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Top Chef All Stars S17 E3 Recap: The Art of the Meal

When food becomes a work of art...

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Two episodes in, the bar is starting to be set for the remaining chefs in this all star competition. The episode began following the aftermath of last week’s elimination that proved near perilous for some of the chefs. However, since the contestants of Top Chef don’t often go for the blood and thunder approach that other reality shows opt for, we instead enjoyed a nice scene with Chef Stephanie Cmar, Chef Nini Nguyen, and Chef Karen Akunowicz providing support to each other despite being each other’s competition.

Quickfire Challenge

Host Padma Lakshmi was joined by comedians Randall Park and Ali Wong — stars of the Netflix film Always be My Maybe. Park and Wong introduced the Quickfire Challenge with anecdote about how they first met in college during a fried rice competition in the UCLA dorms. Lakshmi then confirmed to everyone’s suspicions that the Quickfire Challenge was making fried rice using potentially some unorthodox ingredients in under 30 minutes.

World Premiere Of Netflix’s “Always Be My Maybe” Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix

Some of the unorthodox ingredients that the chefs had to choose from included watermelon, peanut butter and jelly, frog legs, flaming hot Cheetos, and spam. But, despite some of the curveball ingredients, immunity in the upcoming Elimination Challenge was on the table for the winner of the Quickfire, and the chefs raced to the display table to try and get the winning ingredient(s).

Bottom Three Fried Rice Dishes:

Chef Lynch: Canned meat fried rice, fresno chiles, scallions & whiskey barrel-aged fish sauce

Chef Nguyen: Watermelon fried rice with yuzu, fish sauce, fried chili & shallots

Top Three Fried Rice Dishes:

Chef Kevin: “Bachelor Fried Rice” with wieners, hot cheese puffs, & bourbon

[Note: I’m writing these dish names down verbatim from the show so apologies for Chef Kevin not calling them hot dogs]

Chef Eric: Savory peanut butter & jelly fried rice with fried egg

Chef Karen: Nasi goreng Indonesian fried rice with hot cheese puffs, & egg

Quickfire Challenge Winning Dish:

Chef Kevin’s “Bachelor Fried Rice” with wieners, hot cheese puffs, & bourbon

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Nicole Weingart/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

With the Quickfire and elimination wins last week too, I guess you could say Chef Kevin is on (quick)fire. I don’t deserve to have football back in my life after that joke...

Elimination Challenge

Los Angeles is home to many museums, and Lakshmi informed the chefs that their challenge would be to create a dish inspired by art, specifically, from The Getty Museum. The chefs were then asked to draw knives from the block with each knife having one of three styles of art (Neoclassicism, Baroque Renaissance, and Rococo) written on the blade.

The three styles of would represent mini competitions inside of the elimination challenge as the best chef in the Baroque category would be up against the best chefs in Neoclassicism, Renaissance, and Rococo to win the whole challenge. Second best in each category would be safe while the bottom chef of each category would be up for possible elimination.

Neoclassicism

Chefs Jennifer, Eric, Karen and Kevin

Baroque

Chefs Bryan V., Lisa and Jamie

Renaissance

Chefs Brian M., Nini, and Lee Anne

Rococo

Chefs Melissa, Gregory, and Stephanie

The chefs were whisked away (puns!) to The Getty Museum to find the piece of art in their category that would inspire their dish before heading to the grocery store to get their ingredients. There was a visible juxtaposition between the chefs that were taken with the challenge and others that struggled to discover the inspiration they needed for their dishes.

Visitors walk toward the Research Instit Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Once in the kitchen, some of the chefs who were inspired in the gallery were overwhelmed in the kitchen. Chef Lee Anne’s high-concept Renaissance-inspired dish proved more difficult to plate than she envisioned, as she suggested it was one of worst-looking plates of food she’s served in a long time.

Soon, the alarm clock would mark the end of the three hour cooking window, and the servers arrived to shuttle the dishes off to the judges.

Renaissance:

Chef Nini: Poached halibut, shrimp, crab over seafood gumbo & rice tuile

Chef Brian M.: “Halo of Halibut” roasted carrot, burnt farro, quinoa, beets, chili, & olive

Chef Lee Anne: Duck breast & egg, beet purées, black garlic sauce, bread & celery root purée with poached apple

Baroque:

Chef Bryan V.: Red snapper, smoked sweet potato, celeriac velouté, & parsley oil

Chef Lisa: Chipotle braised brisket, dried fruit, habañero pickled red onions, tomato salsita with chiles & crispy carrots

Chef Jamie: Seared chicken breast with charred citrus gremolata, butternut squash, glazed vegetables, & arugula purée

Rococo:

Chef Stephanie: Mortadella tortellini with umami nage, grapes & horseradish soubise

Chef Melissa: Lobster wonton with shellfish consommé & charred allium oil, vegetables

Chef Gregory: Miso braised short ribs, cauliflower purée, & root vegetables

Neoclassicism:

Chef Eric: Poached halibut, peppercorn broth, buttermilk vinaigrette, & pickled vegetables

Chef Jennifer: Seared red snapper, apple, radish & fennel relish with Tunisian pepper sauce.

Chef Karen: Braised chicken & chicories with brown butter, capers

Chef Kevin: Poached & grilled lamb loin with glazed carrots & feta carrot tops

Based on the initial feedback at the table, the grouping that appeared to catch the judges’ eyes the most was Rococo. Chefs Stephanie and Gregory were commended, and Chef Melissa’s dish was labelled near perfection by one judge while another wished it was dish served in his restaurant. Meanwhile, Neoclassicism proved that beautiful dishes don’t necessarily taste good, as Chef Eric escaped most of the criticism for having a competent dish while the rest of his peers were roasted (more puns!) for lacking substance and inspiration from the time period.

Judges’ Table

Top Dishes: Chef Brian M. (Renaissance), Chef Bryan V. (Baroque), Chef Melissa (Rococo), and Chef Eric (Neoclassicism)

Winner: Chef Melissa’s lobster wonton with shellfish consommé & charred allium oil, vegetables

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Chef Mellisa’s dish appeared to be the clear favorite while the judges were still tasting all the food. Visually, it was one of the most appealing dishes we’ve seen on the show ever, and it was apparently absolutely delicious. Chef Melissa was able to nail the opulence of the Rococo period with her lobster wonton while her broth and vegetables paid homage to the period’s emphasis on nature. If this lobster wonton makes it into a restaurant somewhere, please holla at ya boy!

Bottom Chefs: Chefs Lee Anne (Renaissance), Stephanie (Rococo), Jamie (Baroque), and Karen (Neoclassicism)

[Interesting note: Lakshmi took a second when announcing the bottom chefs to single out Chef Kevin: had he not had immunity, he would’ve been in the bottom in place of Chef Karen. After pulling three straight challenges, it was an interesting turn of events for him to get called out like that.]

Bottom Dish: Chef Jamie’s seared chicken breast with charred citrus gremolata, butternut squash, glazed vegetables & arugula purée

It turns out if you overcook chicken and fail to serve it with a jus to a French chef — after you promised a jus — you’re going to have a bad time. Frankly, it’s a sin to serve dry chicken and Chef Jamie had to pay for those sins.

Pour one out for this week’s eliminated chef: Chef Jamie Lynch

Radja Nainggolan (ayyyyy football reference!), please pack your knives and go.

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Power Rankings after Episode 3

1. Chef Melissa

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

2. Chef Kevin

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

3. Chef Bryan V.

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

4. Chef Gregory

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

5. Chef Brian M.

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

6. Chef Eric

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

7. Chef Lisa

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

8. Chef Nini

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

9. Chef Jennifer

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

10. Chef Karen

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

11. Chef Stephanie

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

12. Chef Lee Anne

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Last Chance Kitchen

After serving up permadeath to Chef Angelo in Last Chance Kitchen last week, Chef Joe was there to receive Chef Jamie to the Last Chance Kitchen challenge. Host Tom Colicchio joined the chefs to present the challenge: a game of chicken.

Chefs Joe and Jamie found themselves in Colicchio’s twisted game of chicken where they challenged each other to make a chicken dish in a shorter amount of time than usual — in this case 24 minutes — as well as limited themselves to only seven ingredients.

Moving on to Round 3 of Last Chance Kitchen: Chef Joe Sasto

Top Chef - Season 17 Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The mustache is gaining momentum...