Top Chef: Can Gabe shock everyone and win it all?

TOP CHEF -- "Blind Ambitions" Episode 1811 -- Pictured: Gabe Erales -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "Blind Ambitions" Episode 1811 -- Pictured: Gabe Erales -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo) /

The Tournament of Tofu is over and Byron, thanks to a surprise twist on the finale of Last Chance Kitchen, will not be returning to Top Chef. Which means the Final Five have been revealed and all that is left is to crown a winner of the quarter of a million dollar prize for Season 18.

And almost from the day the new season arrived on Bravo, Shota has been the odds on favorite to be that winner. Sara was his only real competition and once she was sent home after Restaurant Wars, Shota has been at the top of our leaderboard almost every week.

However, after a low key week with an Elimination Challenge that really pulled at the heartstrings, the leaderboard has seen a major upheaval, with a new name at the top and every reason to think that Shota could have a serious challenger for that Top Chef title.

But first there was a Quickfire Challenge to navigate which was a doozy. Replicating the Black Box Challenge from Top Chef: France, the remaining five cheftestants were paired up to see if they could figure out the specifics of a dish prepared by noted Portland chef Gabriel Rucker and then make it.

Gabe impresses just about everyone in the Top Chef Elimination Challenge.

The best part of the Quickfire may have been seeing Top Chef All-Star and former Tournament of Champions winner Brooke Williamson, who was paired with Dawn. In the end she must have been the lucky charm because she and Dawn managed to come the closest to replicating Rucker’s grilled pigeon with roasted carrots, grilled marinated pear, carrot mustard puree and gribiche.

For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants had to prepare a meal using the contents of a care package packed by their loved ones. The letters that were included brought on all the feels and more than a few tears while the food in the packages left a few of the chefs at a loss of what to do.

Shota impressed yet again with his miso-marinated wagyu shoulder and matsutake puree with a compressed persimmon salad. He had the judges fawning over his dish and was the early favorite to be the winner.

That was until Gabe presented his panuchos which included braised pork and pork skin, kale and pickled red onion. Some of the judges couldn’t stop eating they loved it so much and the compliments flowed like water. Dawn’s pork belly with pecan caramel, collards, sweet potato was also a hit but she forgot her red eye gravy on two of the plates, which didn’t go over well.

That meant Maria and her grilled wings with miso and ginger marinade and Jamie’s Thit Ko made from braised brisket with caramelized Thai chile jus brought up the rear and after some debate, the judges asked Maria to pack her knives and leave. After some drama with Jamie trying to convince the judges to send her home instead, Maria heads into the sunset with her head held high.

In the end Gabe was awarded the win, once again proving he might have what it takes to take down Shota. After Sara’s shocking exit, we’ve all seen that even a favorite can be sent home if they misjudge timing or make the wrong thing on the wrong night.

With Maria’s departure, our leaderboard looks a bit different.

  1. Gabe
  2. Shota
  3. Dawn
  4. Jamie

Gabe takes the top spot thanks to a great win and his obviously building confidence. Despite that Shota is still our pick to win it all with odds that it will either be Dawn or Jamie going home next week. That said, the Final Four are now firmly in the home stretch of Season 18 of Top Chef and we can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Next. MasterChef Legends: Curtis Stone joins the party. dark

What do you think Guilty Eaters? Does Gabe deserve the top spot on our leaderboard or shgould Shota have remained there? Leave a comment below and let us know our join nthe conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.