Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams crush a favorite chef


As Winter Olympics excitement builds, this week’s Top Chef Colorado recap has the chefs feeling both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Top Chef  Colorado seems to be hitting its stride. After Last Chance Kitchen returns, chef health issues and the kitchen drama, the popular cooking competition is finally getting back to the food. With Bravo being part of the Winter Olympics coverage, this Top Chef Colorado recap has an Olympic theme. But, could the chefs earn a medal or would their Olympic dreams go up in flames?

Even though this episode had more food, there was some non-food excitement. A Top Chef Colorado recap side-note, Bruce became a dad in this episode. Truthfully, it was nice to see the chefs rally together to throw Bruce a baby shower. It must be hard to miss your child’s birth because of work. But, that moment of togetherness was short lived.

With that sweet moment out of the way, the chefs’ first challenge, the Quickfire Challenge, took on a favorite with kids, Nutella. Awoken at the house, the chefs were greeted by Padma and Top Chef Season 14 winner Brooke Williamson. Even though the chefs were half asleep, they had to create a breakfast dish in their cramped kitchen featuring Nutella. Working with Nutella wasn’t the difficult part, finding cooking space was the real challenge.

Overall, the Nutella dishes were all rather similar. Crepes, waffles, and French toast were expected. Nutella’s chocolate, hazelnut flavors work well with sweet breakfast items. Truthfully, a few more creative dishes would have been nice.

Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams, photo from Bravo

One chef pushed the limits of Nutella. Carrie pulled out an unusual flavor combination of sweet and savory using the Nutella. Using a poached egg, jalapeno enhanced jelly and a hollandaise, her breakfast was balanced yet innovative. The creative gave Carrie an edge, the victory and immunity in the elimination challenge.

As the chef recovered from the Quickfire Challenge, three USA Olympians announced the Elimination Challenge rules. A team challenge, the Olympic theme challenge featured three parts, speed, precision and creativity. One chef from each team would compete in each challenge segment. With the chefs choosing their own teams, it was almost a dream team against the world.

Before any chef picked up his knives, the blue team, Bruce, Joe and mustache Joe, were a formidable trio. The “bears” are beasts in the kitchen. Creative, technically strong and supportive, this team would be hard to beat without a major mistake on their part. Padma and Tom should have just said this challenge was the race for a silver medal.

Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams, photo from Bravo

While it is understandable that an Olympic themed Top Chef challenge was likely this season, the challenge itself was a little forced. Team challenges are always volatile. The white team, who didn’t really want to be together, had lots of tension. That tension was clear in the food that they served.

The first Olympic themed challenge was speed. The chefs had to quickly, efficiently and effectively plate 40 dishes. Choosing the right dish would put the chefs ahead or behind. Bruce’s polenta was smart. It could be plated easily, wasn’t too heavy and was balanced. It made sense that his dish would earn him a gold medal.

Claudette’s dish wasn’t as successful because it was too complicated. Too many components in a speed round is a poor choice. Also, the team tension worked against her. The attitude between Tanya and Claudette seeped into her food. There was definitely no team effort.

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The second round was precision. From expert knife cuts (some of which many chefs haven’t used since culinary school) to exact temperatures, this round could spell doom before it started. Each chef had to declare the “doneness” of their protein before the challenge. Without a thermometer, they chefs would lose points based on how far off their “declared done” temperature was to the actual temperature.

Anyone who knows cooking took a collective gasp when Tanya said that her lamb chop temperature was 145. No lamb chop is done at 145, that’s over cooked. The sad part was that Tanya’s lamp chop was cooked perfectly, but that didn’t matter. She called the wrong temperature and lost points.

Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams, photo from Bravo

Many chefs test the doneness of their meat by touch. Once learned, it’s easy to determine. No one likes over cooked, dry meat. Sure no chef will serve undercooked chicken, but the thermometer isn’t the only tool to test doneness. Tanya’s error wasn’t a cooking one, it was a mental one.

Due to the errors, Tanya’s score caused her team to fall to the bottom. It wasn’t because her dish was bad. Actually, it was a great dish, full of flavor and delightful. But, the challenge was precision. Her dish didn’t meet that particular challenge.

The final Olympic themed challenge, creativity, would determine which team got silver and which team was up for elimination. Just the reactions of the teams when everyone finished told the results. Without teamwork in a kitchen, the dishes won’t be as successful as they could be.

First, Carrie was very lucky that she had immunity. Her dish was confusing. It scored quite badly. Actually, removing the precision deductions, it was the worse dish of the Olympic themed competition.

Chris gave his dysfunctional team hope. His Korean-influenced short rib dish was bold, creative and smart. The balance of kimchi’s acid with the hearty short rib created a composed bite. He pulled out a great dish on a team full of disharmony.

Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams, photo from Bravo

Joe, mustache Joe, pushed the creativity envelope. Using all his tools in the toolbox, this pasta dish was visually beautiful and quite tasty. While the final score was close, Joe won the creativity challenge. Part of the winning team, mustache Joe won the entire challenge too. He went from bottom to top in a week.

Needless to say, the bottom team featured Claudette, Tanya and Chris. Since Chris’ dish was superb, he wasn’t considered for elimination. One of the two women chefs, whose bickering was quite apparent, would go home.

Top Chef Colorado recap: Olympic dreams, photo from Bravo

Looking at flavor, Tanya should have been safe. Her dish was better than Claudette’s pork belly. The dish was bold yet balanced. Plus, who can resist a beautiful lamb chop.

Still, Tanya failed at her portion of the challenge. She had to conqueror precision. Her dish didn’t have the best knife cuts and her temperature call was way off. Unfortunately, Tanya had to pack her knives and go.

Truthfully, Claudette’s attitude should have been addressed. That attitude caused the team to fail. She shouldn’t have done the speed round. It set her team off to a bad start.

But, this Top Chef Colorado recap is complete. Next week is the episode that every Top Chef fan loves, Restaurant Wars. Wonder what drama will unfold in the kitchen?