Top Chef Colorado episode 12 recap: Sentimental suppers


As the chefs reach the end of their Top Chef journey, Top Chef Colorado episode 12 channels family memories into an emotional Sunday dinner.

With only a few more episodes before the Top Chef winner is crowned, the competition is more difficult. Long hours, time away from family and the competition pressure can make even the best chef crumble. Top Chef Colorado episode 12 brought a little laughter and love to the kitchen.

This week’s episode started with a quirky Quickfire. The chefs had to create a dish using Rocky Mountain oysters, that’s bull’s testicles. The bad puns were plentiful in the first couple of minutes. While some people groaned at the thought of eating Rocky Mountain oysters, others were groaning at the horrible puns.

The chefs had to create a dish using Rocky Mountain oysters two ways. This protein is very lean, which can cause an unpleasant texture in your mouth. The key to a good dish is to make that texture more palatable.

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Joe Satso (aka Mustache Joe) did a great job of creating both flavor and texture. Treating the Rocky Mountain oyster like a sweetbread, the dish highlighted the ingredient while making it pleasant to eat. He won the challenge because his dish succeeded in both texture and presentation.

Mustache Joe is on a roll. After a few stumbles in previous episodes, he has found a new focus. His dishes have stripped away the complicated techniques for complicated sake. He is cooking with a purpose and seems almost unstoppable.

A big surprise in the Quickfire was that Adrienne was also a top dish. She treated the Rocky Mountain oysters like other type of offal sacks. Her broth was complex in flavor but didn’t mask the iron-like quality of the balls. She, too, is cooking strong going into the final competitions.

It was unusual that the two chefs with Rocky Mountain Oyster experience did poorly. Both Carrie and Joe Flamm (Chicago Joe) had worked with this ingredient before. Unfortunately, Chicago Joe didn’t cook the Rocky Mountain oysters well, which left the texture quite chewy. Carrie’s pate/puree was somewhat off putting.

Top Chef Colorado episode 12, photo from Bravo

With the Rocky Mountain oysters challenge behind them, the chefs wondered if the Elimination challenge would feature another unusual ingredient. Instead, this challenge was more emotional. Awaiting the chefs were family members who made a special Sunday dinner.

Chefs, just like any family, have special food memories. Many of us have Sunday dinner traditions. From grandma’s gravy to dad’s smoked pulled pork, Sunday dinners are both a food tradition and a family gathering time. These experiences create memories. While some of the people may no longer sit at the table, the food, in all of its aromas, textures and tastes, brings back those precious moments from the past.

For the Elimination challenge, the chefs had to elevate the Sunday dinner dishes that their family members cooked. While the home cook can cook extremely well, those dishes may not be exactly the same dish as a restaurant version. It’s not exactly that one is better than the other. Rather, one is more technically advanced than the other.

The surprising element to this particular challenge is that three of the four dishes were pasta. From Chicago Joe’s meatballs and manicotti to Carrie’s beef stroganoff, pasta seemed to translate into a Sunday supper. While these foods are comforting, those foods aren’t easily translated into an elevated dish.

Top Chef Colorado episode 12, photo from Bravo

One of the dishes that could have gone terribly wrong was Adrienne’s gumbo. Anyone who has tried to make gumbo knows that it takes hours to develop a well flavored rue. Re-creating this dish in 90 minutes was a huge task.

Adrienne’s approach was quite thoughtful. Instead of cooking all the traditional gumbo ingredients together and allowing them to marry flavors, she cooked the components separately. Each ingredient was seasoned perfectly. While the ingredients didn’t absorb the other flavors due to the time constraints, the dish was superb.

By thinking outside of the box, Adrienne won the Elimination Challenge. It was her first win of the season. Her approach to the challenge was smart and her technique was spot on. This gumbo showed both the talent and heart that Adrienne can have in the kitchen.

Top Chef Colorado episode 12, photo from Bravo

All of the chefs did an exemplary job. The other three chefs didn’t have bad dishes and there was no bottom dish this week. Still one chef had to be eliminated.

Mustache Joe had a tough task redefining lasagna with pig feet sauce. While his dish visually looked nothing like his dad’s lasagna with pig feet ragu, the dish had the same flavor profiles. The best comment of the night came from Joe’s dad, looking at this dish I really hope it tastes good.

This dish exemplified the purpose of the challenge. The flavors of the traditional, home Sunday dinner came through in every bite. The presentation was a visually impressive one that is expected from a Top Chef restaurant.

The other Italian influenced dish, Chicago Joe’s pasta with Sunday gravy, balanced the inspiration from his grandma with his chef technique. Many home chefs can create a delicious Sunday gravy, but that sauce can become broken. Joe made the same flavorful sauce with proper technique.

Top Chef Colorado episode 12, photo from Bravo

For many families, Sunday gravy is a tradition. If Joe had messed this dish up, he wouldn’t be welcome back at the table. The dish didn’t need a “chefy” approach. It needed to stay true it its roots, which he did.

Finally, Carrie had to reimagine beef stroganoff. This dish was also a difficult one to reinvent in an elevated way. Her approach to make a raviolo with game meat was a nice acknowledgement to her family and Colorado. The dish had all the classic ingredients of a beef stroganoff, but in a different way.

Top Chef Colorado episode 12, photo from Bravo

Carrie’s downfall was that her sauce wasn’t complete. At the bottom of the plate, she used just crème frache. If she added some additional flavor from the braising liquid, her sauce would have been more layered and the dish more complex.

While Carrie had a good dish, it didn’t measure up to the other three chef’s dishes. Carrie was sent home. With this elimination, a local Colorado chef won’t be named winner of Top Chef Colorado.

Next: Who's the favorite to win Top Chef?

Three chefs continue onto Aspen. Which chef will reach the ultimate summit of Top Chef Colorado victory? Who’s your pick for the winner?