Paul Cheney / Bravo
Shirley Chung and Brooke Wiliamson faced off top Top Chef's season finale
I didn't expect to feel anything but indifference watching the season finale of Top Chef: Charleston
. With our city's two cheftestants — Warehouse's Emily Hahn and 5Church's Jamie Lynch, who, incidentally, was arrested Wednesday night
— off the show, my Top Chef
enthusiasm has fallen like an under-baked cake.
But I tuned in last night to catch the finale and low and behold it hit me in all the feels. Competitors Brooke Williamson and Shirley Chung were the last chefs standing. Both badass babes, the women channeled every culinary goddesses in their 14 weeks on the show. Brooke, a perfectionist, dominated the entire season. Meanwhile, Shirley continued to wow the judges with dishes that played on her love of storytelling and family. So it was either woman's game to lose at the last night battle in Tulum, Mexico.
The two chefs were tasked with preparing a four-course meal and could bring in two sous chefs from the former Charleston competitors. To help them set the table, each was allowed to pick two sous chefs from the other Top Chef competitors and then Bravo surprised them with their own sous chefs from their home kitchens.
Both served creative meals. Shirley plated ramen and pork shank with a surprising exotic fruit topped rice pudding the judges went gaga for while Brooke started her meal with a powerful oyster followed by luxe pork and beans, and a disappointing flan.
But her less than stellar dessert wasn't what made me cry. I found tears streaming down my face when Shirley's mother, who doesn't speak much English, told her daughter in her strong Chinese accent, "I am proud of you." The chef said her mother had never fully accepted her choice to go into cooking and that moment felt like vindication.
Brooke inevitably won Top Chef: Charleston
and she deserved the prize, but TV magic was made when Shirley proved to her mother that being a chef is more than just something one does until they get a real job.