- There are only four chefs remaining, and this week's exciting episode includes a trip to a Rockies ranch and a family-inspired challenge.
Welcome to Talking Top Chef, a weekly blog where we review the latest episode from the best reality show on TV. I’m going to fill you in on a little secret: Shortly after the season premiere last month, I discovered Top Chef is extremely popular at Sports Illustrated. From Crossover writers to our very own managing editor, this show is loved by so many over here. (Even Rob Gronkowski's been on it!)
And why shouldn’t it be? It has everything: Amazing food, intense competition, plus the chefs are insanely talented. But more often than not they can also be erratic and unpredictable, which makes for great entertainment.
As for me? I’m obsessed. As a result, we decided the logical move would be to start reviewing the show here at SI Eats. So let’s get down to business.
Season 16, Episode Twelve; “Sunday Supper”
Well, folks. This is the first episode since Chris left so I’m still trying to recuperate. I’ll be fine.
I’ll be okay.
Alright, let’s get to it.
All in all, it’s been a great series and to be honest, we can’t deny the level of talent on this show. There have been some tough challenges along the way (I think the quick-fire challenges have been tough as hell this season) but we are now getting to serious business as we reach the top four: Carrie, Adrienne, Mustache Joe and Joe Flamm.
The more I think about it, the more I want Joe Flamm to win. His personality, his food and most importantly, his comeback return from Last Chance Kitchen make him a true warrior in this one.
I’m happy with these four but I’m now betting all my chips on Joe Flamm from Chicago.
As the chefs meet Padma in a ranch in the Rockies, she is joined by the VOLTAGGIO BROTHERS. Yeeeeesssss. They are back on the show for the first time since competing against each other in season six.
The quick-fire challenge involved Rocky Mountain oysters, or as we like to call them, cattle testicles. Yum.
“Hope no one is allergic to nuts,” says Padma.
Never change, Padma Laksmhi. Never change.
The challenge? Create a 30-minute dish with these bad boys, but cooked in two ways. The winner will receive an advantage in the elimination challenge.
Carrie, of course, was basically expecting this challenge, while Flamm has also cooked them before. We’ll see who takes it home.
The issue with Rocky Mountain Oysters is the texture (soft, chewy) is not ideal so Carrie decides to grind them, so this part is THE WORST.
Guys, this challenge is not easy. Aside from the main ingredient, the fact that you have to make two versions in less than 30 minutes is insane.
You need balls to win this one.
No more puns.
Time’s up, and Mustache Joe has made cornflake-breaded rocky mountain oysters braised with white-bean puree and brown butter. They look good, so I’ll give him that.
Adrienne gives the judges rocky mountain oyster dashi with chili oil and fried rocky mountain oyster. Padma seems impressed.
Flamm went with fried and pureed as well with white beans and amatriciana sauce rocky mountain oysters, which is actually very similar to Mustache Joe’s. We’ll see how they fare.
Finally, Carrie cooked a paté version of oysters and then fried them with garlic and shallots.
By the end, the judges were impressed but Joe Flamm and Carrie failed at this one. Adrienne brought it with her dashi and Mustache Joe delivered with diversity for both dishes. Note: Joe hasn’t won a quick-fire challenge all season.
The winner? Mustache Joe. Man, he’s on fire. We’ll find out the elimination challenge soon enough and what his advantage entails.
As they drive to another destination, the chefs get more nervous by the second. They’ve arrived at the observatory in the mountains and Padma asks them to explore. Hmmm…. this seems too mysterious.
Of course! This is the episode where they cook for their loved ones. So as they open a door, their parents and grandparents greet them with excitement, ready to congratulate their insane journey, but they also cooked! Lasagna, rigatoni and meatballs, gumbo…. so much food made by the family members. So much love. So much crying.
I love this show.
Mustache Joe’s dad chokes up when he talks about his wife, Joe’s mom, who passed away from cancer a few years ago and how food is such a reminder of how much they miss her. It’s a heart-warming moment that I can sadly connect to as my own mother passed away when I was 12 years old from the same, rotten disease.
Suddenly I realize that I have a lot in common with Mustache Joe and now I want him to win the whole thing. Like, really badly. Also, he’s making lasagna, a dish that brings so much sadness and joy at the same time.
Man, I can relate so much.
This is rough.
And… I’m crying.
Ok, moving on!
Adrienne’s mom tells the story of how her daughter was basically raised in a restaurant, as she used to be a waitress and front of house while Carrie was quite the athlete and had many boyfriends.
Oh, boy. There goes mom embarrassing us again.
Padma proceeds to explain the elimination challenge and it’s probably no surprise to tell you that it obviously has to do with the families. The chefs have to create an innovative dish inspired by their family members’ meals.
Because Joe won the quick-fire challenge, he’ll have an additional 30 minutes of prep time, so that gives him a full two hours.
Adrienne is really worried cause there really is no such thing as 90-minute gumbo, which is what her mother made for the day.
“You couldn’t have made a cookie?” asks Adrienne.
We love ya, girl.
Mustache Joe is considering changing the dish, but including the elements of a lasagna. We’ll see how it goes.
Carrie seems to be struggling with her beef stroganoff but I have so much confidence in her, there’s no way she’s messing this up.
Alright, here comes the food.
Mustache Joe delivers his pig’s feet rotolo with braised chicken, mushrooms and Swiss chard. The judges and guests really approved of it as it brought all the elements of lasagna but somewhat compartmentalized.
Now comes Carrie and her beef stroganoff with buffalo sausage, mushroom duxelle, herbed crème fraiche and caramelized onions.
Here comes Adrienne and her gumbo. This is going to be interesting. She brings her “mom’s gumbo” butter-poached king crab leg and shrimp with trinity, fried Andouille chips and rice. Tom thought she seasoned it so well.
Finally, Joe Flamm arrives with something I would love to devour: Pork and veal agnolotti with pomodor paste, parmesan and basil. Yum. All in all, it’s a champion and grandma approves.
Unfortunately, someone has to go home and it seems as if this might be the toughest to judge yet.
Tom starts by saying that all in all it was fantastic and Padma echoes his sentiments as she states that it was the best food of this season. The winner? ADRIENNE!!!!!! She finally wins an elimination challenge and has made it to the final three!
Now, who goes home…. well, one thing is clear, there is no loser here. But sadly we have to let go of a chef and let’s remember that all three made a pasta, so that’s the decider.
I’m actually shocked.
She was by far one of the most interesting chefs because she took incredible risks that always paid off. Well done, Carrie. We salute you.
Ok, now I’m going all out for Adrienne. I mean, I still have Mustache Joe as my boy, but I want her to win. She has come so far.
We’re so close, guys!!!
I’ll see you next week.