In an emotional finale, Michael Voltaggio edged out brother Bryan Voltaggio and Atlanta-native Kevin Gillespie to take home the $125,000 grand prize.
At Cyrus, the two-star Michelin restaurant in Napa, California, the three remaining contestants, Kevin Gillespie and Michael and Bryan Voltaggio battled it out in front of judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, and Toby Young.
Michael won by creating the favorite dish of the night, made from Pacific rockfish, Dungeness crab, kabocha squash, Meyer lemon, matsutake mushrooms and anise hyssop. It was the fitting end to a dramatic season, with some of the best cooking in all seasons of Top Chef.
As usual, there were a few twists: early contest losers came back to play sous chefs for the finalists, plus surprise guest judges: their moms!
The mothers were supportive and clearly proud of their sons. “Kevin’s never made me anything I didn’t like,” said Mrs. Gillespie, and Mrs. Voltaggio had to plead the 5th during dinner when asked to choose between her sons’ dishes. We also saw adorable baby pictures and discovered that Michael was a picky eater as a kid: Who knew!
Up until the last moments of the show, predicting a winner was impossible. All of the chefs had their high and low moments in the meal: Kevin’s fried chicken skin and squash killed it, but the self-professed King of Pork let down the judges with his pork belly. Judges raved about Bryan’s venison, but thought his other dishes were under-seasoned. And Michael made winning squab and rockfish, but overcooked his soufflé.
Fan-favorite Kevin was the first to go—it just wasn’t his night. In the end it was brother against brother, and the judges picked apart the differences between the pair: Both possess incredible technique and inventiveness, but Bryan is thoughtful and sophisticated while Michael is more brash and outspoken. The decision was clearly difficult and emotional—tears flowed when the winner was announced.
Congrats to Michael, and to all the cheftestants! Can’t wait for the next season!