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We "Watch[ed] what Happens[ed]" —Live From the Top Chef Taping

By Laura Oppenheimer in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 4, 2007 4:44PM


*This post contains spoilers about last night's Top Chef finale.

T.S. Eliot wrote, "This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." Our Top Chef world ended last night with a whimper from Dale, and two big bangs: a huge whoop from Hung as he was named the winner, followed with an explosion of confetti released from the ceiling of the studio.

Chicagoist received a invitation to attend the taping of last night's live finale of Top Chef (shot at a studio in West Town) so we were there as all the drama went down. Or, more appropriately, we were there for the last five minutes of drama. Everything shown last night was taped in Aspen months ago, except for the judges' final assessments of the cheftestants and Padma's long, drawn-out announcement of the winner. It really takes her 15 seconds of gazing at the contestants in silence to muster the strength to announce the winner. Adding to the drama at the live broadcast was that no one—with the exception of the judges—knew who the winner was. Bravo executives, former contestants, even Rocco himself had no idea who would be given the title.

We'd been rooting for Chicago-native Dale in recent weeks, and predicting that Casey would win. But as the tape rolled, it became clear that Hung would walk away with the 100K. The friends and family of the three finalists were all in the studio and Chicagoist was seated with the best view of Hung's family (which included Season 2 villain Marcel). Though Hung came off as a bit of an arrogant prick the entire season, seeing his family humanized him a bit, as did his heartfelt reaction after Padma announced him as the Season 3 winner. But what of our hometown fave?

After the confetti stopped falling and an initial glass of champagne in plastic glasses was gulped down, contestants, judges, family and friends all gathered to chat, congratulate, drink more champagne, and talk about the season. Chicagoist caught up with Dale, whose seemed to be taking the news as best he could. We asked him what his initial thoughts were on the results. "I've never been more proud in my life," he told us. "I just got second. I'm just gonna move forward and take this momentum."

It seems Dale also understands the role he played on Top Chef: Miami. "The way the season started, no one would have ever expected me to be here," he said. Which is true, for the most part; like Casey, Dale came on much stronger in the second half of the season. Fans of Dale - and of Top Chef - need not fret. He told us he doesn't have any plans to leave the Windy City and is opening a restaurant (no date yet) on Monroe and Canal. We hope the menu includes the fantastic looking lamb poached in duck fat he made last night. Sweet Jesus, that looked delicious. And also, hopefully those instant potato dumplings he made a while back.

And for the Top Chef fans, the Season 4 is already being shot in our fair city, and multiple sightings of the cast and crew have been made. Please send us an email at if you see them out and about in your neighborhood; we wouldn't want to miss any of the excitement.

Image of Marcel, Hung and Rocco by Laura Oppenheimer.