Top Chef: Season 3 Finale Recap
Top Chef: Season 3 Finale Recap
Episode Overview: It's the last supper for Dale Levitski, Hung Huynh and Casey Thompson. For this, their final opportunity to show the Top Chef judges what they can do, and they need to pull out all the stops. With the supported of their sous chefs – some expected, some a surprise – each chef has to prepare the best three-course meal of their lives. After one final last-minute challenge thrown at the three, the results will be announced live from Chicago.

Before the competition begins, we first meet up with Padma Lakshmi in Chicago, where she reminds us that the results for this season will be announced live.

But first – back in time, and back to Aspen!

The chefs all prepare for their final challenge. Casey is having difficulty breathing in the high altitude and this is a precursor to the atmosphere-related cooking challenges that will also come their way.

The chefs take a gondola ride up the mountain to meet with Padma and Tom Colicchio, who greet them in front of a huge spread of top-quality ingredients. They're at the Mountain Club, a club that has a years-long waiting list to join and that takes costs over a hundred thousand dollars to join. In this rarified air, they receive their final challenge: cook the best meal of their lives.

They have 35 minutes to figure out their menus. They compare notes, looking to avoid too much duplication. Both Casey and Dale are using foie gras in their first course, and decide to stick with it. However, when all three chefs announce they're using prawns for the second course, Dale opts to change his to lobster. When the time is up, Tom comes and collects the menus. There will be no changes now!

They draw knives for sous chefs. Hung is disappointed when he realizes they will be randomly assigned, and that he won't be picking his own. He and the others assume their sous chefs will come from the usual group of previously-eliminated cheftestants.

And they assume wrong: as the first sous chef emerges from the gondola, it becomes clear it's not one of their fellow chefs…it's Rocco DiSpirito. Hung is blown away. He's thrilled to work with Rocco as he thinks they share a similar approach to cooking.

Casey now finds out her chef…it's Michelle Bernstein. They're both surprised that the women ended up together.

Dale's sous chef arrives, it's Todd English. Dale's also excited.

The chefs all get down to work. One of the rules is that the sous chefs are true sous chefs. They are not there to assist with conception of the dish, just the execution. So they must remain mum, even as they all seem to have some concerns with how complicated all the chefs are making their meals.

Hung's manic kitchen energy comes out as he works with Rocco. He's kind of like a puppy dog; he's so super-enthusiastic about what he's doing that he's kind of bouncing off the walls. Rocco is a little uncertain about Hung's plan but gamely goes along with it.

Dale is intimidated by the situation at first, but realizes he's got to get down to business and soon start ordering Todd around.

Michelle and Casey are working well together, but Casey admits she feeling a little challenged by collaboration at this stage of the game and almost seems to want to do things herself. Michelle starts to really like Casey, but has some concerns about her pork belly preparation.

While the celebrity chefs are helping, the altitude is not. It compromises Dale's gnocchi and Casey is frustrated as well.

The celeb chefs are only there for the first day of prep, though, and the next day starts with the chefs on their own. Hung sets up a series of portable burners in the back and cooks on his own. Tom shows up to review what the chefs are up to. He likes Dale's flavors, and seems to be a little less than overwhelmed by Casey and Hung. After he speaks with each chef individually, he asks them all to head outside.

Needless to say, none are thrilled about leaving their work at such a crucial time, and even less thrilled when they see the dreaded knife block. Tom informs them that they have to create a fourth course in the next hour. They can use anything and serve it at any point in the meal. It's an awful last-minute addition, but they do get some assistance.

Here it is: the previous cheftestants are NOW back to help: Chris Jacobsen (CJ), Howie Kleinberg, and Sara Mair.

Hung's hoping for Sara because CJ doesn't like him and Howie is “messy.” He gets her – lucky Hung. Casey and bulldog Howie wind up together, and Dale gets CJ.

Back in the kitchen, everybody gets to work, and they all work together pretty well. Sara doesn't mind Hung's fast pace, Howie seems ready to buckle down and take orders, and CJ catches up quickly to what Dale is planning.

Hung decides to make a dessert of chocolate cake and raspberries. Casey opts for a meat dish, while Dale goes for a scallops dish, for which he seems to give CJ carte blanch.

The final preparation is harried, but they get everything out on time. Hung's seems to be the favorite of the first course, although everyone agrees it needed more acid. Casey's foie gras was prepared well but the roe she added was an off note. Dale's is good but heavy.

The judges are completely impressed by Dale's (and CJ's) scallops dish. Hung's isn't quite as successful, and again, the judges want more acidity in his flavoring. Casey's is not very popular.

Todd English is blown away by Hung's third course, saying it's worthy of three Michelin stars. Michelle admits she's a little jealous of it. Dale has a clunker this round; his gnocchi are too heavy. Casey's pork belly doesn't go over well either.

For the last course, it's Dale's lamb that gets some major kudos. Casey's meat dish is better than her other ones, and Michelle thinks it's actually truer to Casey's style. Hung's dessert is tasty and well-executed, but Tom points out it doesn't fit with the theme of his other dishes, nor is it at the level of creativity he would expect for this challenge.

At the judges' table, Dale's lamb dish is praised, and when asked where the scallop dish came from, he says it was “100% 50/50” with CJ. Casey admits this challenge flustered her and also lays a little blame at Howie's feet. Hung is just still on a cooking high and he's not even his usual grumpy self when Gail points out his dessert wasn't innovative.

The judges discuss the meal in private. First and third courses go to Hung. Second and fourth, to Dale. Sorry, Casey, it's not looking to be your night. Tom thinks that overall, Hung's dishes might not have all been the top, but he would eat all of them again, whereas Dale had two strong dishes, but the gnocchi dish Tom would not want to eat ever again. Gail points out that Dale's lamb dish was risky and amazing.

The decision is to be announced live in Chicago. After the chefs all get a round of praise from the judges and decompress about their feelings about the competition and this last episode, it's finally time to say who is the Top Chef. Padma announces it's Hung. He is the winner of season 3 of Top Chef.

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- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)

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