Dale, too, knows something about being close to glory and having it slip away. Before this show, he was cooking at the now dearly departed Trio, a nationally famous, avant-garde restaurant just north of Chicago that helped slingshot the careers of such great young chefs as Shawn McClain and Grant Achatz (both of whose food I've been privileged to eat there more than once). And then, owner Henry Adaniya decided to close Trio and retire.
To top it off, some fool decides to break up with Dale -- are you kidding me? Who the hell breaks up with a boyfriend who can cook?
Dale fell apart. He put his knives down for a year. To think that he only now has picked them up again to "find himself" on TC -- wow. I'm not gonna lie to you -- I welled up when he won tonight. I welled up when he said, "now I'm a chef again." It's just genuinely exciting to see somebody pick themselves up after a rough patch and to kick some serious ass. On national television. Under ridiculous pressures. Awesome. For more Ted Allen, check out his iVillage interview here.
You can see how the drama is affecting Hung, too. Suddenly, even the icy competitor is talking about soul and love in food, and turning his thoughts to what a win could really mean -- to the parents who busted their asses to get him into this country, to get him educated, to fill him with ambition and passion. I don't think Hung expresses himself well in this regard. It somehow didn't move me, somehow didn't ring true. But I think it is true. I suspect that Hung was probably not raised to spend a lot of time on introspection (let alone on acting classes -- keep your day job, Chef Boy); rather, to stick his nose into the books, to work hard, and to be grateful for the chance. I do think Hung is realizing now that there's something deeper to this gig than fame, victory, or money from the Glad Family of Products. (Not that those things are particularly shabby.)