Next Level Chef semifinals recap: From showtime to final curtain call

NEXT LEVEL CHEF: L-R: Mentors Nyesha Arrington, Gordon Ramsay and Richard Blais in the “Show Stopping Semi-Finals” episode of NEXT LEVEL CHEF airing Wednesday, Feb 23 (8:00-9:00 ET/PT) on FOX © 2022 FOX Media LLC. CR: FOX.
NEXT LEVEL CHEF: L-R: Mentors Nyesha Arrington, Gordon Ramsay and Richard Blais in the “Show Stopping Semi-Finals” episode of NEXT LEVEL CHEF airing Wednesday, Feb 23 (8:00-9:00 ET/PT) on FOX © 2022 FOX Media LLC. CR: FOX. /

As the penultimate episode of the season, the Next Level Chef semifinals had the field cut in half. Although six cooks seemed ready for the spotlight, the reality is that some cooks burned too brightly and missed out on the chance for the grand prize. Which three chefs earned a spot in the Next Level Chef finale?

For the Next Level Chef semifinals, the chefs had to create a showstopping dish. While that description might be vague, the sensational factor that seems clear. Not only did the dish have to be perfectly executed, it needed that extra wow factor.

Looking at the mid-challenge twist, the addition of the plating and elevated ingredient in some way added to the pressure. While the term next level might have been overused this season, the reality is that everyone had to strive for bigger and better.

Considering that part of the Next Level Chef semifinals challenge was to put performance on a plate, all of the dishes dazzled. In many ways, any of these dishes would have earned high praise, and possibly a win, earlier in the season. But, with the competition at its pinnacle, great dishes were going to have cooks eliminated.

While only two dishes earned spots directly into the finale, those two top dishes definitely shined. After struggling in the bottom for several challenges, Pyet soared to the top. In addition to her lobster being perfectly cooked, the dish was beautifully plated. From the sauce to the caviar, this dish earned the showstopper description.

The other top dish came from Mariah. Her willingness to use the cloche to smoke the lamb elevated the presentation. In some ways, it was impressive that the smoke was remained till the reveal. Still, her dish had layers of flavor and the tanginess of the sauce was a winner.

Unfortunately, the other four dishes were up for elimination. It wasn’t that any dish was bad. Kenny’s dish was so close, but not close enough.

Really, the only issue with any of the dishes was that Reuel didn’t have the plate from the second drop. It didn’t quite meet the challenge. And, Angie missed putting the squash blossom on her dish.

Still, the reality is that the bottom dishes were still good. Anyone would have been happy to enjoy them. Even though the judges said it was a tough decision, it seemed like it was just the little details that set one dish apart from another.

Which cooks had to fight for the final spot in the Next Level Chef semifinals?

Although the four cooks, Reuel, Courtney, Angie and Kenny, yearned for that final spot, three cooks were going home in the Next Level Chef semifinals. With only more dish to put them one step closer to the $250,000 prize, the showstopper theme continued for this elimination.

This challenge had the cooks using gold leaf in their dish. While there is an element of opulence to that ingredient, it is just about the visual. In reality, gold leaf adds nothing to a dish’s flavor. It is all about appearances.

Looking at the dishes, Reuel made a smart decision that instantly set him apart from others. While everyone else picked heavy proteins, beef and duck, he picked salmon. Even though salmon and gold leaf might be unconventional, it was a smart, strategic choice.

Courtney picked a New York strip, Angie picked a filet mignon and Kenny picked duck. Kenny found redemption with his duck. It was well cooked, but could have seasoned a little better. Angie had a good filet but the judges wanted a little more. Courtney’s New York Strip was nice but the gold leaf was an after thought.

In the end, Reuel’s decision to pick salmon earned him the win. It showed how he could think out of the box. It was dish worthy of being called Next Level Chef.

While everyone seemed to celebrate the three finalist, did anyone question the coincidence? The three finalists represent one chef from each of the three original teams. Luckily all the judges have a chance to bask in the glory of the Next Level Chef finale.

Who do you think will earn the Next Level Chef crown? Did the right three cooks make the Next Level Chef finale?