Top Chef – The Final Five

Spoiler ahead

Number one rule of Top Chef: Never EVER use canned ANYTHING in your dish. We’ve seen people sent home for that before, and it happened again tonight. In spite of that, the wrong person went home.

Right now, I think Paul has the best shot of winning it all.

Stephanie Izard – Winner of Season 4 of Top Chef

I haven’t written a lot about Top Chef this season, but I probably should have. This cooking competition has the sort of contestants that should be on “Hell’s Kitchen”. Any one of the chefs on Top Chef could run circles around the Hell’s Kitchen chefs.

The competition came down to Richard, Stephanie, and Lisa. Richard and Stephanie each won the same number of challenges, and I think both desired to win. They’re both quite good.

The chefs all worked over two days, the first day with famous chefs, and the second day alone. They had to prepare food for nine diners.

The diners had issues with each of the courses, until the third course, when they nearly unanimously loved Stephanie’s dish. The last course had mixed reviews.

In the end, they said that each of the chefs did very well, and that judges table would have some tough decisions.

At judges table, the panelists explained what they thought of each of the dishes. It was hard to determine how everything went, since it appeared to be pretty evenly split.

The judges asked how each of them thought they did. Stephanie said that she thought she second guessed herself on the dessert. Lisa was very confident. Richard thought he didn’t perform up to his own standards, and in his words “choked”, because he over-thought his dishes.

The judges were surprised at Richard’s response. In discussing the dishes, it seemed that Lisa and Stephanie were pretty even. They decided that Richard’s pork belly dish must have been what he was thinking of when Richard said he choked.

In the end, the winner was Stephanie. She really did a great job throughout the season. I was disappointed that Richard felt that he didn’t do his best. He’s really quite talented, and it would have been better if he felt he did well on his dishes.

Congratulations to Stephanie! She was fun to watch throughout the season, and her food was full of surprises until the end.

Top Chef Season 3 Winner – Hung


Cooking at high altitude, celebrity sous chefs, surprise fourth courses, kicked off chefs, live reveal… There was a lot of action in this Top Chef finale.

The last three chefs, Casey, Dale and Hung, arrived in Colorado and were brought up to the top of a mountain to find out about their last challenge.

The chefs were asked to come up with three course menus, and once they did they found out they were getting sous chefs. They had fears they’d get sous chefs that were the weakest competitors, and wow, were they wrong.

Rocco Dispirito helped Hung, Michelle Bernstein helped Casey, and Todd English helped Dale.

(That’s some pretty fine help, I’d say).

You could really tell that the celebrity chefs wanted to tell the competitors how to improve things, but they all kept their mouths shut.

The next day, Casey, Dale and Hung all worked alone… until Tom pulled them out of the kitchen with two announcements. First, they were getting new sous chefs to work with. Hung got Sara, Casey got Howie, and Dale got CJ. The second surprise was they had to come up with a fourth course in the time they had left.

First courses:

Hung served “fish and chips”: raw Hamachi with potatoes, olive oil and tomato vinaigrette

Dale served Foie Gras mousse with peaches, Ras el hanout gastrique & Arugula

Casey served Cinnamon scented scallop with celery & foie Gras with apple

The courses were fairly even, but Casey’s got the most criticism for the salmon roe.

Second courses:

Hung served shrimp with palm sugar, cucumber salad & coconut foam

Dale served his “extra” dish – seared scallop with purslane grapes and sweet corn

Casey served poached prawn with rice cake in lobster mushroom broth

The judges liked Dale’s dish a lot, and Casey’s dish didn’t quite make it, again because of the roe.

Third courses:

Hung served Sous Vide Duck withe Mushroom Ragout & Truffle Sauce

Dale served lobster, corn, mushrooms & gnocchi in curry jus

Casey served crispy pork belly over pea shoots with a roasted peach and creme fraichee

They REALLY liked Hung’s duck. Todd English called it “Three Star Michellin” and Michelle Berstein said she was “a little jealous”. Rocco said that he was pretty sure Hung kept him busy the whole time with a list of things to do, just to keep him out of his hair (ha!), but everything was in that dish.

They didn’t like Dale’s dish.

Casey’s pork belly dish didn’t go over well either.

Fourth courses:

Hung served chocolate cake with raspberries & nougatine tuile

Dale served poached lamb with eggplant puree, tomatoes & squash

Casey served seared lamb sirloin with potatoes, mushrooms, ruby chard & parsley puree

Dale’s dish went over well, as did Casey. Tom didn’t like the fact that Hung’s dish didn’t “follow the progression” of what he served.

Judge’s table:

The judges were happy with the overall meal.

Dale got high marks for his second dish, but the third dish fell flat, and they LOVED his last dish. They were especially surprised that he never made that before.

Casey really got beaten up for the first three dishes, and got nice compliments on her last dish… which she admitted that Howie handled.

Hung said that he didn’t plan the courses ahead of time, and was inspired by the ingredients. They loved the third dish, and weren’t impressed by the last dish. Even Hung said for the last course he “played it safe”.

After the competitors left, the judges talked about the dishes.

Hung’s dish won the first round.

Dale’s scallop was a favorite for the second round.

Third course, Hung won with his dishl

The last course, Dale’s dish was the favorite.

Based on what I saw up to this point, Dale should win this, with Hung second, and Casey third.

At this point in the show, they went live to judge’s table and announced that the winner of Top Chef Season 3 was Hung!

I think what ended up doing it for him was that throughout the whole season, he was very consistent, and did very well in the end.

Next week, there’s a Top Chef Season 3 reunion show.

Top Chef Results: Guilty Pleasures

The latest Top Chef show had the chefs do a couple of interesting challenges.  The first challenge was to come up with alternative ice cream flavors.  Dale won the challenge by coming up with the an interesting topping of peach crumble.   He ended up with a copy of Small Bites, Big Nights”" by Govind Armstrong.

The chefs were told that they were headed out for a night on the town.  They got in the limo, and ended up in an elimination challenge.

They worked in two teams, and made bar food for some folks out at some of the local bars in Miami.    Some of it went over well, like Tre’s cheesy grits with bacon wrapped shrimp, and others didn’t like Howe’s Media Noche.

It came down between Sara and Howe.

In the end, Sara was eliminated, which I felt was a mistake.  They said it was because her head wasn’t in the challenge.

Next on Top Chef:  Restaurant Wars!