Top Chef Charleston Recap: Episode 12
By Jason Lee
February 21, 2017
From Charleston to Guadalajara. Earning spots in the Top Chef Finale are John and Sheldon, both from Top Chef Seattle, and Shirley, from Top Chef New Orleans. Sheldon and Shirley both made it to the semi-finals of their respective seasons, but no further, while John didn’t even make it to Restaurant Wars. They’ll each be looking to go all the way this time around… but there’ll be one additional chef rejoining the competition from Last Chance Kitchen.
Aaaaaaand it’s Brooke. Holy cow. Probably the biggest threat to win the title this entire season, I cannot imagine that the other finalists are excited to see Brooke come back. Things just got real.
Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the caliber of chefs from the Top Chef Seattle season, who now make up 75% of this year’s finale? Wow.
Cooking to win a “big advantage” in the finale, the cheftestants are tasked with cooking a dish in Chivas stadium that “honors” that city’s soccer team . . . by making a dish that features the Chivas mascot - the goat (how that’s an “honor,” I’m not sure). When Top Chef promises a “big advantage,” they’re not usually kidding. With that in mind, the chefs bust their butts for 45 minutes putting together the best goat dish they can.
Knowing that goat can be really chewy, Sheldon smartly goes for the goat cheeks. Shirley has worked with this ingredient in the past, but typically uses a preparation that takes two days. She improvises using a pressure cooker for her goat and a tortilla press to make her noodles. Meanwhile, Brooke decides to use goat ribs in her dish, despite having never cooked goat ribs, and John is struggling to crisp up his goat meat, as the cooking of his protein has come out uneven.
With time up, Shirley presents her dish first to the judges. She has a braised goat breast with a tortilla-pressed noodle. Tom enjoys her use of different textures and the sourness she imparted to the dish. Brooke has goat ribs with chamomile and guijillo chile. This is Padma’s first time eating goat ribs and she loves them. John serves a crispy goat torta, with mounds of bread and a fire-roasted tomato sauce. Padma enjoys the sauce but finds the meat chewy. Finally, Sheldon has a braised goat cheek in ancho chile with avocado. Tom wishes there was a bit more heat, but loves the contrast between the goat cheek and his salsa.
Getting lauds for the way she paired goat and fruit, Brooke goes from elimination, to Last Chance Kitchen winner, to the winner of the first Quickfire in the finale. She’s turned things around and building momentum. For the win, she gets a $10,000 check, plus that aforementioned “big advantage.”
And it’s definitely big. The elimination challenge asks the chefs to provide food and drink for a party of 100 workers at the Patron distillery in the city. As an ode to Mexico’s most famous spirit, the dish should feature each of the flavors that’s present in a good margarita—sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. The chefs will also have to make their own margarita to pair with their dish. They’ll be judged on their dish, margarita, and the pairing of the two.