The secret ingredient was racks and ribs. Giving the finalists one hour to construct a brilliant 5 course meal. As always on this show, no easy task (on a previous episode, they had to create a five course bento box, by themselves, in two hours).
Two chefs remain: Chef Jehangir Mehta, who owns Grafitti in the East Village, and Chef Jose Garces, who owns Amada in Philadelphia. Chef Mehta is one of the oddest contestants I have seen on any reality show. His eyes look like they may pop out of his head at any moment, and he sounds exactly like Jafar from Aladdin. And that grin! He makes really outside the box, forward thinking dishes that look like a Paul Klee painting. Overall, a very exciting chef that can easily go dish-for-dish with any contestant on Top Chef.
Chef Garces, who may technically be the better chef, did not display the mind of a culinary genius. He made tacos. I understand he makes Latin food, and those tacos were probably righteous, but seriously,tacos?
And the judges of this show are not to be ignored. Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic at Vogue, is one of the best judges of any cooking show. Just look at him! He's simply fantastic. How can a man in a tuxedo, with one of the most prestigious food writing jobs in America, look so sloppy while he's eating? He is also absolutely brutal while judging, setting traps for the contestants with statements like "Is this pork supposed to be cooked raw?"
In the end, technique and tacos won out over imagination, and Chef Garces took home the title. A mild travesty, as the Food Network already has a Southwestern Iron Chef in Bobby Flay. The Food Network is a family network, and values "The Chef Next Door" over weird and interesting chefs like Chef Mehta. A lost opportunity in for The Food Network.