Stefan, Casey decided to pretend she was the one still competing for the title. 

And the worst part was, Carla allowed it!

The Nashville-born chef, who had been surging in recent weeks after several close shaves early on, became way too suggestible, chose to doubt herself at exactly the wrong time and ended up out of the running despite blowing the judges away with her soulful seared-snapped first course.

Sous vide?! Blue-cheese soufflé?! What was wrong with a roast and a tart?

Then there was Stefan, who probably expected to win. Rightly so, after dominating seven challenges, of both the quickfire and elimination variety.

But despite his delightful alligator soup and evening-best squab dish, his first and third courses entirely underwhelmed, and Hosea was able to snatch victory from the jaws of the cocky Finnish caterer.

"If I had made a different dessert today, I would have won," Stefan said simply. "I'm happy for you, buddy."