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Recap: 'Top Chef: Seattle,' Episode 8

Recap: 'Top Chef: Seattle,' Episode 8


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Ten chefs remained heading into this episode, in which we saw some oyster preparations, met some roller derby girls (and an angry, possibly drunk Josie), and saw probably the most gourmet jalapeno popper ever created.

After waking up, the chefs were notified via a well-placed note that they needed to head to Taylor Shellfish Farms in Bow, Washington, to “harvest” something, which turned out to be Samish Bay oysters. They grabbed a bunch right off the flats (as Josie got stuck in quicksand), ate a few, then headed back to meet up with Padma and Emeril. The challenge: five chefs needed to prepare a hot preparation, five a cold. The winner would receive $5,000, and they had 25 minutes.

Emeril was satisfied with the offerings, but a few didn’t impress. The butter and cream that topped Bart’s champagne oysters made them too rich. The chorizo cream on Josie’s wood-roasted oysters was broken and unappealing, and John’s garlic butter-poached oysters with garlic-Parmesan foam “had no pop,” according to Emeril. He liked the currant juice in Lizzie’s, though, Micah’s fried oysters with arugula, lemon, and hot sauce “really popped,” (Emeril likes that verb), and Brooke’s salsa verde, cilantro, and horseradish still let the oyster shine. Micah won, once again proving that frying oysters is always a good decision.

As Padma introduced the main challenge, the Rat City Roller Girls roller derby team rolled out, skates and all, and the chefs were told that they’d be preparing the food for their season wrap party the following night. They needed to choose a partner, and each team was challenged to prepare a dish inspired by the roller girls’ nicknames: Teriyaki Terror, Jalapeno Business, Eddie Shredder, Kutta Rump, and Tempura Tantrum (rather out of the box nicknames, apparently). They were given 2 ½ hours to cook for 100 people.

Here were the final dishes:

Micah and Lizzie (Jalapeno): Crab-stuffed jalapeno with avocado cream, onion, and pepper relish

Bart and Josie (Teriyaki): Steak Teriyaki with forbidden rice, beet blood, and green papaya salad

Stefan and Kristen (Shredder): Corn puree, chicken, liver, and sunny-side up egg

John and Brooke (Rump): Thai beef with lobster jasmine rice and Thai slaw

Sheldon and Josh (Tempura): Tempura yuzu curd with shiso, Fresno chili, sweet potato, and vanilla

Here are the chefs whose dishes were on the top:

John and Brooke: The lobster and beef were cooked perfectly, and everything was delicious, according to Emeril.

Micah and Lizzie: The jalapeno was hot and delicious, and didn’t overpower the crab.

The winning team was Brooke and John, who turned out to be a very compatible pair.

And on the bottom:

Bart and Josie: Tom asked if the chefs tasted the dish, because it was clearly underseasoned (and he makes it point to tell them, again, that putting salted food on top of unsalted food does not a well-seasoned dish make. Emeril thought it was a “mish mosh,” and Hugh considered the rice “really boring porridge.”

Sheldon and Josh: It worked conceptually, but the tempura coating was mushy and executed improperly. Tom called it “disastrous.”

In the end, Bart got the axe for consistently undersalting his food. Josie got in under the wire this time, but she seems poised to not be sticking around for too much longer.


Seattle’s Shota Nakajima Nabs His First (Co)Win on ‘Top Chef: Portland’

Seattle’s lone representative on “Top Chef: Portland” is off to a hot start. A week after a top four showing in the new season’s first elimination challenge, Shota Nakajima cooked the judges’ favorite dish alongside fellow contestant Avishar Barua in the second episode. The two teamed up on a lobster sunomono with double cream coffee and stout reduction, carbonated grapes, and furikake.

Nakajima really impressed buzzer to buzzer throughout the show. In the diner-themed quickfire challenge, the chef — who owns Capitol Hill’s Taku — had to show off his short-order skills, and chose to make dim sum. He served up a shrimp dumpling mochi with sweet soy green onion sauce, which won a face-off with Barua, an executive chef based out of Columbus, Ohio.

Later, the elimination challenge required the contestants to come up with dishes based on either coffee or beer, two Portland specialties. Nakajima drew the latter ingredient to highlight, then went about planning a dish to cook on his own, only to find out along with everyone else that this would be a team-based contest instead. All the chefs had to scrap their initial recipes, and work with another contestant on a collaborative plate with the ingredients they already collected.

Nakajima paired up with his quickfire foe, and the two seemed to bond a bit, with Barua giving the more diminutive chef a ribbing on camera. “No one wants Avishar I look left and right, no one wants to look at me, then I look down and I see Shota,” said Barua. The chemistry clearly paid off in the twist on sunomono they prepared (Nakajima was responsible for the double cream and apple pickles components), which earned heaps of praise for its innovation. Judge Tom Colicchio gushed, “This was totally original this was out of left field, but it worked together because of the balance of the dish.”

So far, Nakajima is one of the contestants to watch among stiff competition, and is gradually starting to reveal more of his background on the show. In the second episode, he opened up a bit more about the devastation he felt when closing his acclaimed restaurant Adana in May 2020, and placing his new venture Taku on indefinite hold due to the pandemic. “I put so much love and effort into it. And then I kind of went a little downhill and I started drinking a lot,” he said. “I do need to focus. I need to kind of put myself back together, and I think that’s another reason why I got onto this competition.”

Now, Nakajima is starting to hit his stride, and is embracing the “Top Chef” life in full. Fans can find a recipe for the lobster dish he co-created on YouTube. And on April 24, he is doing a one-night-only pop-up dinner at Taku with fellow contestants Sara Hauman and Byron Gomez. The event has six seats up for auction, with 100 percent of proceeds going to fund a meal program to help low-income residents in the International District. The menu for the pop-up includes salmon tartare, fried plantain ice cream, and sea urchin doughnuts, with bids opening Friday, April 9, at noon the link will be in Nakajima’s Instagram bio.


‘Top Chef Kentucky’ Recap: Duel of the Party Boats

The latest episode of Top Chef Kentucky tells the tale of two boats: one staffed by a bunch of fun-loving chefs, and the other full of stressed-out perfectionists. It’s no surprise which team wins the boat party challenge, but it’s interesting to see how it all play out over two drama-filled days on the water.

At the start of the episode, the cheftestepants are still licking their wounds from the brutal judgement of the beef challenge. “We all got ripped to pieces like troubled teens in the schoolyard,” Kelsey remarks. As the weary chefs are rehashing the steak fiasco, Padma walks in to deliver some news. “I really think you guys could all use a break,” the host says. “Pack your bags, because we’re hitting the road, because we’re going to Lake Cumberland — the houseboat capital of the world.” Kentucky native Sara is clearly thrilled by the news, telling her cohorts that Lake Cumberland is, in fact, “super dope.” For the next challenge — the only one this episode, because there’s no Quickfire — the chefs will break up into two teams and prepare dishes for dueling boat parties. The crew with the most votes at the end of the party will be safe from elimination.

Since Nervous Eddie won the last challenge, he gets to pick his team, a task that he describes as “my least favorite advantage.” He picks four of the strongest and most professional chefs left in the competition: Adrienne, Michelle, David, and Brian. “I just started saying names,” Eddie says. By picking those four for his team, that leaves Justin, Kelsey, Eric, and Sara to form their own team.

Since Kelsey does a lot of party catering, she feels confidant that her group (the green team) can ace this challenge. “This is what I do for a living, people,” she remarks. Meanwhile, on the other crew (the blue team), Michelle observes, “Honestly if this challenge is about a party, our team is a little bit out of our element, because our team is a little bit more reserved and mature than the other team, but all of our chefs are really strong.”

On the way to Whole Foods, Justin talks some smack about the blue team. “I’m actually really glad I’m not on the other team,” he says. “Eddie’s stressed beyond belief. Brian’s gonna overthink something. One thing I can do is throw a party.” Justin, we learn, is very familiar with throwing parties on boats, because he grew up in Minnesota, AKA the “land of 10,000 lakes.” Sara is also a self-professed party maestro, telling the gang, “I’ve thrown real good parties in my day — most of the time it just involves me taking my shirt off and running around.”

Left to right: Lee Rosbach, Sandy Yawn, Justin Sutherland, Kelsey Barnard, Sara Bradley, Eric Adjepong, Adrienne Wright, Michelle Minori, Brian Young, David Viana, and Eddie Konrad. David Moir/Bravo

When the chefs arrive at Lake Cumberland, they are greeted by Lee Rosbach and Sandy Yawn, two captains from Below Deck, another Bravo reality show. The captains show the chefs around the party boats, which are both equipped with smallish home kitchens as well as hot tubs. Brian immediately senses that the kitchen set-up is going to be problematic for them if they have to prepare five dishes for a hundred guests. Shortly after the blue team begins prepping for the party, the power goes out and they have to call upon some fix-it guys to get everything back up and running. But it’s a much different scene on the green team’s boat, where Kelsey is shucking oysters, Justin is slicing up watermelon, and Sara is making batches of “jiggle juice,” a combination of “Maker’s Mark bourbon, peach-mint tea, and gelatin.”

During prep for the big party, Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse board the boats to check in with the chefs, and both teams are surprised to see Mr. Bam! himself in their galley kitchens. After several hours of cooking, Adrienne tells her teammates that she’s not feeling well and needs to lay down, so Eddie volunteers to take over her salmon taco prep. Meanwhile, Brian is struggling with his porchetta, which needs to be roasted, but the oven still isn’t working. Over on the green team’s boat, Eric tells his teammates that his dad — who passed away in 2005 — was a cab driver in New York City who famously returned a suitcase full of $10,000 that a passenger left, earning him the keys to the city. The chef still thinks of him as a role model.

Brian Young David Moir/Bravo

After cooking into the wee small hours of the morning, the chefs take short naps and resume party prep the next day. Despite the fact that Michelle thinks it’s a dumb idea, Brian decides to set up his porchetta carving station in the hot tub. In another corner of the boat, Eddie is serving both his shrimp lollipops and Adrienne’s salmon tacos, while Michelle is frying up her riff on fish and chips, and David is dishing out Asian-inspired seafood dumplings.

Over on the green team’s boat, Sara is serving shrimp rolls, Eric is frying walleye, Justin is plating watermelon salad, and Kelsey is handing out Alabama oysters. In what would prove to be a smart move, the green team also batched some little baggies of Key lime crunch — or “puppy chow” — as party favors. Although Padma wrinkles her nose after taking a sip of the jiggle juice, it’s pretty clear that both the judges and guests are having a better time at the green team’s party, even if the blue team has some stronger dishes.

Judges Emeril Lagasse, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Nilou Motamed David Moir/Bravo

“Overall, both teams did a great job,” Tom tells the teams at the judges’ table, atop one of the boats. “You made food that was appropriate for a party, that was delicious, it was all important to each of you, and it showed.” Emeril was also a fan of the food at the party, telling that gang, “You guys cooked what you wanted to do from your heart, so congratulations.”

After asking Adrienne to leave the upper deck — the chef is ineligible for elimination this round, because she was sick — the judges reveal that the green team got the most votes from guests, and therefore won the competition. The judges liked all of the dishes, but Kelsey’s oysters with watermelon mignonette get singled out as the best dish of the evening. “I am feeling ecstatic,” Kelsey says. “This is my first win, and I don’t anticipate it to be my last.”

As for the blue team, Tom explains that “some of the food just missed the mark.” Padma thought Eddie’s prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was kind of bland. Though the flavor and texture of Michelle’s fish were on-point, Tom didn’t like that his portion was cold. And while David’s seafood dumplings were tasty, they didn’t seem like the right fit for a cocktail party. But the biggest dud of the night, in the judges’ eyes at least, was Brian’s brined porchetta, which tasted like a honey-baked ham. Because of this transgression, the judges decide that it’s time for Brian to pack his knives and go. “That pork just wasn’t cooked properly,” Tom says to Brian. “See you at Last Chance Kitchen.”

“It’s a hard thing to have to walk out with your head held high, and it’s definitely been an emotional ride,” Brian says. “I’ve taken this competition really seriously, and I take my food really seriously. I tried to push the boundaries. I’m proud of the way I competed.”


Top Chef: Texas , Episode 8 Recap

And then there were 10. Are they the “Top 10” ? I’m not sure. Ed reminded us last week: “It’s not always the best chef that makes it to the end. I mean you can have a hiccup one night and that’s it. You’re gone.” I think we’ve witnessed that every season. When a certain chef gets cut, you feel outraged and want to scream “INJUSTICE! Not him! Take me! Oh wait, I’m at home eating Ramen. I cannot save him. I can only pick a new favorite.”

Luckily, my favorite, Paul, has been a front runner since the gates opened. I still have a horse in this race and he’s headed to his hometown of Austin, Texas in this episode along with Edward, Ty, Chris J., Chris C., Sarah, Heather, Beverly, Lindsay and Grayson.

Southbound on 35 in their Toyota Sienas (sponsor alert!), everyone is chatting and having a grand old time. Ed asks Heather what kind of guys she’s into and her description is essentially “tall, dark and handsome.” She elaborates and says it’s been difficult for her to have a long relationship because she has been so focused on her career. A scene from The Hangover instantly plays through my head:

Phil Wenneck: You know what, Doug? You should enjoy yourself, because come Sunday you’re gonna start dying…just a little bit…every day.

Alan Garner: That’s why I’ve managed to stay single this whole time, you know?

Stu Price: [sarcastically] Oh, really? That’s why you’re single?

Stu Price: [sarcastically] Cool. Good to know

After checking into the Cattle Baron’s suite at the historic Driskill Hotel, the cheftestants head to Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. (I guess Cordon Bleu is a sponsor as well?) Tom and Padma meet the chefs in the kitchen and inform them (and me) that Twitter gained popularity in Austin at the SXSW Festival in 2007. As a shout out to the hotspot of technology that is Austin, the instructions for the Quickfire will announced in real time messages by tweeters. The chefs seem to understand but I am a bit confused. I don’t tweet. The only real time event I’ve ever followed on Twitter was the escape of the Bronx Zoo cobra and the slithery snakes brief life as a fugitive.

Tweet 1: “Everything is better with bacon.” The chefs have 45 minutes to make a dish with bacon. Chris J. agrees with this tweet. “Bacon should be its own food group because damn it’s delicious.” (Bacon? So last year.)

Tweet 2: “Do a hash as one component of your dish.” The chefs are mostly unaffected by this tweet and appear confident this is a no-brainer.

Tweet 3: “Every chef choose a pantry ingredient and had it off to somebody else.” Some of the chefs take this opportunity to help out another chef and give them butter or oil while others take this as a chance to put a chink in someone’s chain. The weapon of choice is Sriracha, a hot Thai sauce. Chris C. gives it to Lindsay and Ty gives it to Edward. Neither is happy to have it. As a viewer, I found the tweeting gimmick to be fun. I wish they’d tweeted a few more curve balls at the chefs. I think the chefs are having fun with it too. Bev gets left out and has to ask someone to give her something. Why can I not find it in my heart to feel sorry for her?

Time is up and Padma and Tom are ready to eat some bacon and hash. For the most part, Tom feels like the food is pretty exciting but as always, some were better than others. The three dishes Tom liked the least were Grayson’s, Chris J.’s and Ed’s. Chris J. has an issue with over-salting his food. (Didn’t Richie have this same problem?) Maybe it’s a Moto epidemic? Bev, Sarah, and Paul are chosen as the top three. Sarah served squash blossoms stuffed with burrata beside a bacon and zucchini hash. Burrata is the key to my heart and I have to let her inside. Bev’s crispy pork belly with corn habanero potato hash looks pretty tasty and I understand why she is chosen. And last but never least, Paul’s “bacon several ways” wins over Tom. “It is unusual and shouldn’t have worked but it did,” Tom says. Paul wins the Quickfire and $10,000. Respect.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

Tom sends the chefs to the bar at the Driskill and tells them “drinks are on us” but warns them to have a good time but “don’t go crazy.” I don’t mean to get technical but the drinks are on Toyota, Healthy Choice, and Le Cordon Bleu School of the Culinary Arts, and any other sponsor they can squeeze into an episode. (Did I forget one?) I bet the chefs sipped on top shelf, Grade A, Don Julio Tequila.

Libations are flowing, smiles are growing, and Patti LaBelle is taking the stage. Oh dear. Are the drinks on her too? Does she have a Christmas album that just released? Bravo, you’re in Austin and this is what you come up with? The music scene there is spectacular. Patti’s performance is not. I hate to be ugly about a legend, but it may be time for Patti to hang up her sequins and start belting it out in the shower at home like the rest of us. I will insult her no further.

Patti and her friends (I think these people are really friends of hers) will be joining Tom, Padma, and Emeril for dinner at the Driskill. Patti knows that all cooks have soul and she wants to know what person inspired each of these chefs to begin their culinary journey. The chefs are asked to cook a dish honoring the person or people who brought out the chef in them. Padma asks the chefs to tell their story tomorrow night by serving a great tribute dinner.

Off to Whole Foods (I knew I forgot one) and the chefs are brain storming their dishes and chatting about memories of cooking as a child. Heather shares that her mother was an excellent cook when she was growing up and has very fond memories of her mom’s beef stroganoff. (My mom made a pretty good beef stroganoff when I was a little kid too. You just had to add boiling water and cooked hamburger meat and voila! Do NOT hate on Hamburger Helper. They are not a sponsor of Top Chef or of a healthy diet for that matter but let’s not get into details.) Chris C. remembers his uncle who taught him to fish while Chris J. recalls the delicious steak dinners at his grandmother’s house. Grayson is also reveling in memories of red meat and grilling rib-eyes with her dad.

Back at the hotel we see that Beverly has posted the fake award she made for herself earlier this season in an effort to “secret” it. “Congratulations Beverly Kim Clark. ” it reads. “You have won Top Chef Season 9 and $125,000.” I know I don’t give Beverly enough credit for what she is capable of doing, but I know she is not the next Top Chef. I also know if she ends up winning this season, you are going to see all sorts of fake awards posted up around my house. “Congratulations Loren Means. You are the winner of $20 million and a trip around the world.” “Congratulations Loren Means. You have been hand-selected to go on a date with Ryan Gosling.” “Congratulations Loren Means. Every food you eat no longer has calories.” I could keep at this all night. I smell a project!

Out first Chris J. and Heather present their dishes. Chris J. shares his story of his grandmother whom he calls “Mommy too” and how her steak and potatoes inspired him to make his miniature version of lemon pepper steak with baked potato and vegetables. The judges give good reviews. Heather, who calls her mother the “Queen of one-pot meals” serves beef stroganoff with herb spaetzle and roasted wild mushrooms. She knows the rib-eye she used isn’t done well and the judges know it too.

Paul and Sarah are up next. They both were inspired by grandparents. Paul’s quail adobo and ginger rice with green mango salsa is a hit with everyone except Patti. She doesn’t care for quail. Sarah’s pork sausage stuffed cabbage and spinach with browned butter also impresses the judges. Emeril is very impressed she actually made the sausage instead of purchasing it.

Following a tough act, Beverly and Chris C. serve their dishes. Beverly has chosen to honor her mom with a Korean braised short rib with edamame scallion puree and hon shimeji mushrooms. The judges are absolutely on board with her, but I just can’t get there. Chris C. has cooked a sockeye salmon with confit potato and brown sugar carrot puree to honor his uncle. Unfortunately, he cooked his fish on high heat and the albumin is oozing out of the fish. (Ok, I won’t pretend I knew what albumin was before last night and throw it around like I’ve been using it for years when it’s the culinary equivalent to the “word of the day” for me. I’ve seen the white stuff but, much like the ends of shoelaces, I had no idea it had a name. Never really thought about it either.)

Next up is the fourth group which includes Lindsay, whose roots are both Greek and southern U.S., and Ed, my absolute second favorite chef. Lindsay’s tribute to her two grandmothers is a trout spanakopita with crispy leeks and rainbow trout roe. The dish is a hit, but Emeril thinks there’s too much butter. (Is there such a thing? I’d put butter on my butter if it wasn’t frowned upon by society and the Mayo clinic.) Ed chose to go vegetarian as a tribute to his grandmother who rarely cooked using proteins. He created a modern bibimbap with lemon-chili sauce. He knew it was risky to go vegetarian but he told Ty early on: “I got balls and I’m gonna show ‘em.” Thank you for sharing your balls with us Ed, the judges really enjoyed what they inspired.

The final dishes of the evening are served by Grayson, a self-proclaimed meat and potato girl from Wisconsin, and Ty. Grayson serves a giant slab of rib-eye with German potato salad and grilled vegetables. The judges find the meat stringy and gristly. Ty, who still remembers the panko-crusted chicken tenders his Japanese nanny made for him, wanted to honor her by creating his version of chicken tenders fried in duck fat and served with pickled peaches. The judges think his plate is beautiful and love the dish.

JUDGES TABLE

Back in the stew room, the chefs are comparing dishes and beating themselves up as usual. Ty takes this time to point out that Patti’s nails were painted to match Padma’s shirt. He’s probably right but who’s to say Padma didn’t dress to match Patti’s nails? While we are on the topic, Padma’s wardrobe this season is awful. They’re like heinous costumes, not clothes. (New sponsor opening!)

Padma asks to see Grayson, Chris C., and Heather. This is no surprise. Grayson took the challenge too literally and her dish iss boring and bland. Chris C. had albumin (used it again) leaching out onto the plate and Heather’s meat was not cooked properly. Heather doesn’t put up much of an argument which I’m surprised by but when Tom asks her why she didn’t use the pressure cooker, she gives a big spiel about it making her duck stringy which ruined her dish last time. Tom looks at her and says, “Beverly used the pressure cooker and she’s not here.” Snap! Feisty Tom is back and it seems he doesn’t care too much for Heather. This is probably no skin off her back since Tom is not tall, dark, or handsome. (Although, I must confess: I have a small crush on Tom which is strange since “bald” and “soul patch” aren’t on my Top 10 list of endearing features.)

Beverly, Ed, and Sarah are brought to the table as the top three. Patti loved Ed’s beautiful presentation and Padma thinks he’s on a roll. Beverly also executed a lovely presentation and everything on the plate had a purpose. Sarah’s dish showed a lot of technique and the flavors were clean.

After the judges deliberate, Sarah takes her first win of the season and “The queen of mean” as Padma calls Heather, is sent packing. Beverly doesn’t cry. Justice has been served.

LCK: Nyesha vs. Heather

Nyesha is ready to “shut Heather up” and “wipe that smile off her face.” All previously dismissed chefs hang on the sidelines as the competitors take their corners. The challenge is to showcase their techniques and methods by frying, injecting, and foaming. Heather goes the savory route and prepares gulf shrimp injected with paprika and served with a mushroom foam. Nyesha takes the sweet road and makes beignets injected with caramel sauce served with a brown butter foam. Tom tastes both dishes. Both are good, but he finds Heather’s shrimp to be overcooked and she is gone for good. Ding dong…you know how the rest goes.


'You're Not the Worst. That Doesn't Mean You're Good.'

This week on Top Chef: Tiffany sweeps the Quickfire and main challenge with $10,000 tamales, Padma approves of Kevin's Indian-inspired lentils, Alex scrapes by with a mediocre tortilla Espanola, and Angelo makes a splash . by saran-wrapping Stephen's toilet bowl. As part of our ongoing weekly Top Chef recaps, guest judge Eric Ripert talks to us about Wednesday's episode, including Stephen's fatal error: overcooked rice.

ESQUIRE: Do you get the sense that Alex knows what he's doing in the kitchen?

ERIC RIPERT: As you know, the editing of Top Chef is genius. So they can create whatever they want, basically. However, it really looks like the entire group is mad at him, which is an indication that he's probably not that good.

ESQ: Even though he's made it onto the show, and gotten this far?

ER: Sometimes you're not the worst, but that doesn't mean you're good. It looks like he got lucky &mdash but yeah, he should be gone, I think. It would be better for him. No one in the group seems to like him.

ESQ: Why does he carry a spoon in his shoulder pocket? Is that normal?

ER: You're supposed to test your food. At Le Bernadin, we give sous-chefs spoons made with starch, so they are not plastic spoons, and you're not supposed to double-dip, so you try the food once and then you throw the spoon out. Some chefs have a spoon like Alex, but you're supposed to boil the spoon after each use. I don't know if he's doing that or not, but the spoon in the pocket is fine &mdash it's better to have it on the pocket of a jacket than have it in your pants.

ESQ: The Quickfire challenge revolved around Ethiopian cooking. How hard is Ethiopian food to make?

ER: The food inspired by Ethiopia was a difficult challenge. It's not that easy. But I was happy to see that Tiffany finally won she made a goulash because she's Hungarian. It's kind of ironic that she wins with a Hungarian dish and it's an Ethiopian challenge. But at the end of the day, it was a dish inspired by Ethiopia she ended up in Hungary, but it's okay.

ESQ: In the main challenge, it seemed like everybody was scared of drawing Brazil.

ER: Yeah, I don't understand why. Maybe I'm lucky. I went many times to Brazil, and actually, a long time ago, I dated a lot of young girls and may have been exposed to the cuisine. So Brazil is not that difficult for me.

ESQ: Stephen, who cooked Brazilian food, got kicked off. Was it really that bad?

ER: Look, seriously, that one really deserved to go home, because he opened beans in a can, he does a steak with chimichurri &mdash which is from Argentina &mdash and really, anyone can cook steak. And his chimichurri was supposedly overly garlicky on top of it all.

ESQ: Stephen's rice failed, too. What went wrong?

ER: You can see, even as a viewer, that the rice is completely overcooked. First of all, it's totally out of context with Brazilian culture, because he's doing something that has nothing to do with Brazil. And then the only thing he has to cook, he fucks up. It's basic. It's rice. If you don't know how to cook rice, or pasta, or a potato, you're in trouble.

ESQ: Amanda drew France. Do you think she represented your country well?

ER: The bourguignon was a good idea, but it looked like she didn't cook it enough it looked a bit dry to me.

ESQ: These were her first victories. Is she just a talented chef who hasn't had any luck until now?

ER: Well, she's not the strongest. But is she a talented chef? Yes, she has talent. Her food tastes good. I think it's not only important for the food to look good, but to taste good, too, and when I was on Top Chef, the food tasted good. So she definitely has something.


Contents

Basic format Edit

Top Chef is a cooking show that uses a progressive elimination format. The beginning of each season starts with twelve to nineteen professional chefs selected through auditions. The chefs are brought to the season's host city or state, which typically inspires themes throughout the season. The chefs live in a provided apartment or house during the course of the season, with limited access to outside communication. Each episode, the chefs participate in a Quickfire Challenge and an Elimination Challenge (described below). The winner of the Quickfire Challenge is typically granted immunity from elimination, a prize, or another benefit for the following Elimination Challenge. The loser of the Elimination Challenge, as the name suggests, is eliminated from the competition. This format continues until two or three chefs remain. Each finalist is challenged to create a full-course meal the chef with the best meal as determined by the judges is declared the "Top Chef" of the season. Towards the end of the season, when only four or five chefs remain, the show moves to another location to finish out the competition.

In the Quickfire Challenge, chefs must cook a dish that meets certain requirements (for example, using specific ingredients or inspiring a certain taste) or participate in a culinary-related challenge (for example, a mise en place relay race or a taste testing contest). They are usually given an hour or less to complete these tasks. The Quickfire Challenge traditionally begins with the host saying "Your time starts now" and ending with the host saying "Hands up, utensils down". [3] A guest judge selects one or more chefs as the best in the challenge. Early in the season, the winning chef(s) are granted immunity from the episode's Elimination Challenge. As the number of contestants dwindle, immunity is withdrawn and instead the winner receives an advantage (such as being the team leader for a team challenge or getting first pick of ingredients) or a prize (such as chef's knives, wine, or cash). To emphasize the culture and environment of the sixth season's Las Vegas setting, the show introduced "High-stakes Quickfire Challenges", which features extravagant rewards, usually a large cash prize upwards of US$10,000 . High-stakes Quickfire Challenges continued onward in further seasons. The twelfth season of Top Chef introduced the "Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge", where the chef with the least successful dish faces immediate elimination unless they win a cook-off against another competitor.

In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs prepare one or more dishes to meet the challenge requirements, which often includes a specific theme and are usually more complex and require more time to execute than a Quickfire Challenge. Elimination Challenges may be individual challenges or require chefs to work in teams some may require the contestants to produce several courses. Teams may be selected by the remaining chefs, but are more often determined by a random process, such as "drawing knives" from a knife block. The time limit for an Elimination Challenge may range from a few hours to a few days, which typically includes preparation and planning time. Ingredients for Elimination Challenges generally allow chefs access to both the Top Chef pantry and the ingredients they previously purchased at a grocery store, within a specified budget and shopping time limit. However, certain challenges may provide specific ingredients or limit the type or number of ingredients that can be used, while others require non-traditional methods for obtaining ingredients (such as asking people door-to-door or fishing). After shopping, the contestants will cook for up to four judges, usually including at least one guest judge. In most cases, the contestants cook for a group of guest diners as well.

After the Elimination Challenge, the chefs report to the Judges' Table, where the judges will deliberate on their choices for the best and worst dishes. The judges may also consider guests' comments, if available. The top individuals or teams are called in, and may be asked questions about their dishes or preparation before they are notified of their placement. One or more chefs are named the winner of the challenge and may be awarded an additional prize by the guest judge. The same procedure is repeated with the poorest performing chefs or teams, after which similar discussion takes place. From this group, one or more chefs are chosen for elimination, with the host asking the chef(s) to leave by saying "Please pack your knives and go." This is usually followed by a knife packing sequence for the eliminated chef(s), with a voice-over of their final thoughts about their performance, at the close of the episode. According to the credits, some elimination decisions are made in consultation with the show's producers.

The prize money awarded to the Top Chef was US$100,000 for the first five seasons, which was then increased to $125,000 from the sixth season onward. The prize was temporarily increased to $200,000 for the show's eighth season, Top Chef: All-Stars, and $250,000 for the seventeenth and eighteenth seasons, Top Chef: All-Stars L.A. and Top Chef: Portland. [4] [5] Furthermore, beginning with Top Chef: Los Angeles, a fan vote is held each season to determine the Fan Favorite, which features an additional $10,000 prize.

Special formats Edit

Midway through each season, the contestants participate in a "Restaurant Wars" (or similarly named) Elimination Challenge. They are split into two teams, created by the winner of the previous Quickfire Challenge, or by drawing knives. In these teams, the chefs must transform an empty space into a functioning pop-up restaurant within a set time limit and budget, selecting and creating the name, theme, décor, and menu. Typically, one team member is designated the role of "executive chef", who is responsible for managing the kitchen and expediting food, while another team member is designated as "front of house", who is responsible for training the waitstaff and managing the dining room. Top Chef: Chicago featured not only Restaurant Wars, but a "Wedding Wars" challenge as well. Top Chef: Kentucky introduced the challenge much earlier in the season, during its fourth episode, and utilized three teams instead of the usual two.

In the final Elimination Challenge, the two or three remaining chefs must prepare a multiple course dinner with the assistance of sous chefs. These sous chefs could be previously eliminated contestants, members of the contestants' family, or celebrity chefs. The winner is selected based on the overall quality of their meal. There is typically no Quickfire Challenge during this episode.

Last Chance Kitchen Edit

The Last Chance Kitchen is a web series, first introduced in Top Chef: Texas, featuring challenges in which the contestants compete for a chance to re-enter the main competition. Each week, two or more previously eliminated chefs compete against each other in the Top Chef kitchen, with the results judged solely by Tom Colicchio. The winner(s) of each week moves on to face the next eliminated Top Chef contestant(s), while the loser is eliminated from the competition for good. Initially, only the winner of the final episode of Last Chance Kitchen returned to compete. However, beginning with Top Chef: Colorado, the format was changed to allow two chances to re-enter.

Season Winner Runner(s)-up Fan Favorite Air Dates Filming Location
1 Harold Dieterle Tiffani Faison N/A March 8 – May 24, 2006 San Francisco, California
2 Ilan Hall Marcel Vigneron Sam Talbot October 18, 2006 – January 31, 2007 Los Angeles, California
3 Hung Huynh Dale Levitski Casey Thompson Casey Thompson June 6 – October 13, 2007 Miami, Florida
4 Stephanie Izard Lisa Fernandes Richard Blais Stephanie Izard March 12 – June 11, 2008 Chicago, Illinois
5 Hosea Rosenberg Stefan Richter Carla Hall Fabio Viviani November 12, 2008 – March 4, 2009 New York City
6 Michael Voltaggio Bryan Voltaggio Kevin Gillespie Kevin Gillespie August 19 – December 16, 2009 Las Vegas, Nevada
7 Kevin Sbraga Ed Cotton Angelo Sosa Tiffany Derry June 16 – September 15, 2010 Washington, D.C.
8 Richard Blais Mike Isabella Carla Hall December 1, 2010 – April 6, 2011 New York City
9 Paul Qui Sarah Grueneberg Chris Crary November 2, 2011 – March 7, 2012 Texas
10 Kristen Kish Brooke Williamson Sheldon Simeon November 7, 2012 – February 27, 2013 Seattle, Washington
11 Nicholas Elmi Nina Compton Nina Compton October 2, 2013 – February 5, 2014 New Orleans, Louisiana
12 Mei Lin Gregory Gourdet N/A October 15, 2014 – February 11, 2015 Boston, Massachusetts
13 Jeremy Ford Amar Santana Isaac Toups December 2, 2015 – March 17, 2016 California
14 Brooke Williamson Shirley Chung Sheldon Simeon December 1, 2016 – March 2, 2017 Charleston, South Carolina
15 Joe Flamm Adrienne Cheatham Fatima Ali December 7, 2017 – March 8, 2018 Colorado
16 Kelsey Barnard Clark Sara Bradley Kelsey Barnard Clark December 6, 2018 – March 14, 2019 Kentucky
17 Melissa King Bryan Voltaggio Stephanie Cmar Melissa King March 19 – June 18, 2020 Los Angeles, California
18 TBA TBA TBA April 1, 2021 [2] Portland, Oregon

Top Chef Masters Edit

Top Chef Masters features established, award-winning chefs, in contrast to Top Chef, which typically features younger, up-and-coming chefs. The series debuted on June 10, 2009, with contestants including Rick Bayless, John Besh, Michael Chiarello, Wylie Dufresne, Jonathan Waxman and Hubert Keller. As of 2013, five seasons have been produced and aired. During its first two seasons, food journalist Kelly Choi hosted the show, while restaurant critic Gael Greene, culinary expert and Saveur editor-in-chief James Oseland, and food critic Jay Rayner served as judges. [6] Beginning with the third season, celebrity chef Curtis Stone replaced Choi as host. [7]

Top Chef Just Desserts Edit

Top Chef Just Desserts is a spin-off of the Top Chef format featuring pastry chefs. The series was announced by Bravo on October 25, 2009. [8] The show was hosted by Top Chef regular Gail Simmons. The judging panel included James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, Top Chef Masters finalist Hubert Keller, and DailyCandy's "editor-at-large" Dannielle Kyrillos. [9] The show debuted on Bravo on September 15, 2010, following the seventh season finale of Top Chef. The series was cancelled after two seasons. [10]

Top Chef Healthy Showdown Edit

Top Chef Healthy Showdown is a special webisode series aired in 2011 sponsored by Healthy Choice. It featured former Top Chef contestants Sara Nguyen (Season 3), Ryan Scott (Season 4), Casey Thompson (Season 3, Season 8), and Tre Wilcox (Season 3, Season 8) competing in a series of Quickfire Challenges to win $25,000 and inspire a Top Chef line of Healthy Choice entrées. [11] The series was hosted by Curtis Stone Ryan was declared the winner of the competition.

Life After Top Chef Edit

Life After Top Chef is a spin-off featuring former Top Chef contestants Richard Blais, Jennifer Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn, and Fabio Viviani, which focuses on various aspects of their lives, from managing and opening a restaurant to dealing with family dynamics and personal issues. It premiered on October 3, 2012. [12]

Top Chef Duels Edit

Top Chef Duels brings back contestants from past seasons of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, pitting them against each other in head-to-head challenges. [13] The winner of each match-up advanced to the season finale, where one chef received $100,000. [13] The series premiered on August 6, 2014. [14]

Top Chef Junior Edit

Top Chef Junior is a spin-off series originally ordered in 2008 for an eight-episode run on Bravo. [15] [16] The show had never aired, nor is it known if any episodes were produced at that time. However, nine years later, Top Chef Junior was mentioned as part of the initial lineup for Universal Kids, an NBCUniversal-owned children's channel launched on September 9, 2017. [17] The series features young chefs between the ages of 9–14. [18] It is hosted by actress Vanessa Lachey, with Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels host Curtis Stone serving as its head judge. [18] The first season of Top Chef Junior premiered on October 13, 2017, and its second season premiered on September 8, 2018. [19] [20]

Top Chef Amateurs Edit

Top Chef Amateurs is a spin-off featuring home cooks competing in head-to-head challenges drawn from past seasons of Top Chef. [21] Production of the show began in October 2020 in Portland, Oregon, following filming of the original series' eighteenth season. [21] The show will be hosted by Gail Simmons and is slated to premiere on July 1, 2021. [21] [22]

Top Chef Family Style Edit

Top Chef Family Style is a spin-off featuring young chefs teaming up with an adult family member to compete. [23] The series was ordered in May 2021 by Peacock. [23] It will be hosted by Meghan Trainor with Marcus Samuelsson serving as head judge. [23]

Top Chef University Edit

Top Chef University is a comprehensive online culinary school involving 12 courses and over 200 in-depth video-lessons. The program takes participants through a structured program of the basics (knife skills, kitchen set-up, ingredients) to advanced culinary techniques (sous-vide, molecular gastronomy). The instructors at Top Chef University consist of the series' most successful and popular former contestants. Enrollment costs $25 for a monthly membership and $200 for an annual membership. [24]

Top Chef: The Game Edit

Top Chef: The Game is a computer game released by Brighter Minds for PCs. It challenges players to create the best dish from items in a virtual pantry. Games magazine gave the game an unfavorable review, calling it a "quick cash-in. for an undiscriminating audience." [25]

TV dinners Edit

In efforts to make certain dishes available to viewers who watch Top Chef, but do not have time to prepare those dishes themselves, Schwan's Home Service started offering Top Chef—branded frozen meals in late 2009. [26]

Cookbooks Edit

On March 20, 2008, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Cookbook, with a foreword by Tom Colicchio. [27] On September 30, 2009, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook, with a foreword by Padma Lakshmi. [28] On July 14, 2010, Chronicle Books released How to Cook Like a Top Chef, with a foreword by Rick Bayless. [29]

Awards Edit

Top Chef was nominated at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming and Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for its second season. [30] Top Chef won the award for Outstanding Picture Editing For Reality Programming at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. [31] Top Chef won the award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, defeating The Amazing Race, which had won the award every year since the category's inception in 2003. [32]

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named Top Chef one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #10. [33]


New Podcast Dear Elite Reviewer Is a Five-Star Commentary on Seattle Dining

The owner of Watson's Counter in Ballard kicks off a conversation about the power and perfidy of online restaurant reviews.


‘Top Chef’ recap: It’s a real food fight as the 8 All-Stars are drafted for ‘Restaurant Wars’

In last week&rsquos episode of &ldquoTop Chef,&rdquo the judges rewarded restaurant pitches by All-Stars Kevin Gillespie and Gregory Gourdet in a prelude to this week&rsquos “Restaurant Wars.” Meanwhile, eliminated chef Eric Adjepong tried to fight his way back into the competition on “Last Chance Kitchen,” but Nini Nguyen managed to retain her status in by cooking an Italian fish dish that was Tom Colicchio&rsquos favorite. What happened this week during the show&rsquos most-feared challenge? Read on for our minute-by-minute takes on the eighth episode of Season 17.

10:02 p.m. The eight remaining chefs celebrate Kevin and Gregory&rsquos victory in their Hollywood Hills home away from home. Gregory shares that Restaurant Wars was &ldquoan absolute disaster&rdquo the last time he competed on the show. His Season 12 team had a really broad theme and was all over the place. So he is looking for redemption with his Haitian-themed restaurant Kann. Meanwhile, Kevin looks like he doesn&rsquot know what hit him as he won with his Country Captain, a family-style Southern eatery. Kevin knows being his team’s executive chef is a risk but he &ldquowould rather go out fighting for a victory every single time.&rdquo

10:04 p.m. The chefs march into the kitchen and are greeted by host Padma Lakshmi and guest judge Stephanie Izard, the first female chef to win the title of “Top Chef” in its fourth season. Padma says of Izard&rsquos return after she also appeared in last week’s episode, &ldquoWe&rsquove taken her hostage.&rdquo Padma then explains their dueling restaurants will be set up right next to each other in one of downtown L.A.&rsquos trendiest dining districts, ROW DTLA. Time to pick who will be on each team. Knives are drawn, and Kevin gets first choice. Kevin picks Bryan Voltaggio, Melissa King and Karen Akunowicz. Gregory goes with Brian Malarkey, Lee Anne Wong and Stephanie Cmar.

10:06 p.m. Padma asks Stephanie how much she knows about Haitian cuisine. Her optimistic reply: &ldquoI&rsquom a fast learner.&rdquo She then stirs the pot a little more by asking the chefs who won Restaurant Wars on their previous seasons. Bryan, Melissa and Karen raise their hands while Stephanie is the lone winning Wars vet among Gregory&rsquos platoon. Lee Anne says, &ldquoThe other team right now is a solid badass focused team. We&rsquore a little bit more all over the place. We got a bunch of wild cards on our team.&rdquo

10:08 p.m. The chefs will have 48 hours to make their restaurant concept come to life. It&rsquos up to each team how many dishes they want to have — no restrictions. They have to plan their menus and set up their kitchen. Then they will head to an event rental place to select their décor. And they will also place orders for seafood and meat. Stefanie points out, &ldquoWe all know this is an incredibly difficult challenge, but it&rsquos also the one we look forward to every single season.&rdquo Padma says, &ldquoThe stakes are very high because the winning team will receive $40,000.”

RESTAURANT DÉCOR AND FURNISHINGS

10:10 p.m. Off they go to begin their errands. Brian tells the camera that his is &ldquothe funky team&rdquo and &ldquothe underdog team.&rdquo But he adds, &ldquoThe good thing about that is if we do this right, we are going to lose a solid, solid competitor on the other team.&rdquo Karen offers to do the front of the house — one of the most dangerous responsibilities to take on during Restaurant Wars. But she says, &ldquoI like to do it. I did front of the house on my season and I did a great job.&rdquo However, she admits, &ldquoIt&rsquos not exactly a safe position to be in.&rdquo

10:12 p.m. Kevin says he wants his team to be inspired by the food of this time, but not being married to it rigidly. He adds, &ldquoI have to leave room for interpretation. I want people to feel like they personally contributed from concept to total execution.” He tells his team, &ldquoThe key to Southern cooking is to be hyper seasonal.&rdquo In the car, Lee Anne asks Gregory how many dishes he would like to do. He thinks six. Stephanie realizes, &ldquoGregory is clearly the executive chef and Malarkey is clearly the front of the house. These are people who have been through this before.&rdquo

10:14 p.m. Kevin tells his team, &ldquoIn a formal Southern meal, you have an hor d&rsquooeuvres course, a soup and salad course, the main course served with fixin’s, and you have dessert.&rdquo Melissa says they should slim down by losing the mid-course. Kevin says, &ldquoIf we ditch the second course, we need at least five accompaniments.&rdquo Sounds awfully ambitious to me. Bryan is worried, too.

10:17 p.m. The teams check out the spaces where their restaurants will be. The mood boards from the previous episodes are in place. Gregory says he wants patrons to feel like &ldquothey have been whisked away to the Caribbean.&rdquo He notes that Haitian cuisine is underrepresented in America. He wants to open a restaurant back home, &ldquoso having this come to life is exciting.&rdquo Meanwhile, Kevin says he is going to serve the cuisine that represents the plantation-era South. The inspiration for the design comes from his grandmother. Like Gregory&rsquos ode to his roots, Kevin&rsquos theme is very personal to him as well.

FOOD SHOPPING

10:19 p.m. The teams are back on the road and heading for Whole Foods. Lee Anne notes Haitian food has a lot of rum in it, which is OK with her &ldquobecause I might need a shot by the middle of the day.&rdquo Gregory says for the pitch, he made braised oxtails but, for the challenge, he wants to make a new menu &ldquoto show the judges the repertoire of food and really push myself to create something magical.&rdquo He knows it is risky not to make a dish that the judges loved, but he is confident that the new dish will be equally delicious.

10:21 p.m. Melissa notes that Kevin has decided to make 12 dishes &ndash and that gets me nervous. She tells Bryan to get a &ldquosh*t-ton of apple cider vinegar.&rdquo Ooh, they buy plants and orchids, too. Gregory continues to do things smartly, letting Lee Anne and Malarkey handle front-of-the-house details while he and Stephanie go shopping at the specialties stores. Gregory goes to a meat market to get 35 pounds of beef shoulder. Meanwhile, Kevin and Karen pick out their aprons. Gregory next hits a seafood market and buys de-boned red snapper.

DISHWARE AND PLANT CHOICES

10:23 p.m. As Kevin and Karen pick out their dishware, she notes that they will be serving their food family style. That means a lot more china pieces. Brian, however, picks out the exact same place setting &ndash and he isn&rsquot going to change it even after Kevin angrily confronts them for poaching his plates. &ldquoIt just happens to work for both concepts.&rdquo Oh, well, Malarkey has to be Malarkey. Lee Anne tries to apologize for him, but Karen isn&rsquot having it. It&rsquos called Restaurant Wars for a reason.

10:26 p.m. Lee Anne is at a flower store and prep work is in process. Brian cries out, &ldquoMasa, masa!&rdquo Stephanie shouts out &ldquoMalarkey&rdquo and shuts him down. Gregory has salt cod soaking for the salt cod patties, he has pork that he will rinse and marinate. He will make some chicken after that. &ldquoGregory has a very clear vision of what he wants his menu to look like,” Stephanie says. &ldquoI think that is the key to our success.&rdquo She is doing a first course of fried green plantains, salt cod patties and pikliz. Gregory is handling twice-cooked pork and Lee Anne is doing a salad.

PREP TIME AND COOKING

10:28 p.m. Gregory says the peppers he is cutting will get stewed with the chicken. He then says his second course is the most challenging. Malarkey is taking whole roasted red snapper for &ldquoa beautiful, dramatic presentation.&rdquo Gregory himself is doing the stewed chicken with white rice and kidney bean sauce. Gregory will start to make the rum raisin ice cream that will top Lee Anne&rsquos pineapple upside-down cake.

10:31 p.m. Karen asks Melissa what she is working on. She says, &ldquoI&rsquom just cooking down the aromatics for a chicken liver mousse. She then adds in a confessional, &ldquoI think executing 12 dishes is aggressive, but Restaurant Wars is really different this year. It&rsquos the first time when they don&rsquot have clear rules of this challenge. So Kevin wants to serve the meal family style because that&rsquos how it is at granny&rsquos house.&rdquo She goes on to say that besides her chicken liver dish, there are two other canapes on one plate including Bryan&rsquos smoked trout puff and crab Louie. Kevin is focused on his second course, curried chicken with yellow rice. Melissa is also making fried potatoes and Bryan is making dilly beans, shrimp and grits and cucumber pickles. Karen is preparing glazed mushrooms with Madeira and red pepper relish. Kevin will be closing things out with banana pudding for his dessert course.

10:34 p.m. Brian goes to check on the front of house details with five hours of prep time remaining. Karen notes she is only doing two dishes because she has to build an entire dining room. Kevin joins her in setting up. Meanwhile, Brian is ticked off because the rest of his Kann crew doesn&rsquot have time to help him. He starts by putting together the table and chairs. He says, &ldquoI can&rsquot wait to bring Kann to life.&rdquo Kevin is upset that the curry powder he used when he first cooked his chicken dish for his pitch wasn&rsquot available this time. Gregory gives some tips to Stephanie as she kneads the fish patties. Bryan frets that with 12 dishes, that is a lot of food to be scrutinized. As he says, &ldquoThis is a big load.&rdquo

10:37 p.m. Stephanie asks Gregory how they are doing on time. He admits he is getting nervous. Since Karen has been busy putting together the restaurant, she won&rsquot be able to make her dishes until the next day. Kevin suggests Melissa can lend a hand since the front of the house can&rsquot organize itself.

10:40 p.m. The chefs return to their mansion and Karen tells the others that she will write all the tickets and keep them at the host stand. Gregory then tells his crew he will introduce the concept of his restaurant and its cultural roots to diners via his menu. Lee Anne has a ton of things to do the next day and she is homesick. We get to see her son as she calls him by videophone. He recoils from a forkful of pasta.

10:42 p.m. Each team gets a bit of a &ldquoReservoir Dogs&rdquo walking edit as they stride into their eateries. There&rsquos only two hours left to cook. Lee Anne says, &ldquoIt&rsquos definitely a push for Gregory. He&rsquos stressing out. But he&rsquos putting a lot of faith in each and every one of us. And we are here to crush it for him.&rdquo Elsewhere, Kevin needs some chopped herbs and so does everyone else. Melissa volunteers to chop away. Bryan notes they will be serving 100 diners, including the judges, adding, &ldquoIt is going to be a stressful service.&rdquo Karen says Malarkey has everything ready to go and he then talks to the servers.

10:45 p.m. Meanwhile, Karen is still cooking while servers are waiting on someone to give them direction. There are only 45 minutes left before opening. Lee Anne tells the staff that the food will be served family style and that the cuisine reflects Kevin&rsquos vision. Gregory shows how the dishes should look on the plate. Bryan is rightfully nervous that the servers haven&rsquot seen their food yet and guests will be walking through the doors in three minutes.

10:47 p.m. Malarkey greets the diners with a smile at Kann while Karen does the same at The Country Captain. Orders are coming in at Kevin&rsquos place. But beyond the canapes, Melissa says the service is &ldquofeeling a little rocky.&rdquo In fact, the amount of food is overwhelming everyone, the tables included.

FOOD SERVICE AT KANN

10:50 p.m. Stephanie, who isn&rsquot liking how Lee Anne is berating the servers, offers to expedite the orders. Gregory asks Lee Anne if that is all right with her and she reluctantly steps away. Meanwhile, the judges have arrived at Kann. Restaurateur Kevin Boehm is upset that Gregory didn&rsquot make the oxtail dish that he served for his pitch. Malarkey is pretending all is good while his motto is “comfort and chaos,” meaning that the judges see comfort while he deals with the chaos out back.

10:52 p.m. Stephanie notes that the food Gregory is serving is very personal to him. As she observes, &ldquoHe wants to be plating, he wants to be tasting, he wants to be in every dish that goes out of this room and into the restaurant.&rdquo Of course, that also means things take a little longer. The judges get their first course of salad made by Lee Anne along with Stephanie&rsquos salt-cod patties, pikliz and plantains. Gregory&rsquos crispy twice-cooked pork is also served. Stephanie Izard says she would eat the fish patties all day long and they also like the double-fried plantains. Sadly, they aren&rsquot as impressed with Gregory&rsquos pork entrée. Gail complains that it&rsquos a little dry. But head chef Tom Colicchio says, &ldquoI like what Gregory is doing here. He is giving us authentic food from his heart. He&rsquos not trying to chef it up.&rdquo

10:54 p.m. Trouble ahead at Kann as the judges only have a half-hour left to dine and the fish main course hasn&rsquot been served yet, let alone dessert. Gregory races to deliver his fish to the judges himself along with his chicken course. Padma doesn&rsquot hold back and tells Gregory how disappointed she is that his oxtail dish is not on the menu. &ldquoThat was a really big part of why we chose you.&rdquo Despite that, the judges are finding these entrees to be equally yummy. Brian delivers some good news to his team that Padma and company are loving their food. Padma asks her dining companions if they would come back to Kann, and all say yes. As Tom says, &ldquoIt just feels like a restaurant. And a lot of Restaurant Wars, it doesn&rsquot.&rsquo

FOOD SERVICE AT COUNTRY CAPTAIN

10:56 p.m. Noting the throngs of customers still waiting to be seated, Karen says, &ldquoThe judges will be walking into a very crowded restaurant. And I will have to take responsibility for that.” Padma says, &ldquoLet&rsquos go do this all over again.&rdquo Karen delivers the bad news to Kevin that diners are just not leaving. As Gail waits to be seated, she immediately criticizes the décor for being far more Southern grandma than Country Captain.

10:58 p.m. Karen tries to smile her way through the crowded dining room as the judges are seated while the rest of the tables have to be reset. Restaurateur Kevin says the restaurant &ldquolooks more feminine than he thought it would be.&rdquo Gail adds, &ldquoIt&rsquos also more formal, which is not what I got from Kevin in his pitch.&rdquo The criticism continues with the menu as Tom says, &ldquoGraphically, this does not make sense.&rdquo Judge Stephanie says, &ldquoIt&rsquos very like &lsquo80s. This looks like &lsquoMiami Vice.&rsquo&rdquo The canapes are served, and Melissa&rsquos chicken liver mousse is well-received. Gail preferred Bryan&rsquos smoked trout puff &ldquobecause it had the most flavor.&rdquo However, Tom observes, &ldquoThere is nothing screaming Southern about those three canapes.&rdquo

11:01 p.m. Meanwhile, Tom notices that the servers are struggling with the timing. Karen leads the parade of them with food to the judge&rsquos table. Padma questions whether there are one too many items on the table for the main course. Gail concurs: &ldquoThere&rsquos a lot on this plate.&rdquo But they seem to like the food including Melissa&rsquos fried potatoes, and Gail really digs the dilly beans. Padma thought Bryan&rsquos shrimp dish was too sweet. And, as Kevin feared, Tom says the sauce on his Country Captain chicken isn&rsquot as good as the pitch version. As diner Kevin says, &ldquoThe problem of building an entire restaurant concept around one dish, that dish better damn well be spectacular.&rdquo

11:03 p.m. Tom really doesn&rsquot like Karen&rsquos mushrooms, which he damns as &ldquonot good.&rdquo Karen tells Kevin, &ldquoFire the judges&rsquo desserts.” They are actually wondering why Kevin Gillespie hasn&rsquot made an appearance himself to greet them. It looks like he might not make one. The warm banana pudding is served. Padma gripes, &ldquoIt&rsquos not enough pudding and too much everything else.&rdquo

11:05 p.m. Kann is near closing time and Gregory says, &ldquoI can breathe. Our service wasn&rsquot perfect. There was some tension in the air, 100 percent.&rdquo Meanwhile, Kevin says, &ldquoI&rsquom not super proud of the work I put out there today. I believe our pacing and organization was not great. And I don&rsquot know how much that was felt in the dining room.” He will soon find out. Karen knows the person who handles the front of the house is often thrown under the bus. &ldquoI had to walk away from my dish.&rdquo She thinks she spent too little time in the dining room and not enough time in the kitchen.

JUDGES&rsquo TABLE

11:06 p.m. Kevin&rsquos rather grim-faced team leads the parade into the &ldquoTop Chef&rdquo kitchen where the judges await. Tom starts off with a few compliments for both teams, concluding with &ldquoAll in all, an awesome job.&rdquo Padma turns to Stephanie Izard and asks, &ldquoWhich team won Restaurant Wars?&rdquo Of course, it is Kann .

11:08 p.m. Tom explains,&rdquoWhat impressed me about your meal is that you didn&rsquot try to chef it up. It was really true to what you said it was going to be.&rdquo Padma says that they started really strong with their appetizers. Tom looks at chef Stephanie and says, &ldquoDude, that patty was so good.&rdquo Padma also liked the crunch in Lee Anne&rsquos salad and declares it &ldquodelicious.&rdquo Tom says the chicken was &ldquodamn good&rdquo and Padma adds, &ldquoThe fish was better than the one that was served in the pitch.&rdquo OK, this is getting to be a lovefest. Padma also gives props to Lee Anne&rsquos dessert, saying that people loved it.Tom gives Gregory the best compliment by saying his restaurant &ldquomakes me want to go to Haiti.”

11:10 p.m. Padma asks Kevin, &ldquoHow do you think the day went for you?&rdquo He says, &ldquoI think all told, it went pretty well. I think my grandmother would have been really proud.” Gail says, &ldquoYou took on a lot. Was there ever any talk of doing less?&rdquo On the contrary, he says, &ldquoThere was talk of doing more, actually.&rdquo Bryan pipes up and says, &ldquoNaturally, when you are opening a restaurant in one day, you have to get a better game plan.&rdquo

11:12 p.m. Padma says to Kevin, &ldquoWas there any dish you wished you had edited out?” He says, &ldquoThere should and could have been some editing. But the monologue inside my head the entire time was my grandmother saying, &ldquoYou give them everything you possibly can and then you give them a few more, because that&rsquos what you are supposed to do with your guests.&rdquo Judge Stephanie says the Country Captain dish that was originally served was incredible, but &ldquodo you think it came out the same?&rdquo He admits, &ldquoNo it did not.&rdquo Tom then tears into Karen&rsquos mushrooms, which didn&rsquot have a lot of flavor. Suddenly, Karen puts some blame on Melissa for not helping her out enough with her finishing touches. Gail also dings the Kevin&rsquos dessert, saying, &ldquoI definitely wanted the banana to be softer and it felt a little bit dry.&rdquo

11:13 p.m. Tom addresses the issue of huge waiting crowds at Country Captain with Karen. She says, &ldquoPeople sat a bit longer than we expected them to.” He then tells Kevin, &ldquoThis is your concept. It&rsquos something really close to you. How do we not send you home right now?” To his credit, Kevin answers, &ldquoI was raised to stand in front of your mistakes and you own them for what they are. There have been times when I tried my best to save my own skin. Frankly, I couldn&rsquot live with myself if I tried to throw anybody under the bus to save myself.&rdquo

11:14 p.m. Padma delivers the coup de grace, &ldquoKevin, please pack your knives and go.&rdquo But Tom reassures him, &ldquoYou have &lsquoLast Chance Kitchen.&rsquo It ain&rsquot over yet.&rdquo And given how many challenges he has won this season already, Nini might be quaking in her boots.

Upcoming on &ldquoTop Chef&rdquo: We get glimpses of upcoming challenges, including a summer camp, a school cafeteria line, a blind taste test and a trip to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that seems to be Olympics-related. And, for the first time, &ldquoTop Chef&rdquo is heading to Europe &ndash Italy to be exact — for its finale.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they&rsquore faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You&rsquoll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.


‘Top Chef’ Portland’s Sara Hauman on self-confidence, yogurt and the importance of little fish

The 34-year-old, one of two chefs with local ties featured on the popular reality show’s first Portland season, says that yogurt just happened to be front-and-center in the “Top Chef” fridge whenever she needed dairy, which over the first six episodes was often. And, yes, in her day-to-day life, she does use yogurt as a replacement for sour cream or buttermilk, leaning on the ingredient to add some natural tang to a dish.

“It’s funny,” Hauman says, sitting near a leafy strawberry patch at the display garden at Soter Vineyards, the stunning wine country tasting room near Carlton. “After I came back from filming, I looked at the menu from my sous chef, and for dessert it had ‘yogurt pudding,’ and I was like, ‘How does she know?”

Other than providing montage material, the yogurt obsession hasn’t slowed Hauman down. Over “Top Chef” Portland’s first six episodes, she has notched two Elimination Challenge wins, more than any chef besides Seattle’s Shota Nakajima. (Nakajima and Austin chef Gabe Erales remain her closest friends from the show even sending flowers for her birthday last month). Hauman has managed to establish herself as a front-runner despite a self-deprecating nature played up by the production.

“I was nervous,” Hauman says, speaking through an iris-patterned mask fashioned from an old curtain. “I said crazy things, I kept having these out of body experiences at the judges’ table, where I would be like, ‘Sara, shut up, you never talk this much,’ and words would keep falling out of my mouth. You do weird things in high stress situations.”

Filming wrapped last October. Since then, Hauman has spent her workdays commuting to Soter from her Southeast Portland home, driving down 99W through Newberg, out into open wine country before turning up a steep and winding gravel road and passing a small pond, a field of deep red amaranth off in the distance. From the top of the hill, Soter has some of the most beguiling vistas in Oregon, with handsome tasting rooms looking out over rolling vineyards, open valleys and mist-shrouded hills. (It’s also home to Bill, an orange tabby cat who swishes his crooked tail between our legs throughout the interview.)

By nature, Hauman seems like an open book. Ten minutes after we meet, a question about her pre-Oregon cooking career in San Francisco, where she racked up awards and positive reviews, leads to a frank discussion of her father’s death, and how, at age 26, she suddenly became responsible for his hospice care. At the time, Hauman was nearing the end of a six-month stint cooking in Spain.

“I didn’t really know how sick my dad was until I got a call from his hospice social worker, who said, ‘He has a week to live,’ ” Hauman says. “So I flew back to San Diego, fingers crossed, hoping to make it in time. My parents are divorced, my mom’s in a different state, so I just kind of had to deal with it on my own. I never wish that upon anyone. My dad did not want to be in a hospital. I got off a plane and was given 15 bottles of pills from a nurse who said, ‘See you later.’”

Don't forget the yogurt! Sara Hauman competes on "Top Chef's" first filmed-in-Portland season. David Moir/Bravo

Some of her earliest memories involve traveling with her dad from their home north of San Diego down to Tijuana to bet on horse races or jai alai.

“I grew up at the Del Mar racetrack,” Hauman said. “My dad would let me put bets on, and explain what all the bets were and what they meant. And I’m over here like, “Dad, can I get a $2 quinella box?’”

With both parents working full-time, Hauman, a precocious student and youth soccer player, was often left at home with boxes of cake mix to bake by herself. But it was during a first trip to Spain, in a small village in the hills west of Málaga where her father moved after retiring, when Hauman decided she wanted to make cooking her career.

“It was the idea that eating was an event that got me really excited about food,” Hauman says. “We would go to eat lunch and it would be multiple courses eaten over hours, from 2 to 5 p.m., and then you sleep. And people seemed so happy and healthy, like they really enjoyed life.”

Hauman flirted with “Top Chef” several times over the years. But each time a casting agent reached out, a job offer would come in that she couldn’t refuse. The first call came just before an opportunity to work under Melissa Perello at San Francisco’s Octavia. Then, another inquiry came from the show just after she accepted the job at Arden, a wine bar and restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District. By the time she decided she was ready, she had to wait: “Top Chef” was gearing up to film its “All Star” season, featuring notable former contestants such as Portland’s Gregory Gourdet.

Though Hauman says she’s “never really done a cooking competition before,” her career has set her up well for “Top Chef.” Some of her first cooking jobs were at wellness centers in the San Diego area including The Golden Door, a “swanky hippie spa” best known for its psychedelic-fueled parties in the 1970s and for hosting the likes of Oprah and Barbra Streisand. At another spa nearby, Hauman was tasked with making food without sugar, butter and very little salt, like some kind of health-conscious Quickfire Challenge.

“I can still make you some sugar-free sorbet if you want it,” Hauman says (pass), accompanied by her trademark hair-trigger laugh. “But there was a moment where my sous chef told me if the mashed potatoes taste really good, then you put way too much salt and Earth Balance in there. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I can’t work here anymore.’ How are you going to work in a place where your job is to make food and you’re being told, ‘Don’t make it taste too good?’”

After working with rising-star chef Brandon Jew at San Francisco’s Bar Agricole, Hauman applied for a six-month stage, or unpaid internship, at Etxebarri, the Basque Country grill often ranked among the best restaurants in the world. While in Spain, she learned the art of treating phenomenal ingredients with extreme care, whether oily little anchovies on grilled toast, plump prawns kissed by fire or fresh fish descaled to order.

“I love ‘Top Chef,’ but we weren’t getting that kind of well-sourced food by any means,” Hauman says, contrasting the two experiences. “We were doing the online shopping thing. And that’s hard. To not be able to feel something, smell something, look at something? How are you going to know the quality of that food?”

Two weeks before the end of her stage, Hauman returned to the United States to see to her father’s final arrangements, then moved back to San Francisco, where she was offered a job running a new fine-dining restaurant. At The Huxley, Hauman would earn many of her accolades, including two Rising Star James Beard Award nominations and a strong review from the San Francisco Chronicle. The attention seemed a bit much to Hauman, who largely ran the 27-seat restaurant by herself, including one memorable brunch where she had to cook with the restaurant’s phone in her pocket because she was the only one there to answer it.

Hauman was approached about opening her own restaurant, including at least one with a multimillion-dollar budget, but the idea of starting a business in that city -- any business -- just didn’t seem feasible. And she didn’t want to take investors’ money with the knowledge it would likely never be paid back. At 30, she was starting to realize she preferred working with food to being a restaurateur.

“This is my rationale,” Hauman says. “If your restaurant makes it to five years, because that’s lucky, you will have worked 90 to 100 hours a week to maybe break even. If you’re not in it for the ego or the awards, what is the point?”

Just 30 years old and burned out by the San Francisco bubble, Hauman began hunting for jobs in other cities, including Portland, where a cousin lived, and where she had been impressed by the easy access to nature and the abundant sidewalk gardens.

“I realized I didn’t have any hobbies,” Hauman says. “I just worked. And then on my days off I would eat and sleep and do laundry. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends because I couldn’t keep up the friendships just from working too much.”

"Top Chef" contestant Sara Hauman stands in a field of poppies near the tasting room at Soter Vineyards. Mark Graves/The Oregonian

In 2018, Hauman helped open Arden, a Pearl District wine bar and restaurant that introduced Oregonians to the delicate cooking style she would soon deploy on “Top Chef.” In July, The Oregonian named the restaurant one of the best new restaurants of 2018, praising Hauman’s “creative snacks” including “house-cured anchovies with grilled bread brushed with a whisper of tomato jam.” But her time there was not to last.

“I came up here and very quickly realized that I’m in a different city, but it’s the same restaurant B.S.,” Hauman says. “It’s front of the house and back of the house tensions. It’s the owner seeing things in a different way than the chef. It’s me being pretty transparent about not wanting to be chained to the stove, and wanting to really learn more about the process of running a restaurant, and not getting that.”

In 2019, Hauman learned that Soter was looking for a head chef, and after a few “great conversations,” decided to give it a try. The chic vineyard reminded her of those early health spa days and, she hoped, might offer a break from traditional restaurant stress, and the time to pursue some of those missing hobbies. Lately, that has meant caring for house plants, making fish sauce at home and escaping to the forest with Stella and Rambo, her two chihuahua mixes picked up from the Oregon Humane Society.

At work, Hauman cooks what she wants, typically using ingredients from the vineyard and its farms. She doesn’t worry too much about specific pairings, working under the maxim that “delicious food just goes well with delicious wine.” These days, as Hauman waits for some chickens and two cows from the ranch to be slaughtered this summer, guests are eating lots of seafood, an ingredient Hauman could become better known for than yogurt.

“My job’s easy,” Hauman says. “After people drive out here and come up to the top of the hill, I have to really try to mess something up in order for them to not have a great time.”

Near the end of our interview, as Hauman is showing me around the little outdoor market she set up at Soter during the pandemic, with its nuts and granola and silvery little anchovies swimming in orange oil, a delivery van pulls up, and Hauman signs for a bag of unshucked oysters. That afternoon, she plans to drive to Seattle, where Nakajima recently reopened his Japanese restaurant, Taku. Together, they will watch the most-recent episode of “Top Chef,” then shoot some fundraising videos for The Wave, a nonprofit that works with Indigenous fishers and small boat communities.

In Episode 6, the most recent to air as of this writing, Hauman wins an Elimination Challenge by partnering up with Nakajima to cook a dish with rabbit and smelt, then admits that her “dream of a lifetime” was to own a “boutique cannery.” It’s said with a laugh, but Hauman says she is actually “super serious” about the pursuit. (That fish sauce project starts to sound less like a hobby, and more like recipe testing for a new business.)

For Hauman, who remembers eating canned smoked oysters with cream cheese on bread as a kid, the burgeoning concept is as much about the environment as it is about the food.

“The fact that the coastline is so large, and there are hundreds of rivers in Oregon, and yet it’s still a very meat-centric place, seems so backwards. And when people eat fish, it’s albacore and salmon. At the store, it’s albacore and salmon. If you eat out a lot, you might think black cod is pretty mainstream, but for the average consumer, it’s not. But black cod is incredibly abundant in Oregon waters. Black cod, rockfish, Petrale sole, these are all fishes we should be eating to be a little nicer to our salmon and tuna populations.”

Before joining “Top Chef,” Hauman assumed she wouldn’t make it far, and would end up “going to go back to work and deleting all my social media.” She was raised in a kitchen culture that saw appearing on food shows as “selling out.”

“I still have that feeling,” Hauman says. “I didn’t really go into it thinking that I would make friends, or anything like that. I just did it because my life was boring.”

But lately, she has worked to get over her self doubt and embrace the fun, posting selfies and “Top Chef” stills to an Instagram account that has nearly doubled in followers over the past few months. And she even started filming Instagram Live cooking demonstrations for her new fans.


Elimination Challenge

The chefs are presented with a cart of gorgeous seafood and told they’ll work in teams to create a seafood feast. But, of course, there’s a catch. They won’t have access to electricity or appliances—only fire and their knives. And they’ll be cooking for a legendary panel of judges including Marcus Samuelsson, Suzanne Goin, and Jeremiah Tower. No pressure. The Quickfire Red Team becomes team captains since they won. They’ll pick their two other teammates and will have 30 minutes to plan their menus and shop in the Top Chef pantry. The next day they’ll have two and a half hours to prep and cook on Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. It sounds like a killer beach party for the judges and a bit stressful for the cheftestants.

The teams start planning their menus. Joe, Lee Anne, and Brian Malarkey are on a team together and seem to be butting heads from the jump. Joe is team captain but Brian is stepping in as the leader and pushing his ideas really hard. They decide to do an all uni menu which feels risky since uni is such a flavorful, buttery ingredient that can easily be overpowered if there’s not enough or become overpowering if there’s too much. Jamie, Gregory, and Stephanie decide to really lean into the �hy theme” with their menu and settle on dishes that resemble clambakes, which feels like a smart move since the judges seem to love it when chefs lean into their locale or the ingredients. Once the five minutes is up all 15 chefs descend onto the provided seafood cart to grab whatever they can get their hands on. It’s a free-for-all and some chefs come up short. Eric was supposed to grab 15 scallops for Lisa and only grabs about 8 so they pivot and add some shrimp to the ceviche mix. Joe seems a bit confused about the direction of the uni flatbread that Brian recommended so he packs 𠇊 little bit of everything.” With their prep packed they head to their posh digs in the Hollywood Hills and of course, they have the iconic bunk bedrooms for the chefs. “If you like to cook, you too one day might be able to compete on Top Chef and live in a bunk bed,” Brian Malarkey jokes in his confessional.

The next morning the chefs are up early to get ready for their challenge and Angelo shares a personal story about what’s happened in his life since he was on Top Chef All Stars: Season 8. “I honestly don’t even recognize that person,” he says about his time on the show before talking about his son and how he’s grown as a dad. “Jacob is my light and my motivation in this competition,” he adds. Lee Anne also shares a bit about how her world has changed since her (re)appearance on season 15. Viewers will remember that she got altitude sickness and was four months pregnant so she had to leave the competition early. Since then she’s given birth to her “little beefcake” and promises that she’s going to talk about him a lot as we see a bunch of super cute photos of them together. More adorable baby pictures every week? Totally fine by me!

On Cabrillo Beach, the chefs get to work and quickly realize that using a fire as the only cooking element and controlling it in the wind is going to be tricky. “I’ve never cooked in an open pit but Kevin has a beard so he looks like he can make a fire,” Nini jokes. Stephanie gets personal and shares that she’s feeling self-conscious in this group because her career as a private chef 𠇍oesn’t match the rest of the chefs." Bryan shares that he and his brother, season six winner Michael Voltaggio, are so competitive that Michael went skydiving after seeing him do it on Top Chef Masters: Season 5. Wow. Melissa, Karen, and Angelo are all smiles as they work together on their station. “Happy cooks, happy food,” Karen says. Hopefully that rings true.

The judges sit down at a dream of a table on the beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Padma, Gail, and Tom are joined by Jeremiah Tower, Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin, Michael Cimarusti, Marcus Samuelsson, and Caroline Styne. (As a beach lover who is currently on the east coast looking at two to three more weeks of winter, the shots of the perfect sand and pristine seafood being cooked feels torturous. I’m taking it as a sign that I should look at plane tickets to the Caribbean as soon as possible.)

Here’s how things shook out for our cheftestants:

Karen Akunowicz—Grilled scallops with ginger plums, nuoc cham, and napa cabbage slaw

Gail praises the 𠇋right” elements of Karen’s dish saying she did a �utiful job.”

Angelo Sosa—West Coast oysters with smoked bacon rice porridge

The judges feel like Angelo didn’t really embrace the challenge. Caroline Styne says she’s missing the brininess that oysters typically have. Jeremiah Tower says the texture was a bit like �y food”.

Melissa King—Grilled swordfish with hot and sour sauce, ember-grilled radicchio, fresno chiles

Marcus Samuelsson says his favorite bite was the grilled radicchio that Melissa smartly laid directly into the embers. Michael Cimarusti agrees, saying of the three dishes it’s the one he would return to.

Overall comments: The judges seem impressed with this team but Melissa’s radicchio seems to be the clear favorite of the menu.

Joe Sasto—Sesame and semolina flatbread with clams, fried garlic, sea urchin, pickled peppers, miso parmesan aioli

The judges feel the flatbread is soggy underneath the aioli. Jeremiah Tower says he would have just done the uni and “nothing wet” on top which is a great idea since it would have highlighted the uni and really let it shine. Tom agrees, saying “there’s too much stuff” happening on the bread which is supposed to be light and crisp.

Lee Anne Wong—Shoyu tare glazed halibut with charred sweet corn and cabbage, sea urchin, uni miso beurre blanc

Close to serving time Lee Anne started to grill her fish and it got stuck to the grates. She added oil to the grill which prompted a flare-up, scorching her protein. The judges definitely notice the ashen colored flesh of the filets. “I’m not a fan at all,” Tom says of the plate. Yikes. The rest of the judges agree, citing the carbon on the fish as a low point.

Brian Malarkey—Sea urchin, spot prawns with hibiscus ponzo, and burnt avocado

Brian’s dish is stunning with lots of colors. Nancy Silverton points out that serving a family-style dish with a thin sauce component is tricky since it can’t easily be shared. Tom says the dish has tangential grilled elements but doesn’t fully embrace the element of fire.

Overall comments: The judges don’t think this team hit the mark with their menu or their execution. Marcus praised the menu which he thinks worked 𠇌onceptually” but Tom says there were “major mistakes” with each dish.

Yellow Team

Gregory Gaudet—Charred salmon with grilled peaches and roasted chili dressing

Nancy Silverton can’t get enough of Gregory’s salmon saying it’s perfectly cooked with crispy skin. Michael Cimarusti echoes Nancy and says the dish is great and the salmon is “pretty near flawless.”

Jamie Lynch—Steamed mussels with ember scalded cream, toasted bread

To get an element of the fire into his dish, Jamie scalds his cream sauce with embers from the fire. It’s not a technique he’s used before but he really wants to show the judges that he embraced the fire element. Jeremiah Tower likes the sauce saying it’s great to dip the bread in. Tom thinks the mussels themselves are dried out.

Stephanie Cmar—Brined prawn with charred tomato sauce and roasted corn dressing

Gail loves Stephanie’s charred tomato sauce and Marcus Samuelsson says he’s 𠇏loored” by the dish which is always a good sign.

Overall comments: Nancy is a big fan of this group saying that not only was the food tasty, but it’s the menu that the judges �served.” 𠇎verything mixed together and it tasted like a team,” she adds.

Jennifer Carroll—Spiced tuna loin, grilled kale, roasted tahini sauce

Jennifer is definitely feeling the pressure as she places her dish on the table in front of two of her idols: Nancy Silverton and Suzanne Goins. “I would eat Jenn’s dish for lunch any day,” Suzanne says, which is high praise. Jeremiah calls it the most successful dish of the bunch.

Nini Nguyen—Grilled scallop, carrots, tomatoes with charred brussel sprout and fennel salad

Brussels sprouts seem like an odd choice for the time of year and location because they don’t scream beach or seafood but the dish is visually stunning. Jeremiah Tower says the scallop is cooked well but Tom doesn’t like that the vegetables, namely the carrots, have been kept close to whole without much technique shown.

Kevin Gillespie—Eye of swordfish braised in chorizo, with coal-roasted onion, olive, peas

Jennifer warns Kevin during cooking that the cut of his swordfish might dry out because it’s going to be braised, but he continues. He puts up the most visually stunning dish of the day, with swordfish that’s braised in a rusty-red colored sauce topped with bright green peas. It looks great but does it taste good? Michael calls the dish a disaster because the fish is overcooked and there’s “too many things going on.” Jeremiah Tower says Kevin 𠇏orgot he was a cook.”

Overall comments: The judges don’t share their overall thoughts but it seems like they don’t get the direction this group was heading in.

Lisa Fernandes—Charred shrimp and scallop ceviche with candied squash

Tom loves the fact that Lisa’s dish was served ice cold and didn’t try to be fancy. “I liked the dish,” he adds.

Eric Adjepong—Cheseapake boil with grilled prawns

Josiah Citrin enjoyed Eric’s prawn and Padma says it had the best flavor.

Bryan Voltaggio—Sablefish with corn porridge and charred leeks

Bryan’s dish lacks a textural element for Gail and says that the corn and the fish all became “mush.” Suzanne and Michael disagree saying there’s a level of finesse to Bryan’s dish.

Overall comments: �h of the dishes were technically prepared flawlessly,” Caroline Styne says. Suzanne seems to agree, saying “there’s a level of sophistication” in this group’s cooking that she didn’t see in the other groups.


Watch the video: Melissa Kings Journey To Becoming Top Chef. The Journey (August 2022).