On last night’s episode of Top Chef: Portland, one of the two chef contenders from Houston had to pack their knives and go home. Read on to find out who, and of course, note that spoilers lie within.
The episode kicked off with a Quickfire challenge that was all about breakfast. The chefs were essentially short-order cooks, choosing a dish from a variety of selections like “fancy toast” offered up by the guest judges. Interestingly, Houston contestants Dawn Burrell and Sasha Grumman were asked to prepare the same dish — a veggie hash with perfectly fried over-easy eggs.
It wasn’t a great showing for the Houston chefs in the Quickfire, unfortunately. Both Burrell and Grumman didn’t have time to plate the eggs they were asked to prepare, and Grumman forgot to prepare them altogether. Despite that setback, Grumman’s flavors won out amongst the two, but weren’t strong enough to secure the challenge win and the immunity from elimination that comes with it.
Later, Burrell and Grumman prepared for the main challenge, which tasked the chefs with preparing a dish that featured either coffee or beer, both staples of Portland’s culinary scene. Ultimately, judge Tom Colicchio threw in a major twist, telling the chefs that they’d be required to team up and prepare a dish that blended both ingredients alongside one of their fellow chef competitors.
Grumman partnered with chef Brittanny Anderson, whom she’d actually met in Houston prior to the show’s taping. Speaking with Eater on Thursday, Grumman said that both she and Burrell met Anderson at a pop-up dinner event at chef Ryan Lachaine’s Montrose restaurant Riel, instantly hitting it off. “As soon as we saw each other all on the show, we freaked out,” Grumman says. “Now, Dawn and I are, you know, hanging out and having picnics. I really love what Top Chef did for our relationship, we got a lot closer a lot quicker, and that’s awesome.”
Anderson and Grumman were confident in their dish, which paired pork loin with a hazelnut-coffee crumble and romesco sauce. The judges, however, weren’t nearly as impressed. Their dish was described as “a collection of ingredients brought together,” with no “holistic identity.” Grumman’s romesco and hazelnut crumble were especially problematic, according to the judges. “It lacked any kind of personality or point of view,” host Padma Lakshmi said.
Meanwhile, Burrell teamed up with Portland chef Gabriel Pascuzzi to prepare a dish that brought together a rack of ribs with beer-infused compressed watermelon and a pickled vegetable garnish. Even though the two butted heads a little bit over the flavors in their dish while cooking, the final result earned rave reviews from the judges. Burrell’s “phenomenal,” fall-off-the-bone ribs earned high praise, and landed the duo in the top three teams of the day.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for Grumman. Her team ended up in the bottom, and she was ultimately eliminated. That likely had something to do with the fact that she was responsible for the components that the judges were most critical of. Eater spoke with Grumman before this week’s episode aired, so she wasn’t able to divulge those details, but she did speak frankly about how the experience of being critiqued on this show has shaped her as a chef.
You know, how you respond to criticism, and to people judging you is a huge challenge of your character,” Grumman says. “Can you take criticism, can you, you know, handle it? These people are so acclaimed, and they’ve done so many amazing things. There’s a reason they’re up there and you have to respect that.”
Top Chef: Portland airs on Bravo at 7 p.m. CST on Thursdays.