Last week’s episode top chef brought Last Chance Kitchen winner Sara Bradley back into the competition. She charged full of weapons but failed to defeat the unstoppable Buddha Lo, who won both the Rapid Fire and Elimination Challenges. In fairness, both challenges were made for him. One was about using shapes, the other was about creating a dish that fools the eye. As Padma Lakshmi said, Buddha had come armed to the teeth with forms!
Buddha’s main competitor in the trompe l’oeil challenge was Tom Goetter. Tom’s journey has been a rollercoaster, but all of his dishes have been extremely creative and outside the box. At the end, Tom was contemplating his seaweed caviar dish and was told to pack his knives and leave. That meant London stood in for Buddha, Sara, Ali Ghzawi and Gabriel Rodriguez in the rearview mirror. The last four traveled to Paris for the final!
Hit a wall
The chefs met Padma in her best Muppets jacket and Michelin-starred guest judge Greg Marchand in the Eiffel Tower for their final rapid fire. It was time for the infamous Wall Challenge! Each chef was paired with a mysterious guest on the other side of a wall and then had to teach them to cook the same dish they were cooking. It’s usually a family member on the other side, but this time it was Olympic champions as Paris hosts the 2024 Olympics. No pressure!
Sara got off to a smooth start with Sydney Mclaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic gold medalist in track and field. She was a pro at teaching them as she had been teaching cooking classes during the Corona crisis. Unfortunately, her seasoned chicken with sweet and sour cauliflower was dry and ended up in the ground. They were joined by Gabriel and Suni Lee, Olympic gymnastics champion. Gabriel was the polar opposite of Sara and had trouble communicating with Suni. Suni did what she could, but eventually Gabriel gave up and told her to do whatever she wanted. Not good looks. Padma and Greg found their roasted baby corn with poblano sauce boring and Greg liked Suni’s dish better. Ouch.
At the front were Buddha and Hunter Woodall, Paralympic track and field medalist. Although Buddha taught well, he admitted that he wanted to jump over the wall and prepare the dish himself. They served a mashed cauliflower with bacon, croutons and leeks. The judges were amazed by the creativity. But it was Paralympic swimming medalists Ali and Mallory Weggemann who took the gold! Almost identical and well-seasoned potato and leek soups were served. Ali fought hard for this win so it was nice to see him take a win.
The beginning of a horror film
For their last elimination challenge before the finals, the chefs were tasked with creating a Michelin-starred dish using the simple mushroom. Padma’s fun fact: Mushrooms were originally found growing on horse manure. Yummy. Padma then shooed the cooks away as the rain poured down, and they set out to meet Angel Moioli, a third-generation mushroom grower.
However, there is no sunshine and no green fields on this farm. The cooks were led into a dark and winding cave. Gabriel shouted at his fellow cooks not to leave him behind. There are no horror movie tropes for him today. The fear subsided when Angel opened a curtain, revealing all the mushrooms he was growing. It was like Christmas morning as the chefs chose them one by one.
The theme of the film remained just as whimsical Harry Potter Music played as the chefs arrived at the grocery store at La Maison Le Gourmet. The only problem was that everything was in French. Ali struggled to find anyone who knew what panko breadcrumbs are. Buddha was able to get by reasonably well with a few French words. Gabriel killed it since he was fluent in French. Le Chat strikes again!
Surprise! It’s Alain Ducasse
The chefs arrived at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, which doubled as a boat. They all started out with their offbeat, humble dishes for a group of Michelin-starred chefs. Buddha noted that butter and thyme make a good flavor profile, but they need to do more than that, so he decided to use mushrooms in seven different ways in a Wellington dish. Always the high flyer! Also focusing only on the mushrooms, Ali decided to make a mushroom steak for the main course. Sara kept it simple with a mushroom soup, but again wondered if that wasn’t enough as she watched Gabriel run around the kitchen with his 800 ingredients.
Tom Colicchio came with Greg and Alain to grill the chefs. The chefs were impressed when they saw 21-star Michelin chef Alain, as Padma had told them he wouldn’t be there. Buddha immediately pulled out his phone and started taking selfies with him. Sara was brave and shared her mushroom broth and Alain gave her two thumbs up. He also enjoyed some of Buddha’s dish and appreciated the way Ali prepared his mushrooms. Overall, Alain was glad his kitchen hadn’t burned down. Well, until Gabriel almost accidentally burned his mushroom puree. Luckily for him, this happened after Alain left the kitchen.
The mushroom is missing
Buddha was very pleased with his dish, as he served champignons de Paris en croute, chicken farce, mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Basically a raised mushroom dish on toast, and it looked great. The judges thought it was well done and liked the combination of textures. Ali served mushroom steak, mushroom croquette with za’atar and goat cheese, as well as mushroom jus and pickled mushrooms. Ali kicked them all out! Padma loved the smell, but everyone thought the croquettes were a bit gritty. A similar comment to last week’s with its dry breadcrumbs. Maybe Ali should stay away from the panko for a while.
Sara served mushrooms with beef leg jam, pears and pickled mushrooms. Who knew pears would go well with mushrooms? The jury found it to be simple, clean and pure. Tom said she made a soup fit for a Michelin star restaurant. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! Gabriel served a nest of potatoes, chili morita mushrooms de Paris puree, shiitake broth, and salted egg yolk. And even if he missed a few things when serving, his dish was a complete success. The judges loved his broth and one of them even offered him a job. However, Tom missed the mushroom flavor and said it tasted more like chicken. Would Le Chat be saved by one of his four remaining lives?
At the judges’ table, Tom was blunt about the chefs, saying they all deserved to be there. Gail Simmons said it was great to see everyone getting excited about the flavors and personalities on all the plates. Greg announced that Sara is the Mushroom Master! Sara finally got her only elimination win of the season. If you want to get a win, at least manage to get the win that will take you to the finals. Congratulations Sarah!
Buddha held on to his silver medal and also made it to the final. Tom was glad the Buddha didn’t let the technique get in the way of the mushroom flavor. It was up to Ali and Gabriel who would go home. For Gabriel, Padma says it’s a good thing he forgot his extra ingredients because there was already a lot going on in the dish. Tom also noticed that the dish tasted more like chicken. For Ali, Greg liked the mushroom jus, but Tom and Gail didn’t like the croquette. And after an intensive discussion, the judges decided to send Ali home. Le Chat has been saved again! And now we have the final three, and a champion will be crowned next week.
Top Chef continues Thursdays at 9/8 on Bravo.
TELL US – Do you think they should have sent Ali or Gabriel home? ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT GABRIEL IS ALWAYS SAVED? Who do you think will win the final: Buddha, Sara or Gabriel? What was your favorite mushroom dish?