Welcome back cheftestants, we are officially halfway through the show! Last time on Top Chef, we had a pretty big shakeup. Chef Kaleena Bliss, who was eliminated during the Frank Lloyd Wright episode, fought her way through the “Last Chance Kitchen” and was invited to return to the show to once again compete for the title of Top Chef.

But that wasn’t the biggest surprise of the episode. The contestants met Soo Ahn, a chef who had been secretly competing against each eliminated contestant in “Last Chance Kitchen.” During a competition between Ahn and Bliss, the two had such stellar dishes that they were both invited to join the main contestants.

In the end, Chef Rasika Venkatesa, who was a strong contender for winner of the season, was told to pack her knives and go home. And now for this week on Top Chef

Burning Up The Competition

Top Chef Master and All Star Bryan Voltaggio was brought to the kitchen alongside host Kristen Kish to introduce the fiery quickfire challenge. The cheftestants had 20 minutes to cook up a flambé dish (food that is doused with liquor and set on fire). This time, $10,000 was on the line.

“I just want to put something on the plate that I’m not embarrassed to serve to Bryan Voltaggio,” Milwaukee’s own Chef Dan Jacobs said.

After deliberation, Kish and Voltaggio announced that the chefs who had the top three dishes had to cook again. But double the dishes meant double the prize, and the winner of the quickfire competition would take home $20,000.

Voltaggio announced the top three dishes: Chef Danny Garcia’s aguachile with mezcal, Chef Amanda Turner’s baked Hawaii, and Chef Kevin D’Andrea’s flambe shrimp dish. The three chefs had an additional 20 minutes to create a dish with the perfect char.

D’Andrea made charred squab breast with green curry yogurt sauce, panko-fried squab leg, and toasted almonds. Turner made a grilled and glazed veal chop with grilled and charred corn relish and peach pickles. Garcia made a charred branzino and charred poblano puree and charred avocado on top.

“Overall, the chefs did a really good job,” said Voltaggio. Garcia, D’Andrea, and Turner were all praised for their dishes. However, only one could go home with the cash. Garcia, winner of last week’s elimination challenge, stuck the landing during this week’s $20,000 quickfire.

A Meaty Elimination Challenge

Soon after the quickfire challenge wrapped up, the elimination challenge was introduced. The Milwaukee Brewers’ Famous Racing Sausages entered the Top Chef kitchen alongside former contestant Amar Satana.

“Hell yeah, there’s chorizo,” said Chef Manny Barella.

Inspired by the Racing Sausages (bratwurst, Polish, Italian, hot dog, chorizo), the contestants were placed into teams to create dishes that highlighted the five sausages.

Kish announced there would be five “head to head” innings, each featuring one of the sausages, with each team member responsible for one of the dishes. The order of dishes was down to a sausage race, literally. The Racing Sausages would do their thing, and the order they crossed the finish line would be the order the dishes would be presented.

Kish then shared that they would be cooking at American Family Field for a panel of 15 judges, including actress Brittany Snow, former Brewers player Ryan Braun, and some local chefs and sausage experts. Each inning, the votes would be tallied. The chef with the most votes would score one “run” for their team.

“Whichever team wins the most runs will be the wiener of the challenge,” said Voltaggio.

Kish dropped another surprise: immunity would no longer be given as a prize for the elimination challenge. And there would possibly be two chefs going home this episode.

The Sausage Struggle

The blue team (Ahn, Savannah Miller, D’Andrea, Barella, and Jacobs) and the yellow team (Bliss, Garcia, Michelle Wallace, Laura Ozyilmaz, and Turner) picked their sausages and deliberated on their dishes. They did their shopping and met on the diamond at AmFam Field.

There were great ethnic dishes at playm including Korean corn dogs, Polish perogies, German spaetzle, and Creole Étouffée. “I’m feeling really confident, I feel like I’m at home, it feels good,” said Jacobs as the chefs got cooking.

The panel of judges came in and sat in makeshift bleachers. The panel included Barkha Limbu Daily of the cheel and Omar Shaikh (owner of Carnevor and 3rd St. Market Hall) who was also featured on Episode 2.

Anh and Garcia presented their hot dog dishes first. Anh made a Korean corn dog with wasabi and jalapeno mayo, nori flakes, and ginger. Garcia made a hot dog with braised cabbage and a beet relish. All 15 judges had to raise the flag for the color they liked most. There were six votes for Garcia (yellow) and nine votes for Ahn (blue).

Second round was Polish sausage. Miller made a pierogi with sausage, fennel, and apple salad. Wallace made a Polish sausage étouffée with creamy grits and a collard green salad. Wallace won 13-2 against Miller, landing the first “inning” for the yellow team.

Italian sausage was up next. D’Andrea made a risotto with a parmesan emulsion and fennel. “I think it’s a good risotto, but I don’t know any better,” said Snow. Bliss made a potato gnocchi with spicy sausage and calabrian chili ragu. Bliss won the vote, scoring another run for the yellow team.

Barella and Ozyilmaz went head to head in the chorizo round. Barella made a chorizo and cheese tetela with roasted salsa and avocado cream. Ozyilmaz presented a chorizo kebab taco with yogurt sauce. This round was the hardest to deliberate, according to the panel of judges. “Can we vote for both?” asked Satana. With a score of 9-6, Barella won, tying the yellow and blue teams.

Last up, Jacobs and Turner competed against one another with their bratwurst dishes. Jacobs made a German potato pancake with charred cabbage, sauerkraut, and bratwurst on top. Turner made rye and caraway spaetzle, with caramelized onion and beer sauce on the bottom. Turner won with 12-3 votes. The yellow team won the competition.

Game Day Deliberation

“Collectively, this is the best you’ve done all season,” said judge Tom Colicchio.

The yellow team heard their accolades by the panel of guest judges, with Wallace and her polish sausage étouffée scoring a home run. Wallace was appointed MVP, and would not be going home.

D’Andrea, Miller, and Jacobs were brought to the front as they had the losing dishes on the losing team. D’Andrea’s dish was criticized for having too much cheese in the risotto. Miller’s received criticism that there wasn’t enough sausage taste in her dish. Jacobs was criticized for putting sausage on top of his dish, instead of incorporating it in his dish.

The judges considered sending both D’Andrea and Jacobs home, but chose to spare our hometown hero and asked D’Andrea to pack his knives.

Noteworthy Moments

• The Top Chef Running Team sadly continued without the ring leader, Rasiska.

• We learned more about Anh’s history as a professional golfer.

• Jacobs and Turner, who call each other their closest friends on the show, had to go head to head.

• Another strong pair, Barella and D’Andrea, sadly had to break up their duo as D’Andrea packed his knives. “My husband,” Barella joked as he hugged D’Andrea.

New episodes of Top Chef will be released Wednesday nights on Bravo. Episodes can be streamed on Peacock or Bravo TV the following day.

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Carmella is a local copywriter. When she's not typing behind the computer, you can catch her at a local show or thrift store.