‘Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen’: Brother says bye-bye, while 5 others say hello to fresh opportunity to stick around

Brother Luck, a Season 15 “Top Chef” contestant, is a superstar in Bravo’s web-only “Last Chance Kitchen” arena. But not so much on “Top Chef.” As judge Tom Colicchio noted last week, Brother has survived more “Last Chance Kitchen” rounds than anyone in the cooking competition’s  history. But he too often seems to blow it when he re-enters the world of “Top Chef” proper. That was the case with this week’s Season 16 edition that involved making a canape that was inspired by a Prohibition-era cocktail. He got a Southside Fizz and whipped up a chicken salad that was deemed way too spicy and not really a complement to his drink.

Brother, a Colorado Springs-based chef with his own restaurant, simply threw away his chance to redeem himself after he knocked out a considerable number of talented chefs during ‘Top Chef’s” auxiliary online contest.  All he had to do was to repeat the success he had in “Last Chance Kitchen.” But whatever confidence he possessed evaporated in the presence of a bunch of strange chefs, some of whom considered him an unwanted intrusion after six episodes into the main event. Brother bares his soul in a confessional type interview, saying he was looking for validation in Season 15 and did not get it.

Tom tells the eliminated chefs who act as a peanut gallery for “Last Chance Kitchen” to leave their stools and walk over to the cooking area. He asks them if they have any guesses who will be competing this week.  Turns out, all five are. Season 16 chef Nini Nguyen, who was beaten by Brother, looks ecstatic about this turn of events. Brother, however, thinks he has had enough chances and bows out of the competition. He would rather let the chefs who are hungry for the opportunity to go for it. Besides Nini, that includes Caitlin Steininger, Pablo Lamon, Natalie Maronski and Kevin Scharpf, who are more than ready.

Their challenge? Tom explains only one of them will return back to the kitchen and the dish they cook should speak about them. He then says, to make it more interesting, he won’t be in the kitchen. Therefore, it will be a blind tasting. They have 30 minutes to concoct something that defines them. Easy peasy, right?

Pablo says his dish will have only three components, a protein, a side and a vinaigrette. Nini wants to make something that shouts that it is her plate. She is making Chawan Mushi, which involves steamed egg custard and dashi.  Natalie grabs sea bass and feels very comfortable cooking fish.  It’s Kevin’s birthday – and apparently there is a curse associated with it, causing you to lose the challenge and go home. He is making a Spanish soup. Pablo tells Caitlin he is preparing seared sea bass. She is making Cincinnati chili spice rubbed steak with mustard sauce.

SEE Why after 16 seasons is ‘Top Chef’ still tops among cooking contests

Pablo says his dish will have only three components, a protein, a side and a vinaigrette. Nini wants to make something that shouts that it is her plate. She is making Chawan Mushi, which involves steamed egg custard and dashi.  Natalie grabs sea bass and feels very comfortable cooking fish.  It’s Kevin’s birthday – and apparently there is a curse associated with it, causing you to lose the challenge and go home. He is making a Spanish soup. Pablo tells Caitlin he is doing seared sea bass. She is making Cincinnati chili spice rubbed steak with mustard sauce..

Time is up and Tom comes in. He likes Natalie’s sea bass with whey braised Napa cabbage. He dings Caitlin’s steak for the bitter mustard sauce. As for Nini’s Chawan Mushi, Tom is likes her custard and flavors but it wasn’t cooked quite right. Pablo finally serves something that a judge likes, as Tom compliments his sea bass with apples, radishes and mushrooms. He then describes Kevin’s Salmarejo soup as “fruity, spicy and rich at the same time.”

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His judgment: Caitlin’s steak was perfectly cooked but he was not a fan of the sauce. He didn’t like Natalie’s garnish. He did enjoy how Kevin’s soup tasted, but not the thick texture. It comes down to Pablo and Nini. The winning dish? Pablo, who has been struggling, comes through when it counts with his fish. Nini must cope with the fact that she has been rejected for the third time. Or, as she puts it, “It’s like that boyfriend you are done with. Boy, bye.”

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