No pressure, just prepare "the most amazing food" ever.
The heat was on more than usual Wednesday for finalists Angelo Sosa, Ed Cotton and Kevin Sbraga on the finale of Top Chef: D.C., which featured one of those skilled 'n' cocky up-and-comers triumphing over adversity, 24-hour flues and cuttlefish.
This time, each contestant was granted a champion-caliber sous chef: former Top Chef winners Ilan Hall, Hung Huynh and Michael Voltaggio. So really the big challenge there was keeping all of those massive egos in check sufficiently enough to get food on the plate.
And as if coming up with four dishes, including a vegetarian plate and a dessert, isn't enough, when Padma Lakshmi tells you how excited the judges are to "taste your final meal," you get the sense that it really might be the final meal you ever cook.
Did Ed complete his season-long transition from "that guy?" to champion-caliber chef? Did Kevin go from underdog to top dog? Or was Angelo able to phone in one last win by the skin of his...well...
That antibiotics shot in the ass certainly helped a weakened Angelo kick his illness.
But it was Kevin, a 30-year-old father of two from New Jersey who's still looking to open his own restaurant, who laid both Angelo and Ed to waste in the end.
"Kevin...you are Top Chef," Padma told the conceivably stunned chef, who only won one quickfire and a single elimination challenge (fewer than the dear, eliminated Tiffany) over the course of the season, compared with Angelo and Ed's pretty consistent excellence.
"I am?!" Kevin exclaimed after a moment's pause. "Best reaction ever," said a contented Tom Colicchio.
Yeah, we didn't see this one coming, either.
Even over the phone, Angelo was able to comandeer all the foie gras, which both Ed and Kevin wanted to use. Instead, Hung snatched up the entire loaf, one more thorn for their Angelo-punctured sides.
And while Ed butted heads with Ilan almost constantly—"He's working for me, right?" "He could have got more intricate with the cake"—Kevin was psyched to be paired with old pal Mike Voltaggio and Angelo had hoped for Hung. The season-three winner seemingly put Angelo in a great position to win, scurrying around the kitchen on prep day as if the title was on the line for him.
The judges liberally spread their praise among the three contestants, noting that Kevin cooked his duck "better than anybody," Ed really showed his training by the way he worked his cockles, and Angelo served up a bouillabaise to remember.
But Kevin edged the other two just enough to claim victory, ultimately charming Gail Simmons with his "Singapore Sling 2010" dessert. And she should know.
"It's absolutely huge that I'm the first African-American Top Chef," Kevin said in retrospect. "My dad, my sister, my friends, guys at the barbershop—I mean, they're going to eat it up. They're going to love it."
Kevin wins $125,000, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a spot at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and—considering who his competitors were—major bragging rights.
Catch up with all of the Top Chef: D.C. contestants right here.