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Top Chef Recap: “Like Mama Made”

With the drama of last week’s Restaurant Wars behind them, the chefs are in for a very different type of challenge, one that will draw on their emotions and could possibly be the hardest challenge to send someone home for.

The contestants are challenged to cook a dish from their own family. Something that has meaning and emotional ties for them. Before they can dive into that, they must first make it through the Quickfire Challenge.

From Top Chef

Quickfire Challenge

The Quickfire is on a caffeine buzz when the chefs are challenged by chef Hubert Keller and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to create a dish infused with the flavor of coffee. Shirley wows Chef Keller with her beef recipe with garlic and coffee and wins $10,000 and immunity in the elimination challenge.

Shirley (being adorable) gushes how she will be using the money to buy a new air conditioner for her house – which is a much needed item when living in Las Vegas.

Elimination Challenge

There are quite a few guests on this week’s episode. Hubert Keller showed up for the Quickfire and Anthony Mackey and Leah Chase will be present at the Elimination Challenge. As if that were not pressure enough, the chefs are challenged to recreate dishes from their family. As the chefs ponder the possibilities of their dishes, many of them get teary and and choked up thinking about their families who they haven’t seen in quite some time.

The chefs are quite quiet while cooking their dishes, seemingly lost in their own little world. While there is little to no drama between chefs, there is plenty lurking just below the surface of each chef. No one wants to get sent home for cooking their grandmother’s dumplings. Talk about adding insult to injury.


Carlos: Cochinita Pibil with Black Beans, Orange Pico De Gallo & Corn Tortilla
Brian: Korean BBQ New York Strip with Potato Salad
Travis: Biscuits with Maple Sage Sausage Gravy & Sour Plum Jam
Nicholas: Rocotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Peas, Lemon & Parmesan
Shirley: Beijing Noodles, Fermented Bean & Pork Sauce with Pickled Radish
Stephanie: Mussels with Spicy Pickled Peppers & Tomatoes
Justin: Lousiana Rice with Chicken Thigh Gravy, Pickled Mirliton & Jalapeño
Carrie: Creamed Asparagus over Toast & Poached Egg
Nina: Curried Chicken with Fried Bakes

Each chef has a sweet story to share about their recipe that adds even more charm to their dish. Many of the chefs get choked up thinking about their parents, grandparents and kids. Poor Nicholas can hardly get through the description of his daughter’s favorite gnocchi recipe. You just want to give him a giant hug then send him back in the kitchen to whip up some more food. It would be devastating to get sent home for this challenge.

Judges Table

The judges have an incredibly tough time deciding what chefs are on the top and in the bottom. They settle on Carlos, Stephanie and Nicholas for their top three chefs. They commend Stephanie for her unique combination of pickled peppers and mussels and the unbelievable flavors that Carlos brought to his dish. It’s the creaminess and overall perfection of Nicholas’ Gnudi that clinches him the win. I’m worried he’ll start crying again, but he holds it together. I’m sure he can’t wait to tell his daughter about her dish and the win it brought him.

In the bottom are Brian, Justin and Travis. While their dishes were solid, each had a small issue here and there that got them chosen for the bottom. Brian’s issue had to do with the method of cooking his steak. He needed a grill, but settled on a grill pan when there was no grill to be found. Justin’s dish suffered from too little sauce, causing the dish to be slightly dry.

Unfortunately for Travis, his biscuits failed to impress a bunch of Southern judges with their raw doughy centers and he gets sent home. At least he can feel great about the remainder of his dish, which the judges loved.

This was another great episode in a line of solid challenges and recipes so far in this season. It just goes to show how much talent is packed into this cast, and they’re sure to make for a fantastic second half of the season, not to mention a killer finale.