TOP CHEF -- "Champions in Paris" Episode 2013 -- Pictured: (l-r) Buddha Lo, Ali Al Ghzawi, Sara Bradley, Gabriel Rodriguez -- (Photo by: Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)

Top Chef Season 20 Episode 13 Recap: Champions in Paris

Last week’s episode of Top Chef brought Last Chance Kitchen winner Sara Bradley back into the competition. She came in guns blazing, but couldn’t take down the unstoppable Buddha Lo who won both the quickfire and elimination challenges. To be fair, both challenges were made for him. One was all about using molds and the other was to create a dish to trick the eye. As Padma Lakshmi said, Buddha had come armed to the teeth with molds!

Buddha’s main competition for the trompe l’oeil challenge was Tom Goetter. Tom’s journey was a rollercoaster ride, but all of his dishes were extremely creative and outside the box. In the end, Tom over thought his seaweed caviar dish and was told to pack his knives and go. That meant London was in the rearview mirror for Buddha, Sara, Ali Ghzawi, and Gabriel Rodriguez. The final four were off to Paris for the finale!

Hitting a wall

The chefs met Padma in her best Muppets jacket and Michelin star guest judge Greg Marchand at the Eiffel Tower for their last quickfire. It was time for the infamous wall challenge! Each chef was paired up with a mystery guest on the other side of a wall and then had to coach them to create the same dish they were making. Usually it’s a family member on the other side, but this time it was Olympic medal champions as Paris is hosting the 2024 Olympics. No pressure!

Sara got off to a smooth start with Sydney Mclaughlin-Levrone, olympic gold medalist for track and field. She was a pro at instructing her as she had taught cooking classes during covid. Unfortunately, their spiced chicken with sweet and sour cauliflower was dry and landed them in the bottom. Joining them was Gabriel and Suni Lee, olympic medalist for gymnastics. Gabriel was the exact opposite of Sara and struggled to communicate with Suni. Suni did the best she could but at one point Gabriel gave up and told her to do whatever she wanted. Not a good look. Padma and Greg thought their roasted baby corn with poblano sauce was boring, and Greg liked Suni’s dish better. Ouch.

In the top was Buddha and Hunter Woodall, paralympic track and field medalist. Even though Buddha instructed well, he admitted he wanted to jump over the wall and make the dish himself. They served a cauliflower puree with bacon, croutons, and leeks. The judges were fans of how creative it was. But it was Ali and Mallory Weggemann, paralympic swimming medalist, who won the gold! They served nearly identical and well seasoned potato leek soups. Ali has been fighting hard for that win so it was nice to see him take one down.

The beginning of a horror movie

For their final elimination challenge before the finale, the chefs were tasked with creating a Michelin star worthy dish featuring the humble button mushroom. Padma’s fun fact: mushrooms were originally found growing on horse manure. Yum. Padma then shooed away the chefs as it was pouring rain, and they were off to meet Angel Moioli a third generation mushroom farmer. 

However, this farm is no sunshine and green fields. The chefs were led into a dark and winding cave. Gabriel shouted after his fellow cheftestants not to leave him behind. No horror movie tropes for him today. Fear gave way as soon as Angel lifted a curtain and revealed all of the mushrooms he had growing. It was like Christmas morning as the chefs picked them out one by one.

The movie theme continued as whimsical Harry Potter music played when the chefs arrived to grocery shop at La Maison Le Gourmet. The only problem was everything was in French. Ali struggled to find anyone who know what panko breadcrumbs were. Buddha was somewhat able to navigate with some French words. Gabriel killed it as he was able to speak fluent French. Le chat strikes again!

Surprise! It’s Alain Ducasse

The chefs arrived at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, which also doubled as a boat. They all started their fancy slash humble dishes for a panel of Michelin star chefs. Buddha noted butter and thyme make a good flavor profile but they will have to bring more than that, so he decided to use mushrooms seven different ways in a wellington type dish. Always the overachiever! Ali also chose to only focus on the mushroom, and decided to do a mushroom steak as the main. Sara kept it simple with a mushroom soup, but again wondered if it wasn’t enough as she watched Gabriel run around the kitchen with his 800 components. 

Tom Colicchio arrived with Greg and Alain to grill the chefs. The chefs were star struck when they saw 21 star Michelin chef Alain as Padma had told them he was not going to be there. Buddha immediately whipped out his cellphone and started snapping selfies with him. Sara was brave and shared her mushroom broth and Alain gave it two thumbs up. He also enjoyed some of Buddha’s dish, and appreciated all the ways Ali was cooking his mushrooms. Overall, Alain was happy his kitchen wasn’t burnt down. Well, until Gabriel accidentally almost burnt his mushroom puree. Lucky for him that happened after Alain had left the kitchen.  

Missing the mushroom

Buddha was very pleased with his dish as he served champignons de Paris en croute, chicken farce, mushroom and pommes puree. Basically an elevated mushrooms on toast dish, and it looked gorgeous. The judges said it was well done, and they loved the combination of textures. Ali served mushroom steak, mushroom croquette with za’atar and goat cheese, and mushroom jus and pickled mushrooms. Ali out mushroomed them all! Padma loved the aroma, but they all thought the croquette was a bit gritty. A similar comment to last week with his dry breadcrumbs. Maybe Ali should stay away from the panko for awhile. 

Sara served mushrooms with beef leg marmalade, pears and pickled mushrooms. Who knew pears would go well with mushrooms? The judges noted it was simple, clean and pure. Tom said she elevated a soup that would fit in a Michelin star establishment. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! Gabriel served a potato nest, chile morita champignons de Paris puree, shiitake broth, and cured egg yolk. And even though he missed some items during plating, his dish was a big hit. The judges loved his broth, and one of them even offered him a job. However, Tom was missing the mushroom flavor and said it tasted more chicken. Would le chat be saved by one of his four remaining lives? 

Champignon champion

At judges table, Tom was blunt to the chefs and said they all deserved to be there. Gail Simmons said it was great to see how everyone was excited by the flavors and personalities on all of the plates. Greg announced the champion of champignons was Sara! Sara finally got her one elimination win of the season. If you are going to get one win, at least make it the one that gets you into the finale. Congrats, Sara! 

Buddha stuck with his silver medal and also made it into the finale. Tom was happy that Buddha didn’t let technique get in the way of mushroom flavor. It was down to Ali and Gabriel as to who would go home. For Gabriel, Padma said it was good he forgot his extra items because the dish already had a lot going on. Tom also noted that the dish tasted more like chicken. For Ali, Greg liked the mushroom jus, but Tom and Gail didn’t like the croquette. And after an intense conversation, the judges decided to send Ali home. Le chat was saved again! And now we have the final three, and a champion will be crowned next week. 

Top Chef continues Thursdays at 9/8c on Bravo.