For the 11th episode of Top Chef season 19, the remaining six cheftestants (welcome back, Sarah Welch) travel to Galveston. A cynical recapper might posit that the episode mostly serves as a commercial for a vacation rental company, but let’s try to keep things positive.
In a twist, the chefs are tasked with cooking for a close friend or family member in the Elimination Challenge. Watching the chefs reunite with loved ones they haven’t seen in weeks makes for a surprisingly emotional episode. Still, the show must go on, and poorly cooked squid sends a chef packing.
Let’s break down the show from a Houston perspective by highlighting the local people and places who appeared in the episode. Then we’ll check in on the progress of local cheftestant Evelyn Garcia and keep track of the overall competition.
It seems that this portion of the recap may have reached its end. Other than Top Chef alum Dawn Burrell, it has been weeks since we’ve seen any Houston chefs on the show.
Moving to Galveston does provide some beachfront views. The cheftestants get a limited tour of the city that includes La King’s Confectionary, the essential sweet shop on the Strand. For Houstonians, the store likely recalls memories of over the top sundaes and other frozen treats; the show focuses on its chocolate selection, which is pretty great.
Still, it seems like Top Chef producers missed an opportunity to showcase more of the island. Why not have the chefs visit Katie’s Seafood Market for a Quickfire based on the day’s catch? They toured the island by trolley bus; couldn’t they have stopped at Maceo Spice & Import Company for a muffaletta? Or had legendary Galveston restaurateur Francisco “Paco” Vargas serve as a guest judge in some capacity?
How did Evelyn Garcia do
Once again, our local cheftestant shines. She secures her first Quickfire victory with a Thai-spiced take on a Viet-Cajun seafood bowl. [Check out this clip of Garcia on a recent episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan to see her make something similar.]
Cooking for her father Jose in the Elimination Challenge, she impresses the judges with her fried snapper with coconut sticky rice and pickled chilis.
“I love dishes that have layers like that, herbs on top with the spice,” guest judge Sheldon Simeon raves. “The crust of the fish was unique. I thought it was a delicious dish all the way through.”
By any measure, Garcia has to be considered among the favorites to win the season.
Speaking of favorites, Buddha Lo wins his second Elimination Challenge in a row. Typically, chef Buddha’s dishes have incorporate fine dining touches that reflect his extensive training, but he mixes things up this week with a homey plate of pasta Amatriciana. As he explains, it’s the dish his wife cooked for him that made him fall in love with her.
Who goes home
Chef Ashleigh Shanti makes the sort of fundamental cooking error that almost always leads to a chef packing her knives. The squid she serves as part of paella-inspired heirloom rice are so undercooked that host Padma Lakshmi spits it out into her napkin. With Last Chance Kitchen having wrapped up, she’s out permanently.
Who exceeds expectations
Chef Damarr Brown continues to look like one of the season’s frontrunners. Cooking for his mentor and boss Erick Williams, he joins Buddha and Evelyn in the top three with his herb bread-crusted redfish with little neck clams and white beans. It seems fairly like this group of three will be battling it out for the title.