After last week’s football field showdown, Top Chef’s ability to reach more intensity was unknown. And in true demand, here we are in episode 3 with the stakes even higher.
Houston is home to a large Asian community — and this week, contestants were tasked to showcase a dish that reflects the diverse background. This episode opened with 13 remaining chefs greeted with an Asian Night Market inside the Top Chef kitchen.
We all would’ve thought that the introduction of the Asian Night Market would signal the first quick-fire challenge, but that was wrong. To my surprise (and I’m sure the chefs), this week was absent of a quick-fire challenge. Instead, the chefs were immediately pushed to an elimination challenge, raising the stakes.
In place of the quick-fire challenge, acclaimed chefs from notable Asian restaurants in the city stepped into the Top Chef Asian Night Market kitchen. You’ll see a few familiar restaurants like Mala Sichuan Bistro, Kiran’s, Dumpling Haus, Shun Japanese Kitchen, Crawfish & Noodles, The Fattest Cow, The Blind Goat and Xin Chao. The restaurants cooked traditional Asian fare for the 13 cheftestants to draw inspiration from to create their own unique street food dish. The dish would be served for 100 guests at the newly opened POST Houston and critiqued by the judges.
Plus, instead of grouping together like past challenges, this week was individual.
The chefs traveled to Asian grocers such as the Hong Kong Food Market in Alief and Viet Hoa International Foods in New Chinatown to gather their ingredients for the ethnic dishes they planned to prepare.
This challenge may have come as a shocker for some chefs, but fortunately for us, it was perfect for the lone Houstonian, Chef Evelyn García, with her speciality being in Southeast Asian fare. Upon drawing knives, García selected Vietnamese; she decided to prepare a poached chicken salad with fresh ruam ram and rambutan laid atop a sesame seed crisp. Cooking avante-garde, she decided to also add an avocado crema to help showcase her Latin roots. (What better way to show Houston’s diversity?)
Garcia received high praise from the judges, with Tom Colicchio saying, “If I didn’t have 10 other things to eat, I’d ask for a second.” Guest judging this week alongside host Padma Lakismi was Top Chef Miami winner Hung Huynh, who is the newly appointed culinary consultant for Hilton Resorts in Bimini, Bahamas. Huynh said García’s dish was authentic and reminded him of Vietnam.
Chef Evelyn, along with Jae Jung and Jackson Kalb, had the three favorite dishes among the judges, but, unfortunately, she lost the challenge to Chef Jae, for her stir-fry udon noodle with Chinese sausage, Korean melon and ramen topping.
Watch Top Chef every Thursday night on Bravo.