DaleFan vs. CaseyFan vs. HungFan: Top Chef Finale Gamer

We’re baseball fans first at YFSF, foodies second.  So just as last year we bring you a game thread to discuss all things "Top Chef" finale, which airs tonight at 10pm. 

It should be an interesting affair. First, there’s Dale.  We wonder: will Dale attempt to cram 74 flavors and textures into one dish?  Will he forget to add flour to his roux?   And Casey, who’s got some serious Sox appeal. Will she continue to kick everybody’s ass, as she’s done for several weeks running?  And if she does, will she stop with the "who, me? I won? Really? Should I feign surprise again?" look?  Or will she lose, only to return to Dallas to sign a massive ten-year contract as Tom Hicks’ personal chef?  And lastly, Hung. Hung: the sure favorite of  New York sports fans everywhere.  He’s supremely talented.  He’s brash.  He’s arrogant. He assumes everyone else is wrong.  He has disdain for the judges.  He assumes that he can do everything better than everyone else, even if he can’t.  The big question is whether he will create tonight, and not just exhibit world-class technical skill.  Like a certain Yankees third baseman, Hung needs to get it done on the big stage.

So who will it be?  We don’t make predictions, but we’re going with either Hung or Casey, as Dale seems like the type of guy who would make a Fenway Frank but forget the Frank.  Use this as your thread for all things TC.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE do not spoil the results if you have inside information.  We know some websites have been advertising the possible outcome, but we here at YFSF don’t want to know. Keep a lid on it until Chef Tom awards the title. For our West Coast readers, that means 11pm EST — those on the left coast may want to sit this thread out.

70 comments… add one
  • Rising to the top of this year’s Top Chef field is like winning the NL Central — you don’t have to be that good to do it. Remember Harold, season one? He would have crushed these jokers. Look for Casey to win.

    MJL in L.A. (SF) October 3, 2007, 3:16 pm
  • First off, don’t read this thread if you are afraid of spoilers all you TiVoErs.
    Hung used to drive me nuts but now I think he’s actually likable, in a spastic goofy way. It’s such a contrast from last season when I ended up hating both Marcel and Ilan.
    Casey has been awesome as of late except for the raw elk. I’ve had a lot of venison, but have only had elk a couple times, and once was in a stew, the other a sausage, so that doesn’t really count. I do know that for me personally, though I can eat and enjoy a (decent) steak that is so rare that I could almost ride the rest home, but venison needs a little more warmth applied for me to enjoy it.
    Dale always looks like he just woke up or just huffed some nitrous. And would someone please talk him out of that ridiculous mohawk/bandana look he has going on? Dale did have the great line of the show last week that went something like, “I’ve never cooked for cowboys. I’ve slept with a few…”
    Tough choice between Casey and Hung. I haven’t made up my mind, but I have to agree with MJL; she’s been remarkably good the last few challenges at nailing the flavor of the dish for the judges.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 3:26 pm
  • Hung will win.

    Nick-YF October 3, 2007, 3:26 pm
  • I love this blog.

    Anonymous October 3, 2007, 3:42 pm
  • Is Dale really the kind of guy to forget the “Frank”?
    Yes, this is a elementary school-type joke about his orientation.

    QuoSF October 3, 2007, 3:57 pm
  • i disagree with the nl central line. i’m not sure how awe-inspiring last season’s group was, but i think there’s been real quality in this round. cooking for eric ripert on a tree-stump in front of a camera crew is no easy task, i’m sure.
    i love watching hung. i’d love to eat something he’s given time and freedom to prepare, and i’d love to watch him prepare it. there’s a raw intellectual energy there, and also immense physical talent: when EVER do you see that on display, and on tv? we get it, sort of, with a smart athlete. it’s one of the reasons i love watching sports.
    i think casey and dale also have those kinds of skills. those two are a study in contrasts. of all the contestants, i’d feel most comfortable having her feed me dinner. you know it’d come out great, and look beautiful. some people just have a magic way with food, and i think she probably does, and dale too, sometimes, if not as often. but i really think that hung, if he can bring it all together, is at another level. we’ll see.

    YF October 3, 2007, 3:59 pm
  • Go Casey!

    Devine October 3, 2007, 4:02 pm
  • also, i don’t think that show can get enough credit for having on not just eric ripert and andres boulud and of course collichio, but the guest spot by andre soltner. i was blown away. that whole panel was ridiculous. but andre soltner….i think lutece is, maybe with delmonicos and panisse (and i guess mcdonalds), the most important restaurant in the history of the usa. he’s god.

    YF October 3, 2007, 4:05 pm
  • Sorry to invade this space with baseball, but…
    Yankee line-up for tomorrow:
    Matsui (DH)
    In other words, bye-bye playoff playing time Shelley Duncan.
    Also, roster has 11 pitchers, including Ohlendorf and Veras. No Villone (meaning no lefty in the pen).

    IronHorse (yf) October 3, 2007, 4:10 pm
  • and maybe le pavillon. okay. and maybe a few others, too. but the point is the point.

    YF October 3, 2007, 4:10 pm
  • YF, agreed on the panels. I have no idea what kind of courage it must take to present one’s food to the luminaries (actually gods may be a better word) that they are soliciting for the judging.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 4:12 pm
  • It is testament to what a well-done show it is that all of us have opinions as to who should win and why without ever having tasted a bite of this food.

    MJL in L.A. (SF) October 3, 2007, 4:51 pm
  • Read Bourdain at Bravo, his riff on the Soltner jury is great. As for Ripert, the wife and I were lucky enough to eat at Le Bernardin last night and he’s a total God.
    I am not as convinced (yet) about Hung’s pure genius as YF seems to be already, though he’s clearly uber-skilled. He hasn’t yet blown away the judges with the taste of what he has cooked. He’s technically amazing: the chicken quartering quickfire was hard to believe, and he’s done many other things that show his skill. But he hasn’t, so far, done anything that one could qualify as unexpected or sublime. His fruit loop rainbow wonderland was a total misfire, the humor of the piece lost in the aesthetic mess that he presented. If he can match his skill with what the judges seem to be asking him for (taste!), I do think he’ll win. But if not, the skills he possesses won’t make up for the delight the panel gets from Casey’s work.

    SF October 3, 2007, 4:53 pm
  • MJL: agreed. But I trust Colicchio’s buds implicitly. He too is, if not a culinary God, certainly one of the best chefs whose food I have had the luxury of eating. So my opinions somewhat reflect what the jury has built up as opinions over the course of the season.

    SF October 3, 2007, 4:55 pm
  • sf: i agree with your suggestion that if he doesn’t pull something dramatic together, steady hand casey will deservedly win, but my impression is that he HAS repeatedly made outstanding tasting food. what i also appreciate, as someone who does a lot of design juries, is his ability to cut see exactly what is needed to win a challenge, even if it’s not necessarily what the “brief” calls for. the idea is to win the challenges first, not necessarily create signature dishes each time out. so i think he’s a victim of his own intelligence here in terms of perception. eero saarinen was just like this. he knew exactly how to win competitions. the designer michael beirut, of pentagram, has written about this ability (and possesses it himself). i think if you take him out of the competition context, you get a different animal.
    the yacht challenge was the perfect example. he executed something that he knew would work in the situation, even if it wasn’t going to be mind blowing. very, very savvy. i think that, in many ways, is more “chef-like,” if we think of the term chef as in chief, than doing something risky and artistic.

    YF October 3, 2007, 5:04 pm
  • I also disagree with the NL Central comment – I think the S3 final four were all superior to the S2 dickwads. I’m a fan of Casey, but I won’t be disappointed no matter what the outcome is. Hung has grown on me a bit… he’s arrogant, but he’s not a complete asshole. I have the feeling that he’s head and shoulders above both Dale and Casey, and as long as he doesn’t make another Smurf Village-inspired dish for the finale, I think he has to take it.
    And let me echo the sentiments of a previous comment: I love this blog.

    Jackie (SF) October 3, 2007, 5:10 pm
  • I don’t watch any of these chef shows, but I was a professional chef for 20 years until my back decided I needed to change careers.

    Tom sf October 3, 2007, 5:22 pm
  • The quickfire challenge, which Hung and Casey both aced (and in which Sirio Maccione paid Hung about the highest compliment anyone could imagine to receive) was particularly telling. Yes, Hung and Casey aced the dish, but Hung was fast and knew what to do right away, and said so. He said, “this is easy,” and then made it look easy, while his opponents stared at him, baffled. Maybe he was trying to mess with their heads a bit, but I think that’s just pure and unadulterated “Mr. Awkward” Hung just thinking out loud, because he is that good. He’s been that way before, crushing the clock (perhaps to his disadvantage on more perishable dishes) and making his opponents look sluggish yet rushed. The guy is a buzzsaw, but a buzzsaw made of razor blades whose (excepting smurf village) results show a truly deft appreciation for visual appeal.
    Casey is, as SF and YF have both said in various forms, effing solid.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:24 pm
  • YF:
    Spot on with Hung’s understanding of what the parameters of each challenge demand. Great point, and it’s one Bourdain has also mentioned recently. But that knowledge is so ingrained in him that it seems almost disappointing that he doesn’t push things further (is that fair? Not sure.). In other words, it’s almost a given that he will make the right choices from a logistical standpoint, whether it is picking the right protein, or an interesting method of cooking, etc., but what isn’t a given is whether that food transcends its “correctness” or its method.

    SF October 3, 2007, 5:24 pm
  • Maccioni also uttered one of the most cringe-inducing comments of the entire show, illustrating his dripping chauvinism towards Casey. She had no shot at winning that challenge, as a woman.

    SF October 3, 2007, 5:25 pm
  • Tom, as I’m sure you can attest from your experiences, working in a kitchen is probably the most physically demanding job I’ve ever held.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:29 pm
  • SF: I missed that comment. I’ve still got that episode on the DVR; I’ll have to run it back to see it in context. Too bad for Casey; one of the best chefs that I’ve been fortunate enough to work for happened to be female (who was incidentally strikingly attractive), and my favorite meal ever eaten at a restaurant was prepared at a fantastic venue by the chef/owner who again happened to be female.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:36 pm
  • I’m so glad I learned about the Bourdain blog on Bravo. I love that guy, I just like the cut of his jib, books, shows and other assorted musings.
    Hell, I even love his food, I realize it’s not cool to like Les Halles any more, but I do. That half roasted duck with pomegranate sauce and turnip/potato gratin rocks.
    Jesus, now I’m hungry.
    I haven’t been watching Top Chef enough this year so I’m glad I can just read through Bourdain’s blog and get nice and caught up.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 5:36 pm
  • last year’s TC gamer, for everyone’s enjoyment. Damn that Ilan. What a twerp.

    SF October 3, 2007, 5:38 pm
  • SF: I think we’re in complete agreement. I love comparing this show to architecture (which is the field we both specialize in). There’s that great HR Hitchcock line about Eero: he complained that his work was “designed for dramatic unveiling at board meetings.” i think that’s kind of the knock on hung. he’s a lot like eero: technically brilliant, sees through challenges, etc…
    by the way, i LOVED the smurf thing. that challenge was well nigh impossible i suppose, and he just went to town and had fun. it showed he does have a kooky side; he’s not just a mad automaton.

    YF October 3, 2007, 5:38 pm
  • i think it will always be okay to like les halles, at least the original venue on park. the onglet with frites? always.
    so many great memories at that place. lots of love for bourdain here.

    YF October 3, 2007, 5:42 pm
  • YF: Yes, I suppose Hung might have gotten some latitude from the judges for the pure enthusiasm he showed when given an _impossible_ task. It was fun.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:43 pm
  • Lockland – if you haven’t yet, you may want to pick up Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. It’s very straight-forward and approachable, while still offering many injections of Bourdain’s unique caustic wit.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:45 pm
  • Regarding Les Halles Cookbook.. the hardcover is actually a very beautiful book as well as being informative, but I just saw that it’s in paperback, which may be more practical when actually using it as a guide with which to cook.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:48 pm
  • SF, THANK YOU for reminding me about the fact I’ve got to ignore this thread this evening out here on the left coast. I beg you, readers and foodies, PLEASE don’t pollute the Sox/Halos gamer with any spoilers from the TC finale.

    attackgerbil October 3, 2007, 5:52 pm
  • They should pay Bourdain whatever he wants – in cigarettes, vodka, barbecued crickets, whatever – to become a permanent addition to that show. I know he’d never do it; he’s got too much of his own stuff going on. But I live for his appearances.

    MJL in L.A. (SF) October 3, 2007, 6:03 pm
  • Good point, AG – I also have to wait until 1am EST to watch. :)

    Jackie (SF) October 3, 2007, 6:19 pm
  • “Tom, as I’m sure you can attest from your experiences, working in a kitchen is probably the most physically demanding job I’ve ever held.”
    It’s tough both physically and especially mentally. I worked in some fairly large 4 star hotels. The hours can be brutal – 60 hours a week minimum, always on your feet. It’s definitely not like tv shows, even in fine dining. You may be able to cook a spectacular meal at home, but can you replicate it and 15 or 20 other dishes perfectly 60 times in 5 hours? If you can’t, then forget it. The number of culinary grads who wash out in the real world is very, very high. I broke a few wannabes over the years. Especially Klaus, fresh and proud culinary wunderkind from Germany. I broke the Kinder-Chef in 3 months and he went home.

    Tom sf October 3, 2007, 8:08 pm
  • “New York disdain”? Compare YF to SF. ‘Nuff said.

    Anonymous October 3, 2007, 9:27 pm
  • Twenty minutes and counting…
    To the anon. commenter: lighten up!

    SF October 3, 2007, 9:37 pm
  • Oy, a “live reveal”. Yuck. Already cheesy.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:00 pm
  • Go HUNG!!!!!!!

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:01 pm
  • “The world famous Aspen Mountain Club”, so sayeth Padma.
    Never heard of it.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:04 pm
  • Hung: nice menu. Vietnamese fusion, just what Bourdain asked for. Good sign for Hung rooters.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:06 pm
  • Not a big fan of the Foie Gras then Prawns sequence on Casey’s side.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:06 pm
  • Hung draws Rocco DiSpirito as a his sous. Casey gets Michelle Bernstein. Dale gets Todd English.
    What a great twist.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:09 pm
  • It’s impossible for me to explain how much I hate Todd English, and trust me, I have good reason.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 10:10 pm
  • rocco: real nice complement to the hungster. gonna be tough to beat.

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:11 pm
  • Too many people forget that Rocco was the chef of a truly phenomenal restaurant. His reality TV excursion hasn’t served his reputation well. He’s a great chef.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:13 pm
  • yeah. he’s a great chef who knows fish, aand that’s hung’s territory.

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:15 pm
  • Rocco unhappy with Hung at the moment. Same criticism offered as in the past: not sure that Hung understands what everything is going to taste like.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:23 pm
  • Lot of fun to watch that. Hung typically everywhere, even Rocco doesn’t see the full plan, but you know there is one. Dale out there with a trillion different things going on at once and correcting on the fly, and Casey, a bit slow on the draw, but you know she’s pulling her shit together…..gonna. be. close.

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:25 pm
  • I don’t know, I think that gimmick backfired a bit. I don’t think the celebrity chefs really added anything to the show, any good insight, they were just sort of there. I was hoping for more feedback from them on the menus, even from that total douche English.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 10:25 pm
  • I mean feedback to us, not to the contestants, I realize that wasn’t allowed.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 10:26 pm
  • Casey draws Howie for the final prep. Not a happy camper. Dale gets CJ, who was way out of his element, basically a glorified maitre’d. Like Malarkey.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:31 pm
  • Casey shifts from pork to beef, last second. Pork belly is so much more interesting, the strip is so safe. Not sure that’s a good choice at a final challenge. She might get some heat for ducking the pig.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:33 pm
  • Dale with a scallop dish as a fourth course? No dessert? BLECH.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:33 pm
  • Strip and fingerling potatoes for Casey. How revolutionary.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:34 pm
  • hung wins round one.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:43 pm
  • did Dale just win round two?
    Casey loses, using roe again, two courses in succession.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:45 pm
  • Hung gets a “three star Michelin” race from Todd English on his sous-vide duck. I think it’s over.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:48 pm
  • Hung just hit a walk-off grand salami.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 10:48 pm
  • Opps, one more inning but I don’t think the other teams can get back the runs.

    LocklandSF October 3, 2007, 10:49 pm
  • hung the only one who attacks pastry, a smart move. Though Casey and Dale impressed, though, while Hung is accused of playing it safe.

    SF October 3, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Whoops. Wrong finale. Sorry.
    Go Hung!

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:53 pm
  • Looked like TCol was really not happy about that cake. Thought Hung had it wrapped up, but maybe Dale steals it here. Casey is DOA.

    YF October 3, 2007, 10:54 pm
  • Hard to comment when i’m also cooking (cooking while watching Top Chef has become a habit), but i think it’s Dale — having the cheesy live segments in Chicago seems like too much of a giveaway, no?

    stuck working October 3, 2007, 11:01 pm
  • Casey is clearly cooked. Photo finish!
    Hung takes it by virtue of chocolate?!

    SF October 3, 2007, 11:07 pm
  • Hung does it. Marcel weasels his way into Hung’a glory.

    SF October 3, 2007, 11:16 pm
  • Wooo-hoooo!
    Props to Dale. Trophy to Hung.

    YF October 3, 2007, 11:23 pm
  • Congrats to Hung – that was a great finale. I need to go out and have a nice duck now.

    Jackie (SF) October 4, 2007, 2:19 am
  • I’m happy that Hung made the right move by putting Sara (who is a cheese maker by trade, but I would guess she’s skilled in pastry on affiliation/affinity) on a dessert whilst Dale and Casey each went with another protein.

    attackgerbil October 4, 2007, 4:24 am
  • I am not totally convinced that when English said, “three star Michelin duck” it was over, but it probably was.

    attackgerbil October 4, 2007, 4:37 am
  • It was “live from Chicago” because that’s where the new season will be taped…and I believe it’s started taping this month (according to Lee Ann’s blog)

    mungersmurf October 4, 2007, 9:34 am
  • I think the choices for the additional 4th course was not as consequential as some state here.
    Dale didn’t get screwed because he chose another protein – in fact what he chose as the fourth course was one of the best dishes of the night. And Hung didn’t win because he chose a dessert. In fact, that was one of the few strikes against – Colicchio called it “disjointed” and others criticized it for being “too traditional” and for “no blowing them away”.
    What crushed Dale is that his gnocchi and lobster dish was seen as the worst dish of the night, whereas Hung had no comparably low points in his menu.

    IronHorse (yf) October 4, 2007, 9:44 am

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