Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 14 (Finale, Part 2) - Hung Won!
Episode 314: Finale, Part 2
Top Chef Season 3 Winner: Hung
DAY 1: THE BEST MEAL EVER
On the first day of competition, the three chefs woke up to a day full of surprises. First, they took a ski gondola up to Aspen Mountain, where Padma and Colicchio were waiting at The Mountain Club to announce the final challenge. Located at an altitude of 11,200 feet, this exclusive club costs over a hundred grand to join and has a years-long waiting list. Talk about swanky!
Standing in front of a huge spread of proteins, seasonal produce and a really tacky ice sculpture, Colicchio announced the rules: “Cook us the best meal of your life.” The competition required three courses from each chef, each served simultaneously, instead of in succession as in past competitions. No pressure, really!
The three chefs had 35 minutes to prepare a menu, which would be written in stone once they handed it over to Tom. Casey and Hung chose prawns for a second course, so Dale switched to lobster. Dale and Casey picked foie gras for the first course.
Back at the gondola station, the chefs drew knives for sous chefs. This is when things got really interesting, because these guys weren’t exactly slim pickings! Dale paired up with Todd English, Casey kept it girly with Michelle Bernstein and Hung practically wet his pants when he saw Rocco DiSpirito.
With only three hours to prepare, the finalists and their bitches headed over to the kitchen. Even though Rocco, Todd and Michy are cream of the crop, they had to keep their mouths shut and perform their humble duties. Off the set, of course, the chefs talked to us and Michy showed some concern about Casey’s choice of pork belly for one of the courses.
During the three-hour prep, all the chefs encountered serious set backs because of altitude. The boiling point is much lower at 11,200 feet than at sea level and it takes FOREVER for anything to boil, which turned Dale’s French-style gnocchi into sticky goop and forced him to prepare a fresh batch of regular gnocchi at the last minute.
DAY 2: THE LAST SUPPER
The day of judgment came and the chefs had two hours until service. One hour into prep, Colicchio announced they had to whip up a fourth course! As Dale said, “I wanted to punch him in the face.” But guess who stepped in to help? Previous favorites Sara M, who helped Hung with a chocolate cake dessert, and CJ, who put his idle hands to work with Dale’s last-minute lamb dish. Casey got stuck with bulldog Howie, but he rose to the occasion with a fancy steak and fingerling potatoes plate.
Dinner was served outdoors during a lovely sunset. At table, Padma, Colicchio, Gail, Ted, Todd, Michy and Rocco prevailed. Joining the motley crew of critics was our dear old Brian Malarkey, who didn’t get to go home so soon after all. “This is my $100,000 meal,” he said.
Overall, the last supper of Top Chef Season 3 came down to two contenders, which isn’t surprising, considering that it’s a lot easier to choose between two rather than three! But it truly was a sampling of the best meals I’ve seen all season, so kudos to all three who made it this far.
Judge’s table was recorded during the episode but the big announcement was withheld until the episode premiere, which was broadcast live. Here’s all the leftovers from judge’s table and the much-anticipated moment:
Poor Casey admitted she didn’t have her best day, even though she acknowledged she had kicked some ass earlier in the season. (And she most certainly did!) Unfortunately, Michy was right about the pork belly. Had it been cooked just right, it would’ve been the perfect accompaniment to the grilled peach and cardomom crème fraîche. Out of all four dishes, the best one was her last “surprise” steak with fingerling potatoes, which she prepared with Howie’s help. At the live announcement, Colicchio told Casey that she was a great chef and that he knew where to go if he wanted a great meal in Dallas. You go, girl! Maybe you’ll help set some standards for women in this field!
Dale scored three strong dishes with only one exception: his gnocchi, which Colicchio found inedible. Other complaints about the dish included overpowering curry flavor, overcooking and a sauce that fell flat. Dale’s foie gras was good, but a bit heavy. His scallop and purslane dish received high praise, but was a mere runner-up to his final lamb dish, which Colicchio called a triumph. “Keep it with you and do it the rest of your life. It was a great dish,” he said.
Admittedly, Dale made the dish with CJ’s help, but Gail was impressed by the fact that he took a risk, since he had never prepared the dish before.
Hung’s hamachi and shrimp courses were good, but the consensus pointed to a lack of acid. The fourth course, a dessert made by Sara M, was also passable but not something to serve when trying to impress the judges. But forget about all that – it was Hung’s third duck course that blew everyone away like a windstorm on a mountaintop! Todd English called it “three star Michelin in my book” and Michy claimed “it’s really perfect and I’m a little jealous.” Colicchio also boosted Hung’s ego by telling him that like Dale and his lamb, he should keep it in his repertoire: “Don’t even think about improving upon it.”
It came down to a tie: first course to Hung’s hamachi, second course to Dale’s scallops, third course to Hung’s duck and fourth to Dale’s lamb. Two for two. As Ted Allen said, “the best thing that can happen in this competition is for it to be this difficult.” Indeed, I don’t think the words “Michelin” and “triumph” have EVER come out of any judges’ mouths in Top Chef!
So for one last riveting moment on live TV, Padma didn’t tell anyone to pack their knives, but shout out a “congratulations!” to Hung who started to jump up and down like a giddy fool!
Nah, here’s what Hung really said: “I’m so excited! I worked so hard to get here and to prove myself and I have so much support from America. I’m speechless. I’m speechless. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.”
I’m sure we’ll be hearing lots more from you, Hung. You certainly deserved to win for the quality of your food in the final competition and your overall technical expertise. Congratulations! Can’t wait to see what kind of restaurant you’ll open.
My money would’ve been on Dale. I think he would’ve won had it not been for the gnocchi. It was a REALLY close call.
I’d love to see Dale do his own cooking show. I’m going to miss his wit and wise-ass comments. He’s like a kinder, gentler and of course gay version of Anthony Bourdain. Come on Food Network, pick up his funny ass before someone else does!
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