Top Chef Season 21 Episode 13 Quickfire recap: An unlikely fish pairing

Top Chef Season 21 Episode 13 Quickfire, lionfish and gouda
Top Chef Season 21 Episode 13 Quickfire, lionfish and gouda / Bravo

For the last time in this season, the Top Chef Season 21 Episode 13 Quickfire tackled a food combination that is a “don’t” for many chefs. Which chef found a winning flavor combination with lionfish and cheese?

In the “Set Sail” episode, the final four chefs stepped off the Holland America Line Eurodam into the heart of Curacao. After crossing the island’s iconic floating bridge, the chefs met the judges and prepared for their final Quickfire.

Similar to other seasons, Top Chef required the chefs to showcase local ingredients in this cook. While some chefs would never dare to combine fish and cheese on a plate, the final four needed to find a way to bring this unlikely pairing together.

The Quickfire Challenge is a great example of bringing local food culture to Top Chef. First, the required fish was lionfish. The invasive species upsets the nature balance of the ecosystem. Even though the fish is precarious to handle, it is vital for chefs to showcase these proteins.

Top Chef Season 21 final four chefs in Curacao
Top Chef Season 21 final four chefs in Curacao / Bravo

While there have been trends where “trash fish” have been highlighted on menus, getting invasive species out of the water and onto the plate is good for the environment. Top Chef often uses its programming to showcase vital food conversations. This lionfish challenge is a good example.

In contrast, putting together fish and cheese is a taboo in some places. Although Tom Colicchio might not always be a big fan of this combination, his criticism was not too harsh during judging. It seems that a frico is an acceptable crispy cheese garnish for a fish dish.

Even though Top Chef left Wisconsin behind, they were still bringing the cheese to the table. The Dutch gouda was a smart way to bridge the two locations.

Danny made a croquette with a gouda sauce. He was the only chef to make a cooked dish. Although Kristen Kish loved the gummy bear like texture, it needed more fish.

Laura made a crudo with guava, which was a nice nod to the Caribbean. Unfortunately, she was too timid with the cheese. Gail Simmons said that she seemed to be intimidated by the cheese.

Dan made a lionfish tartare that had a lot of acidity and herbs. In his dish, he used a little mayonnaise, which created a smart bridge to the gouda.

Lastly, Savannah made a crudo with a sauce inspired by Keshi Yena, the national dish of Curacao. The judges loved the sauce, especially the olives.

Winning the last Quickfire of Top Chef Season 21 was Dan. Although he does not receive an advantage, he did win $10,000.

Would his win secure a spot in the finale? Be sure to watch new episodes of Top Chef Season 21 on Bravo on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Episodes can be streamed the next day on Peacock.