AceShowbiz - Mei Lin has been named the new "Top Chef" winner. Going head-to-head against Gregory Gourdet in the show's season 12 finale set in Mexico, she became only the third female winner in the show's history.
Both cooks had to cook a four-course meal with the help of two sous chefs for the final challenge. Mei served octopus; congee with carnitas and a scallion puree; duck with huitlacoche; and strawberry lime curd dessert, while Gregory served grilled octopus; a soup with shrimp broth with green chorizo, cactus, and fried shrimp heads; striped bass with tomatillo and carrot sauce; and short ribs with mole and sweet potato.
Judge Tom Colicchio initially criticized Mei's decision to do a dessert, saying, "I wouldn't do one." He, however, had to admit that Mei made the right decision as he later declared it "one of the best desserts I've ever had in my life." Judge Gail Simmons also gushed about the dessert in her post-show Bravo blog, "I'm so proud of Mei for taking that risk and giving us a dessert we will all remember for a long time." Gregory's carrot sauce for his fish course, meanwhile, was deemed too sweet.
Mei eventually won the competition and took home the $125,000 prize, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, and a chance to appear at Aspen's annual Food & Wine classic. "My parents are definitely going to be really proud of me," she said. "But most of all I'm really proud of myself and where I am right now."
Speaking to EW after her win, Mei said she always knew she "needed to do a dessert" for the final menu. "For me, you can't not do dessert. If you're going to put on a meal, dessert is a must. But if you're going to do a dessert, it needs to be mind-blowing: Dessert is what's going to make you remember the entire experience," she explained.
But Mei, who worked at Michael Voltaggio's ["Top Chef" season 6 winner] Ink restaurant in L.A. before joining "Top Chef: Boston", didn't think she could beat Gregory. "We had a lot of head-to-heads throughout the season, and for me he was going to be the one to beat. Going into the finale, I hadn't won a head-to-head with him, so even last night, I thought I could lose," she shared, "And in the finale, we both had our highs and we both had our lows-it was kind of even; it was just up to the judges."