It may be Thanksgiving, but if Top Chef doesn’t rest, we don’t rest! Last night’s episode was a topsy-turvy affair, complete with some surprise wins and some even more surprising bottom 3 losers. It’s tough to cook a Thanksgiving dinner as a crew, and even tougher when contestants are trying to cook meals dictated by Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse.
Let’s jump right into the quickfire, which featured a roomful of chefs, each tasked with creating a different type of dumpling. Astoundingly, Josie pulls through with this win, and earns immunity (don’t worry, she un-redeemed herself, later). Stefan and Micah were also in the top three for their yummy dumplings, but didn’t manage to quite pull through. Top three is still better than Kuniko, who may have won last week, but couldn’t manage to get her dish on the plate this time around.
Padma splits the disgruntled contestants into teams and then half of the men and women plan a menu for an Italian-based Thanksgiving with Tom and half plan a menu for a Cajun Thanksgiving with Emeril. The teams have plenty of time to prep and five hours to cook, and when the dishes come out, there are some good and bad moments on both sides. It really comes down to the battle of the turkeys, a task that was taken on by CJ on Tom’s team and Josie on Emeril’s. The two Top Chef veterans duke it out, but while CJ’s turkey is perfect, a few of the judges note Josie’s borders on ‘raw.’
Josie would be going home, but she happens to have immunity, leaving Tyler’s flavorless gumbo, Kuniko’s undercooked potato dish, and Sheldon’s undercooked greens to go up for potential elimination. Back in the waiting room, John says a chef “can do potatoes in your sleep.” It’s a valid prediction, and after spending last week at the top in the quickfire and last week’s main challenge (and hitting pretty high in our power rankings), Kuniko was sent home. Kuniko has talent, but this week proves how easy it is to falter and make mistakes in the early rounds of a reality show. In another twist of fate, Carla won the week!
The Top Chef Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Rawden and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Eighteen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, three were given for a last place vote. Two competitors have already been eliminated (not counting those chopped in the early rounds); therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.
#1) John Tesar (36): John made a dessert this week that was good, but not the favorite. However, going by his performance the first two weeks, John has consistently shown an ability to stand out from the pack and try brave and bold flavors. His loud mouth may get him into trouble some time in the future, but until then, we’re counting on him to stay near the top of the pack.
#2) Stefan Richter (33): It was an up and down episode for Stefan. His dumpling was singled out as one of the best by Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin, but his panna cotta with orange cardamom crisp and candied pecans was deemed too cardamom-ish by the judging panel. In a related story, why the hell was he making dessert? He’s clearly one of the best chefs here. He proved it during his first tenure on the show. At some point, he’s going to get it completely together, and when he does, he could easily run off a multi-episode winning streak.
#3) CJ Jacobsen (32): Last week, CJ said he has learned a lot since his last tenure on Bravo’s hit cooking competition show. This week, he proved his words, cooking a turkey to perfection. We’re actually a little shocked the feat didn’t earn him a win, but as it stands, he’ll have to come back with ingénue and skill next week if he wants to earn that top slot.
#4) Lizzie Binder (27): Top Chef contestants get too bogged down with being complicated and making things the judges haven’t seen before. Sometimes the best route is to make something simple and execute it flawlessly. That’s what Lizzie did with her potatoes last night, and she came dangerously close to winning. No one ever goes home in the early rounds for making something the judges enjoyed eating.
#4) Sheldon Simeon (27): Dana Cowin was stoked to meet Sheldon this week, but he failed to fully impress. During the Thanksgiving dinner, the guy’s greens landed him in the bottom 3. Greens were a dish the young man was unfamiliar with, and, to his credit, the judges said they liked the flavor, but did wish he had cooked them longer. It seemed like more of a slap on the wrist than a true possibility that the guy was going home. He’ll have to step it up next week, however.