But Sbraga's work, including a coconut panna cotta, impressed the judges.
Sbraga will shortly leave the chef's position at Rat's, a French restaurant in Hamilton Township, N.J., managed by Stephen Starr. He has said he wants to open a small restaurant in Philadelphia.
Sbraga, son of bakers who trained at Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, has worked steadily in the Philadelphia area since 2004 - for Georges Perrier at his restaurant in Wayne (Le Mas, at the time), Jose Garces (as culinary director), and Starr. He was a contestant last year on the U.S. team at the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition.
Asked about the pressure of competition this week, he said: "I like it, though when I'm going through it, I don't like it. But I keep getting myself into these situations."
Each season of Top Chef brings together 17 combatants whose work is judged by chefs and celebrities. Contestants are eliminated during each episode. The series has added the terms Quickfire Challenge and Elimination Challenge to the lexicon, and made household names of host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio.
The chefs' personalities are given ample exposure, and dialogue can be salty, especially during prep and cooking.
The seventh season began shooting in April in Washington.
Sbraga's win is the latest television honor for a chef from the Philadelphia region in the last year. Garces won the Food Network show Iron Chef America and Jennifer Carroll, chef at 10 Arts in the Ritz-Carlton, made the finals of the last season of Top Chef; she is now shooting a spin-off of the show.
Contact staff writer Michael Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.