Welcome back cheftestants! Last time on Top Chef, the remaining chefs had a cranberry-themed quickfire with more than a few surprises. Judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons announced they would be joining host Kristen Kish during the quickfire challenges. This meant quickfire dishes would be considered in the deliberation of who went home. Chef Danny Garcia won with his cranberry poached sea bass, and Chefs Manny Barella, Laura Ozyilmaz, and Amanda Turner were in the bottom three, leaving them more vulnerable in the elimination challenge.

Chefs Elena Terry and Sean Sherman joined the crew for the elimination challenge centered around indigenous ingredients and cooking methods. Chefs Savannah Miller, Soo Ahn, and Dan Jacobs had the best dishes of the night, with Miller taking home the gold with her squash and maple jelly cake with aronia berries, grapes, and plum jelly that was touted as something “completely brand new.” The judges pulled out their double-elimination card and both Ozyilmaz and Turner were asked to pack their knives and head home.

Only six chefs remain to battle it out in another Wisconsin-themed challenge…

A Meaty Quickfire Challenge

“Who’s feeling lucky?” asked Kish.

There have been many Wisconsin traditions shared on this show, but this was perhaps the most niche one yet: the meat raffle, a bizarre and longstanding Wisconsin tradition that is said to be a holdover from World War II.

Top Chef adopted this tradition for the quickfire challenge, drawing names for contestants to pick their meats. Options ranged from ribeye and chateaubriand to bologna and “luncheon meat.” Miller, winner of last week’s elimination challenge, pulled an unexpected move and voluntarily picked the canned corned beef while there were more quality choices still on the table.

With $10,000 on the line, the remaining chefs made their meaty concoctions. Guest judge Art Smith helped announce the top dishes. Ahn (who had the luncheon meat) and Miller with her creative corned beef salad had the top two slots, with Miller ultimately winning the prize. Barella’s wagyu aquachile and Wallace’s undercooked jerk chicken nugget filled the bottom two slots.

“I think I’m on a roll here,” said Miller. “I can’t play it safe, and I don’t really want to.”

Elimination Challenge

Kish told the contestants to meet outside, where there was a large fire and six Top Chef All-Star alums waiting for them.

“You have already heard of a fish fry, or a crab boil, but have you heard of a fish boil?” Kish asked.

“Fish boiling goes against everything I’ve ever been taught as a chef,” Jacobs shared. “You don’t boil fish, you poach fish. It’s not something I want to do, boil whitefish and eat.”

The elimination challenge was announced. Backed by the guidance of a guy named Torch (a fish boil master from Door County), the contestants would each create a fish boil for 100 people at Grant Park Beach.

The contestants and chefs mingled and watched as Torch showed them how to prepare a fish boil, a process that includes throwing an open pitcher of kerosene on the fire.

All contestants would have the same white fish, but were expected to prepare two different sides. The twist? The All-Star alums would be doing the shopping for the contestants.

The Big Boil At Grant Park Beach

The contestants got going at their stations on the beach, prepping their individual boils. Miller deeply cut herself while deboning her fish. She was forced to cauterize her wound, and move forward with the disadvantage.

“I feel like my brain is not connecting to the rest of my body,” Miller said.

That wasn’t the only issue. They were cooking in the elements, and it was a hot summer day. They had to tend to a roaring fire to keep the boil consistent. It was also windy, ingredients were flying away, and sand was getting everywhere.

“This is physically the most demanding challenge we’ve had all season,” said Jacobs.

Dishes And Deliberation

Torch was back on the scene and the boiling commenced. Garcia was up first with his sofrito boil with salsa verde, a carrot slaw, and french bean and bonito salad. The carrot slaw (Garcia is a self-proclaimed “carrot guy,” and has used the veg as the star of his dish in several episodes) stole the show for all the judges.

Miller’s kimchi gochujang boil with baby potatoes and smashed tofu salad was next. Judges noticed that the fish was under-flavored and the salad was wilting, perhaps a result of the setback from her injury.

“Torch, Torch, Torch!” Ahn’s boil was on deck. He prepared a pineapple curry fish boil with a fish-sauce and pineapple beurre blanc, twice cooked potatoes, and a crispy corn and miso slaw. There was a lot going on. Gregory Gourdet, the All-Star who shopped for him, called the slaw “sawdusty.” His beurre blanc was a hit.

Hometown hero Dan Jacobs and his dish were up next; the dish may have been good enough to change Jacobs’ mind about fish boils. He served a red curry boil with a coconut and herb slaw, alongside fingerling potatoes with duck fat and shiro dashi oil. Judges thought his fish was thoughtfully prepared, and the slaw was crunchy and fresh. All-Star Mei Lin thought the potatoes were an afterthought and needed a bigger kick of spice.

Wallace was next in line to serve her dish. She made a cajun boil with charred corn and kale salad, potatoes with sausage, and a garlic butter sauce, a play on a traditional cajun-style boil. “This is very similar to what I would have done,” said All-Star Sara Bradley. “All the components told one story of what she wanted to do,” said Simmons.

Barella was last up. After Torch ignited the boil he served up his Mexican boil with tostadas and guacamole, Mexican white rice and corn, and a chipotle lime butter. “Maybe I’m playing it safe with the dish, but I’m here to show who I am through my food,” said Barella. Judges shared that while the components were tasty, the overall concept was lacking.

The Top Five

The exhausted remaining chefs faced the judges table for elimination. Wallace, Garcia, and Jacobs were brought to the front as they had the favorite dishes. Garcia was given top honors, and was crowned winner of the elimination challenge.

That meant Miller, Ahn, and Barella were at the bottom. Ultimately, Miller’s quickfire win saved her, and Ahn was asked to pack his knives and go home.

That leaves Garcia, Jacobs, Barella, Wallace, and Miller left to compete for the title of Top Chef.

Noteworthy Moments

• The contestants started talking about how much they miss their families and friends.

• We learned that Jacobs’ first jobs were in Door County, land of the fish boil. It was one of the reasons he was not so excited about the challenge.

• We learned fish boils were brought over by Scandinavian immigrants in the late 1800s as an economical way to feed large groups of workers

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

Want more Milwaukee Record? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and/or support us on Patreon.


All things Milwaukee (and indigenous Wisconsin) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 9

All things Milwaukee (and Restaurant Wars) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 8

All things Milwaukee (and baseball) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 7

All things Milwaukee (and chaos) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 6

All things Madison (and supper club) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 5

All things Wisconsin (and Frank Lloyd Wright) in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 4

All things Milwaukee in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 3

All things Milwaukee in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 2

All things Milwaukee in the premiere of ‘Top Chef’ Season 21

Stuff We Missed: ‘Top Chef’ announces premiere date, Milwaukee competitor for Wisconsin-based season

Season 21 of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ will be filmed in Wisconsin

About The Author

Avatar photo

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