Note: Serious Eater Sara Levine (no relation to Ed) has been a dedicated Top Chef viewer all season. She shares her thoughts on who will win it all tonight.
While Top Chef: Las Vegas may have lacked the outside-the-kitchen, Real World-style drama of seasons past—making out or force-shaving cheftestants heads—this season boasted Bravo's most impressive roundup of culinary talent, by far.
That's why tonight's finale, held at Cyrus restaurant in Napa, is so tough to handicap. I'd be thrilled to have a bite of anything prepared by a member of the final three: friendly, Muppet-resembling Kevin Gillespie and the stone-faced Brothers Voltaggio (Bryan and Michael), who have both been cracking a few more smiles of late.
No one squeaked their way into the finale this time—with the exception of one win from Jen, who went home last week, these three guys won all of the other elimination challenges in Vegas. The odds, after the jump.
2 to 1: Kevin Gillespie
The red-headed, bushy-bearded Atlantan won me over from the start (and no, not just because I love Muppets). He's kept his composure as a total gentleman the whole season through--but he's also a formidable competitor.
Kevin's food is unfussy and always sounds absolutely delicious, especially when it involves pig (a passion that's tattooed on his arm). He's also proven his versatility by winning the vegetarian challenge—vegan Natalie Portman loved his duo of mushrooms with smoked kale and turnip puree.
This is the kind of food Tom Colicchio can get behind--it fits the mold of his own style at Craft—and we all know that don Colicchio is the man in charge at Judges Table. When Kevin won the inaugural elimination challenge this season, Padma pointed out that in four out of five past seasons, the winner of that first challenge takes it all in the end.
Will Kevin keep that trend going? I think so.
3 to 1: Michael Voltaggio
The younger BroVo is this season's bad boy, at least according to Bravo's editing. He's gunning for his brother and has made a few snarky comments about Kevin's food along the way. ("Kevin's food is what I make on my day off.") Ugh.
Yet we can't argue with the fact that little BroVo is a seriously talented and uber-creative chef. He's sure to bring a bag of tricks and gadgets and go out on a limb (or several) in the final "Cook Us The Best Meal You've Ever Cooked" challenge.
Michael's risks usually end well: banana polenta with asparagus dipped in gelled mustard won raves; so did his deconstructed Caesar with parmesan gel. But as past seasons have shown, molecular gastronomy needs to be executed flawlessly to win over a skeptical Colicchio and the judges.
5 to 1: Bryan Voltaggio
In concept, Bryan's food falls somewhere in between Kevin's and Michael's, who land on opposite ends of the current culinary spectrum. Kevin follows the Alice Waters school of thought: local ingredients where the food speaks for itself with minimal fuss. Michael runs with the Ferran Adria crowd: modern techniques and equipment, surprising flavors and textures.
Big BroVo's food is more straightforward and classic than his brother's, and he's preached his love for local and seasonal ingredients. But we've also seen him break out the liquid nitrogen and agar agar. Bryan's technical skill may be the best of the three, but it looks like he's the long shot to really wow the judges in this final no-holds-barred challenge.
So, who are you rooting for tonight?
Note: These predictions do not include any insider info—all pure speculation from a loyal Top Chef watcher.
About the author: Sara Levine has written about food in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Atlanta, and has now made her way to New York. A recent culinary school graduate, she currently spends her time externing at Food Network and cooking in her miniature Manhattan kitchen.