Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 13 (Finale, Part 1) - Bye Bye Brian
Episode 313: Finale, Part 1
Quickfire Challenge: Casey
QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: OUT OF THE STREAM AND INTO THE FRYING PAN
After a month off, Brian, Casey, Dale and Hung arrived in Aspen. They first hopped aboard a hot-air balloon ride and took in a bird’s eye view of the beautiful landscape. They toasted to each other’s success so far, but not without acknowledging the prize at stake.
After the ride, they strolled into a grassy meadow by a stream, where they cowered like frightened bunny rabbits in the presence of big–time chef Eric Ripert, who acted as guest judge for part 1 of the finale.
The countryside backdrop for this quickfire challenge was Frying Pan River Valley, “Aspen’s trout fishing mecca,” according to Padma. So it goes without saying that the chefs got some trout, a frying pan, a camping stove, access to some basic pantry ingredients and 20 minutes to cook for chef Ripert.
Brian, the fish chef of all people, had a hard time with this challenge. Some of his trout ended up on the grass. And no, the fish wasn’t alive and leaping out of the pan! But apparently, freshwater trout doesn’t count as seafood. OK, whatever.
Casey and Dale also had problems with their stations, which were slanted tree stumps. As for Hung, he finished five minutes early and acted all smug and cocky, which backfired. He realized after it was too late that he forgot to add lemon juice to his fish.
Ripert’s verdict was quick. Dale’s cayenne spice was too strong while Brian’s unsalted salad was very bland. Hung’s trout was missing lemon juice – the key ingredient that would’ve made all the difference in his curry-spiced trout.
So it was Casey who got heaping servings of compliments from Ripert: the grape and corn garnish went very well together, the fish was well seasoned and her dish had “soul.” Woo-hoo! The girly girl with a heart beat out the boys!
ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: FAIR GAME
After checking in at the Hotel Jerome (apparently one of the best in the world, according to Casey), the chefs moseyed on down to Moon Run Horse Ranch, where Padma told them they’d be catering the Snowmass Rodeo Riders Annual Get Together, using ingredients already waiting for them in the kitchen. Each chef had three hours to create and pack an entrée for at least 40 hungry cowboys and cowgirls.
Before arriving in Colorado, each chef had a budget of $200 to purchase and pack any non-perishable items of their choice to use in the final competitions. Casey’s quickfire advantage was that she was the only chef allowed to use any of her ingredients, but she never dipped into her personal stash.
Adding (or taking away, depending on how you look at it) from the pressure was Colicchio’s announcement that three chefs – not two – would be competing against each other in the finale.
In The Kitchen
Elk is a gamey cousin to deer. Dale had experience with game and Casey, who is originally from Texas, had come from a family who hunted and ate the animal. As for Hung, all he could do was complain: elk is so boring! cowboys only eat beans! I’m only cooking to please the judges! And finally, Brian who grew up in the country, was just happy to cook something other than seafood.
Here’s the rundown on the elk: Brian braised the shank and Hung seared marinated loin. Dale pan-seared while Casey crusted loin with mushroom.
Once again, Hung finished early and refused to help anyone else in the kitchen. Brian was running late. Dale’s goat cheese tart turned out grainy so he decided to prepare a batch of cauliflower and potatoes boiled in milk.
With only four chefs remaining, judges’ table was a long, drawn-out process. Gail Simmons joined Ripert, Colicchio and Padma for some tough chef wrangling.
Colicchio said that Hung’s dish suffered from “seasonal disorder” because he had summer garnishes with autumn potatoes. Gail nodded in agreement: “I don’t think the components showcased the elk.” Ripert thought Hung’s cooking was “technically perfect but too controlled.”
This was the second episode in which Hung was pitted against Casey as the arrogant, soulless cook, which is very interesting, because after harping on and on about how he wanted to make his hard-working, hard-cooking Vietnamese family proud, Hung shot himself in the foot by being too good for his own food. Colicchio’s final words: “You are technically the best chef up here. We don’t see you in your food. We need to see Hung.”
Casey lost points for serving rare meat. For Ripert, it was “almost black and blue.” Gail thought her cauliflower wasn’t memorable and Colicchio hated the fact that she threw chunks of the vegetable into a silky purée. But all agreed that her smoky tomato butter was excellent. Ripert absolutely loved it, saying that it not only added to the elk but made it better. Ultimately though, the sauce wasn’t enough to earn Casey a second win.
The only complaint about Dale’s dish was the fact that he had too many components on it, which is odd, considering that Brian’s dish had so many more. A slice of elk, with a nice sauce and some cauliflower and potato doesn’t seem like that much to me! Dale’s response was that yes, it looked like a carnival, but that he had plated “controlled chaos.” Ripert did eventually conclude that Dale’s dish was “harmonious.”
Ripert praised the elk and agreed with Gail that his huckleberry and blackberry sauce was delicious. Dale told the judges he had never cooked that sauce before but that he had always gotten good reviews for his game. Also, Colicchio was happy to hear that Dale had gone for plan B, replacing the goat cheese tart with cauliflower and potato.
So, in an unexpected twist, underdog Dale—who had made it to the finals without a single win—won with a bang! His prize was a trip to a food and wine weekend hosted by Ripert at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, where he would participate in a cooking demonstration with the renowned chef and spend some time in his restaurant.
I was sure either Casey or Hung would win this challenge. But I’ve enjoyed Dale’s wise-ass comments so much throughout the season, I’m tickled pink he’s got his chef back! Congratulations, Dale!
And on to poor Brian, who got the boot. Brian’s personality scored high but got the better of him. For service, he put on quite a song and dance, complete with burning sage on the stove top.
If Dale’s dish was a carnival, Brian’s was a freak show. Gail complained it took “him nearly 25 minutes to explain what was going on.” Padma asked Brian flat-out: “Is there anything in the pantry that you didn’t put on your plate?”
The dish was topped off with two different chunks of cheeses each guest could choose, which was really over the top. Ripert complained that Brian should’ve decided ahead of time what cheese to serve on the plate.
To be fair, Brian’s cafeteria-on-a-plate approach may not have pleased the judges, but they all agreed that he was sincerely cooking for the cowboys. Brian defended himself by saying he wanted everyone to have fun and get excited about the food before even savoring the first mouthful.
But it does come down to food and all the friendliness in the world couldn’t make up for the fact that Brian’s was not a winning dish. Brian said he should go on to the final because he hadn’t had a chance to really cook his food, but Colicchio said that was a cop-out. The elk was Brian’s dish.
Brian left with his head high and all smiles.
“I’ve ridden this thing all the way through to Miami, New York and Aspen. I’ve enjoyed the entire ride. I’ve cooked great dishes. I’ve left with the greatest amount of respect. I’ve made friends. I think I got a little cutting-edge, maybe a little ahead of my time, maybe I’ll be celebrated when I’m gone.”
Good luck to you, Brian! After all, you almost won Top Chef and your show must go on!
NEXT COURSE: EPISODE 14: “Finale Part 2” And then there were three. The final episode airs tonight, Wednesday, October 3 with a surprise live ending!
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