Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high comes with big falls


Five remaining chefs have reached the summit of Top Chef Season 15, but the Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 had one favorite fall far.

As the chefs left Denver behind, the competition hit a new peak. The Top Chef Colorado finale part one sought to push the chefs out of their comfort zones, again. From cooking with unusual ingredients to cooking at elevation, these two challenges were very technically difficult. Could a fan favorite survive or is the competition building toward a local winner?

Top Chef Colorado finale part one opened with the winner of Last Chance Kitchen coming back into the competition. Joe (Chicago Joe) earned his spot in the finale. He is an amazing chef with a huge culinary pedigree. While it appeared that Brother was on a Last Chance Kitchen winning streak, Joe’s well balanced dish won over the Last Chance Kitchen judges.

With a chef returning, there is always a twist in the competition. The other four chefs had already chosen their ingredients for the Quickfire challenge. This challenge had the chefs incorporate sarsaparilla into a dish. Joe was able to take one ingredient from the other four chefs.

The key to this challenge was highlighting the sarsaparilla. That beverage has many flavors layered in it. Unlike other sodas, this beverage is more than just sweet. Pulling out the ginger or earthiness to the sarsaparilla would make for a smart dish.

Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high photo from Bravo

While no one was going home on this Quickfire, the winner would receive $10,000. Some of the chefs pushed themselves and Carrie made toast, again. Sure, toast is trending and toast can be delicious. But, why does Carrie always seem to make toast. The simple answer is that she wins every time she serves the judges toast.

One of the keys with Top Chef is to make clean, well thought out, perfectly executed dishes. The overly complicated dishes with tons of ingredients can be a problem. When one component goes wrong, the whole dish can be a disaster. A simple dish, like toast, done properly is a perfect bite. Simplicity can win Top Chef.

Carrie won the Quickfire challenge. The other chefs seemed to grumble at her choice of toast, again. Still, she has $10,000 in her pocket and they don’t.

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The Elimination Challenge loomed large for the five chefs. Taking advantage of Telluride’s picturesque landscape, the chefs took on the cooking high challenge, literally. The chefs had to create a fining dining dish at extreme altitude.

Cooking at altitude takes adaptation. Baked goods don’t rise as well. Frying can take longer. Due to the lack of oxygen, everything is different. A dish that works at sea level can be a complete disaster at 16,000 feet.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to incorporate a baked element in their dishes. This element could spell disaster for the chefs. Baking tends to be very precise and baking at altitude takes practice. Even with the night before trial run, the chefs might need to prepare for a very big fall.

Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high photo from Bravo

Expectantly, the chefs did extremely well in this challenge. The baked components rose to the occasion (pun intended). The differences between the top dishes and the bottom dishes were very minimal. But, Top Chef is a competition and someone has to go home.

The three top dishes were by Joe (Chicago), Joe (Mustache) and Adrienne. If anyone would had said that Adrienne would in the finale at the beginning of Top Chef Colorado, I would have been shocked. In several of the first challenges, she was in the bottom and cooked some horrible dishes.

Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high photo from Bravo

Adrienne’s dish was composed and quintessential fine dining. Lobster, caviar and champagne infused sauce is definitely a fine dining dish. She adapted well with her baked component. The dish was precise and flavorful. While I would have eaten this dish (and paid $100 for it), she didn’t win the challenge.

The two Joes were on the top. These two dishes were a little confusing. Mustache Joe’s duck with a stuffed puff had a smart combination of flavors. The umami punch elevated the dish. While his baked component wasn’t necessarily the best, it was a creative dish.

Joe (Chicago) went for a homey, Southern influenced dish. His goat cheese biscuits played off the other sweet components on the plate. He hadn’t shown this side of his cooking all season. If he knew how to make Art Smith’s biscuits (having cooked at Table 52), why didn’t he show this side of his cooking before? Joe has more tricks in his knife roll than just Italian cuisine.

The judges chose Joe (mustache) with his duck as the winner. This dish didn’t seem like the best choice. While he had the most complex flavor combinations, his baked component was the best. I would have voted for Adrienne or Joe (Chicago).

Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high photo from Bravo

The bottom two chefs were Chris and Carrie. Chris’ dish suffered from technical issues. Frying quail was a risky choice. The quail took on a little too much oil, because it takes longer to fry foods at altitude. His cornbread was divine. That baked component showed that he truly is a Southern cuisine expert.

Carrie’s dish lacked a clear connection to her. While each item on the plate was well cooked and technically sound, the dish didn’t seem to have heart. She abandoned her original plan of a deconstructed beef wellington. This beef dish was nice, but not inspiring.

Top Chef Colorado finale part 1 recap: Cooking high photo from Bravo

Because of the frying issue, Chris was sent home. It was very disappoint to see Chris leave. His food has heart. Each dish has meaning and a purpose. It goes to show that when a chef is connected to the food he prepares, that feeling appears on the plate.

While Carrie has come a long way in Top Chef Colorado, she needs more conviction in her food. She still seems to doubt herself. It could be a problem that many women chefs face (a topic for another time). When she finds her focus, Carrie can produce an amazing plate of food.

From the four remaining chefs, it seems likely that the Joes have an edge going into Top Chef Colorado’s last episode. While their journey has been up and down, the judges seem to favor them. Still, nothing is a given in this series. Remember Richard Blais’ first finale?

Top Chef Colorado finale part one is over. Do you have a prediction for the winner of Top Chef Colorado?