Top Chef Season 21 episode 4: Duality requires a strong connection

Top Chef Season 21 episode 4
Top Chef Season 21 episode 4 / Bravo

In the first dual elimination of the season, Top Chef Season 21 episode 4 asked the chefs to create two dishes that had a connection to Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. While no one made cascading dishes or spiralized interpretations, the top and the bottom dishes were abundantly clear to the judges.

With just a few challenges into the season, Top Chef Season 21 has some chefs looking to present bold, creative takes on the brief. Others seem to be content to ride the middle. While swinging for the fences might be commendable, a strike and a miss can dash hopes of winning the big prize.

After getting a little cheesy in the Wisconsin Cheese (or what became the croquette) challenge, the cheftestants drove to Madison and enjoy an informative journey through Frank Llyod Wright architecture. No one was expected to create the bold lines or bring nature into the conversation. But, there was an expectation to incorporate themes that are present in any Frank Lloyd Wright design.

While the celebrated American architect has a signature design style, recreating those elements on the plate took more than just an appreciation of the visual. The chefs had to see the ability to work together in nuanced ways. Just like the architect allowed nature to ebb and flow through his art, the cheftestants needed to weave their individual perspective while creating a duality that captured the challenge.

The biggest takeaway from this challenge was that the chefs were mostly in the middle. Even though the teams seemed to have good communication and a point of view, there was slight missteps that made the dishes fall a little flat.

For example, Dan and Amanda had a great idea with the contrasting elements of humble and extravagant, but slight execution issues had the dish miss the mark. With just potato and leeks on the plate, it is difficult to overlook too much salt in that simplicity.

In a way, those little errors allowed the top dish to shine in the best possible way. Danny and Rasika not only presented a visually stunning comparison, but the juxtaposition of the flavors made the idea even better. The dishes captured that drama and constraint which is epitomized in Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

While Top Chef compels the cheftestants to be creative with their interpretation of the theme, they had to execute the idea on the plate. Danny and Rasika nailed that concept because their dish had a purposeful connection to their culinary roots.

First and foremost, the dishes were visually stunning. Each one stood on its own while also having a clear architectural representation on the plate. Since the challenge did require duality, the similarities did not have to be explained. They could be seen.

At the same time, each dish stood on its own. The flavors allowed the dishes to find that harmony but never be overshadowed.

More importantly, Rasika was able to bring an authenticity with her South Indian flavors, but the dish had a sophistication in the presentation. It was a touch surprising, which engaged the judges. That ability to put a personal connection on the plate has served Rasika well in the season so far. If she can continue to bring that authenticity, she will do well in Top Chef Season 21.

While the duo won the challenge, Rasika secured immunity for the second time in the season. Whether or not she can keep this momentum going remains to be seen. Still, she is surging ahead in the competition.

Top Chef Season 21 episode 4 judges Table
Top Chef Season 21 episode 4 judges Table / Bravo

Unfortunately, the bottom duo was as clear as the top dishes. Kaleen and Alisha were clearly the eliminated team. When the cheesecake crust was described as hard tack, it was definitely a bad day in the kitchen.

The biggest problem with this team was that they never seemed to find their connection. Team challenges can be difficult, but it is not insurmountable. With good communication, any of these cheftestants should be able to succeed.

While the two dishes did not vibe with each other, the dishes had execution issues on their own. In addition to the dense, almost unbreakable crust, Kaleen’s cheesecake, itself, had the wrong texture. Although making a dessert can be a bold choice, it cannot go this far sideways in the poor execution angle.

In addition, Alisha’s aqua chile lacked bold flavors. There were technical issues with the knife cuts and the dish never really lived up to expectations. Overall, it was a miss.

Although there were individual errors clear, the biggest takeaway from this duo was that they did not cook as a team. Neither individual, nor their dishes, lifted each other up. Top Chef might be an individual contest, but success requires stepping up to the challenge. Unfortunately, this situation missed the mark.

With both Kaleen and Alisha heading to Last Chance Kitchen, it will be interesting to see if either one of them can take down Chef Soo Ahn. He has dominated the first two challenges with his creative flavor choices. With two more challenges before someone rejoins the competition, it is anyone’s guess who will earn the spot.

How will the next challenge push the cheftestants? Be sure to watch new episodes of Top Chef Season 21 on Bravo every Wednesday night. In addition, episodes can be streamed the next day on Peacock.