Welcome back cheftestants! Last time on Top Chef, CHEF DAN JACOBS WON! Leading with the biggest news of the episode, yes, our hometown hero beat his colleagues to win the elimination challenge during last week’s Madison-based supper club episode.

Paired in two teams, the 10 remaining contestants were tasked with creating an elevated supper club menu complete with a relish tray, fish dish, chicken dish, beef dish, and a dessert. Jacobs was responsible for the Wisconsin-inspired relish tray which featured raw vegetables in a bread “soil,” steak tartare, chicken liver mousse, pickled shallots, and fried seed toast.

After rave reviews (judge Tom Colicchio thought the dish was “perfectly executed from start to finish,”) Jacobs was crowned the winner of the elimination challenge for the first time for a dish that perfectly exemplified the Sconnie palate.

Earlier in the episode, Chef Charley Pierre won the quickfire challenge with his dish that honored Madison’s Chef Carson Gulley. By the end of the episode he had to pack his knives and head home after losing the elimination challenge.

This week, the remaining contestants are back in the Brew City to work their way to the top.

Surprise, Surprise

“I have this sneaking suspicion that something’s going to happen today,” Jacobs said at the top of the episode. His intuition was right—there was a knock at the door and Chef Kaleena Bliss entered. Bliss was eliminated alongside her partner, Alisha Elenz, two episodes ago during the Frank Lloyd Wright competition where her mushroom cheesecake had disastrous results.

After a warm welcome back, the contestants saw a stranger in the room. The chefs met Chef Soo Ahn, a chef who was officially joining the pool of chefs as the completely out-of-the-blue “16th” contestant.

“I never heard of this happening in Top Chef history,” said Chef Michelle Wallace.

We then saw a highlight reel from “Last Chance Kitchen,” where Ahn has been secretly competing with every single chef who was eliminated from the show, working his way up to join the main competition.

During Bliss’ “Last Chance Kitchen” challenge, both she and Ahn had such great dishes (“This is some of the best food I’ve had all competition,” said Colicchio) that they were both invited to join the top nine chefs and get back into the game.

“For two people to come back, that’s extra digging to do,” said Rasika Venkatesa. “But to beat four people in ‘Last Chance Kitchen,’ you must be badass.”

Once back in the Top Chef kitchen, host Kristin Kish announced another surprise: “There is one more thing you need to know,” she said. “Because Tom elected to send two chefs back into the competition, we have the ability to send two out.” She explained that the extra elimination may not happen today, but it will happen at some point.

A Sweet Quickfire Challenge

Kish then introduced the guest judge of the quickfire competition, Chef Christina Tosi, a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and the creator of Milk Bar.

“Dairy-based desserts are very popular in Wisconsin,” Kish said as the camera panned over a table of cream puffs, frozen custard, kringle, and more. The task was to create a dairy-based dessert (the same kind of dish that Bliss went home on) with a prize of $7,500.

The chefs had 45 minutes to make their dishes. Several chefs shared their discomfort with creating desserts. “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little annoyed that I had to do a dessert for my Top Chef quickfire again,” said Bliss. “After I served a cheesecake with a really bad crust. I will never ever forgive myself for that.”

For Ahn’s first ever Top Chef dish, he created a play on PB&J with a brioche puree, peanut brittle, and pasilla pepper-blueberry jam. Jacobs made a dark chocolate pudding with macerated plums, basil ,and fried baguette.

During deliberation, Kish and Tosi announced that Chef Manny Barella (he made churrors) and Jacobs had two of the dishes at the bottom. “Everything had that mouthy peanut butter texture and you needed something to lighten it up,” Kish said of Jacobs’ dish.

Bliss had one of the top dishes, alongside Wallace and Chef Amanda Turner. Ultimately, Wallace won with her dish that was a play on strawberry shortcake with a corn cake topped with mascarpone cheese, basil cream, and lemon zest. This was her first quickfire win.

Yes, Chef!

Chef, restauranter, and actor Matty Matheson (Neil Fak in The Bear) joined Kish after the quickfire challenge. Together, they announced the premise of the elimination challenge: chaos cuisine.

“I want you to take something, create it, destroy it, build it up again, throw it on the floor, throw it on the ceiling,” said Matheson. “Use techniques you’ve never used before.”

Kish went on to explain that the idea was to create a dish that went outside culinary convention. Unexpected fusion foods, unique preparation techniques, and out-of-the-box plating would all be welcome in this week’s challenge.

“I’m trying to wrap my head around it,” said Chef Danny Garcia.

Each chef had 20 minutes and $150 to shop at a speciality shop of their choosing. They were told that instead of a restaurant or offsite venue, they would be making their elimination dish in the Top Chef kitchen.

“Bring on the chaos,” said Turner.

Chaos Cooking Competition

Back at the Top Chef kitchen, the contestants were creating their chaos dishes for the judges, including guest judges Matheson; chef/author Sophia Roe; and Phillip Foss, chef/owner of Chicago restaurant EL Ideas.

There were lots of interesting combinations, including Venkatesa’s eggplant and crab roll, Barella’s esquite risotto with burnt tortillas, and Chef Kevin D’Andrea’s potato dish with raspberry, tarragon, and white chocolate.

“With such large parameters, it just means more room for error,” said Wallace.

Jacobs and Venkatesa presented their dishes at the same time to the judges.

Venkatesa prepared a rolled crab-stuffed eggplant with mushroom conserva, dukkah, and garlic tahini. Jacobs prepared a okonomiyaki funnel cake with lobster, crab, scallops, clams, shrimp, bacon, pickles, fresno chilis, herbs, and more.

“I feel Dan was really ambitious taking a dessert and converting that into something savory,” said Foss.

“I’m obsessed with this,” said Roe

“That could be on the menu at a lot of restaurants,” said Matheson.

“I feel the funnel cake is such a great vehicle for all the chaos,” said judge Gail Simmons.

The judges did not feel the same way about Vantaksa’s dish.

At deliberation, the judges called Anh, Jacobs, Garcia, and Chef Savannah Miller to the front. It was announced that they had the favorite dishes of the week.

“Dan, there are five of us that will try to do [your dish] at some point and try to sell it somewhere,” said Kish.

“Every bit of seafood was perfectly good,” said Colicchio.

“Chaos is confusing, and taking a challenge like this and making it your own and showing who you are culinarily is very impressive,” said Matheson before announcing Garcia as the winner of the elimination challenge.

“It was one of the better dishes I’ve had in 21 years,” said Coliccio about the winning dish.

Venkatesa and Wallace were then called to the table as the two with the least favorite dishes.

In the shock of the season, Venkatesa, a winner of three competitions, was told to pack her knives and go home. It just goes to show you that even the strongest contenders are never safe in the Top Chef kitchen.

Noteworthy Moments

• Kish announced she has been on a mission to try all the custard in the city, but couldn’t tell Jacobs her favorite in fear of a “social media war.”

• Chefs went to some markets including El Rey, Adom Market, and Mo’s Food Market.

• Chef Garcia had a bizarre dream sequence about his elimination dish backed by the speech Matheson gave about chaos cooking. Barella and D’Andrea had a “power bottom” workout at the beginning of the episode, as they were both at the bottom of the elimination challenge the week prior.

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.