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Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 12 - So Long Sara

September 29, 2007 By Maria de los Angeles in

“This doesn’t define me as a chef. . . . I’m going to make my cheese somewhere in the world.”  Looking for show updates? Read our coverage about Top Chef 3: Miami

Episode 312:  “Manhattan Transfer”

Quickfire Challenge:  Hung
Elimination Challenge: Hung
Eliminated: Sara


You’ve come a long way, baby.  Cooking at Le Cirque is a far cry from outdoor barbecues on Miami Beach.

Finally in Manhattan, the five remaining chefs arrived at the legendary restaurant Le Cirque, where owner Sirio Maccioni treated them to a special dish – a 20-year old recipe reserved only for VIP guests:  sea bass wrapped in russet potato, served over leeks and mushrooms.

So where are the trapeze artists?

This quickfire challenge was, well, actually quite challenging.  Each chef had to recreate the classic dish in Le Cirque’s kitchen in only 25 minutes.  They had a limited mis en place and no familiarity with the kitchen’s layout.  Even worse, they had to interrupt the restaurant’s line cooks to ask questions, which made some of the chefs quite uncomfortable.

Take a good look, guys!  It’s REALLY fancy fish and chips.  Pass the malt vinegar.

This is all you get, babe.  Now start cooking!

How embarrasing!  Dale didn’t know how to use the mandarin!

According to Maccioni, Dale’s dish didn’t have any seasoning, but Brian’s “tasted good” and Casey’s “tasted better than any.”  Poor Sarah ran into so many problems in the kitchen, she started cooking six minutes before service, plating a filet that was practically raw.  “I got nervous on this one,” she said.

Maccioni:  old school gentleman or boy’s club chauvinist?

Maccioni thought Casey and Hung were practically tied and said he’d choose Casey because he’s a man and she’s attractive.  Earlier in the episode, Casey made some remarks about how tough it was to be a female chef in a predominantly male field and how she wanted to be respected for the quality of her work.

This is a breeze!  Hung refused to share the secret of his success with any of his fellow chefs.

Hung received top honor for his potato-slicing prowess – his classical training and technical skill served him well.  Maccioni said:  “Bravo, this is close to the original!”


Meat and potatoes, sort of.  The chefs had to turn kitchen staples into ooh la la!

This episode’s elimination challenge brought the chefs back to school—the student kitchen at the highly respected French Culinary Institute of America, to be precise.  The challenge also brought them back to basics.  Padma told the chefs that the deans and master chefs of the institute wanted to test their skill and imagination with simple ingredients.

And … voila!  What could be simpler than a chicken, a russet potato and a yellow onion?  Padma continued with the instructions:  “You must take these basics and make them no less than sublime.” No pressure, huh? The chefs then headed out to Green Market in Union Square with one hour and $200 to shop for additional ingredients.

The chefs prepared dishes for this tough crowd.  Dale said:  “It’s kind of like the last supper.  All you see are the Jesus’ apostles of culinary greatness.”

As a reward for winning the quickfire challenge, Hung got an extra half hour to cook and first service.  The other chefs watched during the first half hour as he showed off his knife skills.  Hung decided to prepare his chicken sous-vide style, which means poached with butter inside a vacuum-sealed bag at a very low temperature.  “This is something all chefs should know if they’ve been classically trained.”  OK, smarty pants!

The other four chefs took very different approaches.  Brian chose shepard’s pie and Casey picked coq au vin.  Dale cooked a duet of potato and onion purée with his chicken while Sarah prepared a Jamaican-style fricassee with Israeli couscous.


Casey said:  “I’m not classically trained but there’s more to being a chef than just classical training.”  Dale agreed.  Earlier on in the show he said that Casey’s advantage over Hung was that her food tasted better because she had heart.  Ouch!

The lonely cook: “I came here by myself.”  Hung asked Casey to help him plate but she didn’t have time.  Why would she?  Hung hasn’t exactly been Mr. Cooperation with any of the other chefs.

Only three chefs stuck to the rules—keep it basic and make sure it tastes like chicken.

Brian’s layered pie was a big hit, but the main complaint from everyone’s mouth was that the pheasant sausage flavor overpowered the chicken; nevertheless, Dorothy Hamilton, founder of the FCIA thought the ramps were scrumptious.

Hung and Casey were once again in a tied position.  Casey’s dish was light but rustic and flavorful.  Colicchio said she shouldn’t have called it coq au vin, just braised chicken, because the dish is usually made with an old rooster; but the other chefs argued that it was the best tasting of the challenge and that you could never cook coq au vin in just two hours.  Casey rebutted by explaining that her grandmother was French and used chicken instead of rooster.

Simple, elegant and tasty earned Hung a second victory.

Hung’s was a success in every respect except for his pomme dauphine, which guest judge André Soltner, Dean of Classic Studies at the Culinary Institute, said should have been more puffed up and light.  Other than that he told Hung that the chicken “was cooked to perfection.”

So that’s two wins for Hung in one episode!

It seems like Casey and Hung have been pitted against each other as two formidable contenders for the finals – the classically trained snotty chef Hung versus cute cook Casey.  I just hope that Casey gets the respect she deserves.  As the saying goes, may the best man (or woman) win!

This challenge was all about eliminating the one odd bird.  Colicchio boiled it down to poor execution in Sara’s case and bad conceptualization in Dale’s.

Dale’s chicken pieces rested on two different purées made from potato—one flavored with truffle, the other with onion.  Colicchio complained it wasn’t a sauce but rather a puréed potato.    Well, yes, it was supposed to be a puréed potato!  Why the confusion?  Probably because Dale screwed up; in the frenzy of cooking and plating, he forgot to add his rosemary honey sauce to the dish!

During service, one of the master chefs said Sara’s confit wasn’t quite like a marmalade; Colicchio called it a pickle.  Dorothy Hamilton, founder of the FCIA said that she liked the concept of the dish but that it was an “overly ambitious” and that Sara would need a couple of more years in one of the institute’s kitchens.

Look, a gratuitous boob shot in Manhattan!  Judge Gail Simmons had some complaints about Sara’s undercooked breasts.  The nerve!

At judge’s table, Colicchio kept emphasizing Sara’s poor execution.  To begin with, no one could taste Jamaican spices.  Sara explained that she used thyme, pepper and allspice in moderation because she didn’t want to overpower the dish.  Gail also complained about her chicken being raw, even though Sara swore she sliced each piece individually before plating.  Overall, the judges loved her concept, but not her work.

Yikes!  That’s two undercooked dishes in one episode late in the season – certainly not Top Chef material.  So Dale went on to prove his mettle in the finals and Sara went home.

Brian insisted Sara toast with some champagne for her great run.

As she packed her knives, the always jovial Sara was tearful but grateful.  “They had to eliminate somebody and I didn’t cross my t’s or dot my i’s, which I should’ve done.  I had a good ride.  I made it to the top five.  It’s awesome.  I’m happy, of course.  I’m just going to miss my friends.”

Brian had some very nice words about Sara:  “I think she’s a really great chef and she’s always brought a lot to the table.  She just served some chicken that wasn’t cooked all the way through and it was a nail in the coffin.”

But certainly Sara’s career is far from dead.  Remember her win as executive chef in Second Helpings? I have no doubt she’s going to be a great cheesemaker!  Best of luck to you, Sara!

NEXT COURSE:  EPISODE 13: “Finale Part I” 
It’s down to the wire whisk as the final four chefs compete in a two-part finale to determine who will be the next “Top Chef.”

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About the Author: Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith who loves to write about all things travel in Florida and the Caribbean. She is also the author of the award-winning blog Sex and the Beach.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles

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