updated 09/11/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 09/11/2012 AT 7:30 PM ET
On Monday’s finale we watched the culmination of a stellar and emotional season of MasterChef. The level of talent this year had an almost pioneering quality to it – and our final two, Josh Marks and Christine Ha, both exemplified this beautifully in the finale.
The last challenge from which we select the winner will always be a nail biting experience. However, this year felt a little different.
Since the finale was pre-taped, we had a viewing party with Josh, Christine and their families at Eataly in New York. I was able to relive the final day and its excitement alongside Christine and Josh.
When the challenge was happening for the last time in the MasterChef kitchen, we judges found ourselves experiencing an odd yet comforting sense of reassurance. They had both already nailed it. There was no worry of potential failure, no anxiety of a possible extreme mishap – not with these two.
In my eyes, they were already professionals on whom I could depend to produce food I knew I would not only enjoy but be proud of.
What was one of the toughest of tough calls, we had to reward Christine’s performance over Josh’s. The degree of talent she displayed overall in her menu surpassed his. But to be fair, it is difficult to think of what Josh put forth as something that “failed.” Though the title might have escaped him, a career in the culinary world will certainly not. Youthful, ambitious and fiercely passionate, he has it all, including the chops to carry him through a very challenging field. I expect nothing but great things from Josh, and will always be proud of his performance on MasterChef, no matter what he goes on to pursue.
Midway through of this year’s competition, my money would not have been on Christine for the win – and not just because of her disability – because she just didn’t come across as the typical frontrunner. With Christine, slow and steady won the race. She subtlety climbed her way to the top by performing consistently well, triumphing over her own self-doubt, all the while maintaining her signature grace and integrity. It was thrilling to watch. And I can say with absolute confidence there was no one more deserving.
Needless to say, if you are considering coming out for MasterChef season 4, you had better be prepared because the bar has just been flung over the moon. Thank you for sharing in this journey with us, and be sure to encourage any exemplary amateur home cooks you know to try out – season 4 auditions begin this month! All info can be found at masterchefcasting.com. And keep me posted on what you’re cooking and what wines you’re liking on Twitter at @JBastianich.