After a long season of cooking throughout California, Matador Room's Jeremy Ford reached Las Vegas and the Top Chef finale last evening.
The chef faced Amar Santana, owner of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, California, for the Top Chef Season 13 title, which also comes with a prize purse of $125,000. The final task to prove themselves before facing the judges' table? Create a four-course meal at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak, with each course highlighting an ingredient the chefs love to cook with.
Of course, any chef worth his salt has a mentor to look up to. These chefs' mentors happen to be two of the best in the business. In a twist of fate, the mentors were on hand to assist the chefs. Charlie Palmer was there to help
At dinner service, the two chefs turned out nearly flawless dishes. Ford's first course, foie gras two ways, impressed the judges, with Gail Simmons especially liking the way the foie was balanced by passionfruit.
Ford's second course wasn't as successful, with a fish lost in a green sauce. Padma Lakshmi hailed Santana's risotto the best she'd judged in many seasons.
The third course proved to be worrisome for both contestants. Each would-be top toque turned out undercooked proteins: Ford's duck was nearly raw, as was Santana's lamb.
The dessert course, where many chefs stumble, went to Ford, who went with his strengths and put together a modernist cheese platter with a ricotta-and-mozzarella cylinder and spiced fig jam.
At the judges' table, Padma told the chefs that one dish was technique-forward and one was flavor-forward before finally announcing Jeremy Ford the victor. The chef, clearly elated, proceeded to drop an F-bomb that was bleeped out: "No f—-ing way!" In a postwin interview, Ford also said, "Holy shit!" when referring to the fact he had just won Top Chef.
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Later in the evening, Ford served as bartender on the Bravo talk show Watch What Happens Live. Host Andy Cohen asked Ford what it feels like to win. "You go through so many emotions; you can't even express the feeling of winning."
Congratulations, Jeremy, you've made the Magic City proud.
Miamians better make Matador Room reservations now before the world starts flying in for a taste of Top Chef greatness.