"Sausage Race": 9 of the biggest takeaways from this week's baseball-themed "Top Chef"

Halfway through the season — and after a particularly great episode — something remains unbalanced

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published May 8, 2024 6:30AM (EDT)

Manuel "Manny" Barella Lopez, Daniel Jacobs, Savannah Miller, Kevin D'Andrea, Soo Ahn, Amanda Turner, Danny Garcia, Laura Ozyilmaz, Kaleena Bliss, and Michelle Wallace on "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)
Manuel "Manny" Barella Lopez, Daniel Jacobs, Savannah Miller, Kevin D'Andrea, Soo Ahn, Amanda Turner, Danny Garcia, Laura Ozyilmaz, Kaleena Bliss, and Michelle Wallace on "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

The most recent episode of "Top Chef", titled "Sausage Race," was a bit of a letdown after the highs of the episode prior. In it, the cheftestants were split into two teams and tasked with making an array of sausages — chorizo, Italian sausage, hot dogs, Polish sausage, bratwurst — to then present at a baseball-themed tasting at Milwaukee's American Family Field. 

Franky, I'm never a huge fan of these sorts of challenges; the food is always a bit less inspired and the corniness factor (the wave? really?) always grates. But alas, here are the ten primary takeaways for season 21's seventh episode.  

Note: Spoilers abound, for both "Top Chef" and "Last Chance Kitchen" 

Kevin remains enormously likable and endearing and adds such a levity to the show — so it was a bummer to see him sent home. I feel like if this season had aired in 2006, though, he would've had Fabio-level popularity. I got such a kick out of when he repeated Gail's comment to him about his risotto with a completely different meaning (she said it was "one of the better risottos" she's had on the show, but Kevin told his team that she said it was "the best" risotto she's had on the show.) Language barrier, perhaps? Either way, I'm very glad he's advancing in LCK!
I thought the "Last Chance Kitchen" challenge was actually very fun and would love to see it included in the main competition. Kevin played it so smart, especially because you couldn't get a zero for a dish, so contestants could just rack up single points with tiny little dishes, like that final smoked salmon dish he threw together. 
I was rooting for Kevin in LCK, so I'm glad he's advancing, but the Rasika "story" had such a flat, anticlimactic ending, did it not? In hindsight, it seems like while it's clear she was clearly the winningest cheftestant, her edit still felt a bit contained or streamlined, especially when compared to Danny and Michelle, or even Manny and Dan. 
Overall, Rasika seemed a bit inflexible — she wanted to make eggplant and crab and didn't pivot, she wanted to do a five-course meal in LCK and didn't pivot — but her talent is undeniable. I would say she's on the shortlist for a "second chance" or another "All Stars" return, though, no question.
I've compared Rasika to host  former contestant-turned-host Kristen Kish, but I wonder now if she could be more of a Melissa: Quiet, talented, unassuming in her first run and then a major contender, and eventual winner, in "All Stars." We shall see. Either way, I look forward to what she'll do in the future. She's young and remarkably talented. 
I actually thought that Dan might get sent home — or perhaps the "double elimination" option would be used to send him packing alongside Kevin — since it doesn't seem like he manipulated the sausage in his dish in anyway. Regardless, I'm hoping for a Michelle-like comeback for Dan in the next episode! He’s super root-able and I’ve loved most of his dishes.

We need your help to stay independent

I continue to find the editing and production decisions this year very odd. I'm still befuddled by the way they "introduced" Soo last week — which caused Savannah to think he was a production or hotel worker sent to assist Kaleena with her bags. How anticlimatic and bizarre?
It's also interesting to think, again, about how if Soo hadn't won "Last Chance Kitchen," then he wouldn't have actually met the other competitors! He would've just been a phantom cheftestant. 
Brittany Snow was a peculiar choice for a guest judge. Sure, I guess her being in "Pitch Perfect" was enough to make a loose connection to baseball pitching, and thereby the overall theme of the episode — but it felt forced. It's also never funny or comical to me when a guest judge "jokes" about how unfamiliar they are with food or flavors, but I digress . . . I suppose I was just assuming that guest and "Top Chef" alum Bryan Voltaggio would be sitting at the judge's table this week. 
Love seeing Danny's dominance of the competition continue with yet another win, as well as Michelle's rising-from-the-ashes arc after last week's showing. They're the clear frontrunners at this point. Also, I'm confused by the lack of immunities going forward, especially considering the new formatting. Does Michelle get anything for winning that elimination challenge at all? 

Want more great food writing and recipes? Subscribe to Salon Food's newsletter, The Bite.

I find that Manny's dishes almost always look and sound incredible, but it seems like he gets more focus for his friendship with Kevin and his comical, affable confessionals than his food, aside from his winning dish in the first episode. I'm interested to see how he progresses.
"Restaurant Wars" kick off in the next episode! Who are you rooting for?

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

MORE FROM Michael La Corte

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bravo Milwaukee Television Top Chef Tv