What Happened in Top Chef Season 3? (Full Recap)


The Season 3 of Top Chef promises to be hotter and more competitive than ever, with the most seasoned contenders ever, tougher tasks, and all the drama and emotion of a fierce competition. There are 15 chefs competing for the championship.

Over Dale Levitski and Casey Thompson, who came in second and third, Hung Huynh was crowned the winner. The fan favorite was Thompson.

Chefs Competing in Top Chef Season 3 (Top Chef Miami)

  • Clay Bowen, 28 from Santa Barbara, California
  • Sandee Birdsong, 39 from Miami Beach, Florida
  • Micah Edelstein, 33 from Boca Raton, Florida Massachusetts)
  • Camille Becerra, 34 from Brooklyn, New York
  • Lia Bardeen, 28 from Brooklyn, New York
  • Joey Paulino, 29 from New York, New York
  • Sara Nguyen, 25 from Chicago, Illinois
  • Tre Wilcox, 30 from Cedar Hill, Texas
  • Howie Kleinberg, 31 from Miami, Florida
  • Chris “C.J.” Jacobsen, 31 from Venice, California
  • Sara Mair, 34 from Miami, Florida
  • Brian Malarkey, 34 from San Diego, California
  • Casey Thompson, 29 from Dallas, Texas – Runner-up / Fan Favorite
  • Dale Levitski, 34 from Chicago, Illinois — Runner-up
  • Hung Huynh, 29 from Las Vegas, Nevada – Winner

Judges of Top Chef Season 3 (Top Chef Miami)

  • Tom Colicchio (Head Judge)
  • Padma Lakshmi (Host)
  • Gail Simmons (Judge)
  • Ted Allen (Judge)

Episode 1 - All Stars

Top Chef S3 - the cheftestants

Four of the finalists from seasons one and two get together in “Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars.” In a $20,000 charity cook-off, Harold Dieterle, Stephen Asprinio, Tiffani Faison, and Dave Martin from Season 1 go up against Ilan Hall, Sam Talbot, Elia Aboumrad, and Marcel Vigneron, a molecular gastronomist, who won Season 2.

Celebrity chef Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill was introduced during the Quickfire challenge and gave an explanation of the 30-minute hurdle. Each chef was given 30 seconds to fish as much chonk and other seafood from a tank as possible. Then they would be given the customary 30 minutes to make a dish.

Episode 2 - First Impressions

Top Chef S3 - judges Variety Padma Lakshmi and Anthony Bourdain

The cooks are welcomed to champagne and hors d’oeuvres as they arrive at Casa Casuarina, previously the Versace Mansion. They are immediately placed into their first quickfire task, where they compete for the sought-after reward: immunity. 

The chefs will then have to wow a special guest, Anthony Bourdain (host of “No Reservations” and chef at Les Halles, NYC), and this season’s judges, including Ted Allen of “Queer Eye,” Padma Lakshmi, co-founder of Craft Restaurants, cookbook author, and host, Tom Colicchio, and returning judge Gail Simmons of Food & Wine.

Episode 3 - Sunny Delights

Top Chef S3 - Episode 3 Sunny Delight

Fresh tropical fruits abound in Miami, and guest judge Norman Van Aken (Owner of Norman’s Restaurant in Miami/Orlando) oversees a picturesque elimination as the chefs cater an upscale gourmet barbecue party on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Episode 4 - Family Favorites

The chefs sample some of the city’s fresh local seafood before they have to wow special guest judge Alfred Portale (Chef at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill) and prepare mouthwatering meals for Elks Club members. They’ll soon realize they had to get healthy or go home.

Episode 5 - Cooking By Numbers

The remaining chefs are challenged to make an appetizer that goes well with a well-known mixed cocktail. Jamie Walker, a special guest judge, is the one calling the shots (Global Ambassador to Bombay Sapphire Gin). The Chaine des Rôtisseurs, one of the most illustrious culinary groups in the world, later turns the heat up on the cooks.

Who moves on to the next round of competition and who is one task away from becoming the next “Top Chef” will be decided by special guest judge Barton G. Weiss (Owner of Barton G. Enterprises).

Episode 6 - Latin Lunch

Top Chef S3 - Episode 6 Latin Lunch

The cooks had to prepare a dish for the popular “Dame Chocolate” cast and crew as well as other well-known Telemundo stars. Tom Colicchio, the head judge and chef, ups the ante by adding a shocking twist. This week’s special guest judge is Miami’s Duo and French Bakery Café owner and chef Maria Frumkin.

Episode 7 - Top Chef: Watch What Happens Special

Top Chef S3 - Episode 7 Top Chef Watch What Happens Special

An honest discussion amongst former and current contestants in the chef’testants, as well as Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and judges Gail Simmons and Ted Allen, is moderated by pop culture commentator Andy Cohen. Fans will be treated to never-before-seen footage as well as first-hand accounts from the chefs about competing in the series, winning, and losing.

Ilan Hall, the winner of Season 2, is joined by Cliff Crooks, Michael Midgely, Fan Favorite Sam Talbot, Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, and finalists Lee Anne Wong and Dave Martin. The first five chefs from “Top Chef 3 Miami” to be eliminated will participate in the chat to share memories and discuss what was good, bad, and overcooked about the most recent season.

Episode 8 - Freezer Burn

The chefs compete for immunity and must identify ingredients by sight or taste, which touches on the senses. Later, the competitors join together to perform magic using frozen foods. This week, “Rocco’s Real Life Recipes” author Rocco DiSpirito will be a member of the judging panel.

Episode 9 - Guilty Pleasures

Top Chef S3 - Govind Armstrong joins as guest judge

The quickfire task, which involves toppings and ice cream, calls for a sweet tooth. The cooks are given the task of creating the ideal “hangover” snack afterwards. As a special guest judge, Govind Armstrong (chef and proprietor of Table 8 in Los Angeles and Miami) sits at the judges’ table to assist decide who gets to stay and who has to pack their knives and leave.

Episode 10 - Season 3 Restaurant Wars

Top Chef S3 - restaurant wars

The remaining chefs compete to make the most “adventuresome” burger. In the elimination challenge, special guest judge Daniel Boulud (chef and proprietor of Daniel and DB Bistro in NYC) has high expectations for the remaining competitors as they divide into two teams to develop a restaurant concept, develop the menu, and serve meals to their harshest critics — the public.

Episode 11 - Second Helping

Top Chef S3 - Episode 11: Second Helping

The first team to finish receives bragging rights and an advantage in the elimination round in the form of Stephen Asprinio, the champion of season one of “Top Chef.” Both the candidates and special guest judge Geoffrey Zakarian (chef for NYC’s Town and Country Restaurants) are on edge due to a shocking development.

Episode 12 - Chef Overboard

The remaining chefs must demonstrate their aisle flair and get inventive at the grocery store. Later, it’s sink or swim when the competitors cook on the high seas and put up a magnificent buffet spread on a budget. 

Michael Schwartz, a chef and the proprietor of Michaels Genuine in Miami, will serve as a special guest judge to assist choose who advances to the next round of competition for the coveted “Top Chef” title.

Episode 13 - Snacks On A Plane

Top Chef S3 - Episode 13 Snacks on a Plane

Blenders are needed for the cooks to have a competitive edge as they roll out of bed and begin their quickfire task. They “take-off” and join the mile-high dinner club after that. Jimmy Canora joins the judges’ table (Continental Congress of Chefs, Chef to the Stars).

Episode 14 - Manhattan Project

Top Chef S3 - Episode 14 Manhattan Project

The remaining competitors are under pressure to duplicate a dish made famous by special guest judge Sirio Maccioni (Owner of famed Le Cirque in NYC). Later, when the chefs must prepare meals for some of the most well-known cooks in the business, the competition heats up. Andre Soltner, a special guest, will be sitting at the judges’ table (The French Culinary Institute).

Episode 15 - Season 3 Finale Part 1

Top Chef S3 - Episode 15 Finale Part 1

A montage of the three remaining chefs, Casey, Dale, and Hung, chewing into various components as they prepared their three-course dinners from a massive buffet of raw dishes. After choosing their menu items and ingredients, the cooks were instructed to pick knives in order to choose their sous chefs. They were taken aback when three top chefs, Todd English, Michelle Bernstein, and Rocco DiSpirito, unexpectedly appeared from the gondola.

Episode 16 - Season 3 Finale Part 2

Top Chef S3 - season winner Hung Huynh

Everyone praised the dinner that Dale and Hung prepared. Both had two dishes that the judges praised, but both also received criticism: Dale’s gnocchi were rated as inedible, and Hung’s classic chocolate cake were rated as delectable but unremarkable.

Tom supported Hung throughout the judges’ deliberations, claiming that he would always choose a simple but wonderful meal over a dish that was truly appalling. Hung received the paltryest confetti drop and the title of Top Chef on the live program.

Episode 17 - Reunion

Top Chef S3 - Reunion

Bravo’s pop culture pundit and programming executive Andy Cohen hosts a candid gathering of season three’s chefs and judges; host Padma Lakshmi, head- judge Tom Colicchio, judge Gail Simmons and culinary expert Ted Allen. Cohen gets viewers burning questions answered and dish over season three’s good, bad and overcooked. Viewers also see exclusive clips that didn’t make the final cut.

Top Chef Season 3 (Top Chef Miami) Quick Facts

  • an American reality competition television series
  • aired on Bravo TV from June 6 – October 13, 2007
  • with the following spin offs: Top Chef Junior, Top Chef Masters, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Top Chef Amateurs, Life After Top Chef, Top Chef Duels, Top Chef Family Style, and Top Chef VIP
  • produced by Magical Elves Productions
  • hosted by Padma Lakshmi                                        
  • judges are Tom Colicchio, Ted Allen and Gail Simmons

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