Top Chef Recap: Finale


Editor’s Note: I didn’t use any silly puns in the headline today because I don’t want to give anything away, in case you haven’t caught the finale yet. That said, this is a recap, so, you know, it says who wins. If you haven’t watched yet, don’t read on if you don’t want to know.

OK, so my fav part of the Top Chef finale is that Frank Bruni penned a lengthy rant in Wednesday’s NYT about how all these celeb chefs (Collichio, Bourdian, etc…) get the big bucks to appear on Top Chef and similar shows, but never even have to cook anything anymore. Then, in the finale, they actually made the the big guys get in the kitchen, awarding each of the cheftestants a big name sous chef.

Hung got Rocco, Dale got the ubiquitous Todd English and Casey was paired with that lady who looks like Sandra Bernhrardt. The catch was that none of these guys got to offer any advice, and they were only there for the prep part, just to chop garlic, boil water, and allow Dale to say “Todd English is my bitch.”

There weren’t any dumb cowboy or airplane themes for the finale – just pretty basic orders: make the best damn meal you can. The only trip-up was that with an hour left, Collichio came in and told the cheftestants they had to make one extra course, and their sous chefs this time would be the losers from earlier episodes.

Dale lucked out and got underrated CJ – who made a great-looking grape and scallop dish for him. Hung was surprisingly happy when he drew cheesy Sara, and Casey put on a brave face when she got doughboy Howie, although she must have known at that moment it was all over for her.

I thought Casey’s cinnamon scented scallops and foie gras with apple and celery looked delicious but the judges weren’t wowed by anything she made. Casey really just didn’t bring her A-game and the judges made it clear early on that we would not, after all, be seeing our first Top Chef with breasts.

Dale was inconsistent as usual, but was lifted by a very original rack of lamb with deconstructed ratatouille. Hung, meanwhile,was the only one who made four good dishes and especially wowed the judges with his sous vide duck with truffle scented broth, even throwing in a cool foam that he must have learned from his buddy Gargamel Marcel.

So it came down to Hung v. Dale. At the awkward live finale, Padma shouted over the crowd, threw out some Seacrest-esque commercial break teasers, and even tried to steal Heidi’s ‘pins and needles’ catchphrase.

I have to give the show credit – despite being far less of a fan favorite than Dale or Casey, the judges went with Hung, shockingly (for a reality show, anyway) making their final decision based on talent.

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  • 80 Proof October 4, 2007  

    Hung had to win. Casey was his only competition unless Dale dominated. Dale only won 1 event, in Aspen, while Casey had more than held her own for a while. Once Casey started cooking like me, there was no shot.

    Admission: I actually liked this season. The characters were funny, some likeable, some not, but no one was a complete ass. Sure the product placement and some of the challenges were cheesy, but it’s a reality show, comes with the territory.

  • gansie October 4, 2007  

    i think that if casey created a killer meal, she would have taken the crown. she beat the shit out of most of the cheftestants thru out the season, so in totality, she could be deemed the best. and just like the 2008 presidential race – this is NOT the year for the white male. (pretend dale isnt gay for this analogy)

  • gansie October 4, 2007  

    dale is definitely one of my favorite reality “characters” of all time

  • gansie October 4, 2007  

    oh – and thanks for the padma relief. i really like gale simmons.

  • JoeHoya October 4, 2007  

    I thought it was interesting that the judges liked Casey’s “bonus” dish best out of her four offerings – and she really delegated that one almost entirely to Howie.

    It really did seem like Hung came in with his A-Game and just ran things. I may not like him (and that may be partially due to the editing process), but he absolutely demonstrated that he knew what he was doing. I think he earned the win.

    I agree with 80 – this season has been far more enjoyable to watch than last season. Very few non-food related shenanigans to add drama and take away from the cooking.

    And I’m already looking forward to the next season. Chicago should be a good time.

    Can’t say I’m convinced that 2008 is a lost cause for white males, though, Gansie…

  • Liza October 4, 2007  

    I hated the finale- I understand that they didn’t want the
    winner to get leaked, but I was completely distracted by
    the LIVE EDT (like this is that important you need to put that
    on screen) ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE WINNER – it ruined
    it for me.

  • BS October 4, 2007  

    the live reveal was so unnecessary…how hilarious was it that they made padma wear the same dress both live and on tape, as if that would somehow trick us.

  • 80 Proof October 4, 2007  

    Wait, I thought they cooked live?

  • 80 Proof October 4, 2007  

    j/k, haha.

  • BS October 4, 2007  

    80 – I like how after a full season of reading and commenting about Top Chef episodes, you just now “admitted” to liking the show

  • 80 Proof October 5, 2007  

    It’s the first step to recovery…

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