The Blind Taste Test Returns and the Chefs Say Goodbye to Wisconsin: Top Chef Recap

Buddha Lois a two-timeTop Chefwinner, executive chef atHūsoin New York City, and aSaratoga Spring Waterbrand ambassador

Published Time: 06.06.2024 - 05:31:05 Modified Time: 06.06.2024 - 05:31:05

Buddha Lois a two-timeTop Chefwinner, executive chef atHūsoin New York City, and aSaratoga Spring Waterbrand ambassador. He is sharing his thoughts after each episode ofTop Chef season 21, set in Wisconsin, offering a unique perspective as a former cheftestant.

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

The final Top Chef episode in Wisconsin is here. On my seasons of Top Chef, I remember feeling bittersweet at this moment, and I’m sure our final five chefs are feeling this way as well.

As a cheftestant, this is the part of the season where you start to say farewell to your lucky Whole Foods Market employee or maybe find out that your favorite audio person who mic’d you every morning for the last couple of months is not coming, because not everyone in the crew is needed in the final episodes on location.

For me, as much as I loved months of cooking in the Top Chef kitchen, I couldn’t wait to go home to my amazing wife and partially blind pug. That’s the bitter with the sweet.

The final five cheftestants entered the Top Chef kitchen for the very last time for their final Quickfire in Wisconsin. Kristin Kish is joined by Paul Bartolotta as the guest judge for the infamous blind taste test. Unfortunately, when I was on Top Chef we did not have this challenge, but I was prepared in both seasons if it had.

This Quickfire had two parts. First, the chefs had to identify 26 ingredients with a blind taste test. In part two, the chefs had to make a dish using the ingredients they correctly identified, along with a limited pantry.

Manny was the winner of part one, scoring an impressive 23 out of 26. But in part two, he found himself on the bottom with a one-dimensional and bland salmon crudo. Joining Manny in the bottom was Dan with a dish that was described as a “trainwreck”.

The winning chef was Savannah (her third Quickfire win in a row!) with her fried pork chop with a faux Caesar dressing and olive sauce. Savannah is now rising to the top and making it clear that she is a force to be reckoned with.

The Elimination Challenge was a walk down memory lane where the chefs were asked to create dishes based on their season-long journey, showing what they’d learned from their time in Wisconsin.

This was a difficult kind of -

challenge. I was always focused on each challenge, each dish, rather than the journey of an entire season. So if it had been me, I would have needed to go back and review each challenge. If my journey was about pushing myself and showing the world what I am capable of, that would have been the direction of my dish.

The Elimination Challenge required a great story just as much as great cooking. To do well, chefs had to make sure their story matched the explanation of their dish.

Savannah took a risk and made a potato pave with burned onion and cherry jam with a chicken stock reduction. She explained that a potato naturally has everything to make a pave, a chef just needs to apply heat and pressure to create a great one. For her, Top Chef showed her she naturally had everything she needed to be a great chef, but it took the experience of Top Chef to bring it out. She is on fire going into the finale.

Joining Savannah in the finale is Laura with her beautiful lamb manti with barbacoa sauce.

Of the bottom three, Danny was the most obvious choice to make the top four since both Dan and Manny had problems in the Quickfire Challenge. Dan did a different take on the smoked walleye dish he made in Restaurant Wars, but this time his dish didn’t hit the same way it did previously, and he found himself in a bad position.

Manny made a snapper a la veracruzana with cream potatoes and saltine crackers. He said he wanted to reach back to his roots, which is when he felt most comfortable in the competition, and he wanted to honor the cuisine of Mexico. But some of the guests — including Tom — got raw fish, which spelled doom. One judge said that the simplicity of a dish like Manny’s required perfection in the details, and another noted that his dish had nothing to do with his journey in Wisconsin.

Last week Manny escaped despite making an undercooked risotto. I don’t know this for a fact, but I would say undercooked proteins have probably sent more chefs home than risottos. Unfortunately, Manny used up his lives and was sent packing.

Next up, a Top Chef first: the finalists head to Curaçao, where they’ll board a cruise ship for the last three challenges.

Top Chefairs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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