Top Chef: Season Finale Part 1!

In the beautiful, snowy mountains of Colorado, this week’s lucky four remaining chefs hardly had time to vacation. They were there to win, not to ski.

Without fail, Hung's typical arrogance came out immediately. He let everyone know that “compared to the other three contestants [his] skills and techniques are much more advanced. [He is] definitely qualified to win.”

Before they were told this week’s Quickfire Challenge, the chefs were introduced to the executive chef of one of New York’s best restaurants, Le Bernardin. Eric Ripert, who flew all the way out to the Rocky Mountains to judge these cheftestants, is a highly acclaimed and respected chef, and was prepared for anything.

Their Quickfire Challenge this week took place on the Frying Pan River Valley, Aspen’s trout fishing mecca. Brian, the seafood expert, was excited. They were given 20 minutes and a tree stump to prepare trout in any which way that would satisfy the judges’ feisty taste buds.

“It’s do or die, you have to do it right the first time,” Brian’s nerves were creeping up on him.

Casey’s trout was Ripert’s favorite, and she was named winner. She was also told that although at this point in the game she could not receive immunity, she was going to get a “very significant advantage in the elimination challenge,” according to Lakshmi.

After they were given time to relax at the hotel and enjoy some personal time, before they knew it the chefs were back in action awaiting their Elimination Challenge.

They were taken to Moon Run Ranch, which was hosting the Snowmass Rodeo Riders annual get together, and the cheftestants were going to cater it.

Because she won the Quickfire Challenge, Casey had the advantage of being the only one allowed to use her ingredients that she brought from home. They were also told that instead of two chefs being sent home, there would only be one eliminated, due to the incredible amount of talent this season has brought.

The chefs had to create an entrée enough for at least 45 cowboys and cowgirls, which would be interesting because, let’s get real here, who knows what rodeo riders eat?

As they entered the kitchen, the cheftestants found out they’d be serving elk for the riders.

“It’s just so boring,” said Hung, disappointed with the rodeo riders' food preference.

With three hours to cook elk, which, according to Dale, takes about 10-12 hours to cook on a normal day, the chefs were on the roll, cooking fast to win.

While some of the chefs were confident and knowledgeable about the Midwest meat, others found themselves lost on just how to turn elk into something delicious.

Though Dale’s original plan didn’t work out, his back up plan pulled through. He was declared winner of the Elimination Challenge this week.

Brian’s dishes in both challenges were simply sub-par, and the finale is just not the time for mess-ups. He was asked to pack his knives and go home.

A few last words from Brian brought tears to Casey and Hung’s eyes, or were they just happy to be moving on?

“I’ve enjoyed the entire ride,” Brian reminisced. “I’ve cooked great dishes, I’ve made friends, maybe I’ll be celebrated when I get back.”

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