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

Top Chef Season 20 Episode 12 Recap: Goodbye, London!

It was an all out war on the last episode of Top Chef. The remaining six cheftestants were paired up to battle it out and make not one, not two, but three different wellingtons. The more puff pastry the better in my opinion. The duo that was sent packing was Amar Santana and Sara Bradley for making a raw lamb wellington. Amar should have stayed in his comfort zone and deep fried that sucker. 

However, all was not lost for Amar and Sara. They had Last Chance Kitchen as their way to get back into the competition. All they had to do was cook against Charbel Hayek, and impress Tom Coliccio and Gail Simmons. They had their work cut out for them.

I’m back, bitches! 

So, which chef won LCK and walked back through those doors? Gabriel Rodriguez predicted Charbel, and Tom Goetter said everyone else’s name but Sara Bradley’s. It seemed to surprise everyone when Sara busted through the door and screamed, “I’m back, bitches!” Sara was rejuvenated and ready to take the whole competition down. Watch out, Buddha Lo!

Padma Lakshmi welcomed guest judge Sam Bompas who apparently has revitalized the jelly craze. This man is so serious about jelly that he even used it to heighten the hair on top of his head by seven inches, and his do gave the perfect wobble when it shook. Padma shared their quickfire challenge was to make a dessert that incorporated jelly and a mold. Buddha suddenly heard a choir of angels sing “Hallelujah” as this was the challenge he and his 1,000 molds were waiting for. 

Gabriel had trouble setting his dulce de leche panna cotta and ended up on the bottom. Tom joined him due to the flavors not working for his goat cheese panna cotta with orange blossom. That left Ali Ghzawi, Sara, and Buddha vying for the win. The judges loved the flavors of Ali’s luscious dark chocolate cremeux, black current sauce and pistachio crumble. They also enjoyed Sara’s buttermilk and strawberry jelly. But those two dishes weren’t enough to take the king of molds crown. Buddha’s orange blossom molded ice cream over jelly and panna cotta took the win. 

Last challenge in London 

Padma announced their last challenge in London was to do trompe l’oeil, which meant to trick the eye. It was up to them how to interpret the challenge, such as creating a dish that looked like one food item but was another. Padma told the chefs they would also be providing them with a variety of molds. Buddha laughed and pish poshed the idea of using anyone else’s molds but his own.

Tom was excited about this challenge and shared it was meant for him. Gabriel felt sure of himself as he had done a similar challenge during his season of Top Chef. His plan was to create a dish that looked like a sponge as he had worked his way up from being a dishwasher. Sara was not happy as this wasn’t her style, but she decided to make matzo ball soup as that dish had gotten her to the finale before. Ali wandered the grocery store aisles lost until an idea struck to make a dish that looked like a garden. Afterwards the chefs had a nice cocktail break and reminisced about their favorite challenges.

Turtle time

The chefs were brought over to the impressive Hatfield house, which looked more like the Palace of Versailles than a house. And this time they actually got to cook inside the building and not in the parking lot. The chefs then got down to business. With all the different molds, colors, and creative techniques flying around it looked more like an art class than cooking in the finale. And speaking of finale, Ali joked he was looking forward to putting the “Ali” in the finale. Ba dum tiss! 

Gabriel predicted the judges would be shocked his dish was not a dirty sponge. Let’s hope so. Tom lasered in on his seaweed forward dish and made a bunch of seaweed caviar with agar agar. Buddha focused on making his potato croquette look like a black truffle. Sara didn’t want to use the molds but had FOMO so she gave in. Ali got down and dirty and made several different soils. And even though he loathes turtles, Ali made a bunch of mini turtles for his garden. Ali proudly announced if he got to Paris he’d buy a big turtle and name him Amar.

What’s for dinner?

Sara was off to a not so great start when Padma side-eyed her and thought Sara’s “tamale” matzo ball soup was a piece of sushi. Tom wasn’t sure what the jellies on her plate represented, however Gail loved the texture of the vegetables. Gabriel served his dirty sponge dish of lemon brioche, lamb tartare, and parmesan foam. It took a minute, but then the judges were fans of the concept. Tom wished Gabriel had used a mold to make the sponge more uniform, but overall everyone was really happy with the flavors. Looks like el gato will live another day!

Ali served his garden of falafel, sumac mousse, chickpeas, quinoa mousse, and herb breadcrumb soil. The judges had fun picking out the turtles amongst the food, but they didn’t like the dry breadcrumbs. Next up was Tom’s seaweed caviar on the beach. Gail liked how Tom elevated seaweed to caviar status, but the judges didn’t think the dish was technical enough. Buddha immediately got the judges attention with his “What’s for dinner?” dish. He served a beef and onion “red wine,” bread “porcini,” polpette “cherries,” and potato croquette “black truffle.” Gail said it looked like a still painting and it tasted different than it looked. Buddha nailed the challenge as the judges licked their plates clean.

The final four

Padma announced team wellington, Gabriel and Buddha, were moving on to Paris! Padma thought Gabriel’s dish was a clever trick, and Gail liked his story and the amount of flavor in the dish. For Buddha, Tom was happy how well the dish was executed and that he held back. Gail noted his “red wine” was her favorite gulp of the day. And the winner of the most delicious and tricky dish was … Buddha! The man is unstoppable. 

Sara, Ali, and Tom were in the bottom. Padma thought Sara’s dish was delicious but she wanted her to take it farther. The judges weren’t fans of Ali’s dry breadcrumbs, and Tom thought the dish wasn’t tricky enough. Tom had the same comment for Tom’s seaweed dish. It was over-thought and not tricky. It’s sad to see any of these chef’s miss the finale, and unfortunately it was Tom who missed out on Paris. The rest of the chefs were overjoyed. El gato was now le chat. And we are off to Paris for the finale!