Chef Ed Cotton Picks Winner of the Top Chef Finale, Reveals His Last Supper

"I'll make you a deal: If you stop calling me 'Spaetzle Lakshmi,' I'll stop calling you Wolfie."

As we whittle down the cheftestants’ list to just two, Ed Cotton, Executive Chef at Manhattan’s Plein Sud, returns to serve up unique insights on his friends and former co-competitors.

Wolfgang Puck: What does he mean to you? His food? His approach? Have you dined at any of his restos?

It’s great to see Wolfgang Puck! When I was younger, I remember hearing about this chef who cooks for all of these movie stars in L.A and has a popular restaurant named Spago. I would read about his food and his restaurant all the time. I loved his take on pizza in the 90’s. I guess you could say he was the first celebrity chef. I have only been to one of his restaurants, but I loved his take on food and his approach to it. He’s clever and smart!

Which of the possible challenges of the QFCs would you give to your opponents to make life difficult?

Morimoto is a beast! I would be very careful to give him anything. He’s on top of everything and all flavors. I was talking to my girlfriend about that same question and told her that he is one of the original Iron Chefs and a force to be reckoned with. You don’t want to screw up any of his food. Ever.

Antonia feels the strain of competition (Do you see what I did there? She's straining something and I said she's feeling the strain. Clever, right?)

I thought that Mike getting to use a pressure-cooker as a one-pot was bunk. I thought it was going to be THAT pot that they saw. Just a regular pot. Cop out!

The pressure cooker can bite you in the butt if you really don’t know how to use it. It can work magic for you or be your greatest enemy. Mike just made it happen with using the pressure cooker. I’m sure he needed at least another 20 minutes of cook time on his pork. But, they loved it.

The added challenge in the QFC: Do you want to cook with one hand? Finish with no tools? The double apron?

Double apron any day! I was part of the double apron challenge on Top Chef 7 and was paired with Kenny Gilbert. Kenny was great to work with; we came out on top and almost took the win. I would be comfortable doing it again.

It’s Mike F-T-W. W-T-Fudge?

Again, Mike delivered good flavors and the judges generally like it. It is always tough to comment, because I am so curious to really taste it.

The chefs’ last supper…Which is easier and harder? A strudel is VERY difficult, that I know! But I mean, Morimoto? Bernstein? Puck? Who do you WANT to cook for and what scares you?

I would cook for Wolfgang Puck! When he said goulash, spaetzle and apple strudel is what he wanted, I was like, “I got that hands down.” I love cooking and eating that type of food in a major way. Here at my restaurant Plein Sud, I have sides of spaetzle on the menu. I got a great recipe for it along with a great Hungarian goulash that my sous chef would make for the occasional staff meal on Sundays. Wolfgang….bring it on! Morimoto would be the biggest challenge by far.

What’s your last supper — and who cooks it?

Choucroute garnie is my last supper with a nice bottle of Riesling, along with some Dijon mustard and cornichons. It would be cooked by my friend, chef Olivier Muller, from Daniel restaurant in New York. He’s a talented chef who I have had the great pleasure to work with (We were even roommates before!).

True to his word, Chef Morimoto makes sure Antonia sorted through each grain of rice.

Was it fair that Antonia’s hamachi was, basically, totally rank? How does something like this happen? If you’re tasked with doing sushi, shouldn’t you be supplied with sushi-grade, uber-fresh fish?

Hamachi is not a forgiving fish at all. It can spoil fast. Luckily they had a back up of tuna in the refrigerator. I would have been very happy with that. All sushi has to and must be fresh; you don’t want to mess around at all with a fish that’s slightly off. Speaking of sushi, I love going to Sushi Seki on the Upper East side. They have some of the best sushi in the city. You will only find the freshest fish possible

Blais sticks the landing, as I thought he would. BUT…the other two have to do a one-bite challenge after all that work. How rough is this? And, is this the point that really separates the chefs who love to compete, who revel in it? Also, any one-bite dish thoughts?

Richard wins and, man, does he feel good about it, as he should! It has been a great season of battling and seeing who’s got the talent to make it this far. As far as going back into the kitchen to cook again, yes, this is stressful, big time. I would be nervous. You have got this one shot to make it to the finale — and it’s only one bite that separates you from it. You’ve come all this way and this is your chance to do it! I think this is the point where the adrenaline kicks in. For me, my one-bite dish would be black truffle gnocchi on a spoon with grated parmesan cheese and shaved black truffles. Hopefully, it’s a BIG spoon!

Mike Isabella reacts to Ed Cotton's prediction that Richard Blais will be the next Top Chef.

Finally, I called this finale match-up earlier today for a friend on FB, as I’ll bet you did. This is the final that should be! But, I’m asking YOU to call it. Who will take it, in your opinion — Blais or Mike?

I respect Blais and Mike, as chefs and as people. When I really started watching Top Chef, I remember Richards’s season and he got ripped off big time. He needs this for himself, and it’s time for him to take home the Top Chef title. That title was supposed to be his on his season and not Stephanie’s. Go Richard!

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