Top Chef: And then there were three

TOP CHEF -- "The Cheesier The Better" Episode 1812 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jamie Tran, Dawn Burrell, Shota Nakajima, Gabe Erales -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "The Cheesier The Better" Episode 1812 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jamie Tran, Dawn Burrell, Shota Nakajima, Gabe Erales -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo) /

As we continue to head toward the Top Chef Season 18 finale, there is no room to hide for the remaining cheftestants. Any flaw in their cooking, even the smallest mistake could mean elimination and the end of your Top Chef dream.

Unless your name is Dawn apparently. Because despite a major mistake during the Elimination Challenge, she’s still around and a member of the Final Three.

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There was the final Quickfire Challenge to conquer first. For this one, host Padma Lakshmi was joined by Gregory Gourdet and Vitaly Paley, both considered by some to be Oregon foodie royalty

The idea was for the chefs to cook something using only the same ingredients that would have been used by the pioneers on the famous Oregon Trail. That meant making an upscale dish using no real oils, no acids, no vegetables and no access to the Top Chef pantry.

Gabe really wanted to get a Quickfire win, but couldn’t compete with Jamie’s pan-seared salmon with walnut pepper sauce. She got the victory and the advantage, which turned out to be an extra 30 minutes of cooking time during the Elimination Challenge, which it turns out she would need.

Despite making the same mistakes, Dawn somehow remains on Top Chef.

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The Elimination Challenge was all about cheese. After a tour of the Tillamook cheese making operation, the cheftestants had to create a dish using cheese five different ways. For Byron and Dawn it didn’t seem to be an issue but for Jamie, and in particular Shota, this could be a real problem. Asian cooking rarely, if ever, uses cheese of any kind so both chefs were understandably nervous.

Shota shouldn’t have worried. He made a tofu cheddar manju, cheddar dashi, smoked cheddar oil, cheddar tofu miso with a cheddar tuile. The folks at Judges’ Table were practically falling over each other with compliments, with most agreeing they had never had anything like it before.

Gabe went with cheddar oil braised apples with white cheddar foam, cheese curds, apple bacon cheddar sauce, and a cheese and apple chip. While the judges were all impressed, they felt the apples stole the show in a cheese challenge. Dawn went with her roots and created a spin on the Philly Cheesesteak with a cheese oil-braised rib-eye and cheddar gougères with cheddar foam, soubise sauce and a hot cheddar sauce.

While most of the judges enjoyed it, once again Dawn forgot to make sure all the elements were on all the plates. Brooke Williamson didn’t get a gougères and Dale Tilde was not having it, calling her out for making the same mistakes over and over.

That left Jamie and her sea bass with cheddar, cheddar spaetzle, cheese broth bok choy, spiced cheese sauce and pickled cheese curds. And while Jamie’s dish didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense, she got an A for the effort she put in.

After deliberating, Shota got the win and $10,000 and the judges sent Jamie home despite Dawn continuing to have the same issues episode to episode. In my opinion, Dawn should have been the one to go home. While Jamie’s dish was a disaster, Dawn’s wasn’t that far behind and when you compound that with missing elements, she should have hit the bricks.

So for the final time this season, our leaderboard looks like this

  1. Shota
  2. Gabe
  3. Dawn

Barring a disaster, Dawn should be the one going home next week. Gabe really seems to be hitting his stride at the right time and Shota pretty much appears to be unstoppable.

The Top Chef Portland season finale is quickly going to be here. Who will be the Final Two battling it out for the grand prize? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

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What do you think Guilty Eaters? Do you think Jamies deserved to go home or should it have been Dawn? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.