The cheftestants look, plan, and taste. Dale is thrilled that they have so many peak summer ingredients at their disposal. Hung's three-course menu will be as follows: Hamachi, Modern Vietnamese Fusion Dish, and Duck. "What's more Asian than duck?" Hung quacks at us. Casey breathes hard and scribbles hard and reminds us that, at this altitude, things like soufflés are hard to accomplish. Boy, they just have her bitching AND moaning! Anyway, Casey's menu: Foie Gras (because it wouldn't be a Top Chef finale without foie gras), Giant Prawns, and Pork Belly. Casey sighs heavily again. She needs to stop, that because I'm starting to have sympathy asthma. Dale tries to get them all to coordinate their meals, and announces that he is also planning on foie gras (because it wouldn't be a Top Chef finale without COMPETING foie gras) and prawns. However, since both Hung and Casey are doing prawns, Dale switches to lobster. Dale's menu: Foie Gras, French-Style Gnocchi with Lobster, and Colorado Lamb.
Colicchio walks up to collect their menus and bring them back to the gondolas. However, instead of going back down the mountain, the three cheftestants find Padma and The Dreaded Knife Block (tm Dale). You all know what's coming: it's time to choose teams! The cheftestants pull knives, numbered 1, 2, and 3; and the numbers correspond to specific sous chefs. Of course, we're all thinking that the old cheftestants are coming back; Casey was even thinking they'd be stuck with the "weakest" cheftestants. Hung clearly thought the same thing, because as he stands there -- having pulled 1 -- he mutters, "Micah, Howie, or Clay." He tells us that he's dreading having any former cheftestants come back because he thinks "they've all been haters towards [him]." But in an awesome twist of awesome, who strides off the gondola? Rocco DiSpirito. Which means that, based on who we saw in the previews with Rocco, we can extrapolate that the other two sous chefs are Todd "Figgy Pudding" English and Sandra Bernhard's doppelganger, Michelle Bernstein. Hung is adorably excited to see Rocco. He throws his arms up to signal that Rocco is his, and Rocco throws back his head in amusement. Hung scampers over to greet Rocco, and there's something about the setting sun and the contrast of Hung's dental plaque-colored Top Chef jacket against Rocco's diamond-bright white one that just seems to send a celestial aura burning through Rocco. I almost expect to hear angelic choirs. Aside from that superficial blessing, Rocco looks so much healthier than he did earlier in the season. His hair is carefully mussed, and he seems to have squeezed a good deal of Botox out of his face. Either that, or he gained some much-needed weight. In short, he looks freaking hot!
I know I've ripped on Rocco quite a bit, and I don't take any of that back. The guy made a compete ass of himself on The Restaurant with the schmoozing, the preening, the Vespa presenting, and the lack of cooking. And frankly, when he came back to Bravo and showed up on Top Chef this year, he was still a bit of an ass. He had a chip on his shoulder and he took really bad styling advice. Then after that appearance, Bourdain rightfully ripped into him right on the Bravo blogs, but what followed was pretty impressive. Rocco didn't whine or cry or make excuses. He calmly accepted Bourdain's slaps, calmly commented on them, and calmly moved on. It took an impressive amount of guts and self-discipline, but Rocco did it. Finally, here he comes back to Top Chef, and it was a reappearance I was dreading, but he was charming and helpful and ego-free. That is the sort of Rocco who can make a comeback. Plus, as I already mentioned, the hotness is back.