There are eight chefs left on the main Top Chef show, so that could only mean one thing: It’s time for Restaurant Wars. Ashleigh Shanti, who has been on the bottom several times, wins the show’s signature challenge with her leadership of her team’s restaurant concept Matriarc.
Jackson Kalb, who has been on top several times, gets sent home for basically ghosting the judges at the Chef’s Table. His failures are thrown into his face when he gets to Last Chance Kitchen, where he has to face off with Sarah Welch, his friend and teammate from the challenge in the first episode, which they won together. Also, before getting sent home Jackson finally ‘fessed up he has no sense of taste and smell, and there is shockingly very little drama from the chefs.
Via FaceTime, judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons tell Jackson and Sarah they have to come up with a ghost kitchen concept, cook three dishes that travel well, and take it to Tom’s house in Houston where they will serve Tom and Gail.
Both chefs decide to go with what they know. Sarah creates “Jamaisan,” fusing Jamaican and Asian flavors. Jackson goes back to his roots with casual Italian.
For Sarah’s courses, she does jerk shrimp larb (again with the shrimp for the person allergic to the shellfish), a Korean “style” fried chicken with curry powder, and a coconut fruit salad inspired by mango sticky rice she had in Thailand.
Jackson makes mandilli di seta, which is a handkerchief pasta with pesto; eggplant and fonduta; and chicken with salsa verde. For the fonduta, he can’t find parmigiana so he grabs some mystery cheese. He still can’t really taste or smell so this should be interesting.
Forty-five minutes flies by and they barely finish getting everything into the takeout containers. They pack everything up and head for Tom’s house.
Jackson gets a lot of compliments from Tom about the pasta, the bright salsa verde, and flavorful chicken. The mystery cheese ended up working well so Jackson dodged a bullet there.
Sarah’s food is also a hit with the judges.
“Jamaisan — didn’t know that was a thing, but it makes complete sense,” Gail says. The larb packed a lot of jerk flavor and brought the heat. The chicken was unlike anything she’d had before, Gail says. And the dessert was bright and fresh.
Tom says both concepts were on point, but one was just a bit better — and Sarah wins again. She continues to look shocked when she dispatches yet another chef who outlasted her on the main competition and is even more so to send Jackson packing.
While technically Sarah was eliminated more or less around the same time other Michigan chefs have gotten the boot on Top Chef, she’s advanced further than anyone else through Last Chance Kitchen. If she keeps it up, she could be back in the game.
There’s still a way to go before she gets there, but in the meantime, I have an open letter for Sarah:
Please bring a “Jamaisan” ghost kitchen to Detroit ASAP.
Catch this season of Top Chef at 8 p.m. on Thursdays on Bravo, and stream Last Chance Kitchen on YouTube following each episode. For more information, visit bravotv.com.