Finale time in Puerto Rico. It's down to Stephanie, Lisa and Richard. Stephanie and Richard continue to put on their happy-for-you faces to Lisa, but Richard says he can't understand what she's still doing there.
Stephanie hopes to be the first woman to win the competition.
Padma time. They arrive for a challenge. Along with Tom and Padma are three big name chefs: April Bloomfield, Dan Barber and Eric Ripert.
The final challenge is a four course traditional meal starting with fish, going to poultry then red meat and finally, dessert. They're a little surprised to learn they'll be required to do a dessert.
Each of the three chefs has different proteins in front of them and will be serving as sous chefs. The chef with the most elimination wins was supposed to pick first, but Stephanie and Richard are tied.
They draw knives from the block. Richard lets Stephanie pick first, she draw No. 1 and picks Ripert. Richard takes Barber, which puts Lisa with April Bloomfield.
Dinner will be black tie for nine diners. They get three hours today and four hours tomorrow before the first course must come out.
They set to prep.
Lisa is going with flavors of Thailand and Vietnam.
Richard is trying to display a range of skills.
Stephanie is going for balanced food. Ripert approves.
Stephanie hovers as the master chef filets her fish.
They incorporate their special request brought from home. Richard brought liquid nitrogen. He's thinking Tabasco ice cream. The guest chefs are fascinated. "I think I just showed Eric Ripert something that he hasn't seen before," Richard says, "that's f------ cool."
Stephanie finds it a little weird that Lisa and April are getting along, since Lisa doesn't really get along with anyone.
They wrap up for the day, not entirely sure what they're doing tomorrow.
They arrive the next day and there are no sous chefs in sight. Tom tells them they're not coming. The chef's faces look as if their souffles have fallen.
Lisa says her menu will reflect her personality, with "in your face flavors." She clarifies this is just like her, for anyone who hasn't been watching all season.
Her menu will be grilled prawns, tom kha gai soup and dumpings, wagyu beef and black Thai rice pudding.
Richard is trying to tell a story with his menu of scallops, then guinea hen, foie gras and eggs followed by pork belly and finished with banana scallop and bacon ice cream. (Don't judge - salty and sweet, delicious.)
Stephanie is making red snapper then quail with lobster ravioli and quail egg followed by lamb medallions and finished up with ricotta poundcake. Stephanie says again she's not thrilled about making dessert.
Tom stops by to check in. Richard is on full freakout mode. Stephanie says she's not sure if her poundcake is going to work. Lisa is not worried about anything.
Tom is surprised by their reactions. He calls Richard "excited" by his many ideas. Lisa is "very calm." Stephanie is a little "nervous."
With two hours to go, Richard makes his bacon ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
Stephanie says her poundcake sucks. Lisa thinks she's doubting herself too much. Richard says it's tense and Lisa offers that she's not tense. She's very aggressively relaxed.
With 10 minutes to go, the guests arrive.
As they plate their food, each chef talks about why they want to win and think they will.
The chefs greet the diners, including the regular judges and the sous chefs from the day before and Puerto Rican chef Alfredo Ayala and Tim Zagat of Zagat's guide.
They explain their menus.
They serve the first course.
They like Richard's, but they think the chili in Lisa's is too strong. Tom calls Stephanie's "almost really good."
Then, the second course.
Ripert appaluds the complexity, but Tom says he fell in love with the technique. Gail and Tim love Lisa's soup. Stephanie's is praised, but Tom and Gail harp on the leeks.
For the third course Ripert thinks Richard's pork belly is under-seasoned. They don't love Lisa's sauce -- too sweet -- and April says the beef isn't cooked right. They like Stephanie's lamb with green olives. Ripert says it's the first thing he loves. "Richard's dish needs work, Lisa's dish is just pedestrian, Stephanie's is full of surprises and it works," says Tom.
Dessert time. Tim likes Lisa's, April warms to it. Dan likes Richard's. Stephanie's isn't anything special.
The judges discuss. They thank the chefs and head to judges table.
The judges are pleased, but Tom sees some missteps, from serious to small. They call the chefs out to see what their intentions were.
The first course appears to go to Stephanie.
On the second course, they tell Richard his became a bit muddled. Ted tells Lisa her soup was universally liked. Tom freaks Stephanie out by telling her her leeks weren't cooked. Lisa appears to win that course.
For the third, they're not thrilled with Richard's cooking of the pork belly. They don't love Lisa's sauce or her cooking of the waygu beef. Ted tells Stephanie her lamb was one of the more creative things of the night.
Chalk the third up to Stephanie.
On to desserts. Richard comes out slightly ahead. Stephanie loses ground.
They each make a final sales pitch to win. Richard says he feels like he choked a little bit and over-thought things. Tom looks befuddled.
"Well, that was revealing," Padma says of Richard the second he's out of sight.
"Overall I think we have very, very good meals," Tom says. He takes a poll of each course's winner.
Ted votes Lisa but they all say nice things about Stephanie.
On the second course, Gail pushes strong for Lisa's soup.
For the third, Stephanie's lamb, pistachios, green olives are still in the lead. On the dessert, Tom thinks Richard's was great. Gail says Lisa's was her favorite. Gail appears to lobby for Stephanie overall.
Back in the stew room, brought to you by Glad, Lisa offers up that she thinks Stephanie took the first and third and she nailed the second and third. Stephanie looks at Richard to see if the steam coming out of his ears is visible. He says nothing.
The morning birds are chirping as they announce a winner.
Tom talks to each of them, summing up their styles. He says they based their decision on which meal they'd have again.
And the winner is...Stephanie. Richard hugs her without heistation. Lisa tosses one in there, too.
"I won Top Chef! Holy s---, really?" Stephanie says in her interview later.
The other chefs come out to hug, too. Richard gets choked up talking about how disappointed he is. "One thing that's good about this is to kind of refocus and keep doing what I love to do."
"It's really exciting being the first female to win Top Chef," Stephanie says. "I'm so glad that I was able to pull through and finding out after all this hard work and maybe doubting it a little bit, this is just like a reaffirmation of, like, this is what I'm meant to do."