SEASON 18 OF TOP CHEF IS HERE, and one (we started the season with two, but Sasha Grumman was eliminated from competition) Houston chef is 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) as she battles each week (Thursday nights on Bravo).
The season continued with episode five Thursday night. How did our remaining chef do?
By the way ... SPOILERS BELOW.
How Dawn Did
Let's start with the Quickfire Challenge. For Mother's Day, and to honor Portland's place as the "City of Roses," each chef had to make a dish that incorporates roses to pay tribute to their mothers (or a mother figure). Burrell chose to make a fried doughnut but seemed to be rushing at the very end. Her concoction, a fennel and rose fritter with macerated peaches and rose cream, received compliments from the judges. The positivity didn't quite get her in the top three, though, and Chris Viaud took the win.
For the Elimination Challenge, Top Chef created a pop-up drive-in theater. The chefs, divided into two teams, would have to feed 50 cars each six courses (inspired by film genres). Each chef would be responsible for a course (and would then go head-to-head against an opposing chef). High concept, much?
Burrell got paired with Gabe Erales, Avishar Barua, Maria Mazon, and Byron Gomez, and was put at a disadvantage because Viaud chose to join the opposing team, as per his Quickfire Challenge stipulation. As the members figured out their dishes and decided to collaborate on the genre "romance," Burrell took the genre "drama" and opted for a juxtaposition of popcorns: one drama, one comedy. She immediately and playfully talked smack to her opposition's "drama" chef, Viaud, as she created her popcorn.
Her dish was duo of popcorns: duck skin furikake popcorn and spiced caramel popcorn. As teased last week, Gail Simmons asked why Burrell made popcorn when she had four hours, but it was clear that it was a classic bait and switch. She nailed the idea of drama while presenting an elevated version of an easy-to-eat drive-in treat. In fact, judge Tom Colicchio downed more than one serving, and Burrell won her challenge over Viaud. The cherry on top: Burrell got singled out by judge Richard Blais for one of the top dishes of the night.
What's more, her disadvantaged team defeated the opposition via a tiebreaker—Gomez's Korean fried chicken was the No. 1 bite of the evening—which meant she couldn't be eliminated. Ultimately, it was the opposing team's Jamie Tran that got cut.
Yup, things are looking good for Burrell, who is one of the few chefs who hasn't yet finished in the bottom three. She played a fine teammate in a strong group and has once again showed she can marry big flavor and creativity.
Next week will have two eliminations. It also looks as if chefs will be in pairs, with Burrell hanging with the Austin-based Erales. That seems like a pretty dynamite team; we'll see how it goes.