Top Chef Season 21 episode 5 recap: Supper Clubs bring a taste of nostalgia

Top Chef Season 21 episode 5 recap: Supper Club
Top Chef Season 21 episode 5 recap: Supper Club / Bravo

The cheftestants continue to explore Madison, Wisconsin on Top Che Season 21 episode 5. While the Wisconsin Supper Club might be iconic, these menus had some bougie twists.

After drawing inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright, Top Chef Season 21 takes a different turn in episode 5. While the chefestants were urged to “be you” by the judges, the not so subtle hint comes up again.

The pressure to perform in Top Chef is tremendous. Knowing the chefs who have used this food television platform as a way to springboard their careers to new heights only adds to the anxiousness. Even though this group may have survived the first few rounds of elimination, the reality is quick thinking, adaptation, and execution is always front of mine, no matter the challenge or locale.

To kick off episode 5, the chefs shopped at the infamous Dane County Farmers’ Market. Armed with $100, the took off running to get ingredients. Although there was no brief or theme to narrow their purchases, a few takeaways from the mad dash were curious.

Savannah mentioned that she prepped this idea at home. It might be a curious statement, but it is a vital one. Chetestants need to prepare for Top Chef. Granted, they might not correctly guess every twist and turn, but they should be knowledgeable.

For example, if they did not appreciate that a Wisconsin Cheese or Miller Beer influenced challenge would happen at some point in the season, they do not appreciate the Bravo show. The show’s location will always impact some element of the challenges.

In the Quickfire, the Dane County Farmers’ Market was just part of the challenge. Using those ingredients, the cheftestants had to recreate one of Carson Gulley’s sauces.

For many people who were watching, the name Carson Gulley is not as familiar as other food icons from his era. People can easily reference Julia Child or Jacques Pepin, but the first African American to host a cooking show in the 50s with his wife is not the most recognizable name. Kudos to Top Chef for highlighting him.

Top Chef Season 21 episode 5 Quickfire
Top Chef Season 21 episode 5 Quickfire / Bravo

The biggest takeaway from the Quickfire was that the cheftestants were able to bring a little spin to the sauces. Even though Raisin Sauce might be a dish that should stay in the 50s, the reality is that elements of these sauces can be seen across cuisines.

Winning the Quickfire was Charlie. In some ways, he had a little advantage by getting Creole Sauce. His culinary point of view focuses on Creole inspired flavors. While the sauce stayed true to the original, it still had a modern point of view. Charlie earned a cash prize provided by Wells Fargo.

For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants were divided into teams and had to create a five dish Supper Club menu. While the Supper Club is a Wisconsin staple, this concept was not the ordinary Friday Fish Fry or the simple broasted chicken.

Looking at the menus, the biggest issue was not creativity or answering the brief. It was the budget. Team challenges are never easy on Top Chef. Yes, only one person will get eliminated, but it is more than just being protective of that personal dish. Just like in a real kitchen, the chefs have to work together. If the team cannot figure out a conducive budget for everyone, the team will fail.

Top Chef Season 21 Supper Club challenge
Top Chef Season 21 Supper Club challenge / Bravo

That scenario happened in this Top Chef challenge. When Laura used a large portion of her team’s budget on her dessert, it caused a negative ripple effect. Danny’s dish suffered and in turn Manny’s dish was not as strong as it could be. Unless Laura’s dish was going to be the superlative moment of the night, she could have scaled back on her spend.

Fortunately, one great story emerged from Top Chef Season 21 episode 5. Dan, the only Wisconsin based chef in the season, won the Supper Club Challenge. His personal connection to the relish tray made the dish shine. Not only did he understand the significance of the simple plate in the Supper Club tradition, but he also was able to make it his own. When Gail Simmons is willing to use her fingers to scrape every last morsel, it is clear he had the winning dish.

On the other hand, the losing dish had simple execution errors. After winning the Quickfire, Charlie’s overcooked fish caused him to pack his knives and go. Even though there were issues with many dishes, this cooking error could not be overlooked.

What will be the next Wisconsin themed challenge served to the cheftestants? More importantly, which chef will return from Last Chance Kitchen?

Be sure to watch the next episode of Top Chef Season 21 on Bravo Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Episodes can be streamed the next day on Peacock.