The Top Chef Final 3 Reflect On Their Journey To The Finale - Exclusive

The three Top Chef finalists
The three Top Chef finalists - David Moir/Bravo

We knew that season 21 of "Top Chef" would come with some fun and interesting twists. But we never could have imagined a season full of fire bombs, meat raffles, extra Cheftestants, and the threat of a double elimination. Set those unique challenges in bucolic, the show's filming location, add in a brand-new host in Kristen Kish, and you have one exciting season.

While the season started back in March with 15 chefs, after 13 weeks and several elimination challenges, we're down to the final three: chefs Danny Garcia, Daniel "Dan" Jacobs, and Savannah Miller. These three chefs have won Quickfires, scored immunity, and are each leaving with several thousand dollars in their pockets. But with every high comes a low. Each of these chefs have also found themselves on the bottom a few times and Miller even had to pay an unexpected visit to urgent care. Each pushed through, and now, only one more cook stands between them and the title of Top Chef.

Before tonight's finale we were lucky enough to sit down with the three chefs and discuss how they got here, what their favorite challenge of the season was, and how Kristen Kish fared in her inaugural season as host.

Read more: The Most Useless Cooking Utensils, According To Chefs

Daniel Jacobs Didn't Realize How Mentally Challenging Top Chef Would Be

Dan Jacobs
Dan Jacobs - Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Affectionately referred to as "uncle" or "old man" this season, Daniel "Dan" Jacobs may have been this season's oldest contestant but he neither let age nor Kennedy's disease stop him from making it to the final three. While the other chefs were caught running to the pantry every instance the timer started, Jacobs says he took the opportunity to "strategically" pick out his favorite station and really focus on "what I was doing."

Even with all that focus, the head chef of Wisconsin's DanDan says he was still surprised at how mentally taxing the show could be. "I knew going into it, it was going to be physically demanding," the chef explains. "I don't think I ever realized how mentally challenging that this was going to be. And I think that was actually harder than anything else, was the mental aspect of the challenge."

That particular challenge didn't hinder Jacobs, though. While, of course, he is a chef first and foremost, Jacobs says he is "more of a problem solver at this point." It's a trait that paid off, as he found himself in the top three on a number of occasions. As a problem solver who was able to pivot when needed and turn a fiasco into a success, Jacobs turned out many flavorful dishes to represent his local Milwaukee in the finale.

Savannah Miller Really Connected To Several Of The Challenges

Savannah Miller
Savannah Miller - Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Even though Savannah Miller says she felt like an underdog when the season started, by the time of the final cook, she felt like a force to be reckoned with. Having won several Quickfire and Elimination Challenges over the past 13 weeks, she tells us that it was the competition that turned her into the contender she is.

Miller says that there were several challenges that particularly spoke to her, but two she enjoyed most were the Chaos Challenge and the Meat Raffle Quickfire. "Those were both fun ones that showed my personality and the types of dishes I like to create," she tells us.

Both of Miller's dishes were savory and saw ingredients flexed in unusual ways, which is something Miller says she really enjoys doing. "I think that taking a couple ingredients and making them shine and giving you something different ... that was something I felt really connected to."

It's those connections that allowed Miller to constantly think outside the box this season. They even helped her change things up when a dish wasn't working, because at the end of the day, Miller says it's all about putting out the best plate of food you can. "We need to pivot," she continues. "When you have that at the forefront, I think the decisions come a little bit easier."

Making Quick Decisions Was Part Of The Game For Danny Garcia

Danny Garcia
Danny Garcia - Stephanie Diani/Bravo

In the world of "Top Chef," time is almost as important as the dish you make. There's a time limit on everything, from the Quickfire Challenge to grocery shopping to the Elimination Challenge. If you don't know how to navigate the ticking clock, you'll find yourself facing elimination.

Several chefs over the years have discovered that time is not their friend, but Danny Garcia, the Puerto Rican-Dominican chef from Brooklyn, isn't one of them. Garcia has been cooking for over a decade. As an alum of the French Laundry and with experience at the Bocuse d'Or, he says he understands how to move with the clock in mind.

"We've all cooked for a really long time, so you know how to make fast decisions," Garcia explains. "Sometimes they're good decisions and sometimes they're not the best. But you instinctually know as a chef, how to make these reactionary decisions."

Throughout the season, those rapid choices were been beneficial more times than not. Garcia won several challenges including the one that secured him a spot in the finale. It's all about adapting, Garcia tells us. If you hesitate you're done. Luckily not one of the final three had a hesitation problem. "The three people that [are] there, [are] there for a reason," the chef adds emphatically.

Kristen Kish Made The Show's Process Easier For The Chefs

Kristen Kish
Kristen Kish - David Moir/Bravo

When Padma Lakshmi bid adieu after 20 seasons, fans wondered who would take her place. But the producers didn't have to look far; they plucked someone from the "Top Chef" family: Kristen Kish. A "Top Chef" winner herself, the host imbued a sense of calm over the competition, attributable to the high and low experience she shared from having once been on the Cheftestant side of the table.

"It was great being able to have the influence of someone who's been in our shoes, who's done what we've done, and understands," Danny Garcia says. For Savannah Miller, is was comforting that that the new host was experiencing the show on a similar level to the chefs.

"Tom [Colicchio] and Gail [Simmons] have been queuing it so long," says Miller. "They know the drill. Seeing Kristen have these moments very early on of figuring out where her place was, and the nerves that she had as well, I think it kind of humanized her." Those moments had a real impact on the contestants. "It made the whole process easier to be vulnerable and honest about your own emotions," Miller tells. "Because the host of the show is also doing something for the first time."

Dan Jacobs adds that being a part of Kish's inaugural run is memorable for everyone involved. "I feel honored to have been there for her first season," he says. "It was great. I mean, she'll never forget any of us."

The Indigenous Challenge Was A Favorite Among The Chefs

Sean Sherman, Elena Terry and Kristen Kish
Sean Sherman, Elena Terry and Kristen Kish - David Moir/Bravo

There were so many fun and interesting Elimination Challenges throughout the season, from dining festivals to the Tabletop Challenge. Yet the final three agree that their favorite of the season was the Indigenous Challenge.

During this particular trial, the chefs had to create a dish using only indigenous ingredients, as a way to honor Milwaukee, or "the good land." Each chefs tell us that they appreciated having to think outside the box and go without ingredients that are considered "standard" in the kitchen and every day life. Danny Garcia explains that instead of shopping at Whole Foods and "buying this mindless product, there was heart and soul for every ingredient that they shared with us."

Both Dan Jacobs and Savannah Miller agree with Garcia, saying that they cherished being able to showcase a cuisine that should be more widely seen and tasted. Miller won the challenge with her squash and maple jelly cake, while Jacobs' sunflower and goose dish also landed him the top three.

"It literally is the one I'm most proud of doing the whole season," Jacobs exudes. He's so proud of that sunflower dish in fact, it's currently on the menu at his restaurant, EsterEv. While he's made a few changes replacing the goose with rabbit and the Matsutake mushrooms with porcinis, since Matsutakes aren't currently in season, the dish is still a big hit among his guests. "It's a real great time and place dish, and it's got a great story," Jacobs says.

The season 21 finale of "Top Chef" premiers tonight, June 19th at 9 p.m. EST. Watch it on Bravo, or stream it on Peacock.

Read the original article on Mashed.