Top Chef: Season 3 Highlights
On Wednesday of this week, it will be time to finish up our dessert, pay our checks, and head on home: the chefs will be done cooking for us as it is the Top Chef finale.

Heading into the final show, we're taking a look back at some of the highlights – and lowlights – of this season.

I have, so far, enjoyed watching and recapping this season, so I was surprised that when I reviewed the recaps, there actually weren't that many moments that really stood out as highlights for me. I think the season has been more uniformly entertaining, rather than having a lot of standout moments. Here is my list of highlights…tomorrow, we'll bring you the lowlights!

Episode 1: The Surf and Turf Challenge.
With a selection of protein sure to turn the stomach of the queasier viewers and bring a tear to the eye of any soft-hearted vegetarian, this challenge really required some excellent creativity and innovation from the chefs. I mean, what do you do with a pairing of kangaroo and crab? Brian Malarkey landed himself in the bottom for his pairing of eel and snake, but I still appreciate the visual tidiness of his selection.

Episode 6: Tre Wilcox and Chris "CJ" Jacobsen show how it's done.
In the frozen-dinner challenge, Tre and CJ pulled off a nearly perfect performance. They listened carefully to the challenge instructions, they worked seamlessly and effortlessly together as a team, and they provided a dish that was tasty and well-received. They could have stepped up their Mediterranean flavors a little, but overall, the two demonstrated some serious professionalism.

Episode 9: The “Bad News Bears” win the Quickfire Challenge.
After being humbled in the first round of restaurant wars, the team of Hung Huynh, Dale Levitski, Sara Mair, and Howie Kleinberg came back ready to win. Although they arguably could have been the four least-liked characters in the competition at that particular moment, you couldn't help but be glad the underdogs won when they – as a team – handily pulled it together and beat the golden team of Tre, CJ, Casey Thompson and Brian.

From the same episode, there is an event that I can't decide if it's a highlight or a lowlight: the elimination of Tre. I liked Tre, so my consideration of this isn't out of some pleasure in seeing him leave. Rather, it's the chutzpah of the show to kick out one of the strongest and best-liked contestants…it's like killing off a favorite character. The dishes that emerged from his kitchen that episode really were not tasty and he was responsible. The show was within its bounds from a logical perspective (especially considering their recent clarification of the rule that elimination must be based on performance in that challenge, not overall strength), but they must have known they were in for a lot of fan outrage. Brave? Or foolish? I'm not sure myself.

Episode 10: The Redemption of Howie.
After episode after episode where “bulldog” Howie butted heads with every single person he worked with, he at least seemed to learn a lesson about being a team player in the final team challenge in the episode that sent him home. It didn't save him – and his personality remained abrasive – but it was nice to see the progress.

Episode 12: Le Cirque!
I love America's Next Top Model as much as the next drag-queen-conveniently- trapped-in-the-body-of-a-woman, but let's face it: Tyra isn't exactly landing the huge fashion “gets” for the show. Payless and Sears are not, say, Manolos and Prada.

But Le Cirque? Le Cirque is Le Cirque! It's the real deal, and it's pretty impressive for a reality show to not only feature the owner, but to actually cook in its kitchen. It was also humorous to see the Le Cirque owner take the opportunity of the Quickfire Challenge to comment on how pretty Casey is. My inner feminist was appalled, but I had to laugh at how well he fit the sort of “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” pleasure-seeking stereotype of a true food lover.

So that is what I came up with as my favorite moments from the show. What were yours?

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