SEASON 18 OF TOP CHEF IS HERE, and a 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). Also, read more about recently ousted Houston-based contestant Sasha Grumman (who has a great focaccia hustle).
The season continued with episode 13 on Thursday night. How did chef Burrell do?
By the way ... SPOILERS BELOW.
How Dawn Did
Three contestants left: Shota Nakajima, Gabe Erales, and Dawn Burrell. And of the final three, Burrell has had the biggest problem, and that's been getting everything on her plates. An immediate montage put the narrative up front once again.
Then it was Quickfire time, and the chefs were tasked with digging for and cooking with clams. She channeled the Gulf Coast and came up with butter clam bisque with apple and pepper salad. She had some difficulty pureeing her broth, and ultimately she fell short of winning the challenge. Erales took the Quickfire.
For the Elimination Challenge, there was more seafood, and this time they were honoring James Beard with one of his favorite foods: Dungeness crabs. The chefs had to prepare both a cold and hot dish featuring these crabs, but not before they got to go crabbing. After nabbing some crustaceans, they sat with chef Gregory Gourdet, ate their catch, and talked shop. Specifically, Gourdet told Burrell that to best avoid plate issues ... maybe put less on a plate to begin with.
So, what was Burrell going to do with her crab? How about a Viet-Cajun crab boil? Heck yes. But before she got to cooking, legendary chef Alice Waters checked in via video to give the final three a big pep talk. Burrell was awestruck. Then it was go time.
Burrell's boil was taking longer than she had expected. Nevertheless, while her competitors ran into trouble, Burrell seemed all good with her cold dish: Dungeness crab salad with cashew soup and pickled oyster mushrooms. It looked terrific. The judges loved the combination of crab and cashew, though there was some debate on whether the additional garnishes were necessary.
As for the hot dish, Burrell couldn't get her potatoes in her boil. To her, that was everything and would kick her out of the competition.
Burrell made a Pacific crab boil: Dungeness crab in beer-based broth. The judges, while cracking and biting, ultimately thought everything was incredible and worthy of Beard. The one complaint: Nothing to sop up the sauce with. But it didn't seem as bad as Burrell thought.
Surprisingly, she was honest with the judges and let them know she was supposed to give them potatoes. Was that a good idea?
Well, Nakajima won the challenge. That meant it was between Burrell and Erales. One would go home, one would be in the finale. And Burrell ...
Is going to the finale.
And so is Erales.
The three chefs are all going to the finale next week.
She's in the finale. What an awesome showing by Burrell on Top Chef. Has she slipped up a little? Yes, but we've heard all season that her flavors and compositions are on point. She deserves the honor.
Nakajima has to be the favorite as he's done his best work in the weeks leading up to the finale, but as we've seen all season, it really just comes down to the dish in front of the judges. Next week, the chefs have to make the four-course meal of their lives—simple on the surface but a massive challenge for over-thinkers and under-thinkers alike. If Burrell gives the judges complete and thoughtful dishes—and doesn't overthink it—she can definitely win.
That's all we've got. Go, Dawn!