Last week, as “Top Chef” 16 headed to Macau, China, while building to its big finale on March 14, Michelle Minori won the Quickfire Challenge with her clever cuttlefish noodles with Chinese beans and lotus root. Kelsey Barnard Clark (see photo above) nailed the Elimination Challenge by mixing her Southern flair with the tastes of Macau by serving a mushroom broth loaded with peas, greens, orange rinds, Portugese sausage, cashews, cilatro and chives. Even hard-to-please Padma Lakshmi declared it beautiful.
And, as predicted by our poll last week when Adrienne Wright earned zero votes in our Gold Derby poll that asked which of the five remaining chefs most deserved to win, she made the judge’s least-favorite dish for an event celebrating Chinese New Year. Serving a small bite consisting of a fried sticky rice cake, hoisin braised pork belly and roasted chili aioli just didn’t cut it with judges Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot. Because she didn’t go big, she had to go home.
Meanwhile, favorite Eric Adjepong — who gathered the most Elimination Challenge wins with three — found himself in the bottom three for the first time ever after the flavors in his coconut curry were deemed off. However, despite her failed attempt to fully turn cauliflower into a grits substitute, the judges mostly liked Sara Bradley‘s shrimp and pork shank combo.
In this morning-after video (watch below), you can cut the tension with a knife as the status of the now final-four chefs continue to shift. Says Eric, “Waking up this morning, I’m trying not to worry about things that are not in my control. I mean, Macau is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place. It’s been really cool to engulf myself in the culture.”
He knows that whatever happens next, it will determine who will be going to the finale. “If you don’t feel the pressure, you aren’t really alive.” As they primp before a mirror in their shared quarters, Kelsey asks Sara, “What did you think about the sous chefs coming? — meaning four previously eliminated chefs who assisted them on their Elimination Challenge. Sara says, “It was so nice to see them.” Kelsey adds, “It was so fun having them in the kitchen again.”
Kelsey then speaks to the camera, stating that she won the last challenge because she made some smart decisions about her dish. We hear Padma complimenting how she blended her own background to the Chinese flavors. For Kelsey, “Top Chef” is THE cooking competition to win. She knows her competitors are hard workers and going against a group like that is “a lot of intimidation.”
As for Michelle, she says she fought her way back into the game after winning “Last Chance Kitchen” for a reason. “My plan is to pick them off one by one,” she asserts rather confidently. When Sara notes that the juice she is guzzling is making her teeth blood-red, she replies with a smile, “Maybe I’m out for blood.”
On the penultimate episode on March 7, the remaining foursome will have to incorporate durian fruit — the foul-smelling ingredient that is often used to throw cooking show contestants for a loop –into their food. The Elimination Challenge will require them to blend their own heritage with Chinese flavor. Be sure to tune into Bravo at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Thursday to see if they all raise an edible stink.