By People Staff
Updated October 04, 2007 12:00 AM
Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

On the sizzling finale of Top Chef Wednesday, the remaining three contestants were told by chef Tom Colicchio to make “the best meal you’ve ever cooked in your entire life”–and Hung Huynh delivered.

“I’m so excited! I worked so hard to get here and to prove myself. I’m speechless,” Hung, 29, told host Padma Lakshmi after finding out he’d bested fan-favorite Casey Thompson, 29, of Dallas, and Chicago’s Dale Levitski, 33.

Early on, all knives pointed at Hung to dice his way to the top. During the competition his cooking had been called “technically perfect”–and for the final challenge he ramped up his game to include the passion and spice the judges had been craving. For the final competition, the contestants were partnered with celebrity chefs. Hung was paired with Rocco Dispirito as his sous chef, whom Hung called “a perfect match.” Casey was paired with Michelle Bernstein and Dale had Todd English chopping his garlic.

In addition to having celebrity guest judges donning aprons, this season’s finale was marked by many firsts. Three chefs–instead of two–competed for the title; they all served their own meals at the same time; and the result was announced live from Chicago.

The setting: 11,200 feet up in Aspen. Prep time: 3 hours. The ingredients: all fresh protein and produce. Dale called it “the perfect time of year for a cook-off.” And Top Chef really is all about the cooking, so here’s how the courses panned out with the judges.

They were hard on Casey for her over-complicated dishes, use of overpowering salmon roe and dry pork belly. As for their favorites: First course went to Hung for his “sophisticated” Hamachi. Second course to Dale for his scallops dubbed “pretty amazing” by Dispirito. Third went to Hung again, whose duck dish English called “three-star Michelin quality.” Final plate was another crowd favorite: Dale’s deconstructed lamb ratatouille, which Colicchio called “a triumph.”

It should be noted that Hung, who is not a trained pastry chef, made dessert. His chocolate cake with raspberries didn’t exactly hit a sweet spot with judges: Chef Colicchio called it “boring but executed well.” Maybe Hung can invest in some pastry courses with his $100,000 winnings. –Kristin Boehm

Who do you think deserved to be named Top Chef? Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC