‘Top Chef’ Houston ‘Last Chance Kitchen’ Recap: Taking Stock

Sarah and Monique must create a dish starring a flavorful broth in 30 minutes
Top Chef Last Chance Kitchen-Sarah Welch and Monique Feybesse
Sarah Welch (left) and Monique Feybesse wait anxiously to learn the winner of this week’s challenge. // Still: YouTube

On the main show, the chef-testants’ challenge is to make a dish inspired by a historic Texan woman. Evelyn rose to the occasion with her tribute to the late singer Selena, while Monique was sent home for a broth dish that lacked broth (as well as depth and personality).

Monique walks into the Top Chef kitchen and is surprised to see Sarah because she hasn’t seen her in a long time (two episodes). She notes Sarah’s powerful personality and is impressed she was able to push through.

Since Monique’s downfall was broth, and Top Chef likes to rub salt into the wounds, the Last Chance Kitchen challenge is to make a composed dish that includes a flavorful broth. Sarah has the not-impressed-look on her face when Tom issues his directive. I immediately scream “pressure cooker!” and Sarah must’ve heard me back in time, because she throws marrow bones (shoutout to Marrow the restaurant) with aromatics into a pressure cooker, to create a velvety and rich broth.

Going for a dish that celebrates breakfast flavors, she bases it on a dish the restaurant used the serve for the morning meal: a ramen broth with crispy bacon and “toast-gorashi,” a brown butter bread crumb. She plans to pair it with butternut squash, leaning into the breakfast theme by mimicking a hash, but she knows that, on Top Chef, you always need a Plan B. So, she also starts boiling spaghetti just in case.

Monique is making sinigang, and I am immediately excited and scared for her, because sinigang takes hours to develop. Sinigang is a Filipino soup characterized by its sour flavor, which is usually achieved with tamarind but could also derive from fruits like green mango or guava. When I went to the Philippines five years ago, one of my uncles literally plucked fruit (called kamias) off a tree in the backyard to cook the sinigang, and it was a chef’s kiss. Monique gets the broth going with a base of onions, tomato, ginger, and garlic. It’s a solid start, but I’m wondering where the sour flavor is coming from, because I see no tamarind, guava, or kamias.

Sarah’s dish is “breakfast” bacon broth with poached egg and “toast-garashi” with chilies and spices and pickled butternut squash. Tom does that judgmental thing when he asks Sarah about the whereabouts of the noodles in her dish. She says she didn’t want to use an Italian pasta.

Monique offers up her salmon sinigang with tomato, onions, ginger base, and shrimp stock.

Tom says Monique’s sour flavors come through, and again I’m yelling at the TV, asking where the sour is coming from. He commends Sarah for making a flavorful broth in a short period of time and mentions he’s not missing the noodles, so his earlier judgmental tone was just due to increased cortisol levels. He says both were really good, but he enjoyed one more … and that was Sarah’s. She earns back her Top Chef coat.

She says the victory feels especially sweet because her dish is everything she likes about food and represents the kind of food she wants to cook on Top Chef.

It seems like Sarah has hit her stride.

“I think that Last Chance Kitchen is definitely more my style, and I’m excited to see how far I can get. I think I like it a lot,” she says.

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.

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