'MasterChef' champ wins despite chicken catastrophe [UPDATE]

whitney-miller-masterchef-320.jpgAmerica's first "MasterChef" is Whitney Miller despite a horrifying 11th-hour error during plating.

On Wednesday's (Sept. 15) two-hour finale, after several grueling weeks of Mystery Box and Individual Ingredients challenges and dreaded Pressure Tests she takes home a quarter million dollars and a cook book deal. She plans on starting a catering business with the money and her newfound fame.

[ UPDATE: Read what Whitney has to say about chicken, earrings, the competition, Food Network and more in Zap2it's post-win interview. ]

From Four to Two

The journey ends early for Sheetal Bhagat in the first head-to-head competition against David Miller as they both prepare clam chowder, apple pie and veal milanese. Lee Knaz is also out of luck when he goes up against Whitney Miller, cooking eggs benedict, chicken parmesan and cheesecake.

If Dave's going to drizzle olive oil atop traditional chowder and cook milanese in the oven with apple pie and have them come out tasty, those are definitely calculated risks that pay off. Whitney gives us a couple nail-biting moments when her no-bake cheesecake emerges perfectly from the fridge and later when her poached egg breaks, just before plating, causing a last-minute egg-poaching/plating rush.

Sorry, Lee and Sheetal. You did well.

The Grand Finale (Culinary Civil War)

It's Miller time! Miller vs. Miller. The culinary combatants get to choose their own app, main and dessert this time.

Whitney

App - Crispy corn cake with black eyed pea puree, shrimp and turnip greens pesto
Entree - Country fried chicken with creamy collard greens
Dessert - White chocolate bread pudding/souffle hybrid with raspberry coulis

david-miller-02-masterchef-320.jpg David

App - Scallop ceviche with a pea and mint soup
Entree - Beef Wellington (Gordon's fave, no pressure)
Dessert - Nectarine crepes

They're both chugging along and doing incredibly well, but in the last 10 minutes, Whitney is transferring her chicken from pan to plate when it plops ignominiously to the floor. She's obviously shaken and humbled, but cooks up another piece of chicken in seven minutes.

It's a tense, close race. David's curious appetizer impresses the judges, not only for its creativity but its unusual complementary combination of flavors. Unfortunately, although his beef wellington is very good, Gordon scolds him because it's not perfect so why did he take the risk? Whitney's seven-minute substitute chicken is thankfully cooked perfectly, and the collard greens are mouth pleasers. Both get thumbs up for their desserts.

In the end, the little southern girl takes home the big prize, and she declares, "My seven-minute chicken recipe is definitely going in the cookbook."

Kudos, Whitney!

But really, are any of us surprised? She's magic! Do you think the right person won?

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Photo credit: FOX