Welcome to the finale episode, cheftestants! Last time on Top Chef, Chefs Savannah Miller, Danny Garica, Dan Jacobs, and Laura Ozyilmaz flew to the island of Curaçao to compete in the finals of season 21.

They had a lionfish quickfire, swam with some stingrays, ate with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto on the Holland America Line’s Eurodam cruise ship, and cheffed up for an eight course elimination meal. The chefs didn’t deliver their best meals—judge Tom Colicchio thought they were “cooking scared.” At the end of a tough day, Ozyilmaz was asked to pack her bags and head home.

Now, for the final episode of Top Chef: Wisconsin

Getting The Gang Back Together

Only three chefs remained on the Eurodam cruise ship, and in this episode, either Miller, Jacobs, or Garcia would be given the title of Top Chef. The chefs met with host Kristen Kish and Colicchio at the deck of the ship as they arrived in Aruba.

“We want you to make the best four course meal of your lives,” said Kish. “The opportunity to cook whatever you want.”

“One word of advice,” said Colicchio, “Shine. Blow us away.”

The chefs would be cooking for Kish, Colicchio, and Gail Simmons, as well as a panel of guest judges. The four course meal would be nearly impossible to pull off on their own, so Kish brought out a few friends.

“Knowing that this is the biggest cook of your lives, we’re not going to let you do it alone,” said Kish. Chefs Ozyilmaz, Manny Barella, Michelle Wallace, Soo Ahn, Amanda Turner, and Kaleena Bliss entered the deck. The chefs could each choose one sous to join them for the final cookoff.

“I want to pick all of you guys, but I’m going with my partner,” said Jacobs about Turner. “I want to cook with somebody I can vibe with. It’s you.” Garcia called on Barella, and Miller asked Wallace to join her in the final meal.

“Have fun, and show us why you deserve the title of Top Chef,” said Kish.

Prepping The Final Meal

After a stressful shop, the crew of six went back to the ship to prepare the most important meals of their lives. They each talked through the inspiration of their dishes. Jacobs even attributed some inspiration to Garcia and his love for sobacha, a buckwheat tea. “That’s pretty special dude,” said Garcia. “Thank you.”

BAM! Special guest and American icon Emeril Lagasse showed up with Colicchio to check in on the chefs and their concepts.

Though the parameters of the challenge were pretty open, each of the contestants were cooking meals that represented their lives and careers. This meant there wasn’t a very obvious “through line” in their meals, and they would have to rely somewhat on the storytelling element to help the judges understand their choices.

The Cook Of A Lifetime

After a special breakfast with Kish, Simmons, Colicchio, and Lagasse, the six chefs went back to the kitchen and started preparing their first round of dishes. They would be serving each course alongside one another, and the judges would get to taste them all at once.

In a flash, course one was ready to be served. All three contestants served seafood.

“I know you guys are all in competition with one another,” said guest judge David Zilber, Top Chef Canada judge. “What I’m struggling with is how well this works as a trio.”

Course One

• Jacobs: Tuna tartare, ruby red grapefruit, caribbean pepper purée, garlic chips, and black garlic labneh.

“It’s the loudest, and I appreciate it,” said Zilber.

“I like the labneh, there’s something going on with the tuna. I don’t know if he sous vide the tuna at a super low temperature,” said Colicchio (readers: he did).

“The texture of the tuna, you can’t differentiate it from the grapefruit,” said guest judge Carrie Nahabedian, owner/chef of Brindille and Jacobs’ former boss. “I like the spice though, I keep going back. There’s something addictive about it.”

• Miller: Saltfish fritter, sweet potato purée, pickled mussel, and habanero honey glaze.

“Savannah’s first course was a great way to start the meal: something crunchy, sweet and savory,” said guest judge Justin Pichetrungsi, chef/owner Anajak Thai.

“The honey habanero I loved,” said guest judge Bricia Lopez, owner/chef of Guelaguetza.

“I thought there was some harmony there, it was nicely balanced,” said Colicchio.

“She did a really great job with the fritter,” said Lagasse.

• Garcia: Scallop and habanero leche de tigre with breadfruit and nori tuile.

“Danny’s dish was very beautiful,” said Simmons. “I loved the mimicking of the shell with the breadfruit and nori tuile. And the scallops were just pristine.”

“As much as there are elements I really do love, this needs salt,” said Zilber.

“A few grains of salt would make this a perfect dish,” said Colicchio.

“I do find myself going back to Danny’s sauce,” said Pichetrungsi.

The chefs were on to their second course, and things were getting hot in the kitchen. The time between courses was significantly shorter than their prep period, and the chefs struggled with getting their meals finished in time.

Course Two

• Jacobs: Grilled snapper, braised pumpkin, and smoked snapper dashi.

“I thought Dan’s dish was this perfect umami-ish song to seafood,” said Zilber.

“I think Dan’s dish was simple, but executed perfectly. I like the texture of the pumpkin, I’m going back for another bite,” said Lagasse.

“The dashi was really flavorful, it was a nice line having a lot of flavor, but still being light,” said Colicchio.

• Miller: Spiny lobster agnolotti, lobster broth, smoked Marcona almonds and grapes, and tarragon vinaigrette.

“I think Savannah is trying to find herself in her cooking,” said Lopez.

“The pasta dough itself is not right, technically speaking,” said Kish.

“I like her broth, it’s on the verge of being too salty, but the lobster taste comes through,” said Coliccio.

“Lobster pasta gives me the feeling of luxury,” said Pichetrungsi. “The almonds got in the way of that.”

• Garcia: Smoked mussels with plantains and cabbage with a smoked mussel mayo and a fines herbes puree.

“I loved the cabbage, the char was beautiful,” said Lopez.

“I loved all the flavors, but I had a hard time figuring out how to get it onto my fork and then into my mouth,” said Simmons.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Colicchio. “It was a ‘throw everything into this dish and see what happens.’ That being said, I like it.”

Course Three

• Jacobs: Oxtail ragu with yeasted dumplings, tomato concasse and a pikliz of cabbage, carrots, and scallions.

“I think Dan did a great job cooking the oxtail,” said Lagasse. “Pretty rustic, but that’s what he wanted it to be.”

“The stew is a little on the sweet side,” said Colicchio. “But the acid works really well with it. I like the combination together.”

“The dumplings were cooked really well,” said Simmons. “I loved it, I really did.”

• Miller: Seared grouper, epis spice, mofongo plantains, and flying fish roe butter sauce.

“You can imagine yourself at a beachside cabana, having this garlicky green sauce and a really good mofongo,” said Zilber. “Maybe that’s what she was reaching for.”

“When you’re calling 50% of your dish a mofongo, that is not a mofongo,” said Kish.

“It’s a mofong-no,” added Colicchio.

• Garcia: Spiny lobster with salsa macha, squash, persimmon, and chaaza sauce.

“I loved the complexity of Danny’s lobster and chaaza course,” said Zilber.

“The raw pumpkin, I don’t get it,” said Colicchio.

“I love the squash and the persimmon,” said Nahabedian. “But ⅔ of the lobster was not cooked enough.”

“I didn’t find my lobster to be undercooked,” said Kish. “I thought it was medium rare/medium. But the two sauces made the dish for me.”

“Alright chefs, thank you very much,” said Kish. “You have one more course which will be your final course ever served on Top Chef.”

Course Four

• Jacobs: Yogurt mousse, coriander olive oil, grilled pineapple, salted phyllo crisp.

“I love pineapple, I love the creaminess, it was really well done,” said Nahabedian.

“I really enjoyed the use of basil in Dan’s dessert,” said Lopez.

“I love the flavor,” said Colicchio. “The use of phyllo was really clever.”

“I thought it was toasty, and salty, and it really balanced the rest of Dan’s dish,” said Simmons.

• Miller: “Hummingbird” banana upside down cake, lime and pineapple granita, rum coconut sauce.

“I like the flavor of the pineapple and the rum,” said Lagasse. “I thought the pineapple complemented it really well.”

“The dish was kind hearted and Savannah has a kind hearted style about her food,” said Pichetrungsi.

• Garcia: Piragua con leche, a melon sorbet with avocado yogurt, candied seaweed, and a condensed milk “stamp.”

“This dish brought the element of the sea so beautifully,” said Lopez.

“The seaweed is so clever, and added just what it needed,” said Lagasse.

“That melon sorbet played so beautifully with the nuts and the seaweed,” said Simmons.

“That lemon is the perfect end to the progression,” said Kish.

The (Truly) Final Deliberation

“It’s been a great season,” said Colicchio. “There were some really high points.”

The judges went through all of the dishes and gave detailed feedback, which was largely positive for all the chefs, making deliberation very challenging. When the chefs returned after deliberation, Kish officially announced that (drumroll please) Chef Garcia was officially the winner of Top Chef season 21!

“Being the first Puerto Rican, Dominican, Muslim Top Chef is incredible,” said Garcia. “We’re here, we did it.”

Not only is Garcia the Top Chef, he also took home the most money ever won (through winning several challenges) on Top Chef: $303,000!

Representing Milwaukee

A huge congratulations to Chef Jacobs, who beautifully represented Milwaukee on our screens for 14 weeks. His drive, creativity, and openness was a perfect representation of what makes the midwest such a special place to be. He was exceptional all the way to the finale, and will always be Milwaukee’s Top Chef!

Noteworthy Moments

• Jacobs “cacawed” to get the attention of Turner while they were lost in the grocery store.

• Jacobs ordered some fresh sardines from the grocers and there was a bit of a mix up. She asked if he wanted her to clean them, he said yes, and she started to cook them instead.

• We learned that Jacobs’ served Lagasse a meal back in 1999.

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Milwaukee’s Dan Jacobs moves on to tropical, penultimate ‘Top Chef: Wisconsin’

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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.