Welcome back cheftestants! Last time on Top Chef, they wrapped in Wisconsin. That’s right, the final four chefs—Laura Ozyilmaz, Danny Gacia, Milwaukee’s Dan Jacobs, and Savannah Miller—left the dairyland and headed to the island of Curaçao for this week’s penultimate episode…

Lionfish Showdown

“This definitely isn’t Milwaukee anymore,” said Jacobs as the cameras panned across the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The final four chefs were welcomed by hosts Kristen Kish, Gail Simmons, and Tom Colicchio, who were waiting for them with a curaçao (the liqueur) drink and some funky looking fish.

Helmi Smeulders, chef and lionfish hunter, introduced the odd ingredient.

“It’s a beautiful fish, but it’s invasive and it doesn’t belong here in the Caribbean,” she said. “They eat baby fish from the reef. Local chefs are encouraged to hunt the fish and use them in their restaurant. They have 18 venomous spines. If you get stung, it’s extremely painful.”

Yes, the lionfish was the subject of this week’s quickfire challenge. But luckily, the chefs wouldn’t be responsible for the cleaning or breaking down of the fish. “We’re not going to take any chances with the spines and venom,” said Kish. “Though that would be a great way to eliminate one of us,” joked Jacobs.

“Before we get started, we have one more ingredient we want you to work with,” said Kish as she lifted a cloche filled with cheese. Guess she was already missing Wisconsin! “Well, that’s invasive to a fish dish,” said Garcia.

Gouda and lionfish are both a part of Curaçao’s national dish, keshi yena. The chefs had 30 minutes to interpret the dish and make it their own. They had six weeks off since the last episode, and they struggled with completing the unique dishes in time.

Smeulders announced Jacobs, with his lionfish tartare with orange and fresno aquachile and a gouda frico, as the winner of the quickfire challenge. It was Jacobs’ first-ever quickfire win!

Setting Sail Into The Finale

The final elimination challenge took place on Holland America Line’s Eurodam cruise ship. They were celebrating Holland America’s Global Fresh Fish program that serves 80 species of fish from more than 60 ports around the world.

As a team, the final four would be tasked with creating an eight course fish tasting menu for the judges. Each chef would be responsible for two dishes, but they all had to be prepared differently (for example: raw, steamed, poached) and served in a specific order. The winner of the elimination challenge would win $10,000 plus a 10-day, two-person cruise anywhere Holland America sails.

That night, the chefs dined on the gigantic Eurodam at the sushi restaurant Tamarind. As they entered, a very special person was waiting for them: Chef Masaharu Morimoto of both Japanese and American Iron Chef fame. Morimoto is the ambassador of the Fresh Fish program, and cooked the chefs a once-in-a-lifetime meal.

“Chef Morimoto is going to cook for me and these three goons,” said Jacobs. “I can’t believe it.”

The chefs deliberated over their dishes, which type they would choose, and which preparation they preferred for their elimination challenge.

The Big Cook

The chefs started their day with a swim in the ocean and a stingray adventure that Garcia was not too into. They got some sun and relaxed, before having to pivot to the galley and get cooking.

Miller’s sushi was out first. It was generally well received, but Colicchio thought the sauce was too grainy. Ozyilmaz’s banana leaf-steamed bass was up next, and there was some concern about how clean the banana leaves were. Garcia’s mousse went awry, but the rest of the elements were successful. Jacobs’ flavors were loved, but Colicchio thought the fish was undercooked.

“They’ve all cooked so much, so much better [in the past],” said Kish. “Really exceptional things from them, several times.”

The judges said while Miller’s second dish was well executed, it was a safe choice. Ozyilmaz’s second dish also brought some trouble. Some of the fish was undercooked and the sauce split. Garcia’s smoked second dish was really loved, and the first fish that had no criticisms. Jacobs’ second dish went down better than his first, with Kish saying it was the juiciest fish of the night.

“They feel tense, it feels like they’re afraid,” said Colicchio. “It feels like they’re cooking scared.”

The Dishes

Miller – Raw: Sake-cured salmon roll, salmon tartare, twice-fried plantain, ginger dressing.

Ozyilmaz – Steamed: Black bass recado negro, squash, fried plantain

Garcia – Mousse: Sea bream mousse, fine herbes salad, scotch bonnet, and green garlic spheres.

Jacobs – Poach: Poached dorade with coconut and turmeric, yucca fritter, grilled pumpkin, and chili-garlic crisp.

Miller 2 – Fried: striped bass on baguette, pepper kosho, aji amarillo aioli.

Ozyilmaz 2 – Roasted: Grouper with guajillo pepper glaze, guajillo, xo emulsion, pineapple broth.

Garcia 2 – Smoked: Smoked rainbow trout, plantain pumpkin puree, hazelnut lemon relish.

Jacobs 2 – Blackened: Blackened snapper, butter poached potatoes, mandarin butter sauce, and dill oil.


The judges went over the criticisms with each chef. Miller’s dishes felt safe and clumsy. Ozyilmaz’s dishes were poorly executed. Jacobs’ first dish was raw on the inside, but his second dish saved him. Garcia’s mousse fell flat, but the creativity and execution of his second dish brought his points up.

Garica was named winner of the elimination round, and won the $10,000 and the cruise. After that was announced, the judges shared that Jacobs would also be going to the finale. With only one episode left, that means our hometown chef has an incredible chance of being named Top Chef!

It was down to Miller and Ozyilmaz. Colicchio thought Miller’s dishes were uninspired and Ozyilmaz’s were poorly executed. Ultimately, Ozyilmaz was asked to pack her knives and head home.

In the final episode next week, Miller, Jacobs, and Garcia will go head to head (to head), and one of them will be crowned the winner of Top Chef!

Noteworthy Moments

• During her six-week break, Miller got engaged!

• We learned that Eurodam has 141 chefs on board.

• Garcia hated being with the stingrays and said he enjoys nature “from afar.”

• The chefs shopped from a Venezuelan “floating market” along the water.

The season finale of Top Chef will be air Wednesday night 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.