Would you have ever picked her during that first round with pizza at Uno's? I certainly didn't. I thought she was just the local poster girl and that her niceness would get her kicked out in the first few shows. Silly me.
I have to say that I was very happy with the finale this year. The basic idea of preparing a reflective tasting menu, with the same amount of courses, probably gave the best comparison that the judges have ever really had. I was also happy they didn't throw a culinary curve ball at the final three (last year was cooking at high altitude) and that they just gave them killer ingredients, great help, and let them go. A major bonus was the quick ending; the live announcement last year (à la Trump) was ridiculous and awkward.
All in all, I have to eat some words and admit that Lisa brought her A-game—although my expectations were pretty low. She put up some good-looking dishes and kept the attitude to a minimum. Richard didn't wow me but didn't really disappoint me as much as he did himself, apparently. It's funny how all the gadgetry and science can't overcome a lack of simple seasoning. But Stephanie came out on top, and it seemed clear to me that when the judges were collectively bowled over by her lamb dish, she was top toque.
My favorite part of the show was watching her boss around Ripert, who I have a sneaky suspicion is a bit of an ass. Here's this short roundish Chicago girl hovering over one of the biggest names in the biz, and she's completely and comfortably in charge.
All in all, good season. Glad to see a woman on the pedestal. Still can't figure out why Ted Allen gets to be a judge.
PS: Did you hear that they're going to make a Top Chef for Teens? Get those kiddos chopping onions now . . .