TOP CHEF SEASON 15 EPISODE 7 RECAP
Whew! Anyone else exhausted after watching this Top Chef Olympic Challenge? This episode was intense. We started with some very good news, and ended with the most drama we have seen all season. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of guest judges, and a Top Chef Kitchen Stadium. Let’s dig in.
Bruce has his baby & the gang stays up late into the night with him to celebrate! This guy is really growing on me. It was great to see the tears of joy for Bruce’s new baby, and even better to see how much all of the other chefs supported him. I keep saying it, but this season has more camaraderie than any I remember. They even threw Bruce a surprise baby shower, complete with a diaper changing challenge. Congrats Bruce!
Nutella Breakfast Challenge
After a long night of drinking and celebrating with Bruce, the chefs get woken up by Padma and Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson (and no, she didn’t show up just to congratulate Bruce). It’s time for the Cheftestants to compete in a breakfast Quickfire Challenge. This Quickfire is sponsored by Nutella, which the chefs need to incorporate in their dishes. The winner wins immunity and $5,000.
It was pretty amusing to watch the chefs struggle in their small kitchen. I believe I saw someone climbing on the counter! They were short on time and space, but of course, they made it work. A lot of the dishes were very similar, but it was six in the morning and Nutella. Mustache Joe was smart to go outside and put the grill to use. That’s a classic strategy at my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving!
Chris serves French Toast with Nutella Cream & Nutella Coffee Perdu.
Mustache Joe plays homage to his mother with his Nutella Crepes & Nutella Cherry & Espresso Hazelnuts.
Bruce serves Pancakes with Nutella, Dried Cherries, Bacon Chopped Hazelnuts & Spiced Bourbon Maple Syrup. I need some bourbon maple syrup.
Joe Flamm with the tastiest oatmeal we’ve ever seen – Nutella Oatmeal with Shaved Coconut, Bacon, Strawberries & Almonds. He was cracking me up talking about his dish…”there’s probably a reason this hasn’t been served before.”
Claudette with a Vanilla Crepe filled with a Blood Orange Paste, Topped with Whipped Ricotta & Nutella.
Tanya with an Orange Zest Waffle with Caramelized Banana, Toasted Walnuts & Nutella Syrup.
Adrienne’s dish is inspired by her mother who cooked toast in the waffle iron to save time. She makes a waffled French Toast with Sugared Nutella Hazelnuts & Hazelnut Nutella Espresso. Bummer, she forgot her syrup!
Carrie makes Eggs Benedict with Nutella, Strawberry Habanero Jam & Hollandaise
Fatima makes an Almond Waffle with Nutella Yogurt, Candied Turkey Bacon & Toasted Hazelnuts & Brooke thinks it is a “moist waffle”.
Quickfire Challenge – Winners & Losers
Brooke didn’t love Joe Flamm’s over salted oatmeal, although, I’m sure Tom would have! She wants more texture & more savory from Tanya’s dish & really wanted Adrienne’s dish to have the sauce.
Brooke & Padma loved Fatima, Claudette & Carrie’s dish & they crown Carrie the winner. She now has two breakfast wins under her belt and needs to make her way over to my house Sunday morning. I have made Elia’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner waffles from Season 2 for years. I may be trying Carrie’s Eggs Benny to see if I can put it in my weekend repertoire.
Elimination Challenge – Top Chef Games
As usual, the Cheftestants don’t get much of a break, and as soon as the challenge ends three Olympians walk into the backyard: Ice Dancing Gold Medalist Meryl Davis, Freeski Slope Style Silver Medalist Gus Kenworthy, and Skeleton Racer John Daly (the OTHER John Daly).
Speed, Precision & Freestyle
Padma announces that they will have an Olympic Cooking Relay inspired by their guests. There will be a speed round, a precision round, and a freestyle round. The speed round has 45 minutes, the precision round requires the chefs to cook meat to a perfect temperature and feature a brunoise dice, a chiffonade, and a Bâtonnet, and the freestyle round the chefs have to get creative, with the twist being that they won’t know the protein they will be using until their round comes up.
The Cheftestants break into their teams of three to start planning. Chris says he is happy with his team and talks about how much he respects Tanya. Immediately I think Tanya is going home. She was featured at the beginning of the episode and now Chris is praising her – that is a sure-fire exit on Top Chef. On top of that, she already looks defeated. She is selected for the precision round and she is not happy about it.
Top Chef Stadium
The next day the Cheftestants arrive at the Top Chef kitchen, which has been transformed into a cooking stadium reminiscent of Iron Chef. The audience is cheering and the cooks are getting amped up. The judges are Tom, Padma, Gail and the Olympians. Each dish can earn a total of 60 points, ten per judge. The scores are calculated by the judges showing their scorecards immediately after each round, and the chefs are given either a gold, silver or bronze medal.
As soon as the timer starts and the first leg of the relay fires off, you can tell the Blue and Red Teams are really working together and having a great time. The White Team, not so much. Claudette and Tanya are bickering with each other from the start, and you just know it’s going to be a disaster. They are not having a good time, not helping each other out, and are struggling to get their dishes together.
SPEED ROUND CHEFS – Bruce, Claudette & Fatima
Bruce’s Dish was a Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragu, Parmesan, Pickled Ramps & Pink Peppercorns. Tom thought it was a delicious dish & Padma loved the Peppercorns. SCORE: 50 GOLD
Fatima’s Dish was a Seared Scallop with Coconut Broth, Avocado Mint Puree, Spicy Papadum & Pumpkin Seeds. Tom thinks it needs some more “herbacious notes” but Padma thought it was “clean”. SCORE: 47 SILVER
Claudette’s Dish is Crispy Yellow Corn Grits with Cripsy Pork Belly & Pipian Sauce. Padma thinks it is too rich & it felt “muddled” & “chewy” to Gail. SCORE: 41.5 BRONZE
PRECISION ROUND CHEFS – Joe Flamm, Tanya & Adrienne
Before the challenge even starts, Tom asks the Chefs to guess the exact temperature of their cooked meats. Joe wants his chicken to hit 165 degrees (which is correct). Adrienne wants her filet cooked to 125 degrees (I think that is medium rare). Tanya states her lamb will be cooked to 145 degrees & Tom smirks at this. Tanya evidently “cooks to touch”.
Adrienne’s dish is a Roasted Filet with Chiffonade Kale Salad, Apple Brunoise & Butternut Squash Bâtonnet. The judges like her knife cuts the best & Padma thinks her dish is “pretty tasty”. Her meat temp was 115 degrees. SCORE: With a 3 point deduction & a highest possible score of 7 Adrienne’s FINAL SCORE is 40.5 SILVER
Tanya’s dish is a North African Leg of Lamb with Chiffonade Collard Greens, Couscous, Shallot Brunoise, Glazed Carrot & Zucchini Bâtonnet. Meryl Davis loves Tanya’s sauce for the lamb. Tom thinks her knife cuts are “atrocious”. Tanya’s lamb measured at 125 deg, which was cooked thoroughly. SCORE: With a 6 point deduction & a highest possible score of 4 Tanya’s FINAL SCORE is 18.5 BRONZE
Joe Flamm’s dish is a Urfa Biber Roasted Chicken with Apple Brunoise, Sorrel Chiffonade & Butternut Squash Bâtonnet. Gail thinks the chicken is beautifully cooked & crispy & flavorful. Joe’s knife cuts were great but not as precise as Adrienne’s. Joe’s chicken came in at 158.5 deg SCORE: With a 2 point deduction & a highest possible score of 8 Joe’s FINAL SCORE is 42.5 GOLD
After the Precision Round: Blue Team is in the lead with 92.5, Red in Second with 87.5 & White in Third with 60
FREESTYLE ROUND CHEFS – Carrie, Chris & Mustache Joe
Carrie’s dish is Beef Short Ribs, Fettuccine, Butter Poached Morels & Oyster Mushrooms with Bleu Cheese Sauce. Tom says it’s a “very amateurish attempt at making pasta” & one of his least favorite dishes all season.
Chris’s dish is Braised Short Ribs with Ginger Tofu Cream, Miso Caramel & Bok Choy Kimchi. Gail loved the Bok Choy Kimchi- it was gingery & spicy, fresh & cold, but she thinks the tofu dulled it down.
Mustache Joe’s dish is Beef Short Rib Casoncelli with Carrots & Ramps. Tom thinks Joe knows he nailed the dish.
Elimination Winners & Losers
Tanya’s face says it all. She knows she is headed for elimination, and she is tired of the bears, the challenges, and the show. When Padma calls up the Blue Team, who one every gold, Tanya could not look more disinterested.
Even though Bruce, Joe Flamm and Mustache Joe all won first place in their rounds, it was Mustache that brought home the win. That dish looked beautiful and playful. He brought out his “bag of tricks” at the perfect time. He is clearly the chef to beat.
On the unsurprising bottom was the White Team. All of the tension that had been mounting throughout the episode between Tanya and Claudette came to a head. Claudette blamed her dish on the lack of time, lack of help, and poor attitude from Tanya. Tanya disagreed but didn’t want to elaborate. It got heated in front of the judges, and Chris said he hadn’t noticed any of it. Come on Chris, pay attention! Your teammates are at each other’s throats and you’re the smoothest one in the business! They needed you to sort them out.
While the judges deliberated on who was going home (either Tanya or Claudette – Chris was immediately left out of the conversation), the tension ran high in the stew room. We have seen it coming all season; Tanya has just been tired of it, and it reached the pinnacle tonight. I was shocked at her attitude toward the judges and the other chefs. She had been rattled from the start and Claudette was just hitting on every nerve. Tanya even yelled at Carrie to “get woke.” It was an intense experience, and Sarah rightly applauded Bruce for trying to cut down the tension when he said that everybody gets over things at different speeds. Tanya was not ready to get over it or talk about her feelings yet. I will say that it seemed she was holding back and wanted to say a lot more.
The judges decide to send Tanya home, and it was the right one. For those of you paying attention, this is the second challenge in a row where the worst food wasn’t sent packing, but the food that didn’t follow the challenge correctly. Even though the judges liked Tonya’s lamb better than Claudette’s pork belly, it was Tanya’s inability to adhere to the actual challenge that had her packing her knives. Tanya seemed to be more relieved than anyone to exit the competition. No doubt it was her time.
Random Observations & Quotes
- Mustache Joe had a great humble moment at the beginning of the episode.
- Bruce grows on us every episode, and we just can’t help but love him. The other Cheftestants are feeling the same way.
- These bears have bear slippers??
- Apparently, Fatima is not a morning person.
- Both Chris and Carrie are getting tired of the Bear Den, and these two are pretty easy going.
- Chris still seems to be a little off from last week’s episode, but it was great to see him cooking food that reminded him of his family that he is missing right now.
- The Joe’s are on Bruce duty.
- Adrienne needed this challenge. It played to her skills and has been landing on the bottom a lot.
- NBC is pushing these Olympic Games hard.
- “I love you guys but you monopolize the conversation when you win you, monopolize the conversation when you lose, so just like have some empathy.” – Tanya
- It was stressful watching Tom read those temps! Anyone else think those point deductions were a little harsh?
- I’m still confused on why Tanya didn’t ask anyone if they knew the proper temperature to cook lamb.
- Way to go Chris for cooking an actual Olympic inspired dish.
- Good thing Carrie had immunity, because Tom said that her dish was one of his least favorites of the whole season.
- Tanya’s meat was the most perfectly cooked, and she didn’t even know what temp that was. That’s how good her touch is.
- Gail called the Blue Team a Boy Band.
- Even Tom is calling Sasto Mustache Joe.
Last Chance Kitchen
Last Chance Kitchen was the battle between Tanya and Brother Luck, who both have a similar background and a lot of respect for one another. I was happy to see Tanya discuss with Tom why she was eliminated. She took responsibility for her dish, and chose not to bad mouth Claudette. We can’t say the same for Tu, who took a little dig at Brother for last week’s Saran Wrap fiasco. With all the discussion online (and the best advertisement saran wrap could ask for!), it was hilarious to hear Tanya ask “was he hiding the plastic wrap from you?”
The challenge for this episode was time – and they had to wager with each other. In the end, they settled on 10 minutes to cook any dish they wanted. Tanya looked freaking cool as a cucumber the whole time! I don’t think she broke a sweat! Both chefs chose to cook fish, which was really about all they could do with those constraints. While Tom liked both dishes, the slight edge went to Brother. Damn Tanya’s onion forward romesco! Brother has two wins in a row and will continue to fight his way back in next week.
We can’t leave without saying something about Fatima. This young, hilarious, and favorite Top Cheftestant is publicly battling cancer right now. Both Sarah and I would like to wish her good luck in this difficult time. Fatima has absolutely been one of all-around best chefs this season, not just with her food, but with her attitude and humor. We, like so many other fans of the show, are pulling for you.
As always, check out the Top Chef Power Rankings we love so much.