‘Top Chef’ 16 episode 12 recap: It’s gardens, auctions and mentors for the Top 6 during their last days in Kentucky

On last week‘s “Top Chef,” Eric Adjepong racked up his third individual win of the season, leaving Adrienne Wright, Sara Bradley and Justin Sutherland, each with zero so far, in the dust and pulling away from Kelsey Barnard Clark who has one under her belt. But if we’re ranking chefs on their season records, we might want to give props to Michelle Minori, who may only have one challenge win as well, but also managed a successful string of wins on Last Chance Kitchen in order to rejoin the main competition this week.

Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Top Chef” recap of Season 16, Episode 12, titled “Kentucky Farewell,” to find out what happened Thursday, February 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about whether or not the right decision was made at this week’s Judges’ Table.

8:01 p.m. – With the competition narrowing down the realization that anyone could go home for any reason set in among the chefs. Last week Eddie Konrad was sent home for minor infractions on his dish simply because everyone put forth good food.

8:02 p.m. – All season long the chefs have been cultivating their own garden at home, so it’s fitting that for their last Quickfire in Kentucky Tom Colicchio arrived with guest judge Ouita Michel at the house to have them prepare a dish using harvests from their own personal gardens. Before that got under way, Tom brought out the final Last Chance Kitchen winner, Michelle, to officially re-enter the competition.

8:11 p.m. – Eric presented a green tomato & coconut soup that Ouita thought was delicious if not vegetable-forward enough. Kelsey also used green tomatoes, but fried them with a pickled vegetable salad. The judges thought it was well-seasoned, but Tom wasn’t crazy about the inclusion of ricotta with it. Michelle’s dish of roasted radishes and chard with poached eggs was supposed to have more vegetables and while she didn’t get them on the plate in time, Tom and Ouita still enjoyed the food. Adrienne made baby summer squash, zucchini and pickled green tomato and cucumber blossom that impressed the judges. Sara’s roasted radish, cucumber, squash & Cypress goat cheese was dynamic and perfectly acidic. Justin delivered a radish chard salad with scallions, arugula, pistou, turnips and pickled chard stems that was not only a pretty plate, but also tasted great together.

8:14 p.m. –  Ouita’s least favorite dishes were Michelle, Eric and Kelsey’s for being the least vegetable-forward of the bunch. That left Adrienne, Sara and Justin as the faves, but the final Quickfire winner of a $10,000 prize was Justin for his superior flavor and variety of vegetables!

8:16 p.m. – Later, Ouita joined the chefs as they met Padma Lakshmi at the Keeneland Auction House to hear about the next Elimination Challenge–this challenge would be the last before the final five travel to Macau for the season finals! Inspired by “pedigree,” the chefs were tasked with making a dish inspired by their mentor, all of whom would be seated at the table when the chefs serve these very dishes to the judges. The mentors were: JD Fratzke (Justin), Bryan Voltaggio (Eric), Gavin Kaysen (Kelsey), Kim Alter (Michelle), David Posey (Sara) and Chris Coombs (Adrienne). To make things even more interesting, Padma gave each chef $500 that they’d need to use in auction to bid on specialty ingredients for their dishes as well as use the remainder for additional ingredients needed from the store.

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8:23 p.m. – At the auction the first ingredient up for grabs was rabbit, but no one bid on it. The next item, Iberico ham, was valued at $500, but Sara managed to get it for only $85 as the only bidder. Eric also spent only $85 on Wagyu beef tenderloin, Adrienne got $75 foie gras, Justin got $85 yellowtail, Kelsey got $95 Osetra caviar, and Michelle got $100 king salmon.

8:25 p.m. – As Sara predicted, the vegetables were much more contested items at the auction. In the end, Justin spent $50 on $10 worth of daikon and Adrienne spent $95 on $30 worth of heirloom asparagus.

8:35 p.m. – At the store, Kelsey made the decision to purchase canned crab instead of fresh crab which meant that during prep in the kitchen she had to sift through searching for remnants of shells. Michelle was also in a worrisome spot when she pulled out her salmon to find the protein coming out of the fish, signifying that it’s on the way to being overcooked.

8:36 p.m. – Michelle was the first to serve her dish, slow roasted salmon with crispy skin, grain porridge and burnt citrus & marrow broth. The dish was inspired by Kim’s “bad ass” style while retaining her femininity and also maintained respect for vegetables. Ultimately the table thought the fish was cooked perfectly and the only criticism came from Graham Elliot who thought there was too much vinegar.

9:38 p.m. – Kelsey was next to present her gumbo with crab, seafood sauce & caviar garnish based off of a recipe from her mother and grandmother. While most at the table enjoyed her dish and were impressed by her process, Chris did find shells in his plate.

9:39 p.m. – When Adrienne served her spiced duck breast with seared foie gras she was embarrassed by her own plating because her mentor, Chris, holds beautiful plating in high regard. Chris commented on the messiness of the plate, but also said that if he ate it blindfolded he’d know it came from her because it tastes exactly like what she does as a chef.

9:41 p.m. – Prior to delivering his dish, Justin realized that he plated way too soon and so he had to rotate dishes under a heat lamp while waiting for his time to present. His plate of yellowtail two ways (sashimi style & miso cured) was a miss across the board and Tom lamented the choice to do two preparations instead of one.

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8:46 p.m. – Like Adrienne, Eric wasn’t happy with the way his plate looked when he set down his waakye (a traditional West African dish) with wheat berries, barley and quinoa for the table. Padma mentioned that it tasted nothing like Bryan’s food to which Eric said it was inspired by his deconstruction of dishes. Tom didn’t think the dish was fully realized, but overall most of the judges thought it tasted good.

8:47 p.m. – Last was Sara’s olive oil poached sea bass with Iberico ham broth, soy beans, black-eyed peas and baby lima beans. She described watching her mentor use ham in interesting ways to which he responded that she “knocked it out of the park.” Tom and the rest of the table agreed the everything was perfectly cooked.

8:49 p.m. – At Judges’ Table it was decided that there was one clear winner this week: Sara! Sara’s dish got Ouita choked up for how well she represented Kentucky and earned the “perfect dish” and “powerhouse” label from Tom. That made Sara the very first chef to earn her ticket to Macau.

8:51 p.m. – The rest of the chefs were offered sharp critiques from the judges: Justin took heat for not focusing on one preparation, Adrienne didn’t spice her dish enough, Kelsey was under fire for the shells in Chris’ portion, Michelle received positive comments and Eric heard that his dish felt incomplete.

8:58 p.m. – In the end, Padma named Eric, Michelle and Kelsey as three other chefs that would join Sara in in the final five, leaving Justin and Adrienne as this week’s bottom two. Ultimately, it was Justin’s dish that fell short and so he was eliminated and Adrienne was given another chance.

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NEXT WEEK: The final five travel to Macau for the start of the final stage of the competition. There they visit a local market for food inspiration, but Judges’ Table gets a little heated when Eric “respectfully disagrees” with one of the critiques.

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