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Top Chef Finale Part 1 (spoilers)

I won't say a lot right now, as I'm tired and heading to bed....but I'm surprised Brian didn't do as well as I expected him to in the QuickFire; glad Casey won that one.

And Dale really pulled it out for the Elimination challenge! Based on various comments, I did expect Brian would be the one going home.

And finally - with the "Why you should stay and be one of the Final 3" speeches from all 4 of them - Dale, Casey, and Hung were so incredibly impassioned with what they had to say. You could see Chef Colicchio was impressed with all of them......until Brian had his say. I think that's when I figured he was going to be packing his knives and heading back home.

I'll read more tomorrow - especially looking forward to jfood's review. :-)

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  1. I thought Hung was so fake; but that' probably because i just don't like him at all.

    so he is technical; but i love when the chef said Casey's dish has Soul! Exactly what a Top Chef should be.

    2 Replies
    1. re: strephking

      Couldn't not see real quick how some might respond. :-)

      And when Chef Ripert said Casey's trout dish had soul, you could see Hung was perturbed......which is why I think he talked about soul in his food at Judge's Table. He definitely seems very rote - always looking to do the right thing, but as AMFM says below - he's technically perfect but hasn't learned to let loose his soul to allow it to be in his food.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        It was acknowledged last night that Hung was the best chef technically of all the remaining contestants. I think that Hung has the ability to blow it out of the water in the finale when he can cook what he wants to cook, using his ingredients brought from home, and is not constrained by the restraints they give them in the challenges. His main problem is that he is immature -- I think he lacks confidence to experiment with ingredients he's not familiar with (he said he'd never cooked elk before), and so he feels safer sticking with his classical training.

        Overall, I think the right three were picked for the finale -- and it seems to me that the title of "top chef" is up in the air. All of them have the talent to pull it out next week. Personally, I am rooting for Hung, but given they've never had a female winner of Top Chef, I think the odds are in Casey's favor for that reason alone.

    2. you definitely could tell (the colcchio being impressed part), i'd agree. and dale's resume says that he should be that good. so i'm glad a few months helped him pull it together.

      i thought it was interesting that hung was finally honest about the soul in his dish (that he didn't love this one and was cooking for the judges). every time he mentions his parents i actually feel sorry for him because he is SO the classic child (and he obviously should be grownup out of it now) who is just perfect perfect perfect to please the parents and often loses the sense of self in the process. i mean i really think he feels he has to win or he will disappoint his honor and his family. and he has mastered everything he has been taught but never learned to let loose enough to allow his soul into the food even though in his speeches i truly believe he knows it needs to be there. i like him. he's arrogant but he's honest. i liked when he said that he'd help out in a real kitchen but this isn't. he's right. this isn't. nothing wrong with playing hard.
      thought it was interesting to see them handle the challenges of the night. but i thought 3 was a cop out.

      10 Replies
      1. re: AMFM

        "i liked when he said that he'd help out in a real kitchen but this isn't. he's right. this isn't. nothing wrong with playing hard."
        Agree on this one - however.....I still think it could hurt him in the end, if former cheftestants come back to help. It could be a "what goes around comes around" situation.

        And with 3 finalists, that means MORE of of their former compatriots would be available to choose from, if they still get to choose 3 - so maybe Cliff and Lia will be on next week's show?

          1. re: ajs228

            LOL! Yes, thanks for catching that. I *said* I was tired last night in my original post! :-)

        1. re: AMFM

          < i mean i really think he feels he has to win or he will disappoint his honor and his family.> I thought that too... I just hope if he doesn't win that he won't pull a "Vatel!"

          1. re: AMFM

            "...who is just perfect perfect perfect to please the parents and often loses the sense of self in the process. i mean i really think he feels he has to win or he will disappoint his honor and his family."

            I started getting that feeling about him midway though the season. Couple that with his drive to be technically perfect, and yeah, you can see how he could easily lose his soul amidst it.

            I agree with Chef Tom -- Hung's technically perfect, he enjoys what he's doing, but overall his dishes, to me, don't have the "soul" that many others' do.

            1. re: AMFM

              Oh geez- am I the only one who saw that Hung basically fed the judges exactly what they wanted to hear. In the beginning of the challenge he was like "oh I hate this- who wants to cook with elk" but then flat out told the judges he loved the challenge. (He's always bored- how about you add some flair then?) Then he word for word stole what they said about Casey "I have soul, blah blah blah, cooking is my life". Then he went low enough to claim his immigrant status and how he cooks for his mom and boo hoo (um how come he has never spoke of this before?). I think he sees cooking as a job, not a career, not a lifestyle. Its what he does to pay the bills. Yes he is good at it, but that doesn't mean he has passion for it. I work with many immigrants, that came here as adults and they have feelings and emotions, albiet sometimes expressed differently- but they have passion in life and their careers. Like Hung says- any monkey can be trained- they would be technically good, but lack the emotional drive.
              Even with my rant, I admit he is a good chef but needs to emotionally grow up a bit; as well as be an executive chef (he is only a sous chef people) before he can be top chef.
              My vote is for Casey- not just because she's female but because she's been consistently excellent, is pleasant, and genuinely loves her work.

              1. re: jme1beachbum

                You have no idea what Hung has talked about -- this is an edited tv show. And you don't get to that level of mastery without passion -- his skills absolutely sing.
                I want to see Hung let it rip in the finale, and cook Casey under the table.

                Dale is the real wild card - that whole confession of bad year "I was dumped!" etc
                and now Stella Has His Groove Back.
                Dale v Hung, that's the passion play for me!
                Casey is a total bore.

                Although it would be interesting if she and Hung both threw down with the Asian ingredients in the finale....

                1. re: pitu

                  Eh- to each their own. Although saying I have no idea what he talked about is odd- because I wrote things he said on tv (edited or not). Also check out Brians podcast :)

                  1. re: jme1beachbum

                    That's the point --we only know the very limited things that the producers/editors actually included on tv, so when you write
                    "boo hoo (um how come he has never spoke of this before?)"
                    I want to tell you there's no way to know if he'd talk about that before.

                    1. re: pitu

                      I see- I thought you meant the stuff he actually said. Capece! :)

            2. everyone picked up that hung was saying what the judges wanted to hear. I was waiting for the other three to jump out of their skin at some of his comments. He is definitely "playing the game" as oppose to just cooking. Not cool.

              17 Replies
              1. re: strephking

                Totally disagree. Hung is passionate. He has worked incredibly hard and tried (and succeeded) to master every technical skill he has been taught. This takes dedication and passion. And soul. He is Vietnamese, arrived in the US when he was 9. He is not going to express himself in the same way as someone born here, or maybe read what the judges seem to be looking for as easily as the American chefs. Along with amuse-biatch, I find the constant harping on Hung as "lacking soul" to have a twinge of that "inscrutable Asian math-geek robot" stereotype, and I am sick of hearing about how the Americans "cook with heart and soul" even if they are sloppy and non technical. It's the same lame excuse for how poorly American schoolchildren perform (but they are so great at cheerleading and football).

                Go Hung. In fact, it's pretty great that the final three represent an immigrant, a woman, and a gay boy. Perfect!

                1. re: kenito799

                  I'm with you, kenito. Hung may come off as cocky and arrogant, and he probably is a real pain in the a-- to be around sometimes, but I find him to be genuinely passionate about what he does. I didn't really like him at first, but as the competition has progressed, he's kinda grown on me. And I get a little annoyed that he seems to get portrayed as The Stephen or The Marcel of season 3. He's got way more heart than they did.

                  Personally, I think Casey will probably win, which is okay by me. But I wouldn't mind seeing Hung take the title. Go Hung!

                  1. re: tachis

                    You should know that Hung and Marcel are very good friends. Maybe that is why they are protrayed similarly. Hung may have a passion for what he does and have the skills which could qualify him to win. The thing with Hung is that the show is highlighting his as not being a nice person. So can he work well with others as a Top Chef will need to, or does his skill alone let him win.

                    For me - I want to see Casey win, she may not have the refined skill of Hung, but combined with personality and her passion, I hope she takes the title.

                  2. re: kenito799

                    I totally agree with you Kenito!!!! I think the judges have totally stereotyped Hung. I was moved by Hung's stories of escaping from Vietnam as a child. I think a lot of Hung's arrogance probably comes from having to struggle to assimilate in a country, where, let's face it, people are not always very kind to those who look or sound different. It's a defense mechanism. To be honest, I don't think Casey's dishes have more "soul" than Hung's. Collicchio seemed to suggest that Hung's dishes lacked "soul" because he wasn't using Vietnamese flavors... But why should Hung have to turn to Vietnam to give his food soul? Hasn't he had more experiences than being born in Vietnam to shape his life and palate?

                    1. re: Petitpois

                      I thought the same thing about Colicchio's Vietnam comment. Hung seems to love the subtleties of fine French cuisine and there is no reason why he should be expected to cook Asian food. That is who is he as a chef. On the other hand, remembering his amazing geoduck and black chicken dish, it will be really great if he does work in some Vietnamese flavors.

                      1. re: kenito799

                        And how could someone forget that haute Vietnamese cusine is very heavily influenced by French cusine.

                        1. re: kenito799

                          "You're asian, cook asian food!"

                          I'd love to see Colichio say to Tre. "Hey, you haven't cooked any soul food yet!"

                          I don't see why he would necessarily feel the need to cook vietnamese food or even use any of that in his food. Hung has a style, and he cooks that style.

                          In the long run, it might help him though...who knows.

                          1. re: Xericx

                            Oh man, can you imagine if Colicchio requested fried chicken and watermelon from Tre? I think the producers at Bravo would probably have the business sense to edit that out if he went that far, but it really isn't that much better to request Asian food from Hung.

                            I can see how some people found his response last night forced, but I think it might be more that Hung's assumption was that pouring his heart out would be inappropriate, and he probably suppresses a lot of that emotion on a daily basis -- as many people who want to be functional and have had hard pasts do -- and that he suddenly realized that if he didn't let out who he was, it was going to hurt him. I therefore agree that he only spilled his guts for the game, but disagree that what he said was disingenuous. I see nothing wrong with what he did.

                            1. re: Adrienne

                              I agree I felt Hung needed to let people understand his love of cooking and family history and how far he has come with the help of both parents. Yet, I do not understand the expectation of his "roots" coming through in his food or expecting some Asian flavors from Hung is that much of a stretch or insult. Especially since in the episode Hung spoke of the many spices/foods he brought with him for the final challenge just for that purpose. He is a unique contestant and I hope he has an opportunity to show his true style whatever that may be.

                              1. re: Adrienne

                                Hung did say that comfort food (or home cooking- not sure of exact quote) for him was steamed fish and rice- If those are the things that brought him comfrt and remind him of home, maybe we can see some of that instead ofjust what he was formally trained to do.

                                That said- many of his dishes looked fantastic to me, but his perverse way of spininng his gaffes at judges table seemed almost manipulative.

                              2. re: Xericx

                                (Um shrimp and grits anyone...best dish from tre?)

                          2. re: kenito799

                            This is total BS. They first criticized Hung for being expert technically but not having passion for cooking. His speech then fed back to them what they wanted to hear. He went on and on about how much love and passion he puts into cooking when the entire season he basically acted like a robot in the kitchen.

                            1. re: RBCal

                              er, that's an awful lot of glee expressed on his face for a "robot"
                              Hung clearly enjoys his mad skills. What would you really rather see:
                              Casey mushing up an onion like a grade schooler or Hung dismembering a chicken like an expert?

                              1. re: pitu

                                IMHO, Hung is more passionate about cooking than anyone who has been on Top Chef in any of the seasons. Whether that translates into "soul" in his food, I don't know, but people saying Hung is some sort of automaton, I don't understand.

                          3. re: strephking

                            Actually Gail says in her blog that she wished they had included more of what Hung had said, about how cooking is his passion and how he grew up with it as a guiding force. She said he was vehement and sincere, and she hasn't been a fan of his on her blogs. I think he is actually the most passionate of them all.

                            1. re: traceybell

                              i've been prretty clear all along in my comments that i think hung is a pompous ass...so i was genuinely surprised - and pleased - to see his 'human' side emerge a little bit tonight. the way he admitted he didn't stand behind his dish 100%...that was very out of character for him. and regardless of whether or not he was 'playing' to the judges with his talk about passion, the sound bites throughout the episode where he talked about his family and personal history were the first 'real' tidbits he's revealed about himself as a person. it was a welcome change.

                              of course, i still want casey to win.

                          4. As far as personalities go, I liked Brian the best. He's the guy I'd want to share a kitchen with. And although he had a couple of missteps, I really loved his style of cooking. Yet, I don't think he is the best cantidate for Top Chef. That should be a toss up between Casey and Hung. Dale, I think, coasted by for most of the challenge and obviously put up a good fight in this episode. I don't think, though, that he has earned the Top Chef title

                            I want to see Casey win this. Although Hung has the technical skills (as has been stated), I think Casey has her heart in this competition. Hung's response to Tom's questions seemed calculated to me, even if his words were true. I'm not sure how much of this is due to editing, but I dislike Hung's attitude and would not enjoy cooking with him. But he definitely has the skills and knowledge to win this.

                            It'll be a good finale. I'm glad they let in three for the last run because otherwise that would have meant one of the best chefs would have gone home.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Agent Orange

                              i've been a big defender of brian 'the person' all along, but i think we all saw this one coming. he's been a pleasure to watch and seems like a great guy...and based on the awards he's won and the excellent reviews he has garnered at oceanaire the guy can obviously cook. but his performance on this show clearly didn't warrant a trip to the finale in comparison to the other three chefs.

                              you had a nice run malarkey...we'll miss you!

                            2. All in all, a very good episode. I thought Eric Ripert was an excellent, fair and articulate judge - for instance, I liked the way he stuck up for Casey's sauce even though her elk was undercooked. Whatever ego Chef Ripert may have, thankfully it didn't make an appearance unlike some previous guest judges. I actually thought they might send all four to the finale, as it seemed like a very difficult decision and the editing didn't give it away (at least to me). Looking forward to the finale now (which airs when? not next Wed., my DVR didn't pick it up and it would've).

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Debbie W

                                As long as we're armchair psychoanalyzing Hung, I'd venture the notions proposed above are not racist or anti-Asian. I think he's just displaying classic behavior of some immigrant children and their parents. He's the good son. I've seen the behavior in my own Jewish family and in many others from around the globe.

                                1. re: noisejoke

                                  i totally agree and while i was afraid of coming across as racist myself one of my best friends growing up (a first generation asian immigrant herself) wrote an article on that very topic published in an esteemed journal. she's now a social worker for asian american children in NYC. they are pushed to succeed very hard and hung's behavior is classic. i hope he can let his soul in because i truly believe he is passionate about it but mildly frantic and afraid to let go of following the techniques he has OBVIOUSLY mastered and have served him so well and led him so far in life to this point.

                                  i like casey too by the way. and think dale was having a confidence crisis that seemed to dissipate in his time at home and the chef that matched the resume came back. should be an interesting final.

                                  and honestly i think they'll get a good winner this time however it goes. i would eat at any of their restaurants.

                                  1. re: noisejoke

                                    More armchair psychoanalysis...

                                    I believe Hung is kind of caught between two worlds of cooking - Vietnamese/Asian and French/Western.

                                    Regarding Tom C's comment to Hung about not using Asian flavors in his cooking.

                                    There are a couple things that Hung could be thinking "Everybody is doing the Asian influence thing, that's not unique!" or "You probably will not like real Asian cooking"

                                    If memory serves me right, Hung did some Asian inspired dishes early on that were hit-miss. Afterwards, Hung played it relatively safe by relying on his superior "classical" skills, but he's definitely has to come up with his own style/inspiration/niche.

                                    At the judging table, Hung implied he was going to let loose. I'd like to see him just go all out and blow them away with great and unique flavors.

                                    1. re: dave_c

                                      the thing is (if history serves me here) it's not like french and vietnamese have no tie in either. no one seems to bring that up but it's like indian and british cuisine - some things just historically happen...

                                      1. re: dave_c

                                        I agree - it will be interesting to see how all three move forward with being able to cook what they want.

                                        And I do hope the producers take that factor into account next season - give them fewer restrictions (using only items from a vending machine/gas station, or limiting them to $10 to feed an army) and just let them do their thing.

                                        1. re: dave_c

                                          I've actually heard this from some chefs in Asian/upscale/fusion-y places...if they serve something authentic -- no one "gets it" or orders it. Anthony Bourdain on the panel might...and in this case, the food still needs to fit the context of the contest, i.e., the coq au vin.

                                          Expectations related to race and ethnicity are a funny but often loaded question and in this case subjective to particular tastes.

                                          I mean, should the judges expect the women chefs to cook "chick food" or Tre to do southern soul food? It would be insulting so why not give the same benefit to the Asian guy?

                                          Also from a competitive context, wouldn't you want to win with the skills you were trained in and use every day? For Hung that's not Vietnamese food and yet the expectations might be for him to cook Vietnamese food or harder yet - a fusion version. Seems to be sort of a no win situation.

                                          1. re: ML8000

                                            I think the issue isn't that he is asian and doesn't cook vietnemese food, but it seems to me that he talks about watching his mother cook at home, his family, his dad owning a vietnemese restaurant, etc. being his major influences, but you don't see that in his cooking AT ALL. That is what leads me to think he is just trying to tell the judges what they want to hear. I understand it is not what he trained in, etc. but a good chef personalizes (i.e. puts soul in) by taking training that they recieve and combining that with personal experience (i.e. spending time in your families vietnemese kitchens). It seems to me that the judges were dead on with this one. Technically good, but it is almost like the kid that everyone thinks is a genius because he can spit back everything the teacher said word for word, but in reality, he can't put it into his own words.

                                            1. re: dagoose

                                              But it might be about him being Asian if the judges since no one else was held to this standard or expectation or somehow think he should be "should" be cooking something Asian. I get the part about pulling from personal experience...but again, would the judges expect Tre to cook soul food?

                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                I would if Tre talked about his inspiration coming from his father's soul food restaurant

                                            2. re: ML8000

                                              When Ripert commented that Hung's dishes were the best technically, but "lacked soul", Colicchio might have then felt comfortable spinning off a slightly different, but sort-of related criticism about Hung's lack of "native" cooking, which was weird. The regular judges were definitely in awe of Ripert. I had to laugh when Gail said she didn't like someone's dish, but when Ripert disagreed, she quickly corrected herself and said it was good. ;-)

                                        2. re: Debbie W

                                          i had the same thought. i almost believed they'd send all four...until we started hearing more details from judges' table. as soon as ripert said the shank was dry and questioned the cheese selection in brian's dish, i knew he was a goner.

                                          pretty impressive the way dale managed to turn a near-disaster into a victory.

                                          i truly hope hung does showcase his passion in the finale, and cooks with real soul. it would be a shame to think that there's nothing else behind all his amazing technical skills.

                                          1. re: Debbie W

                                            Agreed - I also think it was a great episode. I got a chuckle out of the comment made by Dale or Brian I think about seafood chefs not really thinking of trout as seafood? What's that about? I know it doesn't come directly from "the sea" but still .... I'm hoping Casy wins.

                                          2. I must say, I was also a little disappointed at what Brian came up with. Once he went through his explanation... I had a feeling that would be the end for him.

                                            As for the speeches, I have so much respect for Hung, but there is a part of me that thinks he is so fake. But maybe, he is just socially not that refined. I am pulling for Casey, which is a surprise. The first half of the competition, I wanted her out. It's just hard for me to relate to her since she seems so... cold at time.

                                            Dale, I love that guy. Who knows, maybe he will pull it out, but that would really be an underdog story. In the end, my money is on Hung, but I am really hoping for Casey to take it.

                                            Great episode though... can't wait for the finale!!!


                                            1. Casey got lucky, because I don't think the judges would've had a choice but to send her home too if they had eliminated 2 contestants instead of 1. There was no suspense at tonight's judging table, that's for sure.

                                              Hung seemed a little less cocky and annoying tonight. I'm still rooting for Casey to win, but it's anyone's game at this point.

                                              1. I'm wondering if Elk threw them for a loop? I spent 20 years growing up in Colorado and can only think of a couple of places serving it. I'm not sayng it's bad or anything, just foreign to most people and cooks. It's good that the show challenges them, but I also got the sense that none of them were really confident with their dishes. They should be challenged with different fare, but when it comes down to the final 3, it seems best that they take the familiar and make it their own.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: tastyjon

                                                  tastyjon, it seemed pretty clear from the contestant reactions when they learned what the main course would come from, that Casey and Dale were very confident/familiar with elk. Hung would be no stranger to venison from French/Viet cuisine and was only put off because he felt it was boring, and Colicchio said his was the most perfectly cooked. Casey erred in taking her familiarity into assuming her preference for rare (purply as Ripert's 'bruised/black and blue' comment implies)would suit the judges's, who probably expected deep ruby in the center. That just leaves the seafood expert who flopped with the trout and said it wasn't really seafood (but then there's char and steelhead....) cheers

                                                2. Great episode - How fantastic that the final four had - per Collichio - an "extraordinary amount of talent." I hope they take this in to account as they are casting Season 4 in Chicago (Go Cubs!).

                                                  What a great final 3 we have! I'd take these three over Season 3's final two (Marcel & Ilan) anyday. While Hung is not my favorite, he's obviously very talented. A win for him would not be a travesty.

                                                  What intrigued me was his attitude that he couldn't "get behind" the dish because it was boring, he wanted to cook the Hung way, etc.. It made me contemplate how I/we/they all cook - who are we cooking for? Ourselves? Others? Or a little bit of both? Which way makes the best Chef? I don't know....just something I was thinking about.

                                                  Dale made me tear up a bit with his speech.

                                                  Other points to ponder:

                                                  In the QF - Hung said his dish was more refined than Casey's - what about his Monkey's dish?

                                                  Where the h#ll does Brian get all these hats? Did he bring a big case of hats with him along with all his ingredients??

                                                  My husband commented on that Brain would be fantastic hosting his own cooking show. I'd agree. He'd be much better than a lot of them out there.

                                                  Still on Team Casey - but could easily jump to Team Dale!

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Mushroom

                                                    i agree, these are the best/most talented finalists they've had...although harold & tiffani were pretty impressive. it was good to hear tc finally give them props...they deserve it.

                                                    dale's speech was definitely the most heartfelt and impassioned. he's clearly been through a rough past year, and when he metioned how his restaurant had closed, something about his situation/history was very reminiscent of dave martin from season 1...but unlike dave, dale seems to have a bit more control over his sensitivity - he doesn't have an hysterical meltdown every week. anyway, it was nice to see that he has finally managed to pull it together & rediscover his inner chef. i was skeptical about him for a while, but hopefully he'll wow us in the finale.

                                                    as for brian, i've said it so many times already...he's obviously a talented chef, but i think it was his charisma that made him so enjoyable to watch...you're right, he'd make a great host, but it was no surprise that he went home last night. based on his performance throughout the season he just wasn't finalist material.

                                                    one last thought...following dave's "i'm not your bitch, bitch!" outburst in season 1, someone created a t-shirt emblazoned with the famous phrase. i think it's high time for hung to have one that reads "that dish is so easy, even my monkey could make it."

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      You know, you've got to wonder if Hung does actually own a monkey. He's mentioned it so often I wouldn't be surprised if he's got it passing him spices in his kitchen at home.

                                                      1. re: ajs228

                                                        really. has it truly been THAT often because i know the one reference (which was in an episode i've missed) but i've never consciously heard him refer to a monkey. truly.

                                                        1. re: AMFM

                                                          He has referred to his monkey being able to do something another cheftestant was making at least 3 times. Often enough that it is cause for comment on various blogs/message boards. :-) I wouldn't be surprised if someone comes out with a t-shirt with Hung's phrase like they did with Dave's particular phrase. :-)

                                                  2. They said something that I've always thought about Hung. very good technically but void of any soul or passion.

                                                    The think Hung is a great cook and could make a good job of running someone else's kitchen but I don't know if he has the heart or vision that great chefs have.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                      well put. Hung is awesome in so many respects, but I think that is what I feel is lacking from him. There is just something lacking from him.

                                                    2. I had a great time watching this episode last night. I really enjoyed it. However, I'm still not a Hung fan. I did appreciate what he said in his 'bid for a finale spot' but his b*tching and moaning about the elimination challenge made him sound like a baby. It sounded like he thought it was beneath him. According to him, the only good challenge was the CIA one. I can appreciate where he came from etc, but I'm still not a fan.

                                                      I've been rooting for Dale since the start. I'm glad he won last night. I hope he kicks some butt!

                                                      1. What is all this hoo-ha about "heart" and "passion"? How can anyone decide if anyone else has their "heart" and "passion" in something from the outside? Just because some people on the show are more appealing then others doesn't justify declaring that they cook with "soul." These are professionals, and I expect them to love what they do but not get so carried away with "passion" that they leak bodily fluids into the food. Just be honest and admit you'd rather bunk in the sorority with Casey or sip Cosmos with Dale.
                                                        Also, am I the only one whose heart sank when the call-in poll showed that a HUGE majority wanted Hung out? You don't have to be Al Sharpton to see a bit of xenophobia in that. Bad call on the producers' part in setting that up.

                                                        44 Replies
                                                          1. re: Petitpois

                                                            Me three
                                                            I was hoping that the people Hung appeals to didn't particiapte in the texting poll
                                                            I sure didn't!
                                                            : )
                                                            I'm glad this thread has drawn out the pro-Hung faction on C'hound!

                                                          2. re: newhavener07

                                                            I was really surprised the cell phone voters wanted Hung out too! Come on, even if you don't like him, it would be boring without him! I can't wait to see how they will do the three-way finale.

                                                            I don't think anyone can work hard enough to master technique like Hung has without having passion. Do people think he was somehow born with those skills? Oh yeah, he downloaded them into his central processor. He's a robot after all.

                                                            People express "heart" and "passion" in different ways.

                                                            1. re: kenito799

                                                              kenito, you're absolutely right...how [and if] one chooses to express soul, passion, heart, etc, is very individual and unique. the problem is that everyone also INTERPRETS these words to mean different things.

                                                              i think all this talk is really more accurately about individuality or creativity. hung has really been playing it safe in the sense that he sticks to the basics, and aside from the occasional departure [i.e. his smurf village dessert plate], he never really appears to be having FUN with it or taking risks. every other chef at some point in the competition has acknowledged that he or she chose to do something risky, different, or a little 'out there.' sometimes the results have been great, other times...not so much. but hung is the only one who always sticks to his traditional knowledge and skills...classic french techniques & flavors. these are things he learned or was taught...not things that evolved from withi him through inspiration or personal expression. one of the only times he didn't stick to his formula was in the latin challenge when he uncharacteristically tried to play to the clients' palates by doing a traditional dish for them...and his arroz con pollo was a failure.

                                                              casey's cuisine at her restaurant is primarily pan-asian...but rarely would you guess that from the flavors she has used throughout the competition. instead of regularly defaulting to her comfort zone, she's been creating dishes that explore other cuisines and techniques. i'm guessing ripert's comment about her dish having soul was probably about the inspired combination of unique flavors that surprisingly managed to elevate the dish. trout and corn, sure...but with grapes? who'd have thunk?

                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                This is a great assessment. I completely agree with you that "cooking with soul" is really a buzz phrase to stand for a combination of non-technical elements that improve the overall food product, and that Casey really excels in creating new and interesting dishes based on an understanding of ingredients and flavors that seems, to me, to surpass the rest of her competition.

                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                  I have to wonder if Hung's "lack of soul" is from not having the proper ingredients available. I can't imagine that the Top Chef kitchen stocks all the top quality Asian ingredients that he prefers so perhaps he'd rather not do it if he couldn't do it well. Strikes me as a Hung like thing to do. I'm very intrigued to see what he will do in the finale with his Asian ingredients because I would expect his creativity to fuse his classical French training with his Vietnamese upbringing.

                                                                  I also disagree with people who say he lacks passion. I can't imagine someone learning such incredible knife skills if he didn't have passion for cooking. I think his arrogance may play into this image of an uncaring technician but it just seems to me that he doesn't really care what people think of him, except for the few chefs he really respects. I'm personally not like that but I know a lot of people who are like that.

                                                                  1. re: jeffreak

                                                                    <his arrogance may play into this image of an uncaring technician> That air of arrogance is often worn as a mask for insecurity.

                                                              2. re: newhavener07

                                                                Based on everything that has gone on with Hung throughout the season - Hung declaring himself the bad guy from the very first show; Hung acting like an ass as he dropped food and bottles of truffle oil and said "not my fault!"; Hung's disdain for a lot of things, and the apparent ongoing dislike of Hung by many fans of the show for these and many other reasons, I'm not surprised at all at the majority wanting Hung out. I most certainly would *not* call it xenophobia. He has had a large hand in setting himself up for that dislike; not just the producers/editors.

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  Marcel was an annoying little tool--who provoked violence in his fellow chefs--but he never had 70 percent of viewers wanting him out.

                                                                  1. re: newhavener07

                                                                    Let's not forget what a tool Ilan was. I'm sure he got his share of people wanting him out (myself included).

                                                                    And does that mean everyone that wanted Tiffany off in Season 1 (once again, myself included) was a mysogynist?

                                                                    1. re: Mushroom

                                                                      Word. That's not xenophobia - it is: Hung's an asshole. Definitely, along with Howie/Joey, the least likeable chef - cocky, arrogant, etc. People probably voted on who they liked, not who was the "best chef".

                                                                      1. re: cor

                                                                        Well not only who they liked, but who's food seems fun. Hungs dishes may seem technically perfect, but how much more fun does it seem like it would be to eat Dale's organized chaos?? Or Brian's circus of many cheeses?

                                                                        1. re: cor

                                                                          You're right on, there...plus I think people want to see him get eliminated because it *might* send him a message that he isn't as great as he thinks he is. Its not xenophobia, its simply dislike for arrogant people who refuse to take responsibility for mistakes or accidents they caused - not to mention can't take a bit of constructive criticism.

                                                                          1. re: glorypea

                                                                            You have summed up exactly why I do not want to see Hung win the title of Top Chef. You nailed it for me. He has no respect for the other chefs mainly because he thinks he's above them. He may be, technically speaking, but there's more to being a great chef than technique. IMO

                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      don't disagree but i think some of it was that hung knows marcel and that was made obvious to everyone (i don't know why) from the beginning which strikes me as an editing choice to portray hung as the "bad guy" since he was friends with last year's bad guy. i think Hung knew going in that that was his role. i mean for ratings they need one.

                                                                      i'm a fairly late convert to hung's side (and if you must know it was the the hilarious smurf cereal plate with the egg sun that did it - i thought that was HILARIOUS and had soul!) so they did their job of portraying him for drama's sake but i think they're cutting back more than they did other years because it doesn't seem to work to label till the end. and because maybe he's really not that bad. tom's said he's a great chef and just honest that he didn't come to make friends but to prove himself...

                                                                      1. re: AMFM

                                                                        Hung does play the bad guy by refusing to help the others, but he's certainly not as unlikable and surly as Howie. Especially after hearing more about his story last night, how could so many people want to get rid of him? Disturbing. Makes me despair that we're so willing to turn on the immigrants that make this country great.

                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                          Oh honestly. I don't think it has anything to do with disliking immigrants. I think that people just don't like arrogant and unfriendly people. Hung is clearly an excellent chef, and I wouldn't be upset if he won, but I can understand why people would want him out.

                                                                          And actually, it shows how much the casting has improved on this show, because I would be happy with a win by any of the final three, which has certainly changed from last year, where I disliked both of the final two and didn't have much confidence in their cooking abilities either.

                                                                        2. re: AMFM

                                                                          Agree on the placement of Hung in the bad guy position. They definitely have "character roles" to fill, it seems.

                                                                          And I will definitely agree with the fact that Hung has grown on me...he turned the corner for me with the Smurf cereal plate as well. He had *fun* with that challenge - didn't expect to win - didn't TRY to win. But he had *fun*. And that had been sorely lacking in his previous challenges - showing a human side to himself.

                                                                          I know some will say the way he acts is just the way he is. I know. But I don't have to like him that way. When he showed he could bend from his rigid "technique is king" format a little and show a sense of humor is when I began to like him a bit more. I just prefer Casey to win this time and will root for her. :-)

                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            I think Hung has fun every time he cuts a chicken or dices a vegetable...what is more fun than making a sublime dish out of geoduck guts or perfectly sous-vided chicken? He does tell us when he is not having fun, like having to cook elk (Rocco agrees with him, he says in his blog that no one likes to cook or eat elk, it's just expected on menus in Colorado...that sounds like a debatable point! I am sure elk has many virtues).

                                                                            I don't get what you mean by fun. Fun like crazy Brian has fun? Fun = crazy, irreverent, loud?

                                                                            1. re: kenito799

                                                                              No, definitely *not* fun like MALARKEY! and his many personalities. :-)

                                                                              Fun as in showing he's enjoying it. He just seemed looser and more relaxed with the Smurf cereal river and egg sun. Yes, I'm aware it's a competition. They're not there to have fun. But he doesn't seem to relax. Even getting off the plane, he was practically rude to the other cheftestants. Yes, he's not there to make friends. But come on - be a *little* sociable before getting back into the competition. Is it an offshoot of how he was raised and proving himself as an immigrant? Perhaps.

                                                                              There is just something about him that rubs me the wrong way. And I'm obviously not the only one.

                                                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                                                it's just that when hung claims to be having fun, it seems almost forced...like he feels obligated tok prove something. the others don't have to SAY they're having fun, it's clear, whether from facial expressions, demeanor, or energy, that they're enjoying themselves. even malarkey's 'fun' occasionally seems forced or a little too contrived, but most of them manage to express it in a relaxed manner.

                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            I agree with you 100%. I think Hung's continuous pissing and moaning and refusal to take responsibility for any of his actions has worn on people. I know he exhausts me!

                                                                          3. re: newhavener07

                                                                            I don't think it had anything to with Hung's ethnicity. If people were voting their prejudices, I think more people would've wanted Dale out than Hung. There's lots of homophobia in the world, too. I just don't think Hung has endeared himself to viewers this season. He kept telling us that he doesn't care what people think. This is what comes of that.

                                                                            1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                              Re: race and ethnicity and Hung. I guess someone has to say it...so I will.

                                                                              How many Asian or Asian American men have you seen in mainstream American TV and had a positive reaction to, or their roles, and that weren't stereotypes...and I mean that over your complete life time? (David Carradine doesn't count.)

                                                                              My guess is you can count the typical response on one hand. I'd actually be willing to bet you can't find more then 5.

                                                                              I think this biases people's perception of Hung and viewing TC...good or bad.

                                                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                                                excellent point. and even the judges are guilty. after all, we've never heard colicchio say to casey, "hey, you're from texas, right? so why don't we see more southwestern influence in your dishes?"

                                                                                i don't think it's about maliciously-intentioned xenophobia or racism...just knee-jerk sterotyping.

                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                  I agree it's not malicious or out and out racism. Unfortunately however stereotypes and racism are still related. In this case I'd just call it a bit of a double standard, perhaps unintentional and well meaning but that doesn't make it right.

                                                                                  I mean, com'n, what if someone said to Tom Colicchio he should be cooking red sauce pasta (to mobsters no less) because he's Italian and not steaks from Omaha. There's the real question.

                                                                                2. re: ML8000

                                                                                  "You've got to be carefully taught..."

                                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                                    I think the show itself is guilty of highlighting the most conveniently Asian aspects of Hung -- but I disagree that people wanting him off is necessarily a racially charged issue. They're responding to the negativity they're seeing on screen, which is real from the point of view of watching the show and not knowing how much was cut out.

                                                                                    Anyway, everyone loved LeAnne! And I definitely agree that if the fan base were prejudiced, Dale would have gotten more votes for being kicked off.

                                                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                                                      ML8000, I appreciate the awareness you, kenito, newhavener and several others have of the bias that seeps into how TC is edited and produced. They're creating drama and theatrical characters out of everyday working people, and playing on archetypes/sterotypes is a great shortcut to provoke audience interest.

                                                                                      An ideologically-neutral way bias gets applied is how the less telegenic contestants are nearly always eliminated fairly early in the proceedings, and we never see the qualified aspirants who might have comparable qualifications but are deemed unsuited for tv cameras.

                                                                                      Folks can deny personal feelings of xenophobia, but isn't it curious how Hung gets favorably compared to two previous "heavies" Marcel and Stephan, both of whom were given a whiff of foreigness/Frenchness/effeteness? Bias is all the more effective when its carriers, like transmitters of a virus who stay healthy, are unconscious of it and sincerely deny it, as is quite possible with the editors/producers of TC--it can all be rationalized in the name of good tv, building an audience to inundate with names and images of consumer products and devices.

                                                                                      With the large number of Hispanic people working in professional kitchens who've risen from helpers and bussers (can hardly count Elia who came from a middle/professional class family and trained abroad)--Bourdain has paid homage to them in his book--are they simply not auditioning for the show?

                                                                                      Bias is a subtle and complex creature; it's not so simple to compare Leanne/popular to Hung/unpopular--through many periods of history and different societies, women from a non-dominant group assimilate more easily into the dominant than their male counterparts. As you imply, characters on mainstream U.S. tv based on Asian men are much less positive/attractive than those based on Asian women. As much as people insist, with good reasons, how better qualified the contestants are on TC vs. Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, the latter show had two African Americans in the final four. We know that's not explained by Fox'/Ramsay's so-called lower standards--perhaps they're more egalitarian and merit based? cheers

                                                                                      1. re: moto

                                                                                        Great point about Latin American immigrants...MOST of the food cooked in NYC restaurants (even the pricey places) is made by Mexican and Ecuadorean immigrants. Yet rarely do they seem to move up the ladder into chefdom (as people like Lia have). An Exception: Itzocan Bistro and Cafe are a pair of restaurants opened by former Mexican cooks who use their skills to make Mexican-French fusion food.

                                                                                        There is certainly a lot of cooking skill out there that is not being tapped.

                                                                                        1. re: moto

                                                                                          I think there is a pretty big difference between arguing about whether the fact that Hung got the most votes from viewers to be kicked off this week is due to racism amongst the audience versus discussing whether this show is extraordinarily biased. Of *course* it is. Everyone has personal biases, and you point out some of the most common ones. But I don't see what your thoughts have led you to believe about Hung's situation. Do you think he should be the top chef? Do you think if he were "less Asian" (obviously tongue in cheek) he would be doing better? What if Casey were less cute?

                                                                                          Obviously we can't taste the food and we'll never know for sure, but to me, you can talk about bias in a vacuum or you can look at a situation and try to see whether biases have really changed the results significantly -- I do not have an answer to whether this has happened, but it sounds to me from your post that you might have an opinion on that.

                                                                                          1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                            I don't really think it's true that less telegenic have gotten kicked off first. Really. I mean each year there are a few attractive ones that stick around but they have seemed talented and there are plenty who were attractive and didn't make it and who weren't attractive and who did.

                                                                                            While I agree with you that bias is subtle and that editing plays a huge part in what we see, I think many things have to do with personal taste. Not necessarily race related at all - in a big scheme. But in the "small scheme (I know that's not a phrase!)" I think it effects everything.

                                                                                            Different contestants' personalities just affect different people different ways. I think Hung has fairly poor social skills. That affects how people react to him - those watching and in the competition. Same as Marcel and Stephen. Personally I find him less arrogant and annoying than either of those two and a better all-around cook. But at least the former of those is a judgment call (and the latter is too for now since I've never really tasted any of their food). Ilan was immature too but he was more social so it played better in the house. I actually liked him less than Marcel and DEFINITELY less than Hung because I personally saw him as sneaky. Again personal. And totally judgmental. But they signed up for the show.

                                                                                            Leanne and Hung have VERY different personalities even though they're both asian - frankly i think it's a bit racist to compare them. It's like implying that Cliff and Tre would have HAD to cook more similarly than anyone else from the outset. Not true.

                                                                                            Society has different expectations of people based on the categories they fall into. Men can get away with being more cut-throat than women. Women are expected to play nice and get labelled if they don't (Tiffany). Certain boys can get away with being frat boys (Ilan) which can make bad behavior more palatable. I actually think Hung's asian background has probably made him more palatable (to me - admitting my own biases) because i presume it is his background that explains some of his social ineptitude which i didn't take kindly at all in marcel and stephen since they were "like me" and their arrogance just reeked of embarrasing (again, to me) white middle class superiority. i do not find it nearly as frustrating in hung. it has much more an american dream feel to it. it is what it is.

                                                                                            we're all biased. we're frankly all racist. i try not to be - but that probably makes me more so.

                                                                                            They're half people/half characters - but it's obviously a good show from bravo's standpoint since we care so much. And frankly I think discussions like this are incredibly healthy and hard to come by in america unless you can be as anonymous as we are here - so I think it's wonderful.

                                                                                            1. re: AMFM

                                                                                              AMFM, yes unfortunately, healthy discussions like this are made possible by anonymity because we're riddled by biases, overreact, and can take things too personally. But it's a positive by-product of just another comercially-driven cable/market niche show.

                                                                                              I wouldn't have brought Leanne into the discussion at all--her getting hired by the show speaks for itself--but another participant cited her as a lack of anti-Asian bias. Not knowing much about her, from the way you and others describe her esp. in comparison to Hung, a sociologist might guess she was born here and has many attributes of being further acculturated/assimilated, getting back to my earlier assertion that it's generally smoother for women on that path.

                                                                                            2. re: Adrienne

                                                                                              Adrienne, I just tried to discuss matters on which I felt a greater degree of certainty. For most of us plebeians, the dining experience is more defined by the appearance, smell, taste of the food than the chef's personality/quirks. If there's an open kitchen, I pay attention to the cleanliness, efficiency, discipline, demeanor and body language. I think the judges have in the end reached three of possibly the best 4-5, and of the three I'd probably prefer Dale's food, but it's too hard to really tell. That's different than favoring him to win; my own biases make me lean to Hung because my parents were immigrants and he comes across as phenomenally driven, proficient, and conflicted.

                                                                                              I haven't viewed any season beginning to end, but haven't seen a single blind tasting, with the judge(s) ignorant of the originator. I suppose the chefs are somewhat anonymous within the team competitions. De-emphasizing blind tastings is a red flag in.re. to bias, but I might have missed the episodes that had them.

                                                                                              As to whether the biases significantly affect the results, we're kept from a huge bit of data. I think most of the judges, if they've worked with the huge variety of people in the trade, are likely less biased regarding ethnicity, attractiveness, personality quirks,than the editor/producers and audience. But we don't know what really gets hashed out in their discussions--do they self critically examine each other's and their own favoritsm and biases?

                                                                                            3. re: moto

                                                                                              "An ideologically-neutral way bias gets applied is how the less telegenic contestants are nearly always eliminated fairly early in the proceedings, and we never see the qualified aspirants who might have comparable qualifications but are deemed unsuited for tv cameras."
                                                                                              Not sure how this plays out - you think Camille (4th out) or Lia (5th out) is less telegenic or less suited for TV cameras than Howie (9th out)???

                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                i'm with linda on this one.

                                                                                                i get what amfm is saying, but that particular charge, while it may sound logical [and typical in today's image-obsessed society], has been disproved this season based on the order of eliminations.

                                                                                                micah & camille before sara m?

                                                                                                and more importantly, tre before howie?

                                                                                                come on.

                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                  Ms.Whit, for appearance's sake as well as dramatic contrast/conflict, there's a lot to be gained by keeping a token lump like Howie around to make the others look better. The elimination challenges are contrived to be quirky and inject a considerable element of chance (drawing knives, teammates usw.) so appearance/charm alone isn't the biggest factor. I have yet to see every episode of a season, but from what I saw of the present group, I feel that Brian got as far as he did more from luck (someone else's blunder was worse) and his looks and personality than his chef skills or versatility.

                                                                                                  Nothing personal intended, but if you are above average in stature and attractive you might not notice that taller and more attractive kids and people get favored among siblings, classmates, collegues, in turn cultivating their self-confidence and self-worth to further increase their chances of social/professional success. We can't know how many plain or homely or short potential contestants talk themselves out of trying. peace

                                                                                                2. re: moto

                                                                                                  I, personally, think people are over-analyzing the poll results in regards to Hung.

                                                                                                  Of the three heavies - Stephen, Marcel and Hung. Hung is actually technically proficient and he's not an in-your-face jerk. Stephen was a self-promoting, arrogant jerk who couldn't walk-the-walk. Marcel got the bad rap because of the editing and the reaction from the other contestants. He had some skill, but liked the dang foam too much. That's why Hung is viewed more favorably of the heavies.

                                                                                                  In regards to the Leanne and Hung comparison, again it's based upon personality versus the subtle bias between Asian female vs Asian male in our society.

                                                                                                  Both can cook.
                                                                                                  Leanne was humorous, appeared pleasant to work with and worked with others to get the job done.

                                                                                                  Hung has portrayed himself as the "bad boy" relying only upon himself where he's stated that he's not going out of his way to help anyone. It's a competition.

                                                                                                  Obviously, if the viewers are polled, Leanne would be popular.

                                                                                            4. re: newhavener07

                                                                                              I was not surprised to see Hung on the out-list. I hoped people would vote based upon skill versus like-ablility.

                                                                                              Hung was the least likeable one on the list, not xenophobia.
                                                                                              Brian, Casey and Dale are very personable, but Hung played the role of the "bad boy".

                                                                                              Marcel from last season was portrayed as the chef that was picked on, the underdog. It's the other chefs that whined about Marcel. He would have gotten the sympathy vote from the viewers.

                                                                                              I bet Stephen (Season 1) would have easily made the out-list. He was an arrogant bully that had marginal skills. Definitely unlikable.

                                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                Ok- but this is the first time Hung has mentioned his parents and the huge influence their rest. had on him... soooo who wouldn't expect some of that reflected in his cooking. Big boys know you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Granted they don't expect "cowboy food" out of Texas Casey- but I believe she lost the French culinary institute challenge because her french grandmas coq-au-vin wasn't french enough? If she had called if something else and not talked about her french background, she wouldn't have lost. But she actually has her heart and soul in cooking unlike some other cheftestants...End of story.

                                                                                                BTW I love that an edited reality show can get so many opinionated peoples engines revving (myself included). Kudos to the producers, lol. Hung is probably not what we see him to be, but we can only go by what we see on the tv!

                                                                                                1. re: jme1beachbum

                                                                                                  This is also the first time we've heard Dale's story -- eg that he lost his job, was out of work, dumped, and afraid he'd lost his inner chef. And no one's harping on that. Double standard. And Collichio states this week in his blog that Hung won the FCI challenge simply because his dish was better -- nothing to do with Casey's food not being "french enough." End of story.

                                                                                                  1. re: Petitpois

                                                                                                    Yeah but what does Dale's story have to do with cooking- not much other than he was really good, and then didn't cook for awhile, and then he found his groove & rocked the challenge. Why would anyone harp on the positive- thats no fun! Maybe if he had said he was back, but then didn't reflect that in his dish- we would lay it heavy on him. IE- Hung talking about his background and never reflecting that.

                                                                                                    1. re: jme1beachbum

                                                                                                      And dale has been portrayed as the down in the dumps guy pulling himself up the entire time, though in a broader sense (no longer just the fat gay boy in the corner, I believe was his line). He has had that position of trying to prove himself to himself and to the world the entire time. This specific story, yes.

                                                                                                      Similarly, Hung hasn't talked a ton about his family, but enough to mention their Vietnamese restaurant's influence oh him. So where is that in his cooking?

                                                                                            5. I am thankful that Brian was finally voted out of the kitchen. I feel that he had over stayed his welcome by some weeks now. He went three or four episodes without cooking anything and won over the judges with his charisma. The only memorable thing he cooked during the season was his seafood sausage - from there it was downhill. I also thought he was way too bubly and way too personable - but that's just a personal bias.

                                                                                              The difference between Hung and villians of past seasons is that Hung has the wisdom to be a master chef and the ellogence to pull it off. It's not that Hung is not a team player - he did in fact turn this into a competition. To compare him to Marcel, Joey, Howie or any of the other non-team players is unfair to Hung. He has a mastery of technique and simply does not want to share that mastery with those who he is trying to beat for a spread in Food & Wine. He has been a bit aloof by not picking up after himself - but I think that may be his ADD in the kitchen. Hung is technically the best, he knows it, he acts that way but that is fine since he can back it up - something none of the other "villians" have been able to do on previous shows/ seasons.

                                                                                              Given all that - win or not I truly hope Dale comes to Manhattan to open up a place! Luxorious comfort food is my favorite type of eating and that's what he is all over. While Hung is a master technician I'd rather eat something that tastes fantastic and reminds of home than something that is beautifully preparred and perfectly cooked - perhaps why I've always liked the hole in the wall type places more than the million dollar store fronts.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: wingman

                                                                                                After Brian recited the tenth or so ingredient in his concoction and Padma's eyes rolled up in her head, I figured he was finished!

                                                                                              2. I was suprised Brian didn't do well in the QF, but was glad to see Casey win it. Hung was fuming!! Its his own fault that he didn't win - his over confident attitude made him leave off the most important ingrediant.

                                                                                                I was sooo happy Dale won this challenge! He has so much heart and I really like his personality! I think Hung is very talented, but I'm turned off by his arrogance. I don't thnk his cooking has soul at all. I think he just told the judges that because he thought that's what they needed to hear. I'm not saying the story of his family wasn't touching, it was, but it doesn't come across thru his food. I'd love to see Dale win this thing! Or Casey.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: lisamos

                                                                                                  seems to me that the judges have had their minds made up for a long time about the character and talent of the contestants: (hung is too technical, brian doesn't cook enough or only cooks seafood, dale is sloppy and unfocused, casey is soulful and precise but not recklessly ambitious). and then they just eliminate the one they want to go home and find arbitrary reasons for their decisions. it seems to me that drastically undercooking the elk was reason enough to send casey home, but they clearly wanted her to stay. and for some reason, they've clearly wanted to send brian home for some time now and have repeatedly threatened to do so for very dubious reasons in the past.

                                                                                                  clearly, the judges or the producers have a clear idea of who they want in the final and then they just eliminate along those lines. seems to me they want a contentious person, an attractive woman, a person of color, a nice guy etc in the final. think back to the other finals. the thing they are trying to avoid is having all men or too many white men in the final, or too many non-contentious personalities in the final, which would make for boring tv. which means that casey was slated to get there long ago, as all the other women were eliminated in rather quick succession. so, it was going to be either dale or brian that had to go last night in order to preserve the final three demographic that the producers are shooting for. we all knew that hung was going to make it, both because he is a contentious contestant and because he's a highly skilled cook and because he's the last person of color on the show. maybe they were willing to eliminate tre because they felt that hung met their criteria for a contestant of color and a contentious personality and that if they didn't eliminate him it would surely be an all male final (maybe tre and hung) with no white crowd pleasers (like casey).

                                                                                                  but preserving the final three demographic is one thing and choosing the winner is another. seems to me that casey remains an audience and judge favorite for being little more than blond(ish), trim, perky and competent in the kitchen. my guess is that she will win for those reasons alone: she's white, nice and pretty. seems like maybe the producers like to pay lip service to diversity (there's always an ethnic minority, a gay man, a woman, a nice person, an arrogant person etc) going into the finals, but that somehow the suburban white person always wins in the end (mirroring, of course, the audience demographic.) although, having three suburban white men win in a row would undermine the show's claim to diversity; so, the next winner has to be casey. top chef always starts out as a melting pot, but oddly the winner always looks like the target audience.

                                                                                                  but that's television (and america).....

                                                                                                  1. re: joekarten

                                                                                                    I find Top Chef conspiracy theories a bit odd. Maybe the judges have pre-planned, ratings driven vision in the works, or maybe they just send home the worst tasting or worst executed dish every week. Given that none of us have tasted any of the dishes, it is impossible for us to confidently state that the wrong person was ever sent home.

                                                                                                    Casey and Brian both undercooked their meats - Brian's was not braised for nearly long enough. I think the judges decided that Casey's was the better of the two because it was more focused, had superior accompaniements (Ripert loved the tomato butter, and he is not prone to hyperbole), and showed a more sensible vision (braising game shank in 3 hours is just a bad judgement call). Plus, it probably tasted better.

                                                                                                    1. re: joekarten

                                                                                                      Interesting theory, but if you recall there were three straight white men in the final four last season and two straight white men in the finale.
                                                                                                      If everything were predestined as you suggest, I really doubt so many commentators, both involved with bravo and not, would be able to toe the company line and explain away the "arbitrary" elimination decisions.

                                                                                                      1. re: joekarten

                                                                                                        I am not sure it is as complicated as you write, however; I do think they really needed to accentuate Hung's badness to keep viewers watching. The others were all so chummy I thought they'd start having nightly sing alongs. Just kidding of course, but I think between everyone's talent and relative compatability not showing Hung's bad side would make the show boring.

                                                                                                    2. Hung's got the most talent. I think he should be Top Chef. From the very beginning, he stood out among all other contestants -- smart, quick, motivated, knowledgeable about the the people/places involved in each challenge, a whiz in the kitchen...and yes, a bit macho right out of the gate, but so what?...this is a competition, and he's there to win.

                                                                                                      I was sorry to see him having a few culinary setbacks in the earlier challenges, but it mellowed him, humbled him and forced him to compete in different ways than he had before, which worked for him in the long run, and made him more likeable. I was very impressed with his attitude last night. He's worked hard to become as successful as he is. As a parent myself, I think it's very refreshing to hear Hung show appreciation to his folks for all they have done for him and to try to make them proud. There's not enough of that kind of attitude in this country's kids.

                                                                                                      I felt so bad for him in the trout challenge, when he finished cooking early, then realized, after cooling his heels for 5 minutes, that he had forgotten to add the lemon juice -- gawd! When Eric Ripert told him that if he had added the lemon juice, he might have won, I thought Hung handled the defeat quite gracefully. I like his passion, can-do attitude and self-confidence.

                                                                                                      I couldn't get enough of Eric Ripert (!), but I've been a huge fan of the man since day 1. Glad Dale got a win and his self-confidence back, finally. A nice person, but not the Top Chef. Same for Casey. Hung's got the skills to put it all together in the final challenge -- I hope he does!

                                                                                                      1. I loved Dale's comment that he's never cooked for cowboys, although he's slept with a couple. Biggest laugh of the season for me.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: judybird

                                                                                                          I loved that, too! And I love how honest and down-to-earth he is. His speech about why he should go on to the finale, as pointed out by Elyssa below, really got to me. To have not cooked for a year and a half, then to come this far, well, kudos to Dale!

                                                                                                        2. But can Dale really be considered a top chef contender when he makes statements like "I am not really a good fish chef?"
                                                                                                          The very definition of being a superb chef is being well versed in all aspects of gastronomy. How can you expect to compete at this level when you admittedly are weak in an entire category of protien cookery as wide ranging as seafood. Anybody can grill a steak, but I have always had the opinion that a truly excellent chef knows how to butcher, cook, and dazzle with hundreds of very different kinds of fish. He has a very likeable personality (just as Dave did in the previous series; one of my favorites) but just like him his technical skills seem to lack. On a sidenote, Hung has perhaps the least likeable personality in top chef history (even stephen was more endearing) but is the most skilled. Perhaps Casey really is the complete package. GO CASEY!

                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: ChefMoly

                                                                                                            sorry but that is definitely a matter of perspective. stephen makes me insane in a way that hung does not. i agree they are both arrogant but i don't find hung's nearly as off-putting.

                                                                                                            1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                              i agree with whatever chef it was that said if they had to choose who to hire from a pure ability perspective it would be hung. he's the best cook. i do however think he would annoy my staff with his arrogance. i thought he should win since the beginning, but lately he appears to be a bit of an a-hole. the fact of the matter is though, he perhaps more than anyone views this as a competition. not a popularity contest.
                                                                                                              but being a chef is also about being a manager, and hung perhaps has a bit to learn in the people skills department.

                                                                                                              1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                I agree. Stephen is/was much more dislikable than Hung. Stephen is arrogant and pompous. IMHO, Hung is just immature. I was surprised to see that he's 29-I know they show the ages all the time, but I guess I never paid attention. I would've thought he was around 23 by the way he acts, although not by the way he cooks. I do agree that he is the most technically gifted of all the contestants. I just don't see him running a crew successfully and a top chef is going to need to be able to do that.

                                                                                                                1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                  mercyteapot - I agree. I almost made a comment about how intolerable I probably was at 24 or 25. But when I double checked the cheftestants stats - I too was surprised to find that he was 29. But then again I thought both Dale and Casey were a little younger, too.

                                                                                                                  I don't dislike Hung at all. He's my least favorite of the final three - BUT - he certainly isn't my least favorite of the season. I'm not even sure he'd make my Top Ten Least Favorite Cheftestants list of ALL three seasons.

                                                                                                                2. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                  Yes, if we're comparing "villians," Hung doesn't make the list. He's a little socially tone-deaf. He's cocky, but it's based in ability. But Marcel would have used the extra 7 minutes to antagonize the others. Stephen didn't just say how great his stuff was, he sneered at everyone else's: "I've looked at what they've done, and I know I won this." I haven't seen this from Hung -- he's not warm and fuzzy like the majority of this season, but he's hasn't gotten in shouting matches or become the brunt of the others' anger (Stephen vs Candice, Betty vs Marcel, Frank vs Marcel, Sam losing it w/Marcel in the store, even Harold telling Marcel to chill in the season 1 vs season 2 event). To me, it's telling that Marcel got on the nerves of the season 1 people then, who had probably just met him, and I doubt that had anything to do with Ilan stirring up a mob mentality to victimize Marcel. When Hung was working under Sara in the restaurant wars, he was cooperative and took her leadership in stride once she asserted it. Stephen disappeared to go train the wait staff and lied about how long he was gone.

                                                                                                                  As for the voting, I'm not inclined to text message such a vote to a TV show, but I didn't like the way the question was worded. At this point, it wasn't that I wanted any of them to go home. I might pick Dale or Casey to win, but I didn't think Hung should be sent home, and I'll be satisfied if he wins. Whereas last season, I just wished it was Sam and Elia in the final.

                                                                                                                  1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                    Don't forget the season 1 folks thought Ilan was an immature p--ck as well.

                                                                                                                    I thought it was interesting that the producers would leave that in considering he was the season 2 'winner'. I would have thought they would have played down his a-holeness.

                                                                                                              2. I thought Dale's speech on why he should stay was very heartfelt and emotional...same as Hung's. I have to say I got a little misty when I heard Dale's. There's something about an underdog or someone who thought they lost their talent and then refound it that really gets to me. (Probably why I love the movie Rocky! lol)

                                                                                                                1. I loved this episode, mainly because Ripert is such a fair judge who obviously did not judge on the chef's personalities but their food. Hung continues to bother me. He is always putting people down, and doesn't seem to have any ability or desire to work with others. His comment about cooking for cowboys, was "beans, beans, beans?" How rude. While i can see how Tom's comments might seem like Hung was expected in some way to harken to his roots, I was put off by Hung's last ditch effort to bring up his family and roots and his "passion" for cooking. It was not believable and very annoying in a kiss ass sort of way. But I side with Hung that he doesn't have to cook Asian food if he doesn't want to. Is anyone going to tell Rick Bayless that he cant be an expert on Mexican cuisine because he is not Mexican? Also historically French cuisine IS a huge part of Vietnamese cuisine, so Hung is cooking within his background. But Ripert said it best about casey, that she cooked with soul and that just steamed Hung to no end. Yes he is a great technician. To use the analogy of music, is the classically trained musician always the one pointed out as being the best, most soulful musician? No. Dale? Love him. His story really got me. He seems real and now seems to have come out of his shell once he was working with something in his strength. He also played to his strength by making an absolutely great sauce, for a complex dish, that just worked. I'm rooting for Dale or Casey, because Hung just doesnt deserve it regardless of his knife skills.

                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: sharonm

                                                                                                                    i can easily see how one mght not like Hung so I'm not defending all his actions here. He's arrogant and certainly hasn't been a team player on the show. But I don't think he always puts people down. And I think the "beans" comment wasn't necessarily meant to be that much of an insult. I doubt he knows anything about cowboys but I took it to mean that he didn't feel he should cook what was expected - or that they might only like the stereotype. obviously he doesn't only like vietnamese food.
                                                                                                                    but i agree about the musician analogy and think it is an excellent one. he reminds me very much of a perfect piano prodigy who may not be that fun to listen to - but frankly i think we may be overhyping that a bit (because bravo is probably overplaying it for drama) because A LOT of really good chefs think his food tastes great. it can't be that soul-less.

                                                                                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                      I agree with AMFM. Hung must have some "soul" in his cooking because technique alone can't be all that tasty. He is a competitor on a TV show and may not be acting as he would in a work environment where chefs should cooperate more. (Although in many food related books I have read, that isn't always the case.) Chefs have egos, they can be quirky and demanding at times-the better they are the more it seems they get away with. But, I can't dismiss Hung's cooking outright because he has been complimented many times for having the most thoughtful dish. I can't wait to see how the drama of the final plays out-after last night, I have a new favorite-Dale. Yes, I am fickle and I was moved by his reasoning for wanting to go to the finals. And out of the four choices of elk preparation, I think I would rather have tried Dale's. Seems as good a reason as any to change chefs. By the way, I love this show.

                                                                                                                      1. re: foodseek

                                                                                                                        And could it be that, because he's so focused on winning and pleasing the judges, he might be allowing his technical expertise to overshadow that "soul"? I had actually thought the same as sharonm regarding French cooking being so much a part of Vietnamese dishes. Regardless, I'm still not pulling for Hung, but I do think all three are capable of winning.

                                                                                                                      2. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                        There's so much new fodder to use to complain about Hung that the most irritating aspect of his behavior hasn't been mentioned in this thread. I remain both appalled and intrigued by his total inability to admit even momentarily that he has room for improvement. I lost count of the number of chef-judges whose opinion Hung dismissed when they made a critical remark about his food or chose another contestant as a winner.

                                                                                                                        If he won't admit he has room for improvement, I don't see how he's actually going to improve. Actually, let me clarify that. I see Hung as being capable of improving his technical skills. However, based on the editing of the show and based on the traits that are coming out in this inherently unnatural situation, I don't see much passion. Since I haven't seen any behavior I recognize as passion in Hung, I'm hard pressed to believe the words he spoke at judges' table. The evidence of Hung's life-history is that cooking is a survival strategy not a passionate endeavor.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                          See I don't think he's done that more than anyone else. I like Casey and Dale and could be happy if either won. I may be rooting for Casey, I just think Hung gets a bad rap. I mean listen to the Brian Podcast on here. The guy does not get that there could have been anything wrong with pretty much any of his dishes. It's amazing to me how many of them have been floored that they have gone home.

                                                                                                                          But I will agree that Hung probably never thought of whether or not there was anything else he wanted to be. It's not passion in that sense. His passion is that since he grew up around it he's always wanted to be the best. He didn't come to it in a moment of inspiration that said "food is an art - I need to do that". But that's kind of not his fault.

                                                                                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                            I agree about Brian being clueless, but I've never understood how he got as far as he did. Hung's position in the final three makes complete sense to me. In fact, it is precisely because Hung seems so driven to excel that I've been perplexed why he hasn't gobbled up every bit of advice offered.

                                                                                                                      3. re: sharonm

                                                                                                                        "Is anyone going to tell Rick Bayless that he cant be an expert on Mexican cuisine because he is not Mexican?"

                                                                                                                        Actually, someone on the Chicago board stated (and defended the statement) that Rick Bayless can not be considered an authority on mexican cooking because he isn't mexican.

                                                                                                                      4. Bourdain's blog is FINALLY posted and it is hilarious as usual. It also addresses a lot of the Hung topics we've been discussing here. Check it out!

                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Petitpois

                                                                                                                          Thank you for posting this - have been waiting for it to be put up all day! Off to read....

                                                                                                                          OMG - best line of the whole thing: "Four went into the barn - -and one remained; put down like Old Yeller." LOL!!!

                                                                                                                          And I loved his defining "heart" and "soul" to a chef to the rest of us. And that Casey has it, and she's not getting by just on her good looks. Thanks, Chef Bourdain.

                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                            What puzzles me is why didn't Casey have soul the first 2/3 of the series. Was she cooking in a way that appealed to her Dallas clientele but not to the judges? Did it take her that long just to get comfortable with the show? Conscious decision to start relatively low and finish high? Whatever the reason, there's no denying she has really upped her game here at the end.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                                                              Could be the editing monkeys who didn't show us what she had. Perhaps a conscious decision to fly under the radar for awhile, which we know others have done in the past. I often wonder if there's ever a way that one or two cheftestants could be so overwhelmingly good that they would blow away the rest of the competition throughout the entire series. Bad TV, of course, so I doubt the producing monkeys would ever allow that to happen (i.e., choosing two cheftestants who were just *that* much better than everyone else, even with the silly QuickFire challenges).

                                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                              "ass-less chaps" --that was my favorite...

                                                                                                                              AB's comments were excellent as ever. maybe his definition of what "heart and soul" mean in flavor terms helps explain the Hung phenomenon, and what Ripert meant by Hung's flavors being "almost too controlled". I didn't get that, given that controlled, restrained flavors are what Le Bernardin seems to be all about (I haven't eaten there but now I really want to...)

                                                                                                                              Casey first won a quickfire with that foie gras French toast thing, and the only two bad things she made were the coffee sauced chicken in Latin Lunch and the lame tuna tartare when she was on the team with Howie and Joey. Then she took off.

                                                                                                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                                                                                                And with that tuna thing she was yelled at and cried. I'd bet that experienced just kicked her ass into gear.

                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                this one is truly pricelss. what a terrific blog entry...and finally an explanation of what the judges actually mean when they talk about heart & soul.

                                                                                                                                the following line was my absolute favorite by far. i read it as i was taking a sip of my tea, and i laughed so hard my computer screen got an unexpected shower...

                                                                                                                                "Dale and Hung seemed particularly baffled; Dale not sure if they'd show up in ass-less chaps demanding Bellinis...

                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                  Not that Dale would have MINDED that, of course. :-)

                                                                                                                                  He truly has a way with words.

                                                                                                                              3. re: Petitpois

                                                                                                                                Loved his take on what Eric Ripert REALLY meant when commenting on Brian's dish. That and the dig at the sponsors. Love AB.

                                                                                                                              4. IMNSVHO a top chef has to stand astride two worlds: Science and Heart. A top chef must not only be a master technician, understanding the myriad complex subjects of kitchen science, but also a top artist, capable of creating beauty on a plate and harmony in the diner's spirit with his foods.

                                                                                                                                Hung has his technical chops down, no one's arguing that. But great cooking is more than serving perfectly cooked food. A top chef's dishes have to provide a road for the diner to his own soul. I don't see that in Hung; I see someone who's completely left brain, who's grasped the technical details of great cooking but has discounted the soul of it. His "impassioned speech" last night struck me as nothing more than a calculated performance to garner approval from the judges. Why is it none of his "passion" came out until now? Hung repeatedly stated he is here to win and will do whatever it takes to accomplish that.

                                                                                                                                In one scene, when the cheftestants were in the hot air balloon basket and the camera pulled back to show them, I honestly expected to see Hung push one of them, screaming, out of the basket to their death.

                                                                                                                                I think Hung is the best chef in terms of technique, but I wouldn't want to eat his food because I believe it would be like eating wax fruit: Perfect on the outside but nothing on the inside.

                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                  In my opinion, expecting Hung to cook and use asian influences is ridiculous and slightly racist.

                                                                                                                                  However, the criticism of him not putting heart and soul into his food has nothing to do with not using influences from his upbringing and background. He seems to be technically excellent but not instinctively good at creating novel creations that come from a love of food. Similar to Ilan he copies recipes from his previous positions and is not very creative.

                                                                                                                                  His speech at the end was sycophantic and a transparent attempt to divert the criticism that his food lacks heart and soul. People who were moved by it are not skilled at detecting a phony.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: RBCal

                                                                                                                                    The speeches at the end are a desperate plea from each contestant to convince the judges not to eliminate them. They're expected to pull out all the stops -- and they were all a bit over the top. Dale's was the most heartfelt. Hung defended that he's totally passionate, his entire family and whole life revolve around cooking. Yes, they all poured it on pretty thick, which is what the show wants them to do and I have no problem with that.

                                                                                                                                    The scene that impressed me about Hung was when he was making his bed, telling about how his father escaped from Vietnam with no money and started his own restaurant here, which allowed the rest of the family to come over. He really appreciated his family's help and wanted to give somethng back to them. As sous chef for Guy Savoy, I think he's come a long way.

                                                                                                                                    The scene that

                                                                                                                                    1. re: RBCal

                                                                                                                                      I agree with your first statement, but I think Hung is passionate about food. He clearly loves to cook, and I thought his speech sounded sincere; I ddidnt see any indication of phoniness, and I would love to hear you elaborate on what parts of it you thought were fake. Maybe it wasnt 100% genuine, as he was put on the spot and had to directly rebut the judges' statements, but Hung is a chef, and a chef that loves to do what he does.

                                                                                                                                      And as for his creativity, I would argue that he has shown scads of creativity, especially in some quickfire challenges, but maybe hasnt had the chance to really show it seriously yet. Top Chef strategy is all about doing things well - no one on Top Chef has ever been eliminated for creating a dish that was high on quality but low on avant garde-ness or creativity. We see creativity in the finale, where the chefs (hopefully) will get to present their best, without arbitrary constrictions and survivor-like tactics.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: RBCal

                                                                                                                                        "He seems to be technically excellent but not instinctively good at creating novel creations that come from a love of food. Similar to Ilan he copies recipes from his previous positions and is not very creative."

                                                                                                                                        Comapring Ilan and Hung is ridiculous, Hung's skills are much better. Ilan won in large part due to Elia's cooking skills. Remember the duck fiasco in S1v.S2? I think Hung is more than capable of cooking a duck.

                                                                                                                                        As far as creativity and ability to express soul in his food, I think Hung can do it, but has not been as successful as Casey has been. I think Tre's and Bourdain's reactions to Hung's geoduck dish in the first episode indicate that that dish was creative, passionate and soulful. Tre's was too, but his also looked nicer and that's why he won. I am looking forward to seeing if Hung can make some more dishes like that next week.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: RBCal

                                                                                                                                          I don't expect Hung to cook and use Vietnamese influences because that's what a person of Vietnamese ancestry must do. I would have expected Hung to use his authentic knowledge of Vietnamese flavors to make his food distinctive from a strategic and competitive point of view.

                                                                                                                                          Hung is a person with superb technical skills and an insider's knowledge of a cuisine. I think he's squandered some opportunities to distinguish himself for things other than technical excellence. I'm not expecting Hung to pull an "Ilan -- the sequel." No one wants the Top Chef to produce week after week of one-cuisine cooking. And the challenges in which Hung went to his Vietnamese roots should make sense. For example, even though 's a strong tradition within Vietnamese cuisine of French-fusion, I would not have wanted or expected Hung to do such a dish at the French Culinary Institute last week. But some nods to his heritage would have been strategically smart.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                            I said this up above but my guess as to why we don't see more Vietnamese influence might be because the Top Chef pantry may not have as many quality Vietnamese ingredients. It'll be interesting to see what he puts out in the finale now that he brought his own ingredients.

                                                                                                                                      2. I'm wondering whether they'll bring back the previous 6 eliminated contestants to be sous chefs, or if they'll bring everyone back and let the finalists pick or if each finalist will only have one sous chef.

                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                          I've been wondering, too -- I was looking for a clue about sous chefs in the promo for next week, but didn't catch anything.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                            They did the sous chefs thing before...what if they were JUDGED by the other contestants? that would be a crazy twist.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: batdown

                                                                                                                                              they did that for the first part of the season 1 finale, when some of the eliminated chefs were the 'high rollers' who ordered food from their vegas suite.

                                                                                                                                              there are clearly professional guest judges for this one...todd english and michelle bernstein were both in the promo last night.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Xericx

                                                                                                                                                  oh, right...i forgot they showed a clip of rocco too.

                                                                                                                                                  what's your problem with him?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                    Captain Douchebag! Just hated how he was portrayed on The Restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Xericx

                                                                                                                                                      you're absolutely entitled to your opinion, but can i make a suggestion?

                                                                                                                                                      read some of his blogs on the top chef website. he's an excellent writer, and an intelligent, well-intentioned guy.

                                                                                                                                                      he also happens to be an exceptional chef. i had one of the best meals of my life at his first restaurant, union pacific.

                                                                                                                                                      i know some people think he's a sellout thanks to that show and his product endorsements, but i think he's gotten a bad rap.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                        Ditto to your positive comments about Rocco's blogs. What I'd love to know is whether the intelligence, sensitivity, honesty, self-effacement, kindness, and perception I see in Rocco's Top Chef blogs existed before THE RESTAURANT debacle or whether those are new and hard-won traits.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                          i had the honor of meeting him very briefly on the night i dined at union pacific. it was my brithday, and he was kind enough to come out to see how i had enjoyed my meal.

                                                                                                                                                          he was incredibly gracious, charming, and humble.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                            Bad news for anyone that gets Howie.

                                                                                                                                          3. I thought this finale was very unexciting compared to part one of season 2's finale. anyone agree?

                                                                                                                                            1. I don't mean to come off as a Pollyanna but I have really appreciated reading this discussion -- the varying perspectives are really thought provoking. What a difference compared to last season!! I hope the people at Bravo are taking notes for Season 5,6 etc.

                                                                                                                                              1. Sorry, as much as I worship at the shrine of Bourdain, that whole "heart" and "soul" thing still sounds like an attempt to quantify "this tastes good to me." Kind of like all that jargon the wine-tasters pull out to justify paying hundreds of dollars for a bottle of fermented grape juice. And since we, as viewers, can't taste anything ourselves, why do so many posters go on about "heart" and "soul" from the comfort of their armchairs? Not buying it, people. But Tony's post does make me wish the judges discussed the flavors in a bit more detail so we could get a more viceral idea of what the food is like.
                                                                                                                                                Watched the "smackdown" episode last night and was reminded of much Ilan's smarminess defined the 2nd season. Give me Hung's honest arrogance any day. Go Hung!

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                  Also, when the Bourdain says food with soul should have "depth of flavor that is both exciting and somehow, strangely, comfortingly familiar," does that mean it should have hints of Kraft Macaroni n' Cheez, Sara Lee cake or overcooked hamburger? Because, like many Americans, those were my childhood comfort foods and any HINT of those flavors in a dish makes me want to run for the door. For those of us without Andorra or coastal France (Bourdain's youth) in our childhoods, comfort foods were mostly processed dreck.

                                                                                                                                                2. I finally saw the episode. I knew Brian was going to be axed but I think he gave a good run for their money. His speech at the end was definitely lackluster compared to the others but I don't think they should have based their decision on the speeches. Based on the chef's reactions to the food, I almost thought Casey was going to go, but I'm sooo glad she didn't!

                                                                                                                                                  She should win this whole thing!

                                                                                                                                                  1. On my scorecard, I had Hung, Casey and Dale as the top three with a toss-up on final two. However, I had CJ 4th, Sara 5th and Brian 6th.

                                                                                                                                                    I couldn't figure out the final two, but looks like the the top three are in the finale.

                                                                                                                                                    Based upon last years finale, I saw two things that seemed to be key - cooking and leadership.

                                                                                                                                                    Hung knows how to cook, but the way he's played the game being self-reliant may hurt him when/if he has to lead the team. Also, he let Joey have his way in the frozen food challenge, even though Hung knew it was wrong. Does he have the leadership abilities? Will a team work with him? That's what hurt Marcel last season. Marcel's team wasn't really behind him.

                                                                                                                                                    Casey has shown she can cook with her performance these last few episodes. She's peaked at the right time. Her leadership abilities are unknown?

                                                                                                                                                    Dale has been okay with his cooking, but I believe he's really done well on quickfires and been in the running in eliminiation challenges. Leadership? He claimed that he could kick butt during the restaurant wars. Hard to say.

                                                                                                                                                    Right now, I think Casey has the slight edge over Hung. If Hung, can lead his team to execute his vision then Hung has it. Dale is the coming up from behind and if he has enough kick for the last few yards he may pull off the upset.

                                                                                                                                                    Maybe the finale is a lot more obvious for some of you? Any thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                      If it's the full meal challenge like it was last year, I expect Hung and Casey to do very well overall. Hung's food will be refined and precise. Casey's food will be less refined and less precise and may or may not taste better than Hung's but she needs to stick with what she has already prepared and knows is good. Dale is too erratic--he's more likely to produce a course that is spectacular but also more like to produce a course that is crap. I don't see Dale winning. Toss up between Hung and Casey at this point.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                                                                                        a Dale come-from-behind win would be a stunner for sure, but I can't say that he wouldn't deserve it. He's been less than flawless but shows potential to totally knock one out of the park

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                                                                                          Casey's Asian fusion didn't go over so hotly in the past did it? If she's going that route instead of homestyle, rustic style of food, who knows what will happen.

                                                                                                                                                      2. I guess I am in the minority here. I am more bothered by Dale and Casey's comments and actions than Hung's.

                                                                                                                                                        I thought Dale should have been booted out at last week since he attempted to cheat by asking Hung questions about how to prepare the fish dish at Quickfire. I mean if you do that at an exam in school you'll be called a cheater. Then he proceeded to badmouth Hung by saying that he doesn't have a heart. It's really nonsense, immature, and unprofessional. Not sure that the plan B this week of using _cauliflower_ and potatoes isn't a rip off from Casey. Lastly, didn't he tried the goat cheese tart at the yacht challenge without success before?!

                                                                                                                                                        Casey bothers me because at the surface she seems to be nice-nice, but her gesture, wrinkling of her nose and some past comments about helping Hung and looking very disturbed when Hung finishes early just smacks of insincerity. Plus I think she seems have great taste buds but she hasn't applied herself to the fundamentals like knowing how to use a knife.

                                                                                                                                                        Maybe I identify with Hung more, but I don't think his speech is insincere. When he is emotional (like when he was at the bottom for the frozen pasta fiasco) his speech is more forced and he seems more agitated. He's not used to camera, playing to the camera, and putting his heart on his sleeve. Lastly, I wonder if he thinks that the top chefs are all 'bad ass', or at least need to have a reputation, so he keeps trying to portrait himself to be the bad guy to look cool.

                                                                                                                                                        I am also pretty sure that when Hung broke the truffle oil bottle he rounded the corner at the kitchen counter before the bottle hit so he probably didn't know he did it. He said that he didn't think he did, but I thought he said that he apologize if he did. If anything you can fault the production crew at Bravo for not cleaning that oil mess up right. Seems like they remove the glass, but didn't really make sure the floor wasn't slick.

                                                                                                                                                        Lastly, I think it's sad that Hung is hold to a double and higher standards. If he's not from Vietnam would they give him more slack and lesser expectation? I think his technique is impressive, and I think he is restrainted because he believe less is more, and simplicity is best. Unfortunately I guess a light touch can be bad when your opponents puts every flavor known to mankind into the dish. Sampling wine has an order. Maybe his dish needs to be sampled first before the heavier flavored ones? Come to think of it - that's his advantage the last episode - he was first for both.

                                                                                                                                                        Well, I hope for the final challenges they will be unconstrainted. Then we can really see what the chefs can do. It's not like elk and trout are everyday food unless you live in Colorado, apparently. They are probably not a typical vietnamese ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: notmartha

                                                                                                                                                          I've said it before and I'll say it again: A *huge* part of this show should have judgements based on blind tastings. All this bruhaha about soul, speeches, looks, etc., mean little to the paying customer. Sure, some of the judging should be intangibles, and large marks should go for organization and cleanliness, but the primary proof should literally be in the pudding.

                                                                                                                                                          Will it ever happen? Of course not. Bravo has a huge stake in creating personality conflicts, viewer loyalties, etc. We can't taste the food, so they'll give us less meaningful criteria.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: notmartha

                                                                                                                                                            Please explain why you consider it acceptable for Hung to ask the sous chef at the restaurant the correct setting for the slicer but you label Dale's asking Hung an equivalent prep question as cheating?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                              because hung isn't competing with him and because the challenge is to create the dish EXACTLY as they do at the restaurant. i thought it was smart. i didn't personally have a problem with Dale asking Hung (although I don't think they're the same) but I do have a problem with his complaints about Hung not giving him the answer. Please. Figure it out yourself and if you can't then you don't deserve to win.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                The sous chef at the restaurant allowed them all to ask questions, before any of them got started on the challenge. (I thought I read in a Bravo blog that someone was impressed by Hung's questions, but I can't find it now. We didn't get to see the whole Q&A session.)

                                                                                                                                                                If I had had the chutzpah to ask Hung for clues after he was done and could make no alterations to his own entry, and Hung had brushed me off, I would have said something like "Oh well, I didn't expect an answer, but no harm trying." Not "Hung's clearly not a team player" or however Dale worded it.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree completely.

                                                                                                                                                                  I was responding to another poster's labeling Dale's behavior as cheating. Dale's behavior was...
                                                                                                                                                                  ... clueless or nervy to expect Hung to offer information.
                                                                                                                                                                  ... phony posturing when Hung didn't supply the answer.
                                                                                                                                                                  ... but not cheating.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                    Because Dale should have asked any questions of the Le Circe sous chef, not of Hung. He asked the questions AFTER Hung came out all smiles and said he nailed it (not quoting verbatim).

                                                                                                                                                                    Compound that by his bad mouthing afterwards is just plain wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                  Each chef was allowed to ask the Le Circe sous chef 1 question as part of the Quickfire challenge, Colicchio explains this in his blog, it was of course edited out of the show. Sara & Dale asked a question also, so Hung wasn't "cheating".

                                                                                                                                                              2. This seems so obvious I can't believe it hasn't been discussed, but ... Why don't they do blind tastings on TC? Each week I can't help but wonder if Tom Terrific & the Gang can't help but be influenced by knowing who cooked what dish. Let someone else serve and explain what's in the dish, judge 'em and then announce whether they liked dish #1,#2 or #3.

                                                                                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: forsythia

                                                                                                                                                                  If they did blind tastings it would mean that they are influenced by the contestants, and other factors. It would negate their mantra that they inevitably pull out after a questionable call that it is 'all, and only, about the food'.


                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                                    Actually, what I meant by the blind tasting is that they wouldn't know who cooked which dishes. So they wouldn't be influenced by the contestants because they wouldn't know which contestants were cooking the food. They'd judge simply on the taste and appearance.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: forsythia

                                                                                                                                                                      If they did that, though, Colicchio would either have to stop going into the kitchen while contestants were working or not be part of the judging panel.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                                                        something tells me the cheftestants wouldn't miss his little kitchen visits :)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mercyteapot

                                                                                                                                                                          That is one of the things that he does that sort of "irks" me. He makes comments that are his assessment of what he saw during the preparation. It seems that to be fair. I wonder how much weight his decision carries in the final.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: forsythia

                                                                                                                                                                        I feel the same way. (Read my post above. I've also brought up this point several times in other threads.)

                                                                                                                                                                        For mise en place and checking for cheating there's no reason another judge can't be used to evaluate that, with the tasting judges reviewing that judge's comments *after* they've *finished* evaluating the food.

                                                                                                                                                                        Sure -- in a couple of weeks they'd have a good handle on who made what, but at least it would (hopefully) be better. I'm getting tired of the soap opera.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Richard 16

                                                                                                                                                                          On project runway the guy(whose name escapes me) who goes into the workshop and talks to people. Isn't a judge. I think that part, in both shows, is really more the viewers to inform them what exactly the contestants are trying to do.

                                                                                                                                                                          It won't happen because they want the drama. People want camera time. Sponcer's want their name mentioned again. judges want to preach,contestants want to plead explain why. And Rocco want to talk about his frozen pasta, meat balls, fan belt and/or what every he has been paid to shlock this week.


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                                            Tim Gunn. And on the boring and flawed Top Design, Todd Olham was also a "mentor" and not a judge. I think with TC Colicchio wants to see what is going on in the kitchen to help him determine whether what the cheftestant was intending in the kitchen is accomplished on the plate, but I really think it is unfair...if you love a dish but it is different from what the chef originally planned, who cares what the original plan was? But I think he wants to judge them on their plans as well as the results.

                                                                                                                                                                            The non-blinded judging definitely affects the judges' perceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kenito799

                                                                                                                                                                              Do you recall several instances where this actually affected who was going home in any apreciable way?

                                                                                                                                                                      3. I liked Ripert's remark that Brian letting the "customers" choose their own cheese was "almost a sin."

                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                                          while i was NOT a brian fan and that dish didn't appeal to me i can see letting people choose if they want a blue cheese or not. it doesn't appeal to everyone. but 2 kinds made it silly.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                                                              Brian should decide which cheese goes best on his own dish. This is Top Chef not Top Salad Bar.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                I think Brian's many personalities had differing opinions as to *which* cheese was best, so they offered both to the judges. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                  "This is Top Chef not Top Salad Bar."


                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kenito799

                                                                                                                                                                                    it would have been priceless if one of the judges had said it!

                                                                                                                                                                                    i was a malarkey fan, but i do agree that having people chose their own [or even offering it at all] was a bonehead move.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. I saw a repeat and I can't believe I missed the part in Brian's going away speech where he claimed he was "ahead of his time". Uh, yeah....

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Discounting "heart" and "soul" in cooking as unnecessary or ridiculous is to miss the entire point of cooking food for others: Communion. Communion is all about heart and soul. Think about this: If food is nothing more than an assemblage of calories, a pottage of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, then marriage is nothing more than two people living as roommates.

                                                                                                                                                                                We are beings crafted to require not just interaction with other people, but something deeper, a finger's touch to our souls, the very deepest parts of ourselves we show no one else. Literally, we will die without this touch. Oh, our bodies might continue functioning, but what makes us human will be starved to death. The "us" making us "us"--gone.

                                                                                                                                                                                For whatever reason, food is an avenue for this necessary communion between people. Perhaps there are cultures, tiny, secretive, hidden in thickest jungle or on the serest plains, which do not honor eating together and people there turn their backs to one another during meals, but I've never heard of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                Eating with other people is a sign of togetherness, even if it's a business lunch with white tablecloths or standing around a taco truck on a cold morning wolfing down carnitas tacos and Snapple.

                                                                                                                                                                                Even eating by yourself as I often do--and did this morning here at the hotel--is not necessarily an exiling to emotional Siberia; simply being in a room with other people, overhearing their conversations, is at least being with other people in a common activity.

                                                                                                                                                                                When a chef makes a meal for diners, he or she is providing an avenue for communion between these people, he's not just slapping down a bowl of fries. The food itself can aid this "being with-ness," the food can enhance and brighten the time people spend sitting together at the table because the food can, through its quality, taste and presentation, lower the barriers between people as it calls forth pleasurable memories or slathers the diner with wonder at the new experience, a sunburst of unexpected flavor in her mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                I'll be the first to admit "heart" and "soul" are not easily definable terms. But, like pornography, I know them when I see (and taste) them. Let me show you.

                                                                                                                                                                                Three years ago some friends, my wife and I visited several wineries in Temecula in southern California, and then later that year, the winery Zin Alley in Paso Robles.

                                                                                                                                                                                The Temecula winery we boasted a massive, newly built tasting center and gift shop, beautifully built from pale cream-colored stone and huge, rustic timbers, sitting in green grass landscaping. Inside, clumps and knots and strings of people mingled, clutched their plastic gift bags, talked, sipped wine, browsed the tchotchkes, queued up to the tasting bar.

                                                                                                                                                                                My friend and I paid our $5 each and the man behind the counter poured our wine flight. Each glass I raised, swirled, drank the aroma and color before the wine itself, and then sipped, aerating it on my tongue as I'd been taught.

                                                                                                                                                                                Each wine was God-awful.

                                                                                                                                                                                The wines tasted almost toxic. Instead of giving their flavor to the drinker, they literally sucked. Possessed of an odd vacuum, there was something missing in their flavor, and the drinker was diminished by them, not strengthened or blessed.

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I could tell what each was: Chardonnay, cabernet. That wasn't the problem. The wines looked beautiful in their glasses. But the taste... there was taste, yes, but it was curiously flat, banal to the tongue, to call it "insipid" is to half damn it. I wondered why these wines were so different from the others we'd tried that day, and then I realized: These had no love, no heart, no soul behind them.

                                                                                                                                                                                Now, we'll go to Zin Alley. Small, crouched on a viney hillside, reached by a twisting and unfriendly little road, the winery is entirely unimpressive. A buff-colored steel building that could just as easily house a diesel mechanic's or farm machines.

                                                                                                                                                                                Inside, the air is cool and dry. A dusty concrete floor. A large, cone-shaped stainless steel fermentation tank towers next to the door, a sort of metalled Frankenstein's monster lending its own looming presence to the room. A handful of wine-oriented shoppables half-heartedly drape themselves across a few tables and stands.

                                                                                                                                                                                The tasting bar is something straight out of my mom's 1970 kitchen: honey-colored veneer and creamy kitchen tiles. A large glass pickle barrel squats to one side, full of corks.

                                                                                                                                                                                The owner is here that day. He's a tall, stocky man with a beard. His conversation soons shows him to be fiercely individual. He does not give a damn what other people in the world want him to do or think he should be. He lives for his craft: Making grapes into wine. He waves his hands sometimes while he talks. He's wearing, if memory serve faithfully, a navy baseball cap. His son, even taller and more thickly built, lounges comfortably behind him at the tiny cheapjack office desk on which perch haphazard piles of papers. If lions on the savannah lounged on cheapo office desks, this is what it would look like.

                                                                                                                                                                                Only zinfandel grapes are grown here on a few dry acres. Making sure we understood that, the owner uncorked a bottle and poured. I raised the glass, swirled, looked for he color, buried my nose in the bowl and inhaled the aroma, then sipped, aerating the wine on my tongue as I'd been taught.

                                                                                                                                                                                The sun rose. I held God in a wine glass. I have never tasted wine like that before or since.

                                                                                                                                                                                To say the wine tasted good is missing the point. Yes, it tasted good, but there was More. Put your finger on the screen right here: More. *This* is what heart and soul taste like. More. They taste like More. They are more than the sum of the parts of the food or wine or love or delight. Like great wine, good food is more than calories on a plate. Good food enhances our being, our humanity. It builds us up from the tearing down of the day.

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't remember the Zin Alley owner's name, but I pray I never forget his wine. I pray I never forget his heart and soul.

                                                                                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow. KenWritez, that is beautifully visual writing. I was with you in both wineries! Thanks for that. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree that your writing is beautiful. But I haven't seen anyone saying "really" that heart and soul in cooking don't matter - it is just that what hits one person as soul or heart (or frankly what tastes good to you - because really that's what it is) is different from one person to the next.

                                                                                                                                                                                    While one can argue easily that food at Friday's or Chili's has no soul, I think these chefs are all trying to put themselves and their skills onto a plate. Whoever's food resonates with the most tastebuds (much like commercial aspects of art and writing) "wins". The reasons I hate these terms - besides being ridiculously obscure and non-descriptive - is that I don't think it's fair. Just say you liked it better or even that it touched you more or some such thing if you can't actually say it tasted better. But to say that one dish has heart or soul and another does not - at this level of cooking - is like stomping on someones innermost secrets. Isn't all of our biggest fear to put ourselves (REALLY ourselves) into something and then to have someone call it nothing? I think that's why Hung reacted as he did and gave that speech. I think he is trying. I think they all are.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I like all three left way too much to say something as heartless as that there is no soul in something they do. Just watch them.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                                                                      >> But to say that one dish has heart or soul and another does not - at this level of cooking....<<

                                                                                                                                                                                      But that's the whole point of the show. Remember Chef Ripert commenting on Casey's QF over Hung's? IIRC, the judges said osmething similar when eating Casey's and Hung's entrees later (but I could be wrong on that last.)

                                                                                                                                                                                      The best food *does* have heart and soul. (I'm also not limiting it to haute cuisine. I've had transcendant soul food in a Texas restaurant which looked like an explosion in an ugly furniture factory.)

                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with you--Hung and he others are trying their best. I am suspicious of his sincerity in that heartfelt speech at the end, tho. It seems incongruous with what he's said over and over about competing: He's here to win.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                        I fail to see how the heartfelt speech at the end, which was largely about his family and wanting to win to make them proud, is incongruent with saying he's here to win.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                          I understand that they say it all the time. I think it's an awful phrase. For the numerous reasons I stated above.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't disagree that the point is to distinguish the best or the most pleasurable. I mean they give literary and art awards too. Doesn't mean the second or third place has no soul.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Plus I agree with batdown's comment below. Do you not think Casey or Dale want to win?

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for sharing, excellent post. You have described how truly transcendent food and drink experiences can be, and how it is so hard to predict where these experiences will present themselves. Usually it's where you least expect it.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                        Nicely written indeed, but frightening in your attempt to equate late-stage capitalist epicurean decadence with "enhancing our humanity." Great food, or any food at all for that matter, makes life better. But your ecstasy at a nice tasting-wine is a little over the top.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Wow, does this American Empire deserve to fall.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, then I'll raise a glass of good wine to you, wish you the best, and carry on.