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Top Chef Season 20 Episode 10 Recap: Thali Time

Top Chef’s infamous restaurant wars graced our screens last episode, and for the first time ever the chefs got to solely focus on the food. There was no front of the house nonsense or untrained Craigslist waiters to sabotage the delivery of dishes. Only the chefs could sabotage each other, and that happened when Tom Goetter left a basket of vegetables he purchased for his team behind at the store. Oops. 

Tom’s team ended up in the bottom, and Padma Lakshmi got saucy about Gabriel Rodriguez’ dish being too saucy. Ultimately, Nicole Gomes was sent packing for an old school pasta dish that didn’t measure up to the modern food the rest of the team put out. On the bright side, Buddha Lo nailed down his team’s concept and won restaurant wars with elevated British cuisine. This competition is his to lose. 

Something fishy is going on

For the quickfire challenge, the chefs had to cook with various smoked fishes, such as prawns, scallops, and kipper. I could only imagine what it smelled like in the kitchen that day. Sara Bradley mentioned some people might find it smelly, but to her smoked fish smelled like an art form. Hate to break it to Sara but two things can be true at the same time. Smoked fish can be an art form and smoked fish can also stink to the high heavens.

Sara ended up in the bottom because she doused her already salty fish with half a box of kosher salt. Gabriel was also in the bottom for a too soft prawn tuile. Sound appetizing to anyone? Buddha continued to dominate in the top with a cheese and fish onion carbonara. How risqué. Ali Ghzawi joined him with dried scallops and taramasalata puree, and his BFF Amar Santana with a smoked haddock salad. Amar dethroned Buddha and took down his first ever quickfire win. Congrats, Amar!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

The chefs left behind their knives and met Padma Lakshmi and Asma Khan for a nice sit down meal. Indian food was on the menu, and in particular a Thali, which is a platter of small dishes. The dishes have to hit salty, sweet, bitter, sour, pungent, and hot notes. Sign Sara up for salty! 

The chef’s had their mission, cook their own Indian Thali’s that hit all six tasting notes. Cooking Indian food for Padma and Asma? I have a feeling Padma might decide to send everyone home after this. Padma noted the chefs were supposed to cook offsite at a different location but because the Queen had passed they would be cooking in the Top Chef kitchen. We then got a nice montage of Londoners gathering together to honor the life of Queen Elizabeth the second. 

Thali with a twist

Immunity was off the menu for Amar, but he did win a thirty minute head start. He spent that time tasting all the different Indian spices and muttering how you do not cook Indian food for Padma. Maybe Tom can provide comfort to Amar and the rest of the chefs as he did win a quickfire challenge with an Indian dish. 

Most of the chefs are terrified of this challenge, so they go to their roots to inspire them. Sara is doing a southern inspired Thali, Gabriel is doing Mexican, and Victoire Gouloubi is doing African. Buddha’s hot streak might be on the line as he still wasn’t over being in the bottom the last time he cooked Indian food for Padma.

To further strike fear into the chefs, Padma and Asma pulled a Tom Colicchio and wandered around the floor judging the chefs as they cooked. Gabriel impressed them as he hand ground his own spices, but then burnt his beans in the pressure cooker. Amar was totally unphased and was feeling himself with each dish he finished. He then vowed to open an Indian restaurant if he won. Let’s not go too far there.

Food tastes better in a booth

Everyone knows when you go out to eat food tastes better if you sit in a booth. Things were already not looking good for the chefs when Padma was miffed she had to eat in the stew room. Guess all the booths were taken. Amar went first and served lentils with fenugreek, stone fruit chutney, shrimp and crab curry, green mango raita, rice with nigella seeds, and tandoori sweetbreads. For never cooking Indian food before he really impressed the judges. Amar’s better half Ali went next. Ali made Saffron rice, lentil dal, eggplant curry, beef tandoori, raita, and mango chutney. The judges were also impressed. Two for two.

Buddha went next and served chana dal with tamarind, shrimp koliwada, snow peas and methi, date and tamarind chutney, chicken korai, and mango, coconut pudding. Overall he got mixed reviews and Padma was missing a plate. Victoire made saffron rice, lamb with coriander, mango yogurt, onion and cucumber salad with coriander, okra with moringa, and red lentil dal. Guess Victoire missed the memo that Tom hates okra. Shockingly that didn’t come up, but rather her food was under seasoned and her rice over cooked. 

Tom served spiced rice, coriander and mint chutney, dal, kakdi koshimbir, chicken masala, and gajar ka halwa. The judges liked most of it but did not enjoy the raw spices. Gabriel made tamarind and orange chutney, mango, cucumber and passion fruit salsa, scallops with encacahuatado, coconut tamale, turmeric and cinnamon rice, and fried eggplant. Gail Simmons was confused by the scallop dish, and Asma felt the spices conflicted. Finally, Sara served her southern twist with dirty rice, tamarind dal, spiced cauliflower, thunder and lightning, buttermilk raita, and persimmon chutney. Sara got rave reviews all around and really got the seasoning right.

King of the Thali 

The top three Thali’s belonged to Sara, Ali, and Amar. The judges were impressed that they all embraced the challenge and got playful with their flavors. And the winner was … Amar! In the beginning of the episode Amar had doubts he was good enough to be there. Well this just proved he was. A big congrats to Amar.

The rest of the crew didn’t do too hot. Tom made it through, but Buddha, Gabriel, and Victoire were in the bottom. Buddha got dinged for not serving Padma a dish, and Gabriel’s uncleaned tamarind chutney did him no favors. Victoire got called out for under seasoned food and was sent packing. Note to chefs, always season your food! I’m looking forward to seeing Victoire make a come back in Last Chance Kitchen.