Bravo’s “Top Chef” 16 was filmed in Kentucky. Meet the 15 new contestants.
Brittney Jackson, Louisville Courier Journal
Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode 4 of “Top Chef” Kentucky.
Sharpen your knives, cheftestants. It’s time to go to war.
That’s right — the twist “Top Chef” has been teasing for months is here. Just four episodes into the 16th season, the ragtag crew of competing chefs is about to face everyone’s favorite elimination challenge: Restaurant Wars.
But before we get to that, a quick recap of the events leading up to the battle.
Kevin Scharpf of Iowa has just been sent packing, and the 12 remaining cheftestants are rehashing the judges’ latest critiques. Nini Nguyen is feeling confident after two consecutive elimination challenge wins, while Brian Young is having his come-to-Jesus moment. He can’t be in the bottom again.
Brian gets his next chance to impress at an amuse-bouche quickfire challenge, which tasks the contestants with putting forth their best flavors in a single bite. The chefs can choose one of three vessels on which to present their dish: a Chinese spoon, a ramekin or a small plate. There are four of each — just enough for everyone to take one. (Do we smell team arrangements for the upcoming challenge?)
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Guest judges Nina Compton and Karen Akunowicz, both 2018 James Beard Award winners and “Top Chef” alum, are mostly impressed with the dishes the contestants present. But they bestow the win — and immunity — on Michelle Minori, a San Francisco chef who’s thus far hovered near the middle of the pack.
Now, time for the elimination challenge.
“We’re down to 12 chefs. Know what that means?” host Padma Lakshmi asks the confused group. “It’s Restaurant Wars!”
In 15 seasons, “Top Chef” has always followed the same mold when it comes to Restaurant Wars. Two teams of four chefs get 48 hours to design and launch a new restaurant. But not in Kentucky. This season, three teams will get the terrifying honor.
“The good news is your teams have already been decided,” Padma tells the chefs.
We guessed it — the contestants are split based on the vessels they chose.
The chefs break off into groups to discuss plans for their restaurants’ names, decor and menus. Each team will be responsible for serving a three-course meal with two options for each course.
On the gray team, Kentucky’s Sara Bradley immediately pipes up to say she’ll take the front of the house. She knew if she made it to this challenge, that’s the position she wanted. Michelle, with immunity, offers to lead as executive chef so she can take some pressure off teammates Pablo Ramon and Brandon Young, the group’s line cooks. Their restaurant, Thistle, will have a vegetable-forward focus.
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On the orange team, Brian Young steps up to lead the front of the house while teammates Eric Adjepong, Eddie Konrad and Adrienne Wright handle the kitchen. Brian takes his role seriously, staying up all night to create a service manual that he hopes will lead his team’s restaurant, North East, to victory.
Taking the challenge less seriously is the blue team, which chooses sparkling wine and a bubbling Jacuzzi over planning into the night. With Nini, the double elimination challenge winner, and David Viana, the double quickfire challenge winner, on the team, the group thinks it has Restaurant Wars in the bag.
Every “Top Chef” devotee knows overconfidence can kill, and in the kitchen the next day, the blue team spirals out of control.
Nini has offered to handle the front of the house. But when it comes time to train servers for the team’s restaurant, Third Coast, she busies herself instead of prepping ice cream for her dessert.
Kelsey Barnard Clark steps into the dining room to go over the menu with the servers in Nini’s stead and is “horrified to realize the staff has absolutely zero idea what they are doing.”
But the blue team doesn’t have time to whip the staff into shape. It’s just a few minutes before the restaurants’ doors open, and head judge Tom Colicchio has an announcement to make.
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The challenge will be a double elimination. Two chefs will be going home.
Which team will fall and which team will soar? We’ll have to find out next week in episode 5. “Top Chef” airs at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
Bailey Loosemore: 502-582-4646; [email protected]; Twitter: @bloosemore. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: https://www.courier-journal.com/baileyl.
‘Top Chef’ Season 16 contestants
Bravo’s “Top Chef” Kentucky features 15 new chefs — including one from Kentucky. Sara Bradley, the chef-owner of Freight House in Paducah, is joined by chefs from across the nation who will compete for a $125,000 prize.
- Eric Adjepong; Washington, D.C.
- Kelsey Barnard Clark; Dothan, Alabama
- Sara Bradley; Paducah, Kentucky
- Edmund “Eddie” Konrad; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Pablo Lamon; Miami Beach, Florida
- Natalie Maronski; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Eliminated episode 2)
- Michelle Minori; San Francisco, California
- Nini Nguyen; Brooklyn, New York
- Brandon Rosen; San Mateo, California
- Kevin Scharpf; Dubuque, Iowa (Eliminated episode 3)
- Caitlin Steininger; Cincinnati, Ohio (Eliminated episode 1)
- Justin Sutherland; St. Paul, Minnesota
- David Viana; Asbury Park, New Jersey
- Adrienne Wright; Boston, Massachusetts
- Brian Young; Boston, Massachusetts
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