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Top Chef Season 15 Finale Recap

,Top Chef Finale Recap


The time has come – the Top Chef Finale.  It’s the South Side Chicago Showdown between Adrienne Cheatham and Joe Flamm.  Will it be the Cheftestant who didn’t win a challenge all season (until the finals), or the one who fought his way back from Last Chance Kitchen?  Tom Colicchio gave them some advice before the finals: “Cook like your life depends on it.”  No pressure.

No Quickfire


The best part of this Finale was that there were no gimmicks.  In the past, even the final two Chefs have had restrictions on their dishes, but this year was different.  After camping in the woods, the Olympics, Rocky Mountain Oysters, fishing, and other crazy Challenges, the Cheftestants were asked to “cook the best meal of their life.”

Adrienne and Joe rode the gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain to meet Tom and Padma, who told them to create a four-course progressive menu.  They drew knives to select their sous chefs.  Adrienne got the first pick and went with Chris and Flamm picked Mustache Joe Sasto.  For the second choice, Adrienne went with Carrie and Joe went with Fatima.  This was definitely an All-Star Crew.


(Photo by: Paul Trantow/Bravo)
(Photo by: Paul Trantow/Bravo)

After a planning session, Adrienne, Joe and their Sous Chefs head to Whole Foods for their final Top Chef shopping trip with $500.  Adrienne is cooking Southern French cuisine, and Flamm is going Italian.  I loved watching him get behind the counter with the butcher at Whole Foods, but the best was when Flamm came in under budget and gave Adrienne the rest of his money.  This season has been filled with camaraderie and respect.


Back in the kitchen, the chefs got to work.  There was a LOT of trial and error because they were testing their dishes at the high altitude.  It was interesting to see them practice different techniques to make their plans work.  Joe was struggling with his brown sugar cake, and Adrienne couldn’t get her tuile to come together, They were prepping until the last minute.

Dinner with Tom


When Joe and Adrienne arrive back at the Viceroy, they find Tom and Graham Elliot making them dinner.  I am not sure I have ever seen this before, and I think it is a testament to this season and the respect that Tom has for these Chefs.  Of course, the food looks incredible, and it was nice to hear Tom say that when he was in his twenties and getting some notoriety as a chef, he would have competed in Top Chef.  His advice at the end of the meal was “Just Cook.”

Getting Advice Before The Final

There were moments with both Cheftestants called their mentors for advice.  Joe Flamm called Tony Mantuano, the man who hired him at Spiaggia when he had never cooked Italian food, and who Joe says he has come to love and respect.  Mantuano told him to commit to the dish once he starts it.

Adrienne called Eric Ripert – she has worked at Le Bernardin for seven years and he is her trusted adviser.  She tells him she is having trouble with the Tuile, and he gives her advice that ends up fixing it.  While we were watching, my boyfriend said calling Ripert was like using a video game cheat code.  But seriously, I think the Chefs just needed a moment to center themselves, and that is what they got.

The Dishes

The time has finally come for the final two Cheftestants to serve their final meal.

First Course

Adrienne’s first course is beautiful and Padma later tells her that it was probably the best dish she had all season from anybody.  Tom loves the sea urchin & ham combination in Adrienne’s dish. Padma loves the flavor & the umami of the broth & the thin veil of lace. Gail thinks it’s a signature item. Tom thinks the dish is like a new author creating the first chapter of a book.


Flamm’s tuna with veal demi aioli was a hit as well, but Adrienne pulls ahead in the first course. Waxman loves the presentation & clean look of Flamm’s tuna. Nancy Silverton is impressed with both dishes, but Adrienne pulls ahead in the first course.

Second Course

Despite not working with them before, Carrie is able to execute the grits. Gail thinks Adrienne did a beautiful job & she likes the way the octopus is cooked. Tom likes Adrienne’s dish but thinks it’s a bit dry. Tom thinks it is a great Southern spin on a Le Bernadin meal.

Adrienne Cheatham Octopus Grits Season 15 Top Chef Finale

Flamm’s homemade pasta is a huge hit & he describes the color as “river rock”. The broth is made from the braising liquid & the filling is pig head. Tom calls the dishes insane and the best food they’ve ever had at a Finale. Tom thinks the broth is “delicious” & “perfect”. Gail says she will never forget the dish & loved the broth. Tom is so impressed with the depth & richness of the broth. Tom says this dish shows Flamm’s maturity.

Joe Flamm Tortellini Season 15 Top Chef Finale
Third Course

Nancy thinks Adrienne’s dish is dry. Tom likes the ham hock flavor & he likes the dish & says “it’s so close”. Adrienne tried to mimic the broken up, mashed up black-eyed peas of the South, but Tom wishes she would have just cooked them correctly.

Adrienne Cheatham Cheerwine Shortrib Season 15 Top Chef Finale

Flamm makes a juice from the asparagus stems, then he cooks the asparagus in their own juice. This is SO SMART! He boiled some pasta in tomato sauce a few episodes back. Flame notices the Judge’s are struggling with the ribeye and Tom says the meat is “over-rested”. Graham loved the flavor of the vegetables, but Gail says the meat was “quite chewy” but every other element is cooked beautifully.

Joe Flamm Bee Ribeye Season 15 Top Chef Finale

Gail wishes Adrienne’s cake had more banana pudding. Tom wishes the dish was called Banana Yuzu Meringue Pie.

Adrienne Cheatham Dessert Season 15 Top Chef Finale

Graham & Tom like the flavor of Flamm’s cake & Graham loves the blueberry accent. Gail thinks it is a successful dish despite the heavy ricotta. Padma wishes the dish had a different name.

Joe Flamm Dessert Season 15 Top Chef Finale

The Winner & Final Thoughts


While it was a close match, Joe Flamm came out the winner and received the “coveted title of Top Chef!”  It was a close battle and both Chefs absolutely killed it.  I believe the words “best food in ever in a finale” were used.  Top Chef is by far the best reality show on television.  These contestants have heart, talent, and drive, and I think Season 15 has been one of my favorites.  While there was definitely some drama, I thought for the most part these chefs were caring and respectful of one another, and you can watch the bonds being formed.  From Bruce’s impromptu baby shower to everyone supporting Fatima after the show, you can feel the love between them.  And it still made great television.  See you next season!



Why do we not get a full Top Chef Reunion? I am serious about that. Now, I love my Housewives, but if the Real Housewives of Atlanta get a 3 part reunion as well as a weekly Social Edition, then Bravo should be able to spare an hour for our Cheftestants. While the reunions haven’t always been butterflies & roses, (remember Elia confronting Tom over not using grass-fed beef?) we love having another chance to interact with the Chefs.

Last night, Joe Flamm was the bartender on a prerecorded edition of Watch What Happens Live while Fatima & Adrienne were in the audience. Fatima was crowned Top Chef Season 15 Fan Favorite & won $10,000. I feel robbed I want to hear more from these Cheftestants. Without a reunion, the season always feels unfinished. Come on, Bravo! Get it together. Next week during Top Chef’s slot, you’re airing Madea’s Witness Protection. Are you telling me you didn’t have time for a Reunion?

Random Observations & Quotes

  • Adrienne’s father was a Black Panther – no wonder she is such a tough cookie!
  • “If this was a Joe Flamm loving contest, I win.”
  • “Focus on the flavor and everything else will fall into place.” – Adrienne
  • “So I guess you’re cooking Italian?”  “No, we’re going Pakistani.” – Thanks for the laugh Flamm.
  • Pig heads are usually female?  New information to me.
  • “Kind of like when you need a mustache, Joe’s the guy.”
  • So cool to watch Adrienne cook with Cheerwine!  That cherry soda is seriously awesome and I have never thought about cooking with it.
  • I love that the Cheftestants come back as sous chefs every season.  I have a good time watching them all cook together
  • Carrie made grits like a boss!
  • Can we have more Gail next season?
  • How will LCK work next year?  Will they bring back past contestants again?
  • Do we officially have enough seasons of Top Chef to have an all winners competition?  That would be INCREDIBLE!
  • Would anyone like to sponsor these two super fans on a Top Chef restaurant tour?  Anyone? Seriously, please.


We always read the Uproxx Top Chef Rankings for a laugh and a recap.

We have also been listening to the Pack Your Knives podcast.  They draft their Top Chef teams!

We’ve been blogging all season!  Catch up on our other posts: The IntroEpisode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5Episode 6Episode 7Episode 8, Episode 9Episode 10, Episode 11Episode 12 & Episode 13.



I am a Texan living in California with my husband Mark, my best pup Ziggy, and our two cats Marilyn and Goldie. I love reading, cooking, binge-watching great tv shows and staying up too late talking to my friends.

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