On the seventh episode of Top Chef: Houston, Eberly chef Jo Chan failed to impress the judges during the elimination challenge, continuing her streak of lackluster performances in the competition.
In the previous episode, Chan’s interpretation of shrimp and grits, inspired by former Texas governor Ann Richards, landed her somewhere in the middle during a challenge dedicated to trailblazing Texas women.
This week, the chefs were asked to work in groups to design a three-course dinosaur-themed menu, as a tie-in with the upcoming release of Jurassic World Dominion.
Quickfire highlights Nigerian swallows
The chefs walk into the Top Chef kitchen and see Padma Lakshmi standing in front of ingredients, spices, and herbs that are commonly used in Nigerian cuisine. She is joined by Houston chef Ope Amosu (owner of ChopnBlok) and James Beard Award winner and former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwuachi. They present the quickfire challenge to the chefs, who are tasked to create a dish to pair with a Nigerian swallow: a dough-like starch that’s been cooked until tender and dipped into a soup or stew.
After drawing knives, the chefs have a tasting of pre-prepared swallows before taking off to their station. Throughout the quickfire sequence, we don’t hear or see much of Chan aside from one instance of her informing the fellow competitors that there’s backup spices in the pantry, which she immediately asked herself, “Why do I help people?”
Time runs out and the chefs present their swallow dishes to the judges. Chan’s dish is a chicken and kale stew seasoned with suya and banga spice, which doesn’t receive any feedback, good or bad. Ultimately, the winner of the quickfire is chef Buddha Lo, who earned immunity in the elimination challenge.
Obvious Jurassic Park-sponsored challenge is obvious
Following the quickfire, the room suddenly goes dark as various creature sounds and roars are played like some kind of 4-D theatrical experience. A projection shines in the center of the room with the Jurassic Park dinosaur skull logo as the iconic John Williams-composed theme plays, not-so-subtly hinting that this week’s elimination challenge has something to do with the movie franchise. The lights comes back on as Top Chef: Colorado winner chef Joe Flamm enters the room dressed like Dr. Alan Grant.
Lakshmi gives a spiel about the upcoming Jurassic Park Dominion that vaguely ties into food before actors Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt appear on a screen to announce the elimination challenge: a three-course dinner based on dinosaurs that appear in the Jurassic Park cinematic universe. Flamm hands the chefs folders with information on various dinosaurs, which are color coded to divide the chefs into three teams of three.
Together, they will plan their dino-inspired menus and present their final dishes for the judges at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The winning team will get a VIP trip to the world premiere of Jurassic Park Dominion, which is almost as good as a cash prize. Almost.
Planning a dinosaur menu and mulling over the odds
The teams are given time to plan and get on the same page before heading to Whole Foods to shop for ingredients. On, Chan’s team, which include Lo and chef Jae Jung, the first two courses come easily, but when it’s time to figure out something for the third, Jung has trouble coming up with a creative dish.
In the car ride to Whole Foods, the three discuss the conceptual nature of the challenge, with Chan noting that it doesn’t need to be a literal interpretation. In a confessional, Lo brings up his immunity and the fact that Chan and Jung need to step up to avoid a 50/50 chance of elimination if their team ends up in the bottom.
Trouble in Jurassic Park
The next day, the chefs are shown arriving at the museum and setting up their workstations to begin prepping their courses. The menu for Chan’s team will feature Lo’s smoked alligator as the first course, Chan’s barbecue quail and glazed carrots for the second, and Jae’s lamb duo as the final course. The concept of Chan’s dish is to celebrate “an air animal that eats everything,” so she makes a stuffing to put inside the quail. The carrots in her dish are a nod to a dish that the characters ate in the original Jurassic Park movie.
As the challenge rolls on, the chefs get to cooking, and the judges arrive in the museum’s dinosaur exhibit. The teams begin presenting their dishes, and the first course is stiff, with each team presenting a commendable dish. When its Chan’s turn to present with the second courses, she has some trouble with her carrots, which didn’t take to the glaze well. The judges are critical, pointing out the lack of glaze on the carrots and an overall dryness to the quail that screams overcooked.
The results are in and Chan is asked to leave
In the end, Garcia’s team, which includes chefs Jackson Kalb and Nick Wallace, are announced as the winners, marking a third win in a row for Garcia. When it gets down to decide who should go home, the judges give heavy feedback to Chan and Jung, who both had dishes that lacked direction.
Ultimately, Chan is asked to pack her knives and leave. Despite having a strong start to the competition, Chan lost her footing somewhere along the way and never seemed to find her rhythm. Fortunately, she was able to show the world her strong personality and sense of self while representing her communities in a significant way, and surely, this is not the last we’ll see of Chan going forward.