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Oct 3, 2007 08:17 PM

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

Yay Hung!

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    1. re: spinach

      I agree - I thought Dale's dishes looked better (as described, I think I would have picked them as an overall menu over Hung's dishes in a restaurant), and the judges seemed to enjoy those two dishes more.

      Casey definitely fell apart. But I'm glad Tom said he knew she was a good chef, and I laughed when she said that she had told Dale and Hung that she had been kicking their ass in recent weeks. :-)

      ETA - was Dale's scallop "surprise dish" a riff on Casey's mountainside win? He used a scallop; she used trout - but didn't they both have corn, halved grapes, and a citrus acid dressing of some sort?

      1. re: LindaWhit

        I guess that "inedible" dish killed it though.

        Todd English calling Hung's Duck "3 star michelin"

        how could he not win?

        1. re: Xericx

          I'd have to agree. They both had one knockout dish, one really good dish, one good dish, and a clunker. Dale's clunker tasted bad, Hung's was boring. I think they made the correct choice.

          1. re: sheriffblalock

            I thought his "safe" dish was more of a risk...desserts are usually hard on these competitions...they never go over well.

            1. re: sheriffblalock

              i think Hung's wasn't a clunker. it was in fact described as "perfectly executed". although i agree he should have done something more interesting. at least done cinnamon or asian spices in the cake or added citrus to the cream...

              1. re: AMFM

                I agree. He could really have jerked one out of the park if he had just spruced that dish up a little more or put a spin on it. Of course, he was playing it safe, and he didnt want to run the risk of putting out a dud, but just a little more confidence and adventurousness and Hung would have been the clear winner, hands down.

                I think that Hung is the top chef. But how awesome was Dale? He really impressed me in the last quarter of the season. Casey's meltdown was unfortunate because she is really talented and has a great sense of composition and really knows food. I'm sure all three of them will be very successful.

                1. re: batdown

                  I'm just glad she didn't break down in tears during the judging. See Rocco give her the "hey you" look. :)

                  1. re: batdown

                    If I had been in that group of finalists, I would have taken some of the break time to cook at that altitude... see how I responded physically, and what challenges might be to my cooking at that height.

                    I've cooked in Denver and Steamboat, and it IS a lot different than down here on the ground!

                  2. re: AMFM

                    Agreed, Hung's chocolate cake would have been more interesting with an added twist of something, but I respect him for making a dessert, which is something the others were afraid to do at all. The judges appreciated that someone made dessert. And, that stupid last-minute 4th course gimmick was a smack in the face for the chefs. Hung had to immediately choose something simple that Sarah could make, which would not mess up his menu. Given the time constraints, on top of the incredible stress they were already under, I don't blame him.

                    Dale did pretty well, but produced a dish so bad the judges couldn't eat it. Ted Allen sure seemed to push for Dale in the end, in spite of that, which I thought was weird. There was no question in the judges and in my mind of who produced the best meal. Congratulations to Top Chef Hung, who was already a Top Chef before he entered this competition.

                    1. re: Moka

                      Agreed. That he was able to delegate the dessert to Sara so that he could concentrate on his other dishes was a very smart move.

                2. re: Xericx

                  When English said 3 star Michelin I was floored...I need to taste that dish!!

                  1. re: Xericx

                    i had really hoped that casey would pull this off.. but she fell apart. and i have to say, I think that hung really showed some heart in this one. i loved dale, but overall.. i do felt hat hung deserved it

                    i LOVED the twist the celeb. sous chefs. I think that I would have liked to see the celebs take a more active role though...


                  2. re: LindaWhit

                    Yeah, the lobster dish seems to have done him in. Tom was pretty adamant about it.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I thought for sure Dale had it, he even seemed to give it away during the speechifying--but Hung won me over again with truly humble speech at the end and his goofy excitement. Any of the three would have been a good choice really, but I was bummed that Casey couldn't get it together. Don't play the silly female space cadet, Casey! That may work in Texas but it didn't wash for the judges. Her best dish was Howie's! Ouch. I was sure Dale had it but glad Hung's consistency won out! You rule, Hung!

                      1. re: newhavener07

                        I think the fact that Dale said that the scallop dish everybody loved was a 50-50 collaboration with CJ hurt him. He should have claimed full credit for that dish.

                          1. re: Megiac

                            How could he take full credit for it when he admittedly didn't create the dish?

                            1. re: DanaB

                              Dale might have been generous in saying it was a 50-50collaboration, I matter what CJ contributed, Dale made the decisions about what went into the dish and what was served. If the dish had been bad he would have had to take more than 50% of the blame.

                      2. re: LindaWhit

                        I thought the exact same thing about that scallop dish. It looked so familiar! Except for the protein choice

                      3. re: spinach

                        The lobster killed Dale. If it had been at least okay, he'd have had it.

                        1. re: spinach

                          I dislike Hung, so I was rooting for Dale. But if I had to choose a meal, I would go for Dale's. It was much more interesting to me, and that lobster dish looked fine from here. The chops looked amazing, but I'm still wondering what the hell poaching in duck fat is. It sounds disgusting.

                          Hung's duck dish did seem to be brilliant, but the rest was boring and to me very uninspired. If that's the best he can do, I doubt I would be interested in his restaurant.

                          1. re: Pete Oldtown

                            Poaching in duck or goose fat is cooking and storing something is defined as a "confit" preparation, I believe. (Can someone else confirm?) I also think it's cooked for a very long time.

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              Poaching does not indicate extra long cooking. It's gentle, submerged cooking. Poaching has nothing to do with confit, either.

                              Many chefs poach fish in olive oil. Dales use of the duck fat was a take on that, and imho, would have upped the flavor profile of that lobster exponentially.

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                it was the lamb he cooked that way.

                                1. re: AMFM

                                  Right, the lobster was butter poached.

                                2. re: ChefJune

                                  Sorry - I meant "confit" usually was longer, gentle cooking.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    yes - confit is slow and low
                                    garlic confit in olive oil...mmmmm
                                    Zuni cookbook has instructions -- I think for a turkey confit

                            2. re: spinach

                              Great season - Hung deserved the win last night. I'm shocked that Casey fell apart in the finale. She was really on fire in the later part of the season and the judges loved her flavors.

                            3. Like I said in the picks, even my monkey thought Hung should win! Great job. Oh yeah, Padma's dress, Prom night in 1980 or what?

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: bookwormchef

                                I hate to admit it, but Padma looks even better live. She's not even human! She could make a pork belly dress look good. She may not have the most stirring delivery, but she's a good host and her fashions make the show more visually interesting. She also knows food and is not afraid to wear hats. Hats off to Padma for a great season.

                                1. re: newhavener07

                                  Really? I think she is totally gross, and I don't like the other female host/judge either. Both are sooo uninteresting and deadpan. I wish they would have a woman chef as a host like Tom whatever his name is instead of just having "attractive" woman who sound like ditzes and don't cook. BTW, we're watching that show to see the food, not the people. And Rocco looks damn good!

                                  1. re: SFGourmande

                                    Before they let Padma go, they should let Tom Coliccio go. He needs to get away from the cameras and focus on CRAFT-LA. The restaurant is receiving one horrible review after another.

                                    1. re: jocey

                                      I would love to see a blind tasting of his food against the cheftestants!

                                      1. re: DarthEater

                                        I'd love to see a blind taste test of any sort on top chef. Contestant versus contestant, contestant versus judge, season versus season. Anything. None of the competitions were ever blind.

                                      2. re: jocey

                                        True- but I ate there the night of the finale and I say try it for yourself! It seems the reviews all compare it to NY Craft, which it may not excel to that level, yet, but they are working on turning it around. Most the bad reviews focus on the service- which I found delightful, informative, and well versed in the food and wine. The food is phenomenal- Braised Quail, tender and flavorful, Hamaichi light and tasty, Sable with sabyonon was beyond words. All the sides were great. My hubbie and I were overall very pleased.

                                      3. re: SFGourmande

                                        i'm not a padma fan...i think she's pretty much just an exotic barbie doll. and her wardrobe choice for the finale was quite a bad 80's prom flashback. surprising, because she's usually pretty stylishly - if occasionally a bit scantily - clad.

                                        but in her defense, apparently she can cook. she's authored a couple of cookbooks, and iirc, a magazine article i read about her last year [in food & wine, perhaps?] quoted a respected chef [of course i can't remember who!] saying that she does indeed have skills. i recall being surprised by the revelation as i read the piece.

                                        the former female host was katie lee joel, wife of one of new york's favorite crooners, billy. that woman has zero charisma. her minnie mouse monotone and lifeless eyes were excruciating to endure week after week. but again, i was surprised to discover recently that she's apparently a cook as well. although i found this out because i heard she was a guest on the 'butter queen's' show, and apparently paula is a huge fan of katie's cooking...i guess that explains billy's gut :)

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          Apparently all those celebrity wives are reinventing themselves as chefs these days (both Padma and Katie Lee are only known through their marriages). Jessica Seinfeld just put out a cookbook. I wish I had me a rich boyfriend/sugar daddy to bankroll my cool-inary ambitions...sigh.

                                          1. re: Fuser

                                            Padma and Katie Lee may both be famous because of their marriages, but both were cooks long before they got married. Katie Lee was in food (a caterer?) before she met Billy Joel. Padma started to cook and create cookbooks when she was travelling as a model in her late teens and early 20's.

                                            1. re: Honey Bee

                                              They were in their early 20s and they were considered "cooks?" Neither has any serious claim to being a cook (summer jobs really don't count) -- and both have used their famous husbands to gain entry to a rarified world where most people have to work for years to earn any kind of serious culinary reputation. Like I said, I wish it were me.

                                              1. re: Fuser

                                                Honestly. Padma Lakshmi was a world famous model and had already published a cookbook and won awards...6 years before she married Salman Rushdie. She was in rarified airs all on her own.

                                                I'm growing weary of this celebrity as dart board for things other than actual merits. It seems worse since, in my experience, it tends to only be the women who get shredded in such a way.

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  Agreed. and that's all I'll say about it. :)

                                            2. re: Fuser

                                              Yes, indeed. Padma Lakshmi had her first cookbook published in 1998 and it won "Best First Book" at the 1999 World Cookbook Awards. Then was on the all-too-short-lived Melting Pot on The Food Network back when it was worth watching at times. And at least as regards the "known" part...also that whole modeling thing that started around 1990.

                                              Good thing she married Salman Rushdie in 2004 to make all of that happen.

                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                THAT'S who she's married to? How did I not know that? Interesting. Either she's brighter than she appears on TV (which I'm certain is easy to have happen) or I'm just totally thrown. Didn't take him for the trophy wife type. Not after all he's been through. Hmmm... food for thought today,

                                                1. re: AMFM

                                                  They are actually in midst of a divorce.

                                      4. re: bookwormchef

                                        Ahh! Stupid Padma. At least she stopped with the melodramatic talk and her drawn out syllables. She came off as downright pretentious in the previous episodes. At least we don't have to see her nipples poking through that blouse everytime the show opens!!!! HOORAY!

                                        It was a good season none the less. There wasn't as much drama as the first two seasons. They really focused on the food this time. Yay Bravo!

                                        1. re: porkbutt03

                                          I'm female and I would rather deal with Padma, who is much more lively than the previous cold fish of a host. I watch Top Chef because I'm passionate about food so I want to see the host get excited as well. Although I think Padma really had a thing for CJ, she looked especially sad to see him go.

                                          1. re: windycity

                                            I am glad someone else noticed that Padima seemed more emotional at CJ's departure than any other chef. I watched that episode again yesterday and she did seem upset to see him go and have to tell him to "pack your knives". I thought the returning contestants did a great job helping the final three-so much more professional than the bias helpers of last season.

                                            1. re: foodseek

                                              cj must've wooed her with his quickfire breakfast. he did claim that he 'knows what women like' when it comes to food. too bad for him they didn't have an all-female judges' table.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Hung won the breakfast quickfire that Padma judged. Guess CJ doesn't know as much as he thinks he does.

                                                1. re: Scott M

                                                  hahaha Hung put Grand Marnier in his smoothie!

                                        2. re: bookwormchef

                                          The first words out of my mouth were that my mom wore an astonishingly similar dress as a bridesmaid in my aunt's 1978 wedding! Talk about a wardrobe malfunction...
                                          I think Hung deserved to win, but I have to say his duck sous-vide looked repulsive to me. That color and texture just freaked me out. He did seem humbled by the win and extremely happy.

                                          1. i knew someone would post first! it was a great episode but i felt bad watching casey crash and burn since i genuinely liked all of them this time. but you could tell from this episode and the final that they'd played up some of how hard he was to work with because obviously they all get along reasonably well this time. Sara and Rocco and the other two had no troubles with him. Fun dishes - I have to say that I'd probably personally most like to eat at Dale's restaurant someday - all around. But hung deserved to win. And all three will do great! Can't wait to read the blogs!

                                            31 Replies
                                            1. re: AMFM

                                              I felt really bad for Casey too!!! I wish she had been able to execute one really great dish...but if she had it would have broken the 2-2 tie!

                                              I was rooting for Hung the whole time but all three of them showed that they can make winning dishes. Wow--Michelin 3 star duck--that was amazing. Dale's lamb, too. I don't think judges have ever shown this much effusive praise on the show before--well, definitely not season 2.

                                              I wish we had heard more from the celebrity sous chefs, because all of their comments were really interesting and insightful. I really liked the twist and I think they celebrity chefs did a great job of staying in their roles. More respect for Rocco.

                                              1. re: kenito799

                                                Yeah. Rocco seemed cool where i had previously lamblasted his captain douchebagness in the past.

                                                1. re: Xericx

                                                  the line where he said that hung just gave him jobs to keep him out of the way - too funny!

                                                  1. re: AMFM

                                                    One of my favorite lines ;-) That and MichelleB saying something along the lines of "That was perfect. I'm jealous."

                                                    1. re: momjamin

                                                      My favorite line was someone (I think Rocco or Hung) asked "did you just sweat on (into?) the food?

                                                  2. re: Xericx

                                                    If you haven't read Rocco's blog on bravo please do so. It is well written and insightful.

                                                2. re: AMFM

                                                  Him? Casey was the kick ass woman who came inches within winning.

                                                  1. re: tastyjon

                                                    I'm sorry, I know there are alot of Casey fans but she was not "inches within winning." Not one of her dishes in the finale was a favorite and the one dish that garnered the most favor was actually done by Howie. Casey's a great chef but she didn't show up for the finale.

                                                    1. re: moymoy

                                                      agreed. i was a huge casey fan, and really rooted for her to win. but she crashed and burned on this one. i don't know if it was the altitude, nerves, or what, but we're talking choke with a capital c.

                                                      it was depressing to watch.

                                                      i've always been a very vocal rocco supporter, and i just KNEW the minute i saw hung hit the jackpot with him as sous-chef that he would pull it off...and his good fortune at drawing sara on day 2 was the clincher. i'm not 'qualifying' or diminishing the validity of hung's victory by any means...he won because he deserved it. but for some reason it was the rocco/sara combination that convinced me long before the reveal that he was going to win.

                                                      i did think it was sweet the way michelle bernstein kept trying to come up with ways to defend/support casey during the critique of the meal. you could tell she was really searching for positive things to say about casey & her food...without compromising her own credibility by praising dishes that were clearly sub-par.

                                                      one thing i just don't understand is why they even bothered to have malarkey there. i love brian and it was nice to see him again, but i'm not convinced he contributed anything. i know they edit the hell out of these tableside discussions, but supposedly the purpose of inviting brian was to get his perspective as someone who knows what the contestants go through during these challenges...and he didn't utter a word to that end. comments like 'i can't find a single thing wrong with this dish' [i believe it was in reference to hung's '3-star michelin' duck] aren't exactly gems of insight that attest to the cheftestant experience.

                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                        Casey was definitely not herself. It seemed from the get-go she was off. I think also having a celeb sous chef flustered her, whereas Hung & Dale thrived on it.

                                                        I agree with you, not sure why Brian was included, maybe a guest judge couldn't make it and he was a seatfiller?

                                                        1. re: moymoy

                                                          Brian was already in Aspen. If he wasn't at the table, he should have been a sous-chef as a recently eliminated competitor. Perhaps they intended for him to contribute more insight than was actually shown. And MALARKEY! was probably on vacation nursing his recent defeat.

                                                          1. re: moymoy

                                                            i don't think it was the 'celeb' factor. in all honesty, it almost seemed like casey didn't know who michelle was when she first wallked out. iirc, dale was the one who said 'is that michelle bernstein?' casey didn't act too jazzed or star-struck about it.

                                                            hell, if i had been in her shoes i probably would have been a little bummed that i missed the chance to work with rocco...but how could she NOT recognize michelle bernstein?

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              I also thought Casey missed a beat in recognizing Bernstein. Could it be a new hairstyle on Ms. Bernstein? I think she is one of the most confident judges on Top Chef and doesn't let her ego get in the way of her critiques.

                                                            2. re: moymoy

                                                              I am sure Michelle and Casey got along well, but I have a feeling that Casey would have been more comfortable with a male sous-chef. There is often an unfortunate competition that automatically occurs between women battling it out in a male dominated field. Just a thought--maybe the end Michelle did really want to support Casey and I thought that was great.

                                                            3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              Michelle Bernstein's an interesting woman. I'd love to see her replace one of the other judges or at least be a occasional judge.

                                                              1. re: Moka

                                                                She judged once last season, no?

                                                                1. re: momjamin

                                                                  I think you're right, the dinner at Social in LA? Great commentary and very photogenic.

                                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                Read Tom's blog for more insight on the Brian issue.Basically they were being nice!


                                                                1. re: jme1beachbum

                                                                  yep, he was pretty matter-of-fact about that one!

                                                                  i have just one issue with colicchio's conclusions about casey on the last page:

                                                                  "Casey is a methodical chef, a serious planner who works out every detail of her menu -- flavor, textures and colors -- ahead of time with pencil and paper. If we had given the chefs four hours to plan, Casey just may have come out on top. The circumstances, however, called for more spontaneity, which just isn’t Casey’s strong suit."

                                                                  so how does he explain her 3 quickfire wins?

                                                                  [ironically, aside from hung - who won 4 - the only other chef to win 3 qf's was malarkey.]

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    I wondered about that myself. Seems like although she's a planner for big meals, she also overthinks stuff (ie Celeb sous chef wanting to take away items). So in a QF she just goes with the gut, which in most women is usually a good guiding force. Maybe?

                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      Logistics. She didn't have to plan a 3 course (and the surprise 4th) menu for more than 2 people in the quickfire. The choice of ingredients is a bit more limited in quickfire. When you cook for more people, timing in keeping the food served in the correct temperature and doneness is harder (hence the overcooked pork belly).

                                                                      But I don't buy Tom C's rationale on her needing 4 hours to plan. She had a couple of weeks to think about the menu of her life that can win her 100K. I can't believe that she didn't have a game plan on.

                                                                      From the past they know that the final meal tends not to have constraints. All she has to do is to think of dishes she would do if she has - beef, lamb, chicken, fish, pawn, etc. What sauces and cooking method, side dishes, etc.

                                                                      I think Hung was prepared. I don't think he dreamt up those dishes, especially the complex one with many ingredients, on the fly. The chocolate cake recipe was definitely pre-planned. Surprised that he's the only one who read Sam and other's blog that suggest that the final 2-3 contestants should have a couple of dessert dishes under their belt, just in case.

                                                                      1. re: notmartha

                                                                        actually after watching the reunion show i think casey herself made it pretty clear...she admitted her head just wasn't entirely in the game for the finale. and if that truly was the case, no amount of preparation time and/or advance planning would compensate...the execution's bound to suffer.

                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                          I think her excuse that she has a job outside of Top Chef was pretty lame. I'm sure Dale and Hung both were pretty busy outside of the show as well.

                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                            i was merely pointing out that if her head wasn't in the game, that would explain why she choked. i wasn't "excusing" her. in fact, i thought it was a copout...much like her whining at judges' table when she tried to blame her poor performance on unforeseen challenges such as the additional dish. as colicchio was quick to point out, they were all working under the same conditions, the other just handled them more successfully.

                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                              Casey actually seems to make a lot of excuses for everything. Bad ones to boot.

                                                                      2. re: jme1beachbum

                                                                        Good blog by Tom. Found it interesting that about halfway through he complimented all of the chefs on Season 3 for being professional enough and respectful of each other to not demean themselves with any "hazing" or late night obvious reference to Season 2 cheftestants.

                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          I think the hazing was referring to Season 2, but the late night drinking was definitely a shot at Season 1. Remember Stephen and Dave drinking the night before the finale?

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            I agree with LindaWhit. The shot was definitely at season 2. I think the drinking preceded the hazing.

                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                              "Hazing" definitely referred to Season 2. Although I'm sure it went on in Season 2 as well, "Late Night Drinking" was a clear reference to Season 1, where Dave and Stephen showed up hungover and were pretty much useless in helping Tiffany as sous chefs in the finale.

                                                                              1. re: DanaB

                                                                                We'll have to agree to disagree. I think Tom really liked season 1 and even hungover Dave made Tiffany's entire dessert course so I wouldn't call him useless.

                                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                  I think there was a lot of drinking in both seasons 1 and 2, and much less in season 3. I think the show is becoming a bigger deal in the culinary world and they are all taking it more will be interesting to see how the seasons progress, how long a run this show is going to have...

                                                              3. Yay!! I was rooting for Hung!!!