Chef Ed Cotton Watches as Top Chef Crowns a Season 8 Winner

"Am I good enough and smart enough? Do people like me? Oh, yeah, I figured this out last week. I am, and they do! Whew!"

Oh, Top Chef…parting is such sweet sorrow. We’re glad that Richard Blais took the title, but we’re sad to see the season come to a close. Thanks to Ed Cotton for indulging our questions, serious and silly, along the way. And, on behalf of everyone at OpenTable, we’ve got a special good wishes for Ed. Plein Sud, the Manhattan restaurant at which he’s executive chef, is celebrating its one year anniversary. Stop into Plein Sud the week of April 25th to join in on the festivities.

Hey, Ed! Congratulations on year one! Quite an accomplishment. So, the finale’s final challenge tasks Blais and Isabella with opening their dream restos. That’s a tall order, but I imagine they had a good idea going in?

Every chef has planned out in his or her head what type of restaurant would be our “dream” to have one day.  They both looked like two great concepts.

They are yoked to a four-course tasting menu. Are the finalists wanting more courses or fewer? Is this format ideal?

In my opinion, four courses are easy to execute and allow a chef to really showcase what they can do. The format is ideal; it is the perfect amount of food. Multiple courses show exactly what you’re made of — and if you crack under pressure or not. Currently, I am in the process of creating a four-course tasting menu to celebrate my restaurant’s anniversary. If any OpenTable diners are in New York the week of April 25th, please join us for a celebration.

How about the CDO? Can the CDO come? Pretty please! Okay, so the whole cast shows up for sous jobs. Who DO you want as your sous and why?

I thought that it was very cool that the whole cast showed up and got to prepare something to determine who will be sous chefs and who won’t. I was nervous watching who was going to get whom! I would have wanted Carla, Jen Carol, and Angelo (Yes, I said it! Angelo!). Jen is an amazing chef and knows flavors; she is a master technician. Angelo also has a lot of experience and has a great palate. I’d want Carla because she has some good pastry skills. I think that would be a winning team.

Who DON’T you want and why?

The finale is a bitter pill for Dale Talde, who remains certain he should hve won, and Spike, who would rather be jet skiing.

Personal opinion, but I would probably pick Dale L, Elia, or Stephan last. Why? Dale is not a warrior and I am usually unimpressed by his food. I don’t always care for Elia’s attitude and just don’t have a good feeling about the two of us working together, and Stephan because he doesn’t mix well with my style of cooking (even though he’s a very nice guy).

Neither finalist seemed to be able guess the chefs’ food via the blind taste test. Is there anyone’s food you might be able to ID just from a taste, not even necessarily on Top Chef?

For Top Chef, I think I would be able to figure out a Tiffany Derry dish. I know her well and her style of cooking. I am confident that I could ID just from a taste.

The restaurant concepts are wildly different. Which appeals to you more: Tongue in Cheek or Izzy’s? And, did both reflect (after seeing the food) what you thought they’d be?

The concepts are cool and fun. I like Richard’s concept a bit more because it is more daring. Mike’s is more approachable. Gail said it best: She would eat at Mike’s during the week and Richard’s on the weekend.  Mike’s is more acceptable for everyday dining and Richard’s might be considered a special date night, or occasion, restaurant. What they both planned to do, though, was accomplished.

No snark here. We're glad for Blais, but Mike Isabella is also a Top Chef in our eyes. I mean, Pepperoni sauce? SHUT UP!

Which dishes of Blais’s stood out most for you?

Richard’s Hamachi looked great!  I would be all over that thing in a heartbeat. The sable fish dish sounded good also.

Which dishes of Isabella’s most stood out?

The braised pork with the pepperoni sauce stood out the most for me. A close second was the halibut, because everyone said it was the best-cooked fish. I really wanted to try both for myself!

Yay! It’s Blais! What do you think put it over the edge for Blais? It really was almost too close to call!

YES! Richard wins! I knew he could do it. I think it was his confidence in his unique ideas, combined with his cooking ability that drove it home for him. All of his plates looked composed, flawless, and beautiful. It was a very close decision, but I feel that it was the right decision. Congrats to Richard!

We can't wait for next week when Tom cooks up a special batch of whoop ass for Elia.

What does winning mean versus being a runner up? What perks/opportunities lie ahead for Blais (aside from the prize package of $ and appearance)?

They both will do well simply by being part of the Top Chef All Star cast, but Richard’s win just opened even more doors than were already open for him. Beyond the culinary cred, I am sure he will get approached for more endorsements, book deals, restaurant consulting gigs, television shows, and probably a lot more. I imagine Mike will get a lot out of his final placement as well. Having a TV platform as a chef can do wonders for your career. I am thankful for my opportunity to be part of the Top Chef family and hope that we can all meet again soon.



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