SEASON 18 OF TOP CHEF IS HERE, and two (yes, two!) Houston chefs are competing for the ultimate prize ($250,000 and other things) in Portland, Oregon. We're keeping our eyes glued on Dawn Burrell (who's soon to open Late August) and Sasha Grumman (Sasha's Focaccia) as they battle each week (Thursday nights on Bravo).
The season continued with episode four Thursday night. How did our chefs do?
By the way ... SPOILERS BELOW.
How They Did
In the Quickfire Challenge, Campbell's made an appearance (as an advertisement). The idea: Make an elevated dish using a variety of Campbell's soup that evokes a personal food memory. Burrell thought about her mother in concocting a chicken and rice fritter with cream of mushroom and garlic sauce. It looked phenomenal and seemed to win over the judges, but it didn't win Burrell the Quickfire.
The Elimination Challenge put the chefs in the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic route that cuts through an area east of Portland and is home to plentiful orchards. Each had to make a savory dish featuring locally picked fruit, but here's the twist: They couldn't use any vegetables.
Burrell decided while picking her fruit that she wanted to cook duck, and that's all we got until she stepped up to introduce her dish to the judges. The result was caramelized apple risotto with herbs, and apple-glazed duck with Macintosh apple olive oil puree. The judges raved about the apple olive oil puree with host Padma Lakshmi calling it "luscious."
That was enough to keep Burrell from the bottom three, though she didn't reach the top three. Being in the middle this early is just fine.
It's truly all over for Grumman. Her miniature run on Last Chance Kitchen ended with a loss to newly eliminated chef Kiki Louya. Both chefs were given 20 minutes to cook a dish with raw proteins, and Grumman went with citrus-marinated yellowtail and avocado puree with Calabrian chili oil. It fell to Louya's scallop ceviche with peppered relish and tamarind.
It's just Burrell now, and she definitely has a chance. Right now, favorites seem to include El Paso chef Gabe Erales, who won this week's elimination challenge; Gabriel Pascuzzi, a Portland chef who has finished in the top three most of the time; Shota Nakajima, the Japanese chef who has finished in the top three nearly every time; and Sara Hauman, a California chef born in Portland who has won an elimination challenge.
Burrell seems to be settling in. Another win in the next couple weeks would really help, but most importantly, she needs to stay out of the bottom three. So far, she has done that.
Then again, the teaser for next week—in which the chefs make drive-in movie fare—includes this nugget from Gail Simmons: "Dawn had four hours, and she gave us popcorn?"