TOP CHEF SEASON 15 EPISODE 11 RECAP – COOKING HIGH
When Colorado was announced as the pick for the 15th Season of Top Chef, many people speculated that there would be a marijuana-themed challenge. It was funny to see that referenced in true Top Chef fashion – a pun. Before tonight’s Final Four (or final five, depending on how you look at it) episode aired, we posted on Instagram that it would be bittersweet, and it was. We weren’t the only ones who thought so. With a cast this likable and talented, it didn’t matter how gorgeous the setting or delicious the food, it was going to be disappointing to watch someone go home. We just didn’t realize how upset we would be. Deep breath, let’s dive in.
The four remaining chefs arrive in beautiful Telluride, and all seem confident in their skills and ready for the next challenge. The general consensus is, as always, that they don’t want to go home after making it this far.
The Cheftestants head to the historic downtown, which is a Main Street straight out of the 1800’s. The saloon is bad ass & Tellurides’ main street is picturesque, to put it mildly. For the Quickfire challenge, Cheftestants will make a Gastropub inspired dish featuring one of the saloon’s best selling beverages: Sarsaparilla. Four knives are drawn and the chefs must pick, in order, between four proteins, vegetables, sweeteners and fruit. Wylie wants the Chefs to use the Sarsaparilla in a fun & unexpected way. The winner of this Quickfire wins $10,000 & Chris really wants that money!
Chris goes first & grabs the ribeye because he can cook it fast & it’s versatile. Carries is next & chooses the pork. Mustache Joe chooses fish & leaves Adrienne with the chicken. The Chefs keep going until all the ingredients are chosen. Ultimately, Chris winds up with the Rib Eye Steak, Molasses, Potatoes & Berries. Carrie has Pork, Onions, Honey & Lemons. Mustache Joe chooses Fish, Carrots, Limes & Maple Syrup. Adrienne has Chicken, Brown Sugar, Tomatoes & Garlic.
LAST CHANCE KITCHEN
We were left hanging last week, waiting to find out if Brother Luck or Joe Flamm would be returning to the competition. Tom reminds the Chefs of all the great food he’s eating in Last Chance Kitchen. In literally the most dramatic fashion, it was Flamm who came swinging through the saloon doors in a cowboy hat.
Because Flamm is back & there are no ingredients left, Padma tells him he can choose one ingredient from each Chef. Joe Flamm grabs the Pork from Carrie, the berries from Chris, Joe’s Carrots & Adrienne’s Brown Sugar.
QUICKFIRE WINNERS & LOSERS
No surprise that Chris uses Sarsaparilla all the time for gravy, mustard, etc. I swear, we have got to get to Butterfunk Kitchen & try his food!
Chris makes a Potato-Crusted Chicken Fried Steak with Sarsaparilla Gravy & Fennel Salad. Wylie thinks the Chicken Fried Steak is “a nice idea” and Padma thinks it’s a good pairing. Duh! Chicken Fried Steak is always a winner.
Mustache Joe does a Halibut Crudo with Sarsaparilla Fennel Soup & the judges think it is “very refreshing”.
Joe Flamm serves a Pork Porterhouse with Sarsaparilla Pickled Carrots & Sarsaparilla Berry Sauce.
Carrie makes “Top of the French Onion Soup” with Sarsaparilla Deglazed Onions & Beef Stock. Tom Even wants to call it a Crostini, but Carrie is sticking with her name concept. Good god- another toast! Mustache Joe says there is no way Carrie can win twice with tartines & Flamm is in agreement.
Adrienne serves Sarsaparilla Glazed Chicken with Crispy Sarsaparilla Chicken Skin & Garlic Tomato Compote. All judges agree the chicken is tender and nicely cooked.
Overall, Wylie thought Adrienne’s chicken “didn’t say much about sarsaparilla” whatever the hell that means. Tom wasn’t loving Adrienne’s tomato compote either. Tom thinks Flamm’s pork is a little dry and was missing that Sarsaparilla flavor as well. Wylie enjoys Chris’s Sarsaparilla Gravy, who wouldn’t? Tom likes Mustache Joe’s Crudo & Wylie thinks the Coconut & Sarsaparilla is clever. Although Wylie didn’t like Carrie’s description (who does?) he thinks her dish highlighted the Sarsaparilla best and she wins this Quickfire.
Padma tells the Chefs, they must create a high-concept, high-end dish to serve at the highest restaurant in North America. The Challenge takes place at Alpino Vino, which sits at 12,000 feet in elevation. Everyone knows cooking at higher altitude changes well, everything. The Chefs will also have to serve at least one baked item for this Challenge. The guest judge is also, none other than Paul Liebrandt. Paul Liebrandt is no joke & I’m stoked he’s a guest judge this week. If you haven’t seen A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt, watch it. Paul is an amazingly accomplished Chef & the documentary is an inside look at his creative mind.
Joe Flamm serves up a Buttermilk Pork Loin with Pea Sorrel Puree, Pepper Jam & Goat Cheese Buttermilk Drop Biscuit. Flamm is happy with the dish. Paul thinks the biscuit is really more a “crumble” more than a biscuit. Tom loved all the different textures of the dish and really like the raw peas.
Carrie cooks a Wagyu Ribeye with Foie Gras, Spring Vegetables & Honey Cornbread. The judge’s give her a hard time about not going with the Beef Wellington. Padma thinks Carrie’s dish doesn’t have a distinct point of view & Wylie agrees. Tom really enjoys the dish & doesn’t think it needs a “theme”. Paul says Carrie executed the Baking Element really well & loved the cornbread, but wishes she opted to execute the Beef Wellington.
Mustache Joe serves up Roasted Duck with Spring Peas, Cherry Jam & Kombucha Cherry Puffs. Gail is shocked Mustache is new to the profiterole game. Paul states the duck is rendered “perfectly”, but calls the cherry puff “very dry/very crunchy”. Wylie wishes the puff was better & he thinks the dish would have come across as a duck & cherry pie. Gail calls Joe’s dish one of her favorites all season from anyone & Tom agrees it is really good.
Adrienne makes Butter Poached Lobster with Mountain Bread, Champagne Beurre Blanc & Caviar. Padma loves Adrienne’s dish & Paul was impressed she adapted the bread. Tom doesn’t think the dish is exciting, but he says it is a well-done dish that he would expect to see in a fine dining restaurant.
Chris is stoked about his dish & stands behind it 100%. He serves Crispy Black Pepper Quail with Corn Pudding, Butternut Squash, Maple & Bacon Cornbread. Paul says the dish is delicious, but he thinks the quail was overcooked. Gail didn’t mind the crispy batter but thinks the dish is pretty salty.
ELIMINATION WINNERS & LOSERS
At Judge’s Table, Tom says clearly that this is the best food for all season. At this point, the Judges have to nitpick. The three favorite dishes were from the Joe’s and Adrienne, with Mustache getting the win. If you cook duck well on Top Chef, you have a great chance of taking the competition.
On the bottom were Carrie and Chris, both with cornbread. Even though they were on the bottom, the discussion was how much the judges liked the dishes. In the end, it was Chris’ overcooked quail that was cut. It was difficult to watch not only is Chris one of the favorites but because it was a dish that he 100% stood behind and the judges enjoyed. Chris, we will see you at Butterfunk Kitchen! This blog duo needs a vacation!
We would like to take a second and talk about Last Chance Kitchen. Sarah has always had an issue with it and never watched before this season. We love Joe Flamm and we are glad to see him cooking again, but at what cost? One of the great things about Top Chef is that it is a fair competition. Each week is a blank slate and only the food is judged. But why doesn’t Chris get a second chance? He succeeded for so many weeks in the competition, but is out the week LCK wraps up, so he’s sent home immediately. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s especially tough because Claudette got not one, but two chances to return to the game. Something is not right about that.
Top Chef needs to figure out how to reconcile this in the coming season. I for one love watching Last Chance Kitchen, but this season took it too far. It’s hard to move to Episode 12 without feeling like Chris got a raw deal.
RANDOM OBSERVATIONS & QUOTES
- “Somebody bring me my damn robe.”- Chris enjoying the new digs
- Poor Brother Luck his damn restaurant is named 4!
- Glad to see Gail back!
- Speaking of Gail, that fur stole at the end was ridiculous.
- Is this high altitude cooking too gimmicky for the finale?
- Seriously, we are really missing Chris already.
- I CANNOT watch Carrie make any more toast, even if Tom calls it a tartine or a crostini.
- Adrienne is killing it!
- Sarah is convinced Top Chef wants Joe Sasto to win.
We always read the Uproxx Top Chef Rankings for a laugh and a recap.
We have also been listening to the Pack Your Knives podcast. They draft their Top Chef teams!