Welcome back cheftestants! Last time on Top Chef, the remaining chefs (including reinstated Kaleena Bliss and newcomer Soo Ahn) had a battle of the brats at American Family Field, where their sausage-themed elimination competition took place.

After a contest by the Famous Racing Sausages (Hot Dog won) the contestants, split in two teams, were responsible for creating a wall-to-wall sausage menu that used all of the racing sausages (bratwurst, hot dog, Italian, Polish, and chorizo), and serving it up to the judges and guest judges, including former Brewer Ryan Braun and actress Brittany Snow.

After five head-to-head “innings,” the yellow team (Chefs Bliss, Danny Garcia, Michelle Wallace, Laura Ozyilmaz, and Amanda Turner) won, with Wallace being named MVP. The blue team (Chefs Ahn, Savannah Miller, Kevin D’Andrea, Manny Barella, and Milwaukee’s own Dan Jacobs) lost the competition, and D’Andrea and Jacobs had the two bottom dishes. After deliberating (and considering eliminating both chefs) the judges deemed D’Andrea’s dish the wurst, and he was told to pack his knives and head home.

Restaurant Wars Are Back

For those who are not regular Top Chef viewers, Restaurant Wars happen every season, and are usually the most challenging of the competitions. Split into teams, the remaining chefs have to essentially build a restaurant from top to bottom, including creating a concept, building an extensive menu, picking out plates and cups, serving the food, etc.

After meeting at Discovery World, Kish announced the war was about to commence. As last week’s winner, Chef Wallace had to pick between the two teams—Garcia, Turner, Jacobs, and Miller; Barella, Ozyilmaz, Bliss, and Ahn—to serve as an addition that could skew the results favorably.

Wallace ended up going with “her guys”: Garcia, Turner, Jacobs, and Miller. “I’m feeling very confident in our team,” she said. “We all lead kitchens here. I think that’s going to be to our benefit.”

The teams had one hour to conceptualize their restaurants before shopping for dining ware and food to prep. The prep day unfolded in controlled chaos, with each team scrambling to make last-minute adjustments, choosing swaps when ingredients ran out, and figuring out how to run front-of-house.

“It feels totally insane to cook in a restaurant that we created in 24 hours,” Jacobs said. “Nobody does this. Uou want to know why? Because this sucks.”

Dos By Duel

Barella, Ozyilmaz, Bliss, and Ahn created a restaurant theme that connected their Latin and Asian heritages, calling it “Dos By Duel” (or “two by two”).

After welcoming judge Gail Simmons and guest judges Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Itaru Nagano (Fairchild), and Erick Williams (Virtue), Ozyilmaz introduced their first course dishes: beef tartare with cilantro green goddess and gochujang (created by Ozyilmaz), and a crab and melon aguachile with pickled bamboo (created by Bliss). Judges loved both dishes, but remarked that the melon in Bliss’ dish watered down the taste.

Round two of dishes saw Ahn and Barella take the lead. Ahn created a rice cake dish with salsa verde, Chinese sausage, and pepita. Barella made butter-poached shrimp with jicama and bok choy.

Simmons, Izard, Nagano, and Williams all raved about both of these dishes, calling out the brightness of Ahn’s salsa verde and noting that Barella’s shrimp was beautifully cooked.

For the third course, Barella made a beef tenderloin with mole negro, shimeji mushrooms, and black garlic. The team worked together to create the other dish, a pork tenderloin a la talla with charred pineapple and a black bean and onion puree. Judges loved the mole, but remarked that these dishes didn’t feel cohesive to the theme‚an issue both sides were battling.

The judges then switched tables. Kish, alongside the new round of judges, remarked that they had been waiting for 25 minutes already.

After being served the dishes, the judges generally enjoyed them but felt that the Latin-Asian fusion wasn’t quite fusing, and that for two cultures who have so many spices and ingredients available to them, things weren’t as flavorful as they were hoping they would be.

“The thing that really bugs me, is when you’re bringing these two cuisines together, there should be a ton of flavor,” said judge Tom Colicchio. “The whole thing feels very forced to me.”


On the other side of the space, Garcia, Turner, Wallace, Jacobs, and Miller opened “Channel,” their concept menu that focused on seafood. When Kish and Colicchio arrived, flanked by guest judges Kwame Onwuachi (Tatiana) and Andrew Kroeger (Fairchild), they were served a buckwheat tea drink. Kish noted that their drinks were different colors—not a great start.

That tough start continued as Wallace (serving as front-of-house manager) chose to give the judges table some space instead of talking with them. After Wallace walked by the judges table, both Kish and Colicchio remarked how strange it was.

When Wallace brought out the first round of dishes, she introduced the concept of the restaurant. “Channel is a play on the channel that connects waterways,” she said. She then served up the first courses: Jacobs’ smoked walleye with labneh, harissa, and a potato cake, alongside Miller’s chawanmushi with scallop and maitake.

“It’s bright, it’s tangy,” said Kroeger about Jacobs’ dish.

“The whole dish is beautifully seasoned,” said Colicchio. “The smokiness comes through and the harissa provides just the right amount of heat.”

“I would go somewhere and order this again,” said Onwuachi.

Round two of dishes came out for the judges, including Wallace’s dish that she trusted her team members to complete.

Wallace’s dish was fried catfish with a dirty rice cake, Garcia’s was a play on New England style clam chowder with a carrot-heavy twist, and Turner did a vegan gumbo with kombu. Onwuachi remarked that it was strange to do a vegan gumbo at a seafood restaurant, but Kish added that kombu is technically food from the sea. Everyone raved about Wallace’s catfish.

The dessert round came in a flash. Wallace served up a citrus gelee with jasmine tea, and honey custard with a buckwheat crumble (this was a dish made by both Jacobs and Turner). Jacobs’ maple crémeux with blueberry, pistachio, and caramel was also served up.

“Amanda’s and Danny’s honey custard is super tasty,” said Kish.

While this round of judges liked all the dishes, Colicchio said that it was not a cohesive restaurant, just a bunch of ideas. This was a problem earlier in the episode as the team struggled to create a menu that made sense comprehensively, instead all focusing on their areas of expertise.

The judges switched tables. Simmons remarked that they had been waiting for 30 minutes already.

When the dishes started arriving, the new judges were feeling aligned with the last round of judges. Certain dishes stood out, but there was a lack of cohesiveness.

“This is the restaurant that feels like there’s too many egos,” said Williams. “Everyone is trying to shine, and they are not leaving enough room to be collaborative.”

Duel And Deliberation

After wrapping up the meals, Kish, Colicchio, Onwuachi, Izard, and Simmons deliberated. The judges grilled both teams—questioning them about their concept, their front-of-house experience, the ideation of the menu—all before critiquing the dishes themselves.

It seemed like most of the critique was around the experience, not the food, which made picking a winning and losing team difficult for the judges. Channel was announced as the winning team, and the five team members split the $40,000 winning prize.

“Dan, as confused as I was about your dessert, I was very certain and clear about your smoked walleye,” said Kish. “I thought it was really well put together, the flavor was fantastic and the hashbrown was nice and hot.”

“What I loved about the dish is if you’re talking about a regional seafood restaurant, that clearly had a sense of place,” said Colicchio.

With all that great feedback, it was clear that beloved Milwaukee Chef Dan Jacobs was the rightful winner of this week’s episode!

“I’m so proud to be back on top,” said Jacobs. “This is cool as hell. I won two elimination challenges, and I won Restaurant Wars. This is crazy. Pinch me.”

Unfortunately, that meant that someone from Dos By Duel was to be sent home. Chef Bliss was asked to, once again, pack her knives and head home.

“[The first time] I was eliminated, I was devastated because I knew I made a mistake,” said Bliss. “I did not feel like I did my best. This is the complete opposite of that.”

Noteworthy Moments

• We learned that Chef Jacobs has opened an incredible nine restaurants over his career.

• We had a flashback to host Kristen Kish being eliminated during her Restaurant War competition back in Season 10. (Don’t worry, she worked her way back up through Last Chance Kitchen and ended up the winner of the season.)

• Though Jacobs won the winning dish, he was very close to doing something completely different. At the beginning of the episode he was going to make a beet tartare, a completely vegetarian dish, before Wallace convinced him to do seafood.

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.