Top Chef Colorado Recap
By Jason Lee
January 8, 2018
As the chefs enter the Top Chef kitchen for today’s Quickfire, they’re met by an unexpected and totally perplexing sight: two Top Chef veterans (Kwame from Top Chef season 13 and Lee Anne Wong from the inaugural season of Top Chef) running furiously around the kitchen as they frantically try to finish up a dish, while recent eliminated chef Claudette does the same at her cookstation.
Needless to say, they have no idea what’s going on.
Tom quickly brings them up to speed. Last Chance Kitchen has taken a different route this season. Four Top Chef vets (Kwame and Lee Anne plus the infamous Marcel Vigneron from Top Chef season 2 and Jen Carroll from Top Chef season 6) started out cooking against each other and then each of the eliminated cheftestants from this season.
The only ones left standing are Kwame, Lee Anne, and Claudette, who’s been on fire lately, winning the last two Last Chance Kitchen challenges. The trio are cooking offal, with the winner punching a ticket back into the competition, immediately.
Jen Carroll warns the current cast that they should worry about whoever makes it back in, and Tom echoes that, saying some of the best food on the season so far has been in Last Chance Kitchen. The cheftestants start discussing internally who they’d prefer to see win . . . and most agree on Claudette. They have no interest in having a vet re-enter the competition, and after what happened last year, where the vets absolutely demolished the newbie chefs, I don’t blame them.
Time runs out and Claudette goes first with a picadillo tetala with chicken livers and cherries. Kwame goes next, serving a chicken heart sofrito with crispy shallots and confit potatoes. Lee Anne rounds things out with some beef liver dumplings with garlic, shallots, and chili oil.
Tom praises the chefs for not shying away from the offal, offering minor nitpicks—Lee Anne’s liver sauce was a tad too thick, Kwame’s choice of serving platter didn’t let the food breathe, and Claudette’s dish was a bit anchovy-forward. As he ponders his decision, which he calls “one of the tougher decisions” over the past fifteen seasons, Padma comes in to show off the shiny new Top Chef coat that the winner will have the pleasure of donning in mere minutes.
That person will not be Kwame. Tom cuts him first and Kwame is visibly devastated—he tells us that it’s almost worse being cut now because he was so close to making it back in. It’s down to two chefs for one spot and Tom is agonizing over his decision. In the end, he decides to “go with his gut” . . .
IT’S A TIE. OMG OMG OMG. That’s freaking insane. Tom declares the whole thing a TIE and both Claudette and Lee Anne are rejoining the competition. Tom promises us that this was not planned and that his decision was made on the fly, simply because both dishes were so darn good. Padma is clearly surprised, saying that she only has one Top Chef jacket but will try to find another one.
Meanwhile, the cheftestants are not happy. Not only do they get a vet in the competition, but they also get an on-fire Claudette who’s ready to show everyone why she deserves the title. They are afraid. And you know what? They should be. Very afraid.
The Last Chance Kitchen cook-off will take the place of today’s Quickfire, so the cheftestants are headed straight to the Elimination Challenge, and it’s a doozy. Padma notes that no trip to Colorado would be complete without a trip outdoors, and thus, the cheftestants will be going camping in the Denver mountains and snow in Estes Park. They’ll have to make their own fire, pitch their own tents, and make a five-star-worthy meal using camping equipment and whatever they can pack up from the Top Chef pantry.
The chefs’ faces say it all—this does not promise to be fun. Once Padma leaves, they book it to the pantry table and attempt to grab every possible ingredient they might consider using (cause if they don’t get it now, they ain’t getting it later). Produce gets dropped, eggs splatter onto the floor—it’s a disgusting mess.
The chefs head into the cars to go out and buy some campfire cooking equipment, seemingly making some strange decisions along the way. Carrie has an idea to bake a cake outside in a large dutch oven like her dad used to, while Bruce toys with the idea of making a fresh pasta, despite the obvious absence of a pasta machine.
Upon arriving at the campground, the chefs find that (as Tanya puts it) it’s worse than they thought. There are feet of snow everywhere, and so the chefs immediately get to work digging out the picnic tables from under the snow so that they’ll have space to start preparing their dishes. They also vainly (until Carrie takes over) attempt to pitch their tents.
With nowhere to wash their hands and seemingly no sanitary place in which to prepare food, the chefs strap lights to their heads (the kind that coal miners used to use when heading down into the tunnels) so that they can get some of their prep work done before night descends. Between the spooky forest, increasing darkness, and flood of narrow beams of light emanating from the chefs’ foreheads, it looks more like Top Chef: X-Files than Top Chef: Denver.