Top Chef Season 15 Episode 5 Recap
All I have to say is brrrrrrrrr. This was the coldest challenge ever! It was almost painful to watch them cook and camp in Estes Park. I have camped in the cold before and it was pretty miserable, but there certainly wasn’t ANY snow. While this episode gave me the chills, it also gave me the warm fuzzies. Lee Anne is back! Claudette fought her way in as well. The challenge was brand new, but it still included some classic Top Chef lines and wisdom. Let’s get to what is really the one of the most atypical episodes of Top Chef so far.
Last Chance Kitchen Winner
For those of us who have been keeping up with LCK, this week was a moment we have been waiting for! The episode starts where LCK left off – Kwame, Claudette and Lee Anne cooking offal meats to get back in the challenge. We again hear Tom comment that some of the best cooking of the season has been on Last Chance. Maybe it’s because there are veterans, or maybe it is because they are cooking to stay in the competition, but these chefs have been killing it.
Tom tastes all three dishes, and you can tell he is struggling. Tom first tells Kwame to sit, which leaves Lee Anne and Claudette. He says that this is one of the toughest decisions he has ever made in all 15 seasons of Top Chef. But he ended up “going with his gut” (this guy never misses a chance for a pun!) and bringing back both ladies. It seems like he really made this decision last minute. Tom’s the boss. He does what he wants when he wants.
After the announcement that Lee Anne and Claudette are back in, Padma let’s everyone know that there is no Quickfire, but they are not getting off easy. They will be camping and cooking outside. Padma warns that they need to be prepared for anything, but I am not sure they could have expected what they were up against. It was a madhouse as the Cheftestants raided the Top Chef kitchen because they had to bring everything they were going to cook with them.
The cheftestants are given $100 to spend on supplies at an Estes Park camping store. If you’ve been camping, you know $100 won’t go far. You should have seen how much Sarah and I spent on our last camping trip! A few chefs go in together to purchase stoves, & Carrie says the words Dutch Oven at least 5 times. When she can’t find a Dutch Oven, she picks up these small tins & decides to bake individual cakes. This is a huge risk! Also, Dutch Ovens are pretty classic camping cookware. Did anyone ever watch Cee Dub on PBS? He had a show that was literally only cooking outside in a Dutch Oven. I couldn’t figure out why this store didn’t supply them.
They arrive at the campground & Idaho/Colorado Carrie proves to be helpful setting up the tents. There’s also a TON OF SNOW. The Chefs have to shovel snow to even make way for the tent. Brrrr. The Chefs even go sledding on baking sheets! Campfires are set-up & the Chefs begin to brave the elements. Carrie builds her own small oven by creating a hole in the woods.
The dishes actually look incredible. I make some mean fajitas and breakfast tacos on my outdoor trips, but of course this stuff was on another level. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when these people cook well, but I am always impressed. The judges were too, with a few notable exceptions.
Silky Chris tries his hand at cooking buffalo for the first time. His dish is Buffalo Chili & Buffalo Flank Steak with Onion Bacon, Agrodolce, Roasted Mushrooms & Charred Carrots. Padma was looking for a bit more heat in the chili & Tom thought the dish was too dry.
Lee Anne makes a “Mother Goose” meal with Goose Confit, Goose Cracklings, Fiddlehead Ferns with Black Garlic & Fruit Sauce. The judges were scraping the plate to get every bit of Lee Anne’s dish.
Mustache Joe makes Roasted Trout with a Trout Fume with Foraged Greens. Gail was all about the Fume & called the rest of his dish, “simple & focused.”
Claudette serves Guajillo Spiced Elk, Confit Sunchokes with Strawberry Rhubarb Guajillo Sauce. The judges thought her dish was cooked well.
Adrienne serves Quali Stuffed with Mustard Greens, Purple Corn Girts, Grilled Peaches & Peach Juniper Quail Jus. The judges thought the Quail was seasoned well, but a bit overcooked.
Tanya makes a Lamb Loin Chop & a Warm Farro Salas with Roasted Beets, Carrots, Wild Mushroom Sauce & Blackberry Compote. Naomi was confused by Tanya’s dish and Tom agreed it was just “too much”.
Joe Flamm makes Braised & Roasted Squab with Farro, Mushrooms & Asparagus. Tom said it was slightly overcooked.
Fatima serves up a Cacao-Spiced Duck Breast with a Sunchoke & Pine Nut Mash & Blackberry-Chili Jam. The judges think the Duck is cooked really well.
Bruce makes Egg Yolk Cavatelli with Wild Boar Sugo & Roasted Ramps & Carrots with Fresh Ricotta. He’s a pasta guy & he rolled out his pasta on a mandolin to create ridges to hold the pasta sauce. Needless to say, the judges loved it.
Carrie’s Maple & Pine Nut Upside Down Cake with Strawberry, Rhubarb, Raspberry & Blueberry Jam was a huge hit. Somehow she baked these cakes evenly & we are impressed.
Tu cooked Rabbit Three Ways with a Soy Poached. Hind Leg with Carrot Duxelles, Loin Medallions & Fried Foreleg with Szechuan Gastrique. Tom’s comment of, “I think Tu should’ve just stuck to one” was an eye-roller for sure. He thought the Soy Braised Leg was really dry.
Brother Luck makes Lemon Herb Pheasant with Rutabaga, Caraway & Ramps. The judges thought the pheasant dish was “a mess”, overcooked & chewy.
PNW Chef, Naomi Pomeroy arrives at the Campground to join Tom, Padma, Gail. Seriously, is this not the most epic, hide covered, judge’s table ever?
Elimination Winners and Losers
The top three dishes of the competition were Carrie’s upside down cakes, Lee Anne’s goose confit with fiddle heads, and Bruce’s wilderness made cavatelli. I have to say, when I saw that cavatelli dish, I drooled a little bit. Surprise! Bruce finally won a challenge. Maybe this will be where he starts to turn things around. I was really happy that Lee Anne came out and killed it her first episode back as well. Also, Carrie was the total MVP of this challenge, so it was great to see her food be in the top. Congrats to all three
The bottom had three of our favorites; Tu, Tanya and Chris. I have to admit, you could tell Tu’s dish was doomed as soon as you looked at it. It was totally beige and unappetizing, and he just tried way too hard. Trying to cook three dishes in the snow was definitely a bad idea. So goodbye Tu, we were very fond of you. I bet all of the chefs will miss your positive attitude and good disposition in this competition.
Random Observations and Quotes
- Fatima – “Pregnant women are the worst!”
- We need Lee Anne’s dumpling cookbook.
- I’m thinking we should pick our favorite Colicchio pun each week. This guy is full of them.
- Finally, Padma doesn’t say “Hands up, utensils down!”
- I need to know more about the scholarship Lee Anne helped set up and Brother Luck received. Two of my favorites – what a sweet story.
- Joe Flamm – “There are no god damn oil trees in the forest.”
- Lee Anne gave some great advice about focusing on one dish – unfortunately, it was too late.
- He sings too? Chris Scott just keeps getting smoother, even in an episode that rattled him.
- Lee Anne also knows just what Tom likes – this is one of the reasons she will be so tough to beat.
- Fatima had me cracking up talking about camping.
- Where the hell is Tu hunting boar in the jungle??
- I have never seen people so lost setting up tents.
- Love how Tom dropped off s’mores, then most likely went back to his cozy hotel. Thanks a lot, Tom.
- Brother Luck – “Carrie is McGyvering this dish”
- That baking sheet sledding looked like fun.
- Top Chef is totally obsessed with sunchokes, starting with Harold in Season 1.
- My heart grew a little when Gail said “Oh my goodness Lee Anne Wong.”
- That was the most ridiculous, hide-covered judge’s table I have ever seen.
- Tu having to pack his knives and go from the campsite was one of the saddest things I have seen on Top Chef.
- I hope Lee Anne is ok! The preview for next week was concerning.
- Did I hear Tom mention Tu would have one more chance? Will LCK continue? I hope so because I have really been enjoying it.
As always, we recommend reading the Uproxx Top Chef Power Rankings. It is where you get gems like “Anyway, I get the feeling Carrie could get lost inside a Starbucks, but apparently she turns into Bear Grylls when there are trees around. Maybe she and the Alaska lady could have a show together. They’d be like the Hoda and Kathy of avoiding bears.”