Top Chef: Season 3 Reunion Show
The gang is all back to talk about season 3 of Top Chef on tonight's Reunion Show. It's all the judges, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Ted Allen, and all the contestants, along with Andy Cohen from Bravo.

In addition to reminiscing about the season, they will also hear which chef has won the title of fan favorite, which comes with the prize of $10,000. Who will it be?

Not Hung Huynh, everyone is fairly certainly, and Tom laughingly tells him he has no shot at that prize.

But no matter, because he's already won the top prize, and so we have a quick montage of his performance through the season. Two words pretty much sum up the footage: speedy and a-hole. Lots of shots of him tearing through the kitchen and sassing the judges.

The chefs all agree that Hung was the chef to beat, although runner-up Dale Levitski, who seems a bit subdued and/or grumpy this evening, pointedly notes they were all potentially the Top Chef.

Hung explains his competitive strategy, which was, apparently to keep himself separate from everyone else and not make too many friends.

The judges talk a bit about the final challenge, and their difficulty in making a decision. They say they were up until 5:30 AM arguing about the dishes. They knew the courses were evenly split between Dale and Hung, but it was Dale's lobster dish – which they felt was the worst of the evening, that tipped the scales. Padma assures the chefs that personality is not considered in the evaluation unless it was part of the dish itself.

Casey Thompson admits she was not focused with the last competition, having her mind, instead, on her restaurant back home. She also acknowledges that the on-the-fly nature of the competition didn't really suit her more methodical cooking style and Tom supports her, saying that style is just as valid. (Just, one supposes, doomed to ultimate failure in a pressure cooker environment like the way Top Chef is always structured? If it is just as valid, shouldn't there be some challenges that focus on eventual refinement of a dish? Oh right, that wouldn't make for good TV.)

When Andy asks the chefs how they felt about watching themselves, Howie Kleinberg raises his hand and states he wishes he had handled himself differently. Howie seems truly humbled and chastened by his experience, and it seems as though his opportunity to get to know his competitors as friends opened his eyes to a new way of interacting with people. He gets a question about sweating into his food but I'm too queasy this evening to dwell on that.

Someone sends in a question asking if Casey and Chris Jacobsen (CJ) might have a love connection. Huh? The tee-shirt of the season has been created – it's in honor of CJ saying (and, with his height, being) “Oh Big Time.” I hope CJ gets a cut of the tee shirt sales.

Onto the controversy around Tre's elimination. He seems to bear no bitterness for the elimination, saying he knew it was the likely outcome if he didn't succeed in that challenge, and he didn't. He seems to be a good guy, and I think it shows how truly confident he is in his ability that he isn't bitter about the loss. If you know you are good, you can afford to accept that you had an off night, which everyone agrees was all it was.

Tom is asked if he would ever consider a cook-off, and he would, selecting winner Hung as his competitor. Set it up, Bravo! I'd love to see how the judges respond to the challenge. In fact, I think next season, all the judges should have to perform the challenges themselves, with the same time constraints. Put them in their own private kitchen without camera if you like, but make them really see what the contestants are working with.

Speaking of the judges, we see a montage of the judges slamming the contestants, and one of the contestants being feisty in return. Tom says the judges are so pointed in their criticism mainly because they are so invested in the outcome. When a guest judge doesn't like the food, Tom feels personally let down. The chefs agrees that Tom seems like their executive chef and they want to please him.

Another montage, this time of the “Stew Room,” where the chefs wait for literally hours as the judges deliberate. It's hot and humid and sounds like hell.

The chefs talk about their favorite challenges. Dale liked the Bombay Sapphire challenge, Hung liked the Le Cirque. Everyone else felt a little embarrassed by it, encountering all the regular kitchen staff in their environment.

A montage of Padma drinking, a montage of the chefs talking trash about the others' food, a quick scene about the “wackiest dish,” Hung's cereal aisle Smurf village creation. Gail, who has just gotten engaged, is asked who she would pick to cater, and she says she would go for all the ladies.

Another quick review of some themes for the season: Brian Malarkey's seafood fixation, Howie's love of pork, and Hung's reliance on the sous vide technique. Unable to resist the urge to defend himself once more, he points out that it's just a technique like sautéing, which many of the chefs consistently used throughout the season.

I can't help it – I know a lot of people can't stand him, but when I see him – even after winning, seem to get bent out of shape at what he perceived to be an inaccuracy, I can't help but think: poor Hung. Maybe he is a victim of a personality tic that is hard for most people to relate to: Acute Literal-Mindedness. Once he gets something in his head, it seems like he truly has difficulty understanding why someone would see things a different way, and it's this rigidity that people see as being an a-hole. But I wonder if it's a little less willful and a little more automatic than it might appear to people.

Everyone agrees that Top Chef helped them improve their own cooking styles, and Brian comments how great it was to be around people who wanted to talk about food all of the time.

There is a silly bit about the “romance” (i.e., friendship) between Howie and Joey Paulino on the show. Joey got a Top Chef tattoo. Howie admits he wasn't sure if people would like him after the show so he held back from following up with people and he feels touched that people were so willing to forgive.

Dale gets his own montage, which he says he's always wanted. He talks about the impact the show has had on him, helping him move past a personally and professional difficult time in his life, but he still seems pretty grumpy to be there. He's asked if he is still single, and he is.

Casey is named fan favorite and gets her own montage, which takes care to point out that she is foxy as well as talented. She says she would go to Thailand with the money and take friend Lia Bardeen.

And that's all for season 3, folks! Now we just have a few barren weeks to make it through until it's time for Project Runway.

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