Richard Blais can finally take a deep breath and relax.
The nerve-riddled chef was declared the winner of the hit reality cooking series, "Top Chef All Stars," last night after besting chef Mike Isabella in a duel of taste buds and imagination.
The challenge was to create a "dream restaurant" on location and present a four-course tasting menu to judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. As an added bonus, previously eliminated contestants from the current season were brought back to act as sous chefs for Blais and Isabella. A small team was assembled for each chef based on a blind taste test of amuse bouche prepared by each.
Both chefs then got to work creating a four-course meal for the judges and more than 70 people! Dishes like Spiced Beef with Mozzarella, Truffle and Chocolate Vinaigrette and Raw Hamachi with Fried Veal Sweetbreads, Garlic Mayonnaise, and Pickled Celery tickled the tastebuds. In the end, the judges seemed evenly split, with Gail declaring, "I would want to eat at Mike's during the week, and Richard's during the weekend."
But it was Blais who was eventually named the winner — with crying, looks of incredulity, and lots of hugging following in the wake. (Watch video) "Where there's a will there's a way ... and I willed this," Blais said after his victory. "I'm at a loss for words. I'm Top Chef!"
Along with the honor, Blais will receive a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Aspen Food & Wine classic, $200,000 — and probably the first good night's sleep he's had in a while.
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