Top Chef Charleston Recap: Episode 11

By Jason Lee

February 14, 2017

#1 in our heart now and forever.

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It’s crunch time... though, to be fair, it’s felt like crunch time for the last four episodes or so. With such a high caliber of chefs in this competition, there really isn’t any room for error any more - any little thing can send you home. Though now, with only four chefs remaining, and three tickets to the Top Chef finale in Guadalajara, it really is crunch time. It’s about to get real.

The cheftestants enter the Top Chef Kitchen and find Padma standing next to multiple-time James Beard Award=winning chef Michael Solomonov. Borrowing a challenge from Top Chef Masters, the chefs will put their communication skills to the test by working with an unknown person to each make identical looking and identical tasting dishes. The catch? The cheftestant and the mystery person will be separated by a partition, meaning that the chef will be able to tell the person what to do, but won’t be able to see what they’re actually doing.

In total Top Chef fashion, the mystery persons are not mysteries at all, but loved ones. We have Brooke’s sister and the spouses of Sheldon, Shirley, and John. Padma starts the challenge and the chefs, who each have the same ingredients and tools, immediately start trying to figure out what they can make that will be delicious enough to win but simple enough for a non-chef to make without any actual assistance and minimal guidance.

As the clock ticks away, the chefs slice, sear, and plate their dishes, all the while yelling across the partition certain instructions and tips to their respective partners - with Shirley’s voice (unsurprisingly) carrying the furthest. It seems almost unbelievable, but three of the four chefs have no idea who they’re working with. Only Sheldon discerns that the person on the other side of the partition is his wife. Everyone else is oblivious. Chalk it up to nerves and adrenaline, I guess?


In the end, all four dishes are successes and each pair of dishes is quite similar in appearance and taste. John and his wife have a pan-seared scallop with jumbo lump crab that are both prepared well. Shirley and her husband produce scrambled eggs with brown butter and a crab ragout that are well-seasoned, though a bit better by Shirley’s husband. Brooke and her sister have collard greens, a bacon hash, and a poached egg that, again, taste great. And Sheldon and his wife serve a six-minute egg with sautéed mushrooms and charred onions that features a subtle citrus element.

Sheldon ends up winning the challenge, a sous vide machine, and $10,000, which Sheldon vows to take to Vegas.

Pivoting from tangible rewards to intangible awards, the winner of the Elimination Challenge will get the opportunity of a lifetime - the chance to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. Three of our remaining chefs have been nominated for James Beard Awards (the Oscars of the cooking world, we’re told): Sheldon, Shirley, and John. For the chef that makes the winning dish - a dish that must represent the chef’s journey during his or her time in Charleston - they’ll get the ultimate opportunity to develop a whole menu for service at the James Beard House.

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