'Top Chef': The season 7 winner speaks!

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the outcome of last night’s Top Chef finale, avert your eyes, click to a different part of EW.com, and save the surprise for later. If you watched, read on to see what the winner had to say.

top-chef-kevinOn last night’s season-ender in Singapore, Kevin Sbraga, the 31-year-old chef from Hamilton, N.J., was named the 7th Top Chef, beating two New York-based contestants — Asian-leaning Angelo Sosa and “French housewife” Ed Cotton. Sbraga talked to EW about his lack of challenge wins, his worst dish, and what it felt like to get scolded by host Padma Lakshmi.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! Where did you watch last night?
KEVIN SBRAGA: At a restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a private party for friends and family.

What did you think of the finale?
It felt great. The whole room erupted.

How hard was it to keep your win a secret since the finale taped in late July?
It’s very hard. You start to have a regular conversation, you almost bring up something that you’re not supposed to. It’s very difficult.

What was the experience like—different or exactly like what you’d imagined it would be?
It was completely different and a lot harder. I thought I would’ve performed better and won more challenges, but I didn’t. The bottom line is I won the big one, the important one. I made it through the end. It was very, very challenging. I learned a lot through the competition.

What stopped you from winning challenges throughout the season?
I was over-thinking a lot of things, and I really wasn’t cooking from my heart. I was trying to cook from my head, and that doesn’t really work. You have to cook with emotion and passion.

Which dish were you most proud of?
Probably the dessert from last night.

Were you familiar enough with Singapore cuisine to do the Sling?
I researched it before I went out there. I was experimenting with some stuff before I left. I think it was light, refreshing, and really embraced the culture of Singapore.

How about the dish you were least proud of?
The duck from the baby food challenge. Everything went wrong. The dish never got finished, the duck never rested, it looked like a pool of blood, it was disgusting. It was definitely a timing thing, it was over-thinking it, it was just a bad day, period.

Padma wasn’t too happy that you didn’t know how to use a wok.
She gave me a hard time about it, but I didn’t go there to cook in a wok. I went there to cook the food I cook with the ingredients from there. So my focus wasn’t on the wok. I don’t normally cook with a wok, I don’t have one at home, I don’t have one at work.

If you could go back, would you have practiced with a wok?
No. It didn’t make sense for me to do it, especially for a Quickfire. I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but that wasn’t my focus.

Which fellow contestant were you closest to?
Definitely Kenny.

Were you surprised to see him go when he did?
Yeah, I was surprised and sad and disappointed.

Anybody in the house that you had trouble getting along with?
I got along with everyone. There was a difference in cooking styles and talent, but that was it. At the end of the day, I respect everyone, and everyone did a good job.

Some of the other chefs didn’t love your temper.
I definitely have a temper. Anyone who’s worked with me will admit that. I think passionate people react in passionate ways. There’s a lot of emotion. I could stand there and act like nothing, but I care about what I do. I just reacted.

What about the allegedly stolen pea puree? Were you around to witness any of that?
I did not. I wasn’t in the area at the time.

What do you have going on now?
Nothing as of yet, but I’m trying to open my own restaurant, most likely in Philadelphia. That’s the biggest goal.

Are you still working at Rat’s?
I am. I’ll be there until September 26.

And did your wife have her baby yet?
She did. A boy. It’ll be three weeks on Saturday.

Photo: Joan Leong/Bravo

Comments (74 total) Add your comment
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  • KG

    Congratulations to Kevin! Even though I was rooting for Ed, I’m glad he won. Good luck to him!

  • Sarah

    I know Kevin gets a lot of grief for having a wobbly performance throughout the season, but his dishes in the finale were the best and he even said he took risks. Good for him! Congrats Kevin!

  • elisabeth

    Worse season ever. Not to take away from Kevin’s win, but most of the talents were pathetically untalented.

    • AEH

      Stay classy!

    • laylagalise

      I thought it was a great season! Kevin’s a very talented chef. Need I remind you that Ilan and Hosea won Top Chef their respective seasons? At least this season’s winner deserved to be in the finals.

      • Steve

        ilan might be a fair comparison. hosea is not–he was very talented and beat a very strong stefan in the final. ilan and kevin are probably the worst 2 ever and in my opinion, season 7 was the worst overall.

  • nyc_apt_sitter

    agreed

    you win NO CHALLENGES and are THE TOP CHEF? They changing the name to the Best of the Pathetic?

    • Sally

      I agree. I know the show judges on current competion, and none of the past. But for the season finale, when a Top Chef is called, they should really look at the entire season. Look at the performance of the final 3 based on the entire season.
      I would have preferred Angelo win (or even Ed). But Kevin was way down on my radar.
      Disappointing season overall.

    • Rasha

      I thought Kevin won something? I wasn’t crazy about this season, but Kevin seemed to peak at the end of the season, like Casey did in Season 3. I was rooting for Tiffany though.

  • darclyte

    I don’ know about worst season ever, but after last season, anything would most likely be a let down. I think that’s what this season was. It was like the “rebound person” after a breakup. Kevin was the least deserving to win going into the final challenge, but after hearing the diner’s comments as well as the comments and questions from the judges, I knew that he had the win. Both Ed and Angelo seemed to fail at least part of 2 dishes, while Kevin didn’t seem to have those issues.

    • darclyte

      I’m also VERY glad that Ed didn’t win. From his monotone voice to his obsession with Angelo, and his general “a-hole” attitude towards him, I didn’t want him to win.

      • ccsbk

        Congrats to Kevin, who obviously cooked the best overall meal of the three!

        1. This wasn’t the worst season … that would go to the Hosea Rosenberg season. No disrespect to Hosea, but Stefan and Carla did not bring their ‘A’ game to the final. All that matters in Top Chef is the final. It’s not a cumulative competition! So, this time, all three guys ‘brung’ it, and Kevin edged them out. Well done!

        2. Ed is just bustin’ balls on Angelo. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but lots of guys I know constantly insult each other back and forth, sometimes too much. It’s both a friendship thing and a competitive thing, but meant with respect. Ed’s just a wise-ass, he’s not trying to insult anyone. I think Angelo (who also likes to mess with people) understands that.

    • DA

      Why does everyone think last season was so great? Besides Kevin G., everyone was so unlikeable. I almost quit watching the show entirely, and a lot of people I spoke felt similarly.

      • julie

        likability has nothing to do with their ability to cook. last season had some of the best chefs to date which is why this season felt like a let down.

      • DA

        Likability has plenty to do with reality competition TV shows. I’ve worked with enough chefs to know how unpleasant some can be, but it’s hard to root for a contestant when you don’t care for any of them. Viewers don’t get to taste the food, after all.

      • wino

        its about talent, not who you want to snuggle with. and it seems Emmy voters agreed, giving TopChef its first win for that particular season. the V Bros, Kevin and Jen would wipe the floor with all of these contestants.

      • julie

        yes, it has something to do some reality competitions but when most people talk about last year and how awesome it was they are talking about how awesome the chefs were cooking-wise, not likability. many people think michael votaggio was a jerk but won’t deny he could cook circles around this year’s group. in all the comments i have read, and there’s been tons of them, they are talking about cooking ability of last year, not likability. and your last comment, viewers don’t get to taste the food but we don’t get to pick the winner either so i guess your point of us liking them is not really valid in the competition sense.

      • DA

        The point is whether you want to watch the show the show or not. Who are the people saying Michael Voltaggio is so much better than anyone this year? Your friends, people on message boards? And just because someone or something wins an Emmy doesn’t make it the greatest. Most would say Seinfeld is funnier than Fraiser, even though Frasier won more Emmys. Having said that, I did cheer when Top Chef won this year, because overall I do like the program.

      • julie

        whether i watch the show or not or like the people competing isn’t going to effect the outcome, which is what i was trying to say. this isn’t one of those reality shows where viewers pick the winners so likability isn’t a factor in the outcome. that’s what i was saying. and your first comment was asking why people thought last year was better because, in your opinion, only one person was likable. all i said was, from what i have heard and read, people thought it was better because the chefs were better. not because they were nicer.

      • DA

        What I’m saying is that as Top Chef is a TV program, and personality matters. In a restaurant, I don’t care how the chef behaves as long as what I’m eating is good. On a TV show like Top Chef (or others like it), if most of the contestants are uncomfortable or annoying to watch, I’ll watch something else. I know the viewer won’t affect the outcome, but if everyone competing is rude and snippy, that doesn’t make it a great season for me. I love Tom and Padma, but that only goes so far. I really liked Season 5, however, which had a good mix of heroes, villians, and great chefs!

      • Steve

        regarding your comment about “how do you know michael v was better etc etc”… we know the judges have said on the record, and continue to say, that season 6 had “hands down the best food.” -tom collichio. those 4 finalists from that season won every single challenge from premiere to finale. literally every single one. they would mop the floor with kevin, any of them.

    • laylagalise

      Yeah, there was no way Ed could win after he gave 1/4 of his menu to Ilan.

  • Trblbrwyn

    I enjoyed the season,Last season did have better talent but almost too much. I love that Kevin won, not that I was rutting for him. But he came on strong at the end and really pushed himself. He played it way too safe and middle of the road throughout the season. But when it came to game time. He was spot on. Congrats Kevin

  • meg

    I also think having Michael as his assistant chef helped alot. He had one of the best top chefs ever and someone he had worked with before and friends with. That’s a huge advantage.

  • mermodfreres

    I am getting a bit disappointed with Top Chef in general — you can hobble along all the way to the end and if your last dish is great, you win. The caliber of the finalists from last season’s Top Chef was what I expected for this season but unfortunately, it didn’t pan out that way.

  • Nicole Lee

    Yes, likeability has something to do with it, but I, for one, loved a lot of the competitors in last season. That said, they were FAR more talented than anyone of these challengers. Just look at Ilan, Hung and Michael. All three of them, being previous winners, were FAR superior (both last night and in their respective seasons) that Kevin was at ANY POINT in this entire season.

    I am incredibly disappointed, and do not see myself coming back for the return season, as unfortunate as that is.

  • Tribunal

    All three of the finalists were bad picks. Angelo who I can’t stand was really the only one who lived up to the title. Although, I’m glad he did not win, he grosses me out. He looks like he has aids.

    • julie

      wow.

    • marlie

      Angelo grosses me out too, but because he said he had had crabs (joke or not). It was a stupid thing for someone who’s cooking your food to say. Ugh!

  • Joe

    It lost it’s luster. Hmmm….it’s kind of predictable, except DA was right. The people had the personality of a turnip.

  • Pat

    Of the 6 out of 7 sessions I have been watching this show, this was one of my favorites. The creativity of the food and the civility among the competing chefs that come through on the show – was refreshing from some of the other reality shows. The Singapore twist was a great touch!

  • Bdhact1

    The judges never take into consideration the over all season performance. You can mediocre all season and have one good challenge at the finals and get the title of Top Chef. why not just have one episode and the winner of the day be Top Chef.

  • JIMI4REAL

    worst Top Chef ever…Kevin never won a challenge but was named Top Chef? Hope next years Top Chef have more talented chefs.

    • Kate

      Kevin won 1 Elimination Challenge and Angelo won 2. Everyone really needs to get off this.

      • Ray

        for me, it’s more that he was in the bottom 5 times this season. no way should someone who was on the verge of going home all season win Top Chef.

    • boymommy

      Totally agree Jimi. I’ve watched Seasons 2, 3 4, 5 and 6. While some of the seasons had some obnoxious chefs, this season, by far, had the most. I will not be buying this Season’s Top Chef.

  • waning viewer

    Hey BRAVO!

    FIND SOME REAL CHEFS!

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