Let's just get this out there, while I had a stated preference going in, this was the least sad I could be where my personal fave didn't win. There a clear parts in the show where they have sat the chefs down and said, talk about what's coming up, and you could see Brooke and Shirley, not struggling, but while they were sad to see Sheldon go, they clearly like each other, and are happy to compete in the finale, and if they had to lose to someone at least want it to be someone like the other, but also aren't going to throw it to be nice.
So, they got to pick sous chefs from the eliminated contestants and while Shirley picked Casey partly to screw with Brooke, I don't think it's a bad choice, but I confess I still may be hanging on to Casey helping Carla in that finale which did not go well for Carla. (Nothing Casey did contributed to that. But just like they all started blaming Antonia for causing teams to lose, I have a similar probably entirely unfounded and unsupported by numbers other than these two times, well, and Restaurant Wars, theory about Casey.)
So Brooke chose Sheldon, which obviously is what I would have done. (You know, if I was a restaurant level chef who had managed to successfully make it to the finals twice.) And then Shirley chose Katsuji which was not what I expected but I think Shirley and Katsuji get along well, and he responds well to her in charge style, and as she pointed out, he speaks Spanish and will have input about Mexican cuisine, so it makes sense. And Brooke chose Sam who is again not who I would have gone with (Sylva was right there, you guys) but certainly I agree with her assessment that Sam is a calm presence in the kitchen and given we have seen Brooke gets distracted that was a wise choice.
And then the surprise sous chefs were each of their sous chefs from their restaurants which made both of them happy (although worried that the restaurant was untended). And their spouses and Brooke's child were there for a pre-finale dinner so it did seem that knowing these two finale chefs were not likely to tear each other apart in their interviews, the show decided to overwhelm them with surprise people they love, which is the kind of thing I can get behind.
There was some minor discussion about pork belly, which boiled down to Shirley had ordered some as back up in case her pigs weren't acceptable, and Brooke had short ribs but really wanted pork belly for that round, and Shirley was willing to share the pork belly, if the whole pig was okay, which after all that it was, so she shared the pork belly, but it should be noted said, well if I share my pork belly and you win, I want you to share the win. So.
The chefs came out to present their first course and discovered, in addition to their spouses their mom's were also there, which was lovely and emotional and really guys, I would be so there for less contestant sniping, and more surprise family.
The thing with the finale is that they keep the judges commentary so close to the vest (especially, I'm sure when there's a chance the chef's family is listening) so basically, it appears everything tasted good. Some courses one tasted a little better. They didn't love the ramen broth that Shirley made, and they didn't love the flan that Brooke made so, in the end it comes down to subjecctive stuff, which isn't unfair, it just is what it is in these things, especially when we can't taste it.
But Shirley's mom asking how to tell her daughter in English that she was proud of her, was seriously the most adorable thing, because she knew in this moment, in front of these people, to say that in English to Shirley was meaningful.
Both of these chefs are great. I'm sure their food was great. In the end the judges gave Brooke the edge. And we all got a finale that was fun to watch.