The Top Chef gang was back Wednesday night with another jam-packed episode of fierce competition and Wisconsin lovin’. Last week we met 15 chefs who came to the dairy state to compete for first place and the honor of being called “Top Chef.” After a fiery round of cheffing in the Lupi & Iris kitchen, contestant David Murphy went home. Hometown hero Chef Dan Jacobs didn’t win the round, but he was lauded for his tomato and fennel broth soup.

This week, the competition continued with more Wisconsin-themed challenges that pushed the chefs to their limits. And while the food was front and center, there was plenty of Milwaukee to enjoy, too. Here are the highlights:

Hops-Themed Quickfire Challenge

The episode opened with host Kristen Kish and a new guest judge at the ready. Chef Joe Flamm, who won Top Chef Season 15, joined Kish in the kitchen to introduce the episode’s quick-fire challenge. Flamm, who owns Chicago-based Rose Mary and BLVD Steakhouse, knew two of the midwestern contestants, our very own Chef Dan Jacobs as well as Chef Alisha Elenz who worked with Flamm at one of her first restaurants.

Kish and Flamm introduced the quick-fire competition. Each contestant was to make a dish using hops. Yes, hops, the bitter, herbaceous plant that gives beer a distinct taste and helps to develop its aroma. It’s not commonly used in cooking, and is a difficult ingredient to work with, but it sure was a Wisconsin way to start the competition.

“Beer is what made Milwaukee famous,” Kish said. “It’s called Brew City for a reason.”

The contestants used the ingredient in a variety of applications including in a sauce, in desserts, as a crust to a grilled flank steak, and as a curing ingredient for rainbow trout. Chef Jacobs incorporated hops in his charred cabbage salad with citrus, herbs, cheddar, and red onion. Ultimately, Chef Laura Ozyilmaz won the quick-fire challenge (and $5,000) for her hops-infused rice pudding. Flamm invited her to buy the chefs a round of beer. Which leads us to…

Miller Brewing Co. Competition

Miller Brewing, specifically Miller High Life, was front and center during this week’s episode. The elimination challenge was to be served to the judges and guests in the Historic Miller Caves, human-made limestone caves that were once used as refrigeration units at the Miller Brewing complex.

We hope that the competitors spent some off time in some of Milwaukee’s many dive bars, because the competition was all about bar snacks. Divided into two teams, contestants were to make a seven-course meal using popular bar snacks including popcorn, pickles, pretzels, mixed nuts, potato chips, olives, and toasted corn kernels. Chef Jacobs was on the yellow team and was responsible for the popcorn dish.

Several noteworthy Wisconsinites were invited to dine in the caves with the Top Chef judges. Kyle Knall (chef and owner of Birch), Luke Zahm (chef and owner of Driftless Café), Jamie Brown-Soukaseume (chef and owner of Ahan in Madison), and Omar Shaikh (owner of Carnevor and 3rd St. Market Hall) were the culinarily focused judges. Carol Walker, Associate R&D Packaging Engineer at MolsonCoors, was in attendance, as was Wisconsin comedian Charlie Berens to bring some levity to the room. The guests and judges were poured a glass of High life in a coup glass. “I never drank beer out of a champagne glass,” judge Tom Colicchio said. Well, it ain’t called the champagne of beers for nothing!

The yellow team won the competition with their seven-course bar snack menu including:

• Cucumber melon salad with shredded pickles and cream cheese (pickle dish, Chef Savannah Miller)

• Smoked Salmon Rillettes with Lavash and Olive Chimichurri (olive dish, Chef Alisha Elenz)

• Toasted Corn Kernel and Crab Biscuit with Spicy High Life Honey Drizzle (corn kernel dish, Chef Michelle Wallace)

• Popcorn Mosse with Clams, Roasted Corn and Basil (popcorn dish, Chef Dan Jacobs)

• Guajillio and Mixed Nut Mole with Roasted Chicken (mixed nut dish, Chef Manny Barella)

• Potato Chip Pave with Togarashi Yogurt and Beer Braised Short Rib (potato chip dish, Chef Kenny Nguygen)

• Barley Pretzel Cake with Pretzel Granita and Honey Mustard Sabayon (pretzel dish, Chef Rasika Venkatesa)

“I’m not sure what to think of it, but I thought he pulled it off,” Shaikh said about Chef Jacobs’ dish. Flamm chimed in, “I don’t know what it was, but it worked.”

Ultimately, Chef Rasika Venkatesa went home with the immunity prize and $10,000 for her unique dish.

Noteworthy Moments

• Chefs Michelle Wallace and Manny Barella taking a walk by the river in the opening scene.

• Chef Savannah Miller chanting “When I say ‘win,’ you say ‘sconsin.’ Win-sconsin! Win-sconsin!”

• The gorgeous caves at the Miller Brewing complex. Did you know you could rent them?

• Chef Dan Jacobs opened up about his experience with Kennedy’s Disease, a progressive neuromuscular disorder that brings an added level of challenge to the competition and his everyday life.

• Charlie Berens taking wild swings when describing flavors. “You can really taste it at the top of your palette, or the bottom, or at least the sides.”

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.