Interview with Dale Levitski

Bravo’s Top Chef: Miami announces the winner of Season 3 tonight in a live broadcast that features the reality show’s most diverse finale ever. Included in the top three are Casey Thompson, a woman, Hung Huynh, a Vietnamese immigrant, and the openly gay Dale Levitksi. In last week’s episode, Dale surprised everyone by winning his first elimination challenge. He also opened up about how being on Top Chef helped him deal with a recent break-up and find his cooking mojo again. We talked with him on the eve of the show’s finale about all of this and more.

AfterElton: Congratulations on making it to the final three!
Dale Levitski:
Thanks, it was kind of surprising. I'm pretty happy.

AE: Are you excited about the live show?
DL:
I'm starting to get nervous.

AE: How do you feel about finding out the winner live on national television?
DL:
That's the nervous part. [laughs] It's going to be a once in a lifetime experience so it'll be pretty entertaining. The response that I've been getting the last week and a half has been insanity.

AE: How do you think you'll react if you won?
DL:
I'd probably pass out. [laughs] I'm trying not to think about it so I don't drive myself incredibly crazy.

AE: Who are the guest judges?
DL:
We have our regular four with Ted and Gail,. Then we've also got Eric Ripert, Rocco DiSpiritu, Michelle Bernstein, and Todd English.

AE: You won a number of new fans in the last episode when you talked about how you had lost your previous restaurant job and recently broken up with a boyfriend. Any details about your former relationship you'd feel comfortable sharing?
DL:
I don't know if it really comes off from the editing, but right before I applied for Top Chef was when my boyfriend broke up with me. Top Chef: Miami was the best breakup therapy you could ever imagine. You're removed from your world entirely. There was no time to obsess over it. I just snapped myself into another world and cooked. The year before Top Chef was one of the more difficult years of my life, and the competition helped put me back on track.

AE: How meaningful was it for you to win the elimination challenge last week?
DL:
It was pretty special, especially this elimination challenge. After going through the entire season, I didn't know if was taken seriously as a chef. I am kind of the underdog, I suppose. It was very interesting for me in most of the challenges — I knew I was a better chef than how I performed. I think a lot of us feel that way, that we didn't necessarily cook our best, but the situations are tailor-made to make you not cook your best.

AE: Who was your favorite person on the show?
DL:
I met so many great people on the show. Obviously, Casey and I are very, very close. Sarah N., Joey, CJ, Brian… those are the people I spent the most time with.

AE: Your least favorite?
DL:
I really didn't spend much time with a few of the other people, but while it looked like there were rivalries on the show, we all got along pretty well except for some minor personality differences. There was no animosity or fights or anything like that.

AE: Who, in your opinion, was the best chef?
DL:
That's a tough one. Honestly, I'm going throw out myself. I think I'm the best chef on the show. There are great cooks. I mean, Hung is definitely an amazing cook. I don't know that I'd qualify him as an amazing chef. When you understand the difference between a cook and a chef, your mind frame is different, you cook differently. I think he's about to find himself as a chef, but he's a great cook.

AE: Who was the worst?
DL:
We didn't get to see enough of Clay. He got booted in episode one. I don't think in our group there was anyone who stuck out as a sh*thead. Everyone was really good. It was more about who had more well-rounded skills to get through the entire competition. Some people are very specific, they cook certain things. I think I'm very well rounded. I can do a little bit of everything.

AE: If you could cook for anybody, who would it be?
DL:
My dead grandpa. He was my favorite person.

AE: Who would you love to have cook for you?
DL:
Tom Colicchio. It's about time. [laughs]

AE: Was Howie really sweating into the food as much as he appeared to be ?
DL:
Yes and no. There are a few of us, like Brian and I, who really sweat a lot, but it's just like, "Howie, put on a headband." I mean Joey's the same way. When it gets really hot and humid in the kitchen, some of us sweat a lot. I was probably sweating just like Howie, but I wear a hat or a headband or something.

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