Top Chef Season 20 Episode 7 Recap: Hands Off

Top Chef is known for its surprises, and one was thrown at the end of the last episode. Tom Goetter and Sylvia Stachyra were the bottom two for the high-end picnic challenge and were awaiting their fate as to who would go home. Padma Lakshmi shocked everyone when she told them they would battle against each other right now in a special Highclere Castle edition of Last Chance Kitchen.

This cliffhanger ending forced everyone to give in and watch Last Chance Kitchen. Sadly, our potato queen Sylvia was sent packing. Hopefully, she was able to make some french fries for the ride home. Tom got to live another day and will no doubt continue his rollercoaster ride of being on the top and bottom of every other challenge. 

Gaga For Gaggan

The cheftestants were ready for their next quickfire challenge. They were greeted by Padma and guest judge, food rebel Gaggan Anand. And Gaggan had everyone gagged. Buddha Lo almost tripped and fell when he saw him, and Charbel Hayek said Gaggan’s craziness was an inspiration. Gaggan definitely looked like a food rebel and his quirkiness extended into their challenge of making a dish inspired by an emoji. 

Padma set the challenge in motion and high-tailed it out of the way as the chefs grabbed the emoji they wanted. Victoire Gouloubi wanted the heart, flame, or sun but instead picked the sushi emoji and immediately felt lost. I’m sure she really wanted the cussing emoji at that point. On the opposite end, Buddha had a blast making his skull-shaped sorbet inspired by the freezing face emoji, and Nicole Gomes had fun with the disguise emoji by hiding a meat and rice dish into a crispy fried meatball. 

Ali Ghzawi was not up to date on his emoji knowledge as he didn’t realize the four-leaf clover emoji meant lucky when he presented his herb salad cucumber gazpacho. And unlucky for him he was in the bottom. Also in the bottom was Victoire for cooking her fish and not serving it raw, and Dale MacKay with his too-simple chicken soup. At the top were Nicole, Buddha, and Amar Santana with his banana emoji dish of blue cheese, bacon, and plantains. And the winner was Buddha! 

Lick Your Plate Clean

Gaggan presented his gorgeous “rainbow world” dish to the chefs which he had made to celebrate the LGBT community. The chefs then had to lick their plates to try it, and Buddha wisely likened that to the wallpaper-licking scene in Willy Wonka. To be honest, the dish was stunning but it was not appealing watching a bunch of people licking their plates. Lucky for us more of that was coming because their elimination challenge was to make a visually stunning dish that had meaning and did not need utensils. 

On the way to Whole Foods, Dale decided he was going to make a mole and Sara Bradley joked if there was maple syrup in it. Moles are like risottos on Top Chef, just not a good idea. Unless you are Gabriel, that is. Although this time Gabriel is not going to do a mole but an al pastor taco with seabass. Amar wants to do a Thai-inspired papaya salad but is worried because Gaggan had a restaurant there. And Charbel is going to do a Lebanese dish in order to bring awareness to the hardships his people are currently going through.

If You’d Like To Leave A Message

Back in the kitchen, the chefs get to cooking. Nicole’s message is all about family, as she is very close with her mother and sister and is about to adopt a baby. She joked her sesame chicken and green onion pancake dish is a rolled-up burrito. Ali’s plan was to make vegetarian Kubbeh, as it’s very close to his heart to not harm the environment due to animal waste. 

Buddha continued to wax on about Gaggan and how he was one of the greatest chefs of all time. And in order to keep impressing him, Buddha busted out a custom mold from his thousand-dollar mold collection to use for a fancy cheese dip. Victoire planned to celebrate a famous African street food dish called Akara. Tom made a mousse and was worried it might not solidify enough overnight. Dale was confident in his mole, but Sara had doubts as Gabriel had knocked it out of the park in previous challenges.

RELATED: Top Chef Season 20 Episode 5 Recap: Holiday Vacation

Stew Room Steal

The next day the chefs presented their dishes and messages to the judges. In what had to be a Top Chef first, Ali had cut up a bunch of fake plants in the stew room and used them as greenery on his plates for the mushroom Kubbeh. I thought for sure the judges would call him out for putting items you can’t eat on a plate but they were none the wiser. Amar served them a seafood sausage wrapped in papaya with peanut and tomato purees. Buddha made a caramelized onion and black garlic puree cheese dip with pickled vegetables. And Tom served ginger and turmeric mousse with pumpkin and carrot chutney. The judges loved the flavor but the mousse had broken. 

Next up, Sara made a pecan pork rib with flowers sprinkled on top. Maybe she should have taken some of the greenery from the stew room instead because that dish did not look great. Dale served roasted chicken thigh with corn custard and mole on the side. The mole was a hit but the chicken needed more salt and a crispy skin. Gabriel served tacos al pastor with rainbow tortillas and Victoire made cassava cannoli, potato and bacon cream, and a pineapple mango sauce. Nicole served a turmeric jianbing crepe, green onion pancake, and sesame chicken. Charbel made Labneh with garlic, za’atar paste, tomato puree, and a filo cracker. Nicole’s dish was a bit dry, and Charbel had good flavors but needed some more crackers.

The Comeback Kid

The newest best friends trio on the show, Amar, Ali, and Charbel were all in the top three. Tom Colicchio liked that Amar went out of his comfort zone in terms of presentation but the flavor was still there. All the judges loved Charbel’s message and his dish. However, it was Ali’s vegetarian Kubbeh that won the day. Ali joked he had come back from the bottom to the top. That four-leaf clover emoji was working properly now. 

The judges’ least favorite dishes belonged to Dale, Victoire, and Tom. They did not like Dale’s chicken, and Victoire’s dish lacked in flavor. Tom’s dish had a ton of flavor but his mouse hadn’t set. Padma informed Dale he would be packing his knives for the second time. Under-seasoned and flabby chicken is a no-no. We’ll see if Dale can come back again as he battles his way through Last Chance Kitchen.


[Photo by: David Moir/Bravo]

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