TOP CHEF -- Episode 2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)

Top Chef Season 20 Episode 11 Recap: Battle Of The Wellingtons

Who doesn’t love an underdog? On the last episode of Top Chef, Amar Santana rose to the top of the pack with a one two punch winning both the quickfire and elimination challenges. Amar was plagued with self doubt if he belonged amongst his fellow cheftestants, however by the end of the episode he was in his element and cooking Indian food like a pro. Not as good as Padma Lakshmi of course, but close. 

While Amar found his inner chef, Buddha Lo, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Victoire Gouloubi all sunk to the bottom in the Thali challenge. Sadly, it was fan favorite Victoire who was eliminated for under seasoned food. Gabriel, now known as “el gato” for using five of his nine lives to escape elimination, was grateful to still be there. Buddha mused he did two seasons back to back so he was bound to trip up at some point. That is the law of averages after all.

Don’t run out of steam

Two Michelin star chef Andrew Wong joined Padma for a chat about how to conserve water. Padma then opened a dishwasher and pulled out a one gallon pot of water the chefs had to share in order to create a dish using a steamed element. Any takers that was Padma’s first time opening a dishwasher? 

Sara Bradley smartly realized that sharing is caring and divvied out cups of water amongst the group. She decided to ditch her southern roots and make a strictly Asian dish, which put her straight in the bottom of the challenge. Amar’s star fell a bit when he joined her with his dry dumplings. The ups and downs of Tom Goetter continued when he served the judges a wet seafood mousse. Yum. 

Gabriel made a comeback to the top with his sole and mussel mixiote. Padma and Andrew raved about his adobo sauce. But it was Buddha who won the challenge with a flavorful seafood hot pot. Buddha is back in business!

Battle of the apples

The chefs drew knives and the remaining six were split into teams of two. Padma shared each pair would have to make three different wellingtons: seafood, meat, and dessert. To add additional stakes, this was a double elimination as well. Ali Ghzawi was paired up with Tom and joked he didn’t need Amar anymore. But Ali couldn’t quit Amar, and gave him a hug in solidarity to make it to the end. 

Tom and Ali decided on salmon and prawns, beef, and apple. Sara and Amar picked tuna, lamb, and apple pie tres leches. Buddha and Gabriel went more traditional with salmon, beef, and peach melba wellingtons. At the store there was a rush to the apple aisle as Sara and Ali searched for the best apples. Sara was nervous as they would be judged head to head for the same dish. Gabriel lived up to his new nickname el gato when he was able to grab an extra salmon roe with only 45 seconds to spare. 

Tomb Raider 4: Race to the Cooked Wellington 

The kitchen was a blur as the chefs hectically began cooking their wellingtons for the judges and 25 diners who would be voting on the end results. The duos divided up the work, one focused on wellingtons and another on purees and sauces. Buddha and Gabriel each had a bit of trouble. Gabriel was behind on his peaches and Buddha had to throw out the crepes as he didn’t have enough time to get them right. Amar was still sad he wasn’t working with Ali and joked at least they got to work next to each other. It will be a sad day if this bromance is broken up. 

Tom Colicchio came in with executive chef Kirk Westaway to grill the chefs. Sara noted Tom asks questions in a way that makes you think you’re doing something wrong. That’s probably the point. Ali wooed Tom and Kirk by having them taste his orange blossom custard which they enjoyed. Tom tested Buddha on his knowledge of wellingtons and Buddha said was confident because he cooks 15 a night in his sleep. Amar wasn’t as confident because you don’t know if the wellingtons are cooked until you cut them open. With 30 minutes left, Tom felt the ticking clock and compared the remaining minutes to a Tomb Raider movie and a race to the end.

A recipe for disaster

The seafood wellingtons were served first. Sara and Amar made theirs with tuna and asparagus, and Tom appreciated they used a more difficult fish to cook with. Ali and Tom made salmon with leeks and cauliflower puree. Tom gave the dreaded under seasoned comment, and Padma found the puree texture gummy. Gabriel and Buddha served salmon and shrimp with caviar and potato puree. Gail Simmons noted the potato puree was too buttery, but Padma liked the nori twist on the salmon. 

Now came the test if the meat wellingtons were cooked through. Unfortunately for Amar and Sara, their lamb was raw. They instructed the judges to pour sauce on top to cover it up, but that’s as effective as Superman putting on glasses and all of the sudden he’s Clark Kent. Ali and Tom served beef with roasted carrots and onion puree, and Kirk was not a fan of the puree. Gabriel and Buddha made a classic dry aged beef with truffle demi glaze, pickled beetroot and foie gras. Tom loved the presentation and beef flavor. Two out of three cooked through isn’t bad! 

All three wellington desserts looked incredible. Sara and Amar served apple pie tres leches with apple puree and creme anglaise. Kirk liked the creativity but Tom wasn’t a fan of the filo dough. Tom and Ali made apple with chestnut duxelles, apple butter, and orange blossom vanilla sauce. Gail really liked the orange blossom flavor. Finally, Buddha and Gabriel served peach melba with almond frangipane, raspberry sorbet, and tonka bean creme anglaise. Not only did the judges rave about the flavor but the technical aspect impressed them as well. Padma was happy there were no major disasters as expected.

Two to go

To no one’s surprise, Buddha and Gabriel won the challenge. Not only did the judges agree but the diners as well. Buddha was so happy he swung Gabriel around like a rag doll. All those wellington’s Buddha cooked in his sleep finally paid off. Gabriel joked the gato doesn’t spend any single life this time! 

Sara’s fears came to light about going head to head with a similar dessert. However, it wasn’t dessert that did them in but their undercooked lamb. Amar shared he got into the finale of his season through Last Chance Kitchen and hoped for the same outcome this time. I can’t wait to see Sara and Amar battle it out in LCK with the other finalist. One of them will be walking right back into the competition next week.