Top Chef Season 15 Episode 13 Recap: A Little Place Called Aspen
Top Chef wasn’t lying when they said they were going to use the beauty and terrain of Colorado. I have to say, this season has by far the most beautiful scenery and some of the most difficult cooking scenarios I have ever seen. The outdoor cooking in this penultimate episode was beautiful and appropriate. With Chef Carrie toast last week (punning it up, Top Chef style), the three remaining Cheftestants Adrienne, Joe and Joe had to deal with the elements of Aspen, Colorado. This fishing and grilling extravaganza was so much fun to watch. I can’t believe there is only one episode left!
The Cheftestants arrive at T Lazy 7 Ranch and are quickly greeted with their Quickfire Challenge – fishing for their own trout and then cooking it in one hour! As my boyfriend angrily pointed out, this is a cooking show, not a fishing show. I agree, sometimes Top Chef takes this stuff too far. However, this pond was clearly stocked – they probably could have just scooped a few fish out with their nets! I was happy to see the use of trout. I think it is such an underrated, delicious, sustainable fish. As long as a bear hasn’t gone to the bathroom on it.
If the Chefs can’t catch their own fish, canned fish was provided. Nobody wants that, so the race was on to get a trout. Flamm scored first, followed by Mustache. It took Adrienne almost forty minutes, but she finally pulled one out of the pond. Unfortunately that did not leave her much cooking time, and she paid for it.
Even with having to catch their food, the Cheftestants of course made some delicious dishes.
- Adrienne whips up a Pan-Seared Trout With Spring Onion & Jalapeno Ponzu Vinaigrette.
- Mustache Joe serves Smoked Trout Rillette With Spring Onion Corn Cakes & Summer Berry Glaze.
- Joe Flamm makes Pan-Seared Trout, Black Garlic Beurre Blanc With Fennel, Mushrooms, Asparagus & Bread Crumbs.
Quickfire Winners & Losers
As Guest Judge Chris eloquently points out, “Does a Bear shit in the woods?” Of course, the answer is yes! He says with trout you gotta cook it all the way through. Evidently, the bear shits high up in the woods & it taints the water, so he & Padma don’t even taste it. They do, however, love Adrienne’s crispy fish skin & the Jalapeno Ponzu Vinaigrette. Cosentino says he could’ve eaten a whole bowl of the fish skin with the sauce.
Chris loves Mustache Joe’s Corn Cakes & thinks his blueberry hit it on the mark. I thought those corn cakes looked delicious, and Mustache was lucky he accidentally overcooked his meal.
Chirs enjoyed the thought process behind the way Flamm cooked the fish but points out that Adrienne’s fish skin was crispier and he enjoyed it more. I was so excited to see Flamm use the black garlic! I got some in my Blue Apron order over a year ago and have been in love with its umami flavor ever since.
Flamm is the winner of this Quickfire & wins an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.
For this Elimination Challenge, the Chefs will host their own event for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. There will be over 200 attendees and many Chef superstars in attendance with guest judge, Daniel Boulud. The twist is all dishes must be Vegetarian. The chefs will have 3 hours and must use their Cowboy Cauldrons as the main heat source.
Due to the difficulty of the challenge, Padma brings out Bruce, Carrie & Chris to be sous chefs. Flamm gets to choose first & he quickly (and wisely) chooses Carrie. He then gets to pair the other Chefs. Because both Bruce & Mustache Joe are suited for Italian, he decides to separate them; Bruce is with Adrienne & Mustache Joe is with Silky Chris.
Sasto is really struggling with his meal ideas. He is hung up on making so many dishes in such a short amount of time & the cauldron is throwing him even more. Flamm quickly settles for grilling zucchini as an homage to summers with his Grandpa. Guess what? Bruce suggests pasta to Adrienne! Bruce starts throwing tons of ideas out & they finally settle on something that sounds like Adrienne’s type of food.
Elimination Challenge Dishes
- Mustache Joe’s dish is Beet Carpaccio With Beet Yogurt, Green Bean Tomato Vinaigrette & Sourdough Bread.
- Adrienne’s dish is Charred Corn Pudding Wrapped in Swiss Chard With Shishito Peppers & Champagne Broth.
- Joe Flamm’s dish is Grilled Baby Zucchini Topped With Hazelnut Zucchini Pesto, Mushroom Vinaigrette, Goat Cheese & Raw Asparagus Salad.
Elimination Challenge Winners & Losers
Mustache Joe does this crazy thing where he throws the damn fire embers into the damn beets. The judges loved it & thought it was “on trend” which is no surprise for the Hipster Stache. Bryan Voltaggio thought the bread was classified as an “in between toast”. No one was a fan of the bread. Gail was looking for it to have butter, oil or something. It’s funny that he’s given Carrie so much shit for her toasts & then uses pre-bought bread in this challenge.
Curtis Stone likes Adrienne’s coconut & the corn & thinks it is a “smart dish” & Padma really likes it as well. Gail feels like she missed an opportunity to “go a little bolder with the chard”. Tom gives perhaps his greatest compliment saying the dish has “sweet, acid & heat & salt” WINNING! Later at Judge’s Table, Tom applauds her flavor combinations.
Now, there is a really important 30 seconds where Jonathan Waxman comes up with another Chef & they start talking to Bruce. Adrienne makes the comment during the confessional that often if someone sees a female & male Chef working side by side the assumption is made the male is the Executive Chef. Although the editing doesn’t show everything, this 30 seconds alludes to that exact thing happening at this event. I must say, Bruce & Adrienne handled the situation with mutual respect. Bruce steered the conversation & the attention back to Adrienne & in a non-confrontational way made it clear that he was indeed her sous chef and she was EXECUTIVE CHEF. This was a small moment in the show, but albeit an important one.
Daniel Boulud thinks Flamm makes good use of the cauldron. Tom thinks the dish would’ve worked better if the zucchini was bigger. Tom thinks the goat cheese, the nuts & the asparagus are the “stars of the dish”. Even though Joe put a lot of goat cheese on the dish, Gail thinks it grounded the dish. Jonathan Waxman says the beautifully cooked hazelnuts “had me at hello”. Shocker though, Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer CANNOT STAND HAZELNUTS! I think my exact reaction was, “What the F*ck is wrong with you?” Pecans, fine. Walnuts, fine. But, hazelnuts?!? Get outta here!
The Final Two
None of the dishes were a home run, but it was clear that Flamm’s was the favorite. Padma nearly gave him a heart attack (and possibly us too) when she called his name, but instead of telling him to pack his knives she crowned him the winner of the challenge.
Both Adrienne and Mustache had some problems, and I was really thinking Adrienne was going to go home for not getting enough smoke/char flavor in the dish. It ended up being Joe “Mustache” Sasto going home. He really seemed to struggle the whole episode. Mustache, you had a great season with more highs than lows. I can’t wait to try some of your pasta one day.
Congratulations Joe Flamm and Adrienne! We are stoked for next week, and I was happy to see in the preview that these two cook some amazing meals in The Finale.
Random Observations & Quotes
- Sarah doesn’t understand, but Adrienne, I feel your short girl pain.
- Flamm calling his wife his roommate on the phone was adorable.
- Of course, Padma is in a cowboy hat. Can we consider this cultural appropriation?
- “I cook seafood, I don’t normally catch seafood” – Adrienne
- Did Mustache say he had never cleaned a whole fish before?
- It was nice to see the Top 3 eat their “Last Supper” together – and cook totally normal, unchefy food.
- “I’m Joe Flamm from Chicago!” – (obviously) Joe Flamm
- Adrienne tells Tom “you gotta let your balls hang out at some point.”
- Sasto is still making bear jokes.
- “Hands up, utensils down.” – Padma strikes again.
- Adrienne was Captain Obvious this episode: “No half steppin on this one,” & “I definitely want to win.”
- Has anyone but Carrie heard of a Cowboy Cauldron?
- Joe Flamm has self-proclaimed “long, luxurious eyelashes.”
- Carrie actually looked kinda cool in her all-black outfit and dark shades.
- “The bread needed nourishment,” – Daniel Bolud
- Flamm waxing philosophical – “Top Chef is an exercise in clarity.”
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!
We’ve been blogging all season! Catch up on our other posts: The Intro, Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11 & Episode 12.