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The Taste, Episode 8: Finale

Ludo Lefebvre, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, and Brian Malarkey (via popgoestheweek.com)
Ludo Lefebvre, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, and Brian Malarkey (via popgoestheweek.com)

It’s finale time! The final four contestants – home cook Sarah, personal chef Khristianne, chef consultant Diane and culinary instructor Gregg – face off in the stadium for guest judge (and Khristianne’s idol) Jose Andres.

Because it’s the finale, things are being done a little different this time. Each chef must prepare three spoons with three mentor-chosen ingredients: mozzarella cheese, spot prawns and Iberico ham. The spoons are presented to guest judge Andres in a blind taste test and he must choose which chef presented the worst dish and, ultimately, who will be sent home.

Bourdain coaches Diane and says it’s a mistake to “out-molecular the guy” like Khris and Malarkey are planning. “We’re hitting him right in his happy zone,” says Bourdain of Diane’s menu of spot prawns with basil puree, Iberico ham with quail egg and mozzarella with mint and walnut accents.

Khris plans a menu of mozzarella with balsamic grapes, Iberico ham with caviar and spot prawns with a chimichurri. She uses her skills in molecular gastronomy to create an olive oil powder to accompany her dishes and Malarkey couldn’t be prouder. “I idolize [Andres]” Khris says.

Ludo decides to leave Gregg alone in this challenge and to focus all his attention on Sarah. “Ludo is in an easy position,” says Nigella, because he is sure to have at least one of his chefs in the final. “I’m on my own here,” says Gregg and Ludo is worried Gregg won’t make it to the finals because his flavors are lacking. Sarah/Ludo create a mozzarella mousse with tomato confit, Iberico ham with a cheese stuffed date and prawns with chorizo and orange cream sauce.

Khris’ mozzarella dish is “alive with acidity” and chef Andres calls the three spoons a “very good showing.” Diane has too much mozzarella on her spoon but has cooked her prawns perfectly. “Proportions are key to everything in life,” explains Andres. Apparently, Diane missed the boat when she added too much tomato to one of her dishes. Sarah’s spoons are deemed “very enjoyable” but are lacking acidity. Ultimately, it is Gregg’s mozzarella with roasted red pepper, prawns with potato chips and Iberco ham with a poached quail egg that miss the mark. He is sad, but explains that he’d rather have lost doing it alone than having his hand held (ouch).

The final three are greeted by their friends, family and loved ones and are told they must prepare three separate, but complementary dishes for the judges. Chef Andres is mentoring each contestant for this final challenge and the chefs get two hours to prepare their last supper.

Chef Andres tells Sarah that her menu of arctic char, seared duck breast and beef tenderloin is “looking good.” He thinks she’s “too calm” and is concerned it’s because she’s lost, not because she’s in control.

Khris “never forgets where she’s from” and decides to meld her Portuguese and Filipino cultures together to create a “progression of air, water and land.” Her menu consists of Peking duck with a chive pancake, seafood bouillabaisse and braised short ribs.

Diane looks like “a deer in headlights” according to the judges, but chef Andres is impressed with her riskiness and the amount of flavor she is choosing to put on her spoons. “I’m going with my gut,” she says.

The final three present their final dishes to the judges. One set of spoons will get a “best ranking” and one set will get a “worst.” “May the best taste win,” says Nigella, and the tasting is underway.

The judges love Diane’s sea urchin but her scallops are missing something. Bourdain likes the dishes but doesn’t think they belong together. Khris’ duck dish needs more, well, duck but her bouillabaisse is deemed “perfection.” Sarah’s dishes remind Ludo of France and Nigella calls them “simple but beautiful.”

In the end, it is personal chef Khristianne who wins the title (and a hefty prize of a brand new car and $100,000!). “She dominated the entire competition,” boasts Malarkey and both Diane and Sarah are going home with their pride. “It’s surreal. These things do happen,” cries Khris.

Confetti is falling, people are clapping and Bourdain is leaving us with a few words of wisdom: “It is a good and noble thing to cook well.” Yes, it most certainly is.

Christina Colavecchia graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada in May 2012 with a degree in Professional Writing and Humanities. As a Canuck living the U.S. for the first time, she’s loving the Dallas lifestyle and all the city has to offer.

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