Who won Top Chef Kentucky? Everything you need to know about the Season 16 finale

Sara Bradley, Eric Adjepong, Kelsey Barnard Clark on the Top Chef Season 16 finale. Pic credit: Carmo Correia/Bravo

After 16 exciting episodes, we finally know who won Top Chef 16 Kentucky, and the gifted chef was a double winner — taking home both the Top Chef title and that of Fan Favorite.

Something to write about this entire season is that there were fewer people with emotional issues than in previous seasons.

By and large, the contestants liked each other, and while all of them wanted to win, there wasn’t much nastiness and any perceived sabotage that happened throughout the season seemed to have been unintentional.

This season of Top Chef felt more like a Great British Baking Show in terms of its general niceness, but it didn’t lack drama and the finale delivered.

Stop reading now if you do not want spoilers.

Top Chef Season 16 finale: What happened?

Sara Bradley, Eric Adjepong, Kelsey Barnard Clark entered a large theater in Macau where they were presented a video featuring some of their greatest triumphs, challenges and witticisms and they were told that only two of the finalists would be able to present their entire meal to the judges for the finale.

In true Top Chef form, the finalists were able to choose sous chefs from their former adversaries. They were only allowed to choose two apiece. Sara picked Eddie and David, Kelsey chose Brandon and Nini and Eric got Justin and Michelle.

A handful of former contestants were left out, and really, while you don’t blame anyone for choosing people whom they like and work well with, not being selected must have been an ego blow for those not selected.

So, the finalists planned their menus and knew that the judges would take their first course and only two that would go on. Then the final three spent some time shopping and enjoying each other’s company, with Eric knowing and being OK with the fact that he was the third wheel of the trio.

It proved to be apocryphal.

When Eric said that he was going to do a tartare, the likelihood of his journey ending sooner rather than later was painfully likely. When judge Tom Colicchio said the beef lacked flavor and the lotus chips were burnt, not much more needed to be said.

However, Eric left the competition with his usual grace. Kelsey and Sara decided to spend their last night of the competition enjoying each other’s company over dinner.

The next day, it was full on game on.

Kelsey Barnard Clark and Sara Bradley, the final two. Pic credit: Carmo Correia/Bravo

Who won Top Chef Kentucky?

Sara and Kelsey were able to do something most surviving chefs in the competition can’t normally do. They were both able to take the judges’ feedback from the previous day into consideration and make a few tweaks to their dishes.

Both chef’s menus were influenced by their Southern upbringings. Sara wanted to infuse what she had learned over her Top Chef journey into her dishes and opted not to make a dessert, while Kelsey stuck with dishes that spoke to her throughout her life in Alabama.

Both chefs nailed the first two dishes. Sara’s shrimp and Kelsey’s Buttermilk and Cornbread were judged as being sublime. Dish three was a meh for both, but both nailed the final course.

Judges Nilou Motamed, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot didn’t have an easy time with their decision, but this culinary journey that included Kentucky, Tennessee and Macau came to an end and the winner was Kelsey!

She had a great line about winning and losing in Alabama, “Beat everyone,” and Kelsey did.

Kelsey Barnard Clark, the winner of Top Chef Kentucky. Pic credit: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

Kelsey’s story was especially interesting as she is a mom to baby son Monroe and had to leave him and miss some major milestones in the slight chance of being able to make a better life for her family. She currently is the Executive Chef and Owner of KBC in Alabama.

She became interested in food in middle school and started a baking business. Her passion fully manifested herself when she dropped out of college, relocated up north and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, but her Southern roots and keen storytelling through food are at the crux of why she earned this top spot.

On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Kelsey was also named Fan Favorite and got an additional $10,000 from San Pelligrino. That was tough to pull off in a season where really nobody seemed to suck as a human being.

A bit of shade worth noting

Something that made the conclusion a bit less satisfying was the body language between Kelsey and her family. Sara even reminded her to hug her family, but Kelsey was warmer to her colleagues than she was to her spouse and mom. As was clear on the penultimate episode, her relationship with her mom seems a bit complex.

Her journey has had its complications and it is inspiring to see people power through difficult relationships and obstacles in order to achieve success.

When all was said and done, we saw Kelsey reunited with her husband Deavours and little Monroe and all seemed to be right in her world. It is also likely that this is not the last we have seen of Sara nor Eric too.

Top Chef airs on Bravo and Season 17 is expected to begin later on this year. 

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