Top Chef
Season 3 Finale, Part I

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Keckler: B- | Grade It Now!
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Rocky Mountain High

The cheftestants get comfortable in their rooms, and Hung once again tells us a bit more of his family history. This time, we learn that his father "escaped" from Vietnam when Hung was a baby, so he never even met his dad until he was nine. That said, Hung's palate was trained by his mother, and he just wants to see the smile on her face when he wins.

The next day, Brian tells us about his revelation: "The Quickfire got me back in the mindset that this isn't fun and games and hot air balloons and hanging out in Aspen." The hot-air-balloon realization was very disappointing for MALARKEY! who had an idea that he could do a "Cooking Around The World In 80 Days" type of thing with Hung as his Passepartout. We're reminded that the cheftestants are given a $200 budget to bring special ingredients of their choice. Dale used his money to bring spices, Casey brought Pan-Asian ingredients, like chile threads, Hung brought "a lot of Asian ingredients," because "this time around, [he's] going to cook [his] style of food," and we don't learn what Brian brought. Maybe just hats. Like Bartholomew Cubbins.

The cheftestants are greeted at Moon Run Ranch by a booted and spurred Padma. The Elimination Challenge is for the cheftestants to cook for the Snowmass Rodeo Riders annual get-together. Hung dickishly slags the rodeo riders: "What the hell to cowboys and cowgirls eat? Baked beans and baked beans and baked beans?" Yeah, because cowboys and cowgirls don't rustle anything across the country other than big snorting cans of Bush's. His constant dismissiveness of his audience is really ridiculous, but he never gets called on it, because he has it nailed: what the masses think don't matter, it's all up to the judges. Still, doesn't mean Hung isn't a little punk. Dale tells us about his experience with the cowboy culture: "I've slept with a few but that's about it." And why has he slept with a few? Because Dale's a Big Gay Chef. Brian tells us, "I did grow up as a cowboy -- I grew up on a big ranch, but I immediately start thinking, like, 'What defines what a cowboy eats?' So, there's still a lot of questions we have." MALARKEY!'s number one question is: "HOW DO I GET ACCESS TO THE RODEO CLOWNS? I LOVE RODEO CLOWNS."

The cheftestants will have three hours to prep and cook before they have to pack up the food and drag it over to the ranch for dinner. As the QF winner, Casey is the only one who gets to use her special ingredients. Padma tells them she'll see them back at the ranch, and Brian gets off a rather weak "yee-haw" as they walk away. Executive Chef Scott Rutter welcomes them to Aspen Meadows Resort, where they'll be doing their cooking, and reveals they'll be following the annual tradition of the rodeo by serving elk. He whips off a white cloth to reveal some very purple meat. Good news, though! This "big brother" of the red deer is free-range! Hung, of course, is scathing and annoyed, but mostly, I'll bet, because he's never cooked elk in his life and is afraid of it. "It's just so heavy and boring!" Hung brats, and then whines loudly, "I'm not cooking things I enjoy to cook -- I hate it!" As for the "heaviness," three ounces of elk has 1.7 grams of fat and 94 calories. The same amount of beef has 8.7 grams of fat and 183 calories. Brian, all deer-caught-in-headlights, says, "It's gamey -- definitely not seafood." I'm really glad he caught on to that.

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