Last week on the premiere of the 17th season of “Top Chef,” Joe Sasto was sent packing for his soggy open-fire flatbread. However, he will get a chance to get back into the game by competing with the next eliminated player in the web-only show “Last Chance Kitchen.”
This week, the Los Angeles-based edition of the Bravo reality series is inspired by beloved Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, who died in 2018. The first food critic to ever win a Pulitzer was fond of small traditional immigrant eateries. Read on for our minute-by-minute takes on the second episode of the season, “The Jonathan Gold Standard.”
10:01 p.m. Host Padma Lakshmi tells the chefs, who are still on the same beach from the previous episode, that there will be no quickfire challenge this week. Why you ask? “You will spend the whole day exploring the city.” She then holds up a book, adding, “And you will be using this.” It’s Gold’s guide to 101 best restaurants from Los Angeles. “It was his last list that he published before he died.”
10:03 p.m. San Francisco chef Melissa King elaborates, “Jonathan Gold was the best restaurant critic in Los Angeles. He focused on small neighborhoods, particularly the neighborhood I grew up in. And I never thought people from the West Side would drive all the way to the East Side to eat there. It’s all because of Jonathan Gold.”
10:05 p.m. Head judge Tom Colicchio tells the chefs, “Tomorrow will be the ultimate dining adventure. You are going to get to visit a bunch of restaurants on his list and find an inspiration, find what moves you.” Padma tasks the players to create a dish inspired from visiting some of the lauded critic’s favorite eateries. “A story you might hear, a dish you might taste, anything that brings out the passion you have for food.” They will serve their dishes at Union Station to 200 guests as a way to honor the life and writing of Jonathan Gold.
10:07 p.m. Judge and author herself Gail Simmons, also pays her respects to Goldman, calling him “a true hero to the Los Angeles food community.” She notes the irony of him winning a Pulitzer for his criticism because he wasn’t critical. Jonathan wrote about what he loved. Tom agrees, saying, “It was all about what moved him” and adds that they should be like Jonathan, and cook what they love.
10:09 p.m. Padma then announces Ruth Reichl, who was Goldman’s editor at Gourmet magazine, will be the guest judge. Season 11’s Stephanie Cmar is fangirl-ing to the max when she hears the news.
10:11 p.m. The chefs return to their scenic accommodations and toast the fact that they survived their first challenge. Kevin Gillespie, the fan favorite from season 6, observes, “But this season we can’t all stand around and go ‘those five aren’t very good.’ It started tough. People are going to be sent home for technicalities.” He adds to camera, “It’s a very serious group of people with a tremendous amount of talent. I didn’t come back to go home early.” The main reason he came back and the main reason he wants to win? “It’s to prove to myself that I’m not dying.” He had surgery to have a tumor removed from his kidney. He spent the next year fighting to recover.
10:12 p.m. The chefs split up in four groups that will head out to different areas of the city. They get in their snazzy BMWs and the GPS lady leads the way. Nini Nguyen shares the news that she is in “a dad mobile going to downtown L.A.” She tells her front-seat companions Brian Malarkey and Jamie Lynch that there is “precious cargo back here.” The guys say, “Baby on Board.” This Millennial who is the youngest chef has some sass to her and, as she notes, a few tricks up her sleeve.
10:13 p.m. For Melissa, the neighborhood she is driving to along with season 13’s Karen Akunowicz and season 4’s Lisa Fernandes is like a homecoming. She adds, “The whole neighborhood smells like chilies and hot sauce.” “Top Chef” made her realize she is proud to be Chinese and that “I should show that through my cooking.” They head to Chendu Taste. A Goldman quote about the potency of Szechuan peppercorns pops up and indeed it is hot stuff.
10:15 p.m. Season 12’s Gregory Gourdet, season 16’s Eric Adjepong, season 7 and 8’s Angelo Sosa and driver Kevin pull up to Jitlada, which serves Thai cuisine. Gregory reads aloud from Goldman’s bible: “Curried fish kidneys and fried silkworms and chili may not be your jam. But if you try to meet Jitlada halfway, you’ll never be bored.” We get to see huge fish slathered with golden sauce go in a fryer. The owner serves turmeric fish and the chefs duly make a lot of yummy sounds.
10:18 p.m. Bryan Voltaggio is in the driver’s seat as Brian M. reads about their destination, Lasa, that serves Filipino food. He is interested in the Filipino tartare.
10:20 p.m. Stephanie, season 6 and 8’s Jennifer Carroll and Lee Anne Wong go to Mayura, which specializes in Indian food. They are served fish curry – the eatery’s most famous dish. Stephanie dubs the food “absolutely gorgeous” and she gets why Goldman loved it. She shares with us that she will do an Indian dish. We get a preview of her serving Padma – who, of course, is of Indian descent. It seems that it might not go well.
10:22 p.m. Melissa and her crew are ready to chow down on tacos, courtesy of the Mariscos Jalisco food truck. We learn Lisa had a food truck in Brooklyn for five years. She credits Goldman for legitimizing food trucks and stands as a source of great food.
10:24 p.m. Kevin’s gang ends up at Meals by Genet, which serves Ethiopian cuisine. They are served the doro wot, a very traditional dish. Eric relates to this food since he was the first chef in the history of the show to promote West African cuisine. He ends up hugging the owner as she shares her memories of Goldman. Bryan V.’s crew land at Rossoblu where they eat something that translates to “soup in a bag.” Nini compares it to Pho.
10:25 p.m. Melissa, Lisa and Karen go to Manuela where they sample angelic biscuits. Jennifer’s threesome stops at Shunji while Bryan V. and Brian M. tackle Guerilla Tacos with their group. Kevin and his dining partners hit Republique.
10:27 p.m. Time to raid Whole Foods for their ingredients. They have just 30 minutes to get what they need. Bryan V. is buying short ribs that he will turn into a Filipino dish. Clever Nini is making masa ball soup — a fun twist on matzo ball soup — while combining the flavors of all three restaurants. Lisa wants a lot of duck breast, but that leaves Eric out of luck. He decides to do scallops with kitfo, an herb-infused oil us in Ethiopian food. Angelo is on a turmeric kick. He is making a crudo of tuna with a turmeric coconut broth. He can’t find a certain kind of seed so goes with ground nutmeg, coriander and cayenne. Kevin yells out, “Six minutes!” and Eric goes on a tear.
THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE
10:32 p.m. All the chefs run like crazy into the kitchen. They have just three hours to cook. Melissa says what is difficult about the challenge is that we are feeding 200 people that knew Goldman personally. There’s a lot of pressure to make food that he would have been proud of. Karen reveals she is making lamb dumplings and isn’t too sure she will be able to do 200 by hand. Lisa is highlighting her chilies more than her duck. Eric feels he is taking a risk by using braised red cabbage.
10:35 p.m. Kevin is doing a dish inspired by duck en croute pate – a fried terrine that involves cooking lots of cuts of meat and blending them with vegetables. Fingers crossed for his dish to set. And, yes, Stephanie feels she might have bitten off more than she can chew. She is making flatbread (“Hello, Joe”) and she is overthinking everything. She hasn’t even had time to taste it.
10:37 p.m. They drive to Union Station and the pressure is on because Goldman’s wife and his close associates will be there. They have an hour before the guests arrive. Angelo has Jennifer taste his broth and she says it needs a little more sour to it.
10:40 p.m. Actor/director Jon Favreau, who made the foodie movie “Chef,” is in attendance and samples Jamie’s handmade food. We get to see Kevin and Bryan V. serving their goodies. Gregory’s halibut, turmeric and tomato broth look delish. Nini really likes to say she made a masa ball soup with a coconut ginger broth. Lisa is putting out her pickled chili salad with spicy caramel duck.
10:43 p.m. Melissa delivers on her mala beef tartare with anchovy aioli and five spice potato chip. Tom takes a bite and his eyes start to water because of the chilies. Not the best sign. Lee Anne is getting compliments for her creation. Eric’s dish delights the eye as a scallop tops his red cabbage. Alas, the cabbage wasn’t cooked enough. Angelo’s crudo is next. Did he fix it? Not quite, says Tom. Or as guest judge Ruth says, “Those ingredients never said hello to each other.”
10:44 p.m. Karen is next with her cumin lamb dumplings with roasted chili oil and pickled cucumbers. She hears “good job” from Padma. Jamie dishes out a fresh duck mole taco, with lime crema and fire-roasted chili salsa. Brian M. is serving fried rice beef tartare with kimchi vinaigrette, peanut crack and fermented egg yolk. Jennifer is offering a chickpea and navy bean stew with hominy, herb yogurt, cashews and pickled red onion. Ruth says she really honored the challenge.
10:46 p.m. Next is Bryan V.’s short ribs with charred eggplant puree, fermented radish and butternut squash vinaigrette. Favreau declares it “really good.” Lee Anne has made an “end of summer” hayashi with black plums, tomato-seaweed gelee, mozzarella and king crab vinaigrette. Will she overcome her flawed dishes from last week? Oh, oh. Here is Stephanie’s offering – grilled naan with curried peas, crispy lamb, carrot relish and cheese. “So, it’s an Indian nacho,” says Padma. Oh, Steph, you just realized that one of the people who is in charge of your fate is Indian? As she says, “Wicked oops!”
10:48 p.m. Kevin has plated roasted pork, mushroom and black currant terrine with Granny’s apple butter. A delighted Ruth thinks he should bottle his Granny’s apple butter. Melissa wisely readjusts her dish and Padma has one word for her – “Delicious.”
10:50 p.m. Tom sets the theme by saying, “There’s a fine line between inspiration and imitation. Lot of the food was personal and delicious so, nice job.” Padma says, “We did have three chefs we thought did the best: Nini, Kevin and Bryan Voltaggio.” And the winner is … Kevin. Ruth tells him she knows Jonathan would have really loved his dish. I think something just got in my eye.
10:54 p.m. Padma gets to deliver the bad news. The least favorite dishes belong to Stephanie, Angelo and Eric. They step forward. Padma says what Stephanie made “just didn’t taste of anything.” Eric says he initially wanted to do a duck but switched scallops. But the problem with his dish was his poorly prepared red cabbage. Padma liked Angelo’s tuna and how it was seasoned. It just didn’t make sense with his overly sweet broth. Ruth is almost insulted, saying, “I’m sorry, but this tuna died in vain. It was just a piece of flesh in a sweet broth.”
10:57 p.m. Padma says the person whose dish suffered the most was Stephanie’s, saying, “The naan was tasteless” and Tom agrees: “It was kind of dry and had very little personality.” “If she had a nice chutney in there, it could have been good,” Gail adds. “It’s funny we talk about the lamb, but I had completely forgotten about it.” Ruth delivers the final verbal coup de grâce: “I feel like the three bottom chefs actually forgot that food is supposed to be delicious.” Ouch.
10:58 p.m. The person packing their knives is … Angelo. “I thought it was sweet but I didn’t think it was overly sweet. My son has these special needs and has gone through many struggles. But his circumstances don’t define him and this doesn’t define me.” However, he has a chance to redeem himself on “Last Chance Kitchen,” where his rival Joe awaits after being eliminated last week.
Next on “Top Chef”: Ali Wong and Randall Park (“Always Be My Maybe”) show up in the kitchen and the chefs find inspiration by visiting the Getty Center after being tasked “to interpret a work of art on your plate.”
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