Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Finale Fever: The Top Chefs Descend on the Windy City


There have been numerous sightings of Top Chef 3 contestants all over the city yesterday and today, as they arrive for the Top Chef 3 finale being aired LIVE from Chicago, TONIGHT!

Yesterday afternoon, Metromix blogger Karen Budell ran into Casey, Joey, Sara N., Lia and Sandee hanging around outside of the Starbucks on Michigan Ave and Grand. After introducing herself, she learned that Casey was on the phone with Dale and they were trying to decide where to get a bite to eat. Well, who better than Dale to give advice on Chicago cuisine! While Hung was not seen with that crew, he was spotted walking on Ontario and Michigan , also yesterday afternoon. Maybe he was on his way to meet his fellow Chefs?

I've also learned, from a reliable source, that all of the chefs & judges in town for the finale are being put up at the W Hotel - Lakeshore. Fancy!

The location of tonight's Season 3 Finale is still being kept under wraps, but The Stew reported yesterday afternoon that "the set will be closed... so fans hoping to be in the audience will be out of luck". We'll just see about that. The Stew also reported that the guest judges for the finale (filmed in Aspen) will include Michelle Bernstein, of Michy’s in Miami; Rocco DiSpirito, of Bertolli pastas; and Todd English, of Olives restaurants. I suspect they will also be present this evening in Chicago as well.

Check out today's Good Eating section of the Tribune for The Stew blogger (and legit reporter) Joe Gray's interview with Dale. Here's the online version.

If that's not enough, here's another new DALE interview, posted yesterday, this time from the Chicagoist. Click the link to read Dale's opinions on instant mashed potatoes, his favorite guest judge, and being Chicago's hometown hero.

Finally, multple TC4 sightings have confirmed that the Chefs are indeed donning "beige" chef jackets this season, and are traveling not in their customary Rav4's, but in an armada of large, unmarked white vans. The vans were spotted outside Whole Foods on Halsted last Sunday... and also in "West Lincoln Park", where they may be living.

Also -- I must just say that in the past few weeks my opinion has really changed on Dale. I wasn't sure what to think of him at first... he cooks good food, but he didn't come roaring out of the gate the same way Tre, Hung, and Brian did this season. However, in the last few episodes, he's been creeping up on my radar. I think the big shock comes when you hear about his resume -- he's worked with all the best in Chicago, at Cru, Orange, La Tache, Deleece, Sola, and most impressively Trio, where he succeeded the famous Grant Achatz as executive chef-- just before the restaurant closed in 2006. Before he was cast on Top Chef, he was already being considered as one of Food & Wine's Top Ten New Chefs. Knowing that Dale has this background -- indeed, he's held his own among the best of the best-- gives him and his dishes a lot more credibility in my mind. Come tonight, only one thing is for sure: Dale is a star. Whether or not he wins, he's opening his own place in Chicago and I'm sure it will be a success. I can't wait to go. Go team Dale!

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