Paul Qui and Sarah Grueneberg
Virginia Sherwood/NBC (2)
02/29/2012 at 05:00 PM EST
The heat was on Wednesday night for the Top Chef: Texas
finale as two contestants – Paul Qui and Sarah Grueneberg – battled it out in Vancouver to determine who would ultimately come out on top.
The chefs were asked to prepare four courses of their choice for 100 diners and the panel of judges, with the help of some familiar faces. Paul enlisted Barbara Lynch, Ty-Lor Boring, Chris Crary and Keith Rhodes, while Sarah had the help of Nyesha Arrington, Tyler Stone, Heather Terhune and Grayson Shmitz in the kitchen.
And if it were up to People.com readers, Qui would persevere: He polled far ahead
of his competitor, with 90% of readers voting that he deserved to take the Top Chef title
Sarah, however, has been formidable competitor throughout the season, collecting thousands of dollars and big wins in elimination challenges.
Both, interestingly, also have a connection to the Lone Star State. Paul currently cooks in Austin and Sarah, who now lives in Chicago, was born in Texas.
So who won in the end? Keep reading to find out:
For the first course, Paul served up chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) with edamame, pea shoots and spot prawns. The second course was grilled sea bass with clam dashi, pickled radishes, and mushrooms. His third course was congee with uni, kale and smoked albacore. And for dessert, he prepared coconut ice cream with puffed rice, candied kumquats and mangosteen.
Sarah's first course was squid ink tagliatelle with spot prawns and fresh coconut. Second, she served a rye-crusted steelhead trout over fennel, pickled beets and whipped lardo. Her third course was a braised veal cheek with crispy veal sweetbreads on top of a persimmon sauce polenta. And for dessert, she served a hazelnut cake with candied kumquat and roasted white chocolate ganache.
The finale was "about as close as it can get," according to head judge Tom Colicchio, who told the contestants, "You both should be very, very proud."
But in the end, Padma Lakshmi announced, "Paul, you are Top Chef."
"I am extremely happy to see my dad and mom being there and everybody I've met through out this journey," he said. "The magnitude of what we've done since San Antonio is so broad I can't describe it."
Sarah was visibly upset. "I thought for second it was going to be me and it wasn't," she said through tears. "I think I deserve to be Top Chef but it wasn't my day."
Paul will take home to Austin $125,000 dollars – in addition to bragging rights as the season 9 winner of Top Chef