Hosea Wins Top Chef!

Hosea Wins Top Chef!
Michael Lavine /Bravo

02/26/2009 AT 12:00 AM EST

He cooked steadily -- and quietly -- all season, and in Wednesday's finale, Hosea Rosenberg, 35, bested fan favorite Carla Hall and uber-confident Stefan Richter to become Top Chef.

Cooking a three-course meal -- plus a surprise appetizer -- at New Orleans's famed Commander's Palace, the Boulder, Colo.-based chef came out ahead thanks to his final dish: venison served over wild mushrooms and carbonated blackberries.

"I'm kind of in shock right now," Rosenberg said after claiming his title and its accompanying $100,000 prize. "I'm just so happy. It feels pretty damn cool."

Aided by Top Chef finalists from seasons past, including Richard Blais (matched with Hosea), Marcel Vigneron (partnered with Stefan) and Casey Thompson (paired with Carla), the three chefs were, of course, thrown one last twist by head judge Tom Colicchio. They would have to serve an appetizer course utilizing indigenous ingredients: redfish, alligator and crab.



With the sudden pressure to create a new dish, Carla seemed rattled. She also let her sous chef really influence her menu, substituting a tart -- which she planned to serve for dessert -- for a more dressed-up blue cheese souffle. She also relied on Thompson's suggestion to cook her meat course using the sous-vide technique, which wasn't exactly familiar to her.

More self-assured, Stefan bustled about the kitchen, decisive in his choices and methodology. Similarly, Hosea confidently decided he would skip dessert altogether, opting instead to end the meal on a meat course which he considered a strength.

While Hosea and Stefan's cooking and prep work went off without a hitch, Carla's dessert substitution backfired in a major -- and unappetizing -- way: The chef forgot to turn down the ovens, effectively boiling and curdling her souffles and all-but-killing her chances to win.

When it came time for service, the three finalists served their food to a who's who of culinary celebs, including Rocco Dispirito, John Besh and Susan Spicer. Ultimately, though, it would be the usual crew -- Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Toby Young and Gail Simmons -- deciding their fate.

And the reviews came in.

Carla's first course was impressive, her flavors rich and winning. The judges were less in love with her steak, though, and her technique was called into question. Or, as Colicchio simply put it, the fussy dish, "doesn't remind me of her."

Stefan's carpaccio starter was a non-starter for many of the taste-testers, who claimed it was too watery and uninteresting. But his squab dish was a knockout -- one of the favorite dishes of the meal.

Hosea's scallop and foie gras plate was praised, but his choice to skip dessert for venison proved, ultimately, to be his secret weapon. Not only was the dish beloved by all, but even this season's finalist Fabio Vivani was forced to admit he preferred the dish to his pal Stefan's dessert.

So, when the verdict was handed down -- Hosea was named the winner -- it didn't seem like much of an upset after all.

Clearly disappointed, Carla knew she hadn't cooked a meal that truly represented her gifts as a chef, and she admitted as much. "I will not make that mistake again," she said about her dessert course.

But she also acknowledged her many well-deserved successes. "When I came here, I wanted to show a different way of competing: to compete with love," she said. "So, I did one of the things I wanted to do here."

Stefan, too, seemed to understand the judges' decision. "They expected more from me," he said, flatly. "Would I have loved the title? Absolutely. But I don't turn around and look back. ... I'm a happy dude."

For his part, Hosea seemed thrilled to win -- naturally -- though the victory was brightened, he said, by beating his, um, "nemesis."

"It felt amazing to win," Hosea said. "But to have it come down neck in neck with Stefan just made it all that sweeter. That was the icing on the cake." -- Brian Orloff

Check back later this morning for our exclusive interview with Hosea.

Tell us: Are you happy for Hosea? Do you think he deserved to win? Who was your pick for Top Chef?

Michael Lavine /Bravo

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