<<SPOILER ALERT:  This post contains information about the outcome of tonight’s episode of Top Chef, along with pictures and video of Carla Hall and Spike Mendelsohn from tonight’s watch party at Good Stuff Eatery.  Check them out after the jump!>>

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img_6711Still with us?  Then let’s get this over with:

GO CARLA!  YOU ROCK!

Our local Top Cheftestant totally smoked the competition this week, putting together a crawfish and andouille ‘gumbo’ that won praise from the judges for its authentic flavors and its firm grasp of the concept behind this week’s challenge.

And the fact that she did it while competing head-t0-head with her culinary crush Andrew D’Ambrosi (Spike’s bro from last season) made the victory that much sweeter.

img_6681I joined Spike and a few dozen of his closest friends at Good Stuff to watch the episode, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Carla there in the restaurant with her husband, Matthew.  As luck would have it, I was able to snag a seat just two down from Carla, giving me a prime spot from which to observe her reactions to the edited version of the challenge she went through last year.

Throughout the episode, Carla was gracious and sweet.  She took time to answer questions from anyone who asked, and she had plenty of positive things to say about her fellow competitors.  She did stand up and take a little bow when she was named as one of the top three in the Quickfire Challenge, but she was generally just watching the show and enjoying it with everyone else.

img_6689The crowd went wild for her when it became clear that her gumbo would carry the day against Andrew’s concoction.  They reached a fever pitch again when she received nothing but praise from the judges.  As Carla would likely say, you could really feel all of the love in Good Stuff and all of the good wishes from everyone in the room.

When Carla was announced as the winner, Good Stuff erupted into cheers.  So much so that they almost drowned out the announcement of the prize that Carla won: a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl this Sunday!

img_6701But the real drama had shifted from the television screen to the booth next to me, where Carla pulled out a pair of representational Super Bowl tickets and handed them to Matthew.  The poor guy didn’t even have time to process what had just happened.  When he finally realized that he was holding (basically) a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl, he broke out into a huge grin and started fanning himself with the tickets.

You have to give it to Carla – she really knew how to set up a surprise.  By alluding to Matthew and her stepson as the real football fans in the family during the episode, she laid the groundwork for giving Matthew the tickets tonight – several months later.  Even better, I overheard her saying that she had been telling Matthew that she was sending him and their son “on a trip” this weekend for quite some time.  When he pointed out that the Super Bowl was taking place this weekend, her response was something along the lines of “I’m sure you’ll be able to watch it where you’re going.”

img_6704From personal experience, I know how hard it can be to keep this kind of win a secret from loved ones, but the non-disclosure agreements that TV shows make you sign are strictly enforced.  Talk about frustrating!  But now that the cat is out of the bag (and now that Matthew knows where he’ll be headed this weekend), I’m sure Carla’s feeling great about the whole experience.

A big Hootie-Hoo! to Carla (and Matthew) for the win this week – here’s hoping she can carry the success through the rest of the season.