"Top Chef" sputters with a ill-conceived challenge — but the LCK victory is a worthy contender

Though this cheftestant didn't get the best edit throughout, this competitor is a force to be reckoned with

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published May 29, 2024 5:01PM (EDT)

Soo Ahn, Michelle Wallace, Savannah Miller, Manuel "Manny" Barella Lopez, Danny Garcia and Daniel Jacobs in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)
Soo Ahn, Michelle Wallace, Savannah Miller, Manuel "Manny" Barella Lopez, Danny Garcia and Daniel Jacobs in "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

Spoilers abound, so shield your eyes if you didn't see last week's episode of "Top Chef" just yet!

Another week, another lackluster episode of "Top Chef." This has become too common of a pattern, really. There's something inarguably frustrating about this season, frankly, so that's . . . dispiriting. Especially as the series remains one of my all-time favorite shows, reality or otherwise. 

Alas, not all is lost. Savannah scored another win (albeit a pretty gnarly cut, which is a word I hate using, but it's fitting here), Michelle rebounded (again), Dan continued to perform well (and be refreshingly honest) and Danny's consistent competence — and love for carrots — continued.

I was disappointed to see Soo go out, though I do concur that his dish didn't look especially terrific and the flavor seemed a bit muddled, and I was definitely let down by Manny's dish — but I'm glad he stuck around. It was also great to see some of my favorite alum, though I do think some odd maneuvers by some of them may have also impacted the end result of the episode.

"Last Chance Kitchen," on the other hand, concluded with a result that I didn't anticipate, but one that made me quite happy.

Here are the rest of my takeaways for episode 10 of this season of "Top Chef," titled "Door County Fish Boil."


The Quick Fire was fun (the idea of a meat raffle is wild?), Danny's Jimmy Nardellos and harissa relish with labneh and mint sounded amazing, and I got a kick out of the notion of going from a Chateaubriand to bologna  and canned corned beef. Kudos to Savannah on pulling out that win!


Also, since being a constant in Quick Fires, I find that Tom's energy is much sillier and lighter, sort of akin to his persona in LCK? He seemed unenthused in the beginning of the season so I'm happy to see this shift. 


I loved Dan's comment which sort of summed up my whole opinion on the challenge: "You don't boil fish, you poach fish." 


Danny's carrot slaw and Dan's Southeast Asian boil probably had the top dishes here, though Michelle was certainly a top contender again with her Houston-influenced boil. 


It was odd to see everyone's dishes look so ... flat? Plain? This wasn't my favorite challenge. I think some of the critiques were odd and also, let's be frank: It's hard not to play it safe when you're simply cooking fish in boiling water in some contraption on a beach.


Speaking of, Dan clearly should have had some sort of accommodation: The physical component of that challenge, on a beach, no less  was nothing to scoff at. Also, I noticed that the pots almost never "boiled over," which was apparently the point of the kerosene throw, so I'm also confused by that.


It's a bummer to see Soo go. I really think if he had just edited his Fish Boil dish, it could've been much stronger and he may not have even landed in the bottom, which I assume would've resulted in Manny being sent home. I also question if Gregory's shopping was a hindrance more than a help, unfortunately. Also, hearing that his dish "tasted like a raw casserole" if obviously pretty damning in and of itself.


Gail even noted that his charred pineapple beurre blanc was one of the best bites of the day. 


Where Mei's advice to Manny was clearly trying to better his final dish, I didn't get that impression from Gregory's shop for Soo. Interesting to see Manny's pushing back on Mei, when it was really a great suggestion, compared to Soo's sort of being more accommodating and open-minded, which obviously didn't work out well. 


On the other hand, Shota is magnificent and I loved seeing him. He was so kind, helpful and encouraging to everyone throughout the entire episode. I also liked seeing Jeremy, who I think is a very under-appreciated Top Chef winner, and I always love seeing Sara and Mei. 

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Loved Savannah's quotes in this episode, from the encouraging, momentous "I've turned something on and I think it's dangerous" to the bluntness of "my brain is not connecting to the rest of my body" after her injury. 


Savannah's complete lack of focus from the instant she cut herself was so completely evident, which was discouraging, but thank goodness for her QF win! I do think she would've been fine regardless, though, since I really think the boot was explicitly between Manny and Soo. I loved the sound of her bold and spicy smashed tofu salad and think Shota was a magnificent "shopping partner" for her. 


In the episode, Danny remarked that "Savannah has found her voice and made her presence known," which I thought was interesting. Exposition by-way-of-competitors-confessionals is always an interesting reality television trope, if you will, and I found this to be an compelling one.


I've also noticed that Tom often tends to defend her in judges' table, repeatedly, so I hope that that portends positive outcomes for her down the road!


I'll also say that I think a final six of Savannah, Laura, Michelle, Dan, Danny and Manny is actually one of the strongest groups of "endgame" cheftestants that we've had in a (non-All Stars) season in quite a while, actually. I think the odd editing and production choices have hindered a group that is actually very, very talented. 

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I loved the LCK challenge of sort of highlighting all of the previous Quick Fires, which reminded me of when "Survivor" used to have challenges in the endgame that were essentially highlighting (and using props) from challenges in the beginning of the season. 


Tom isn't wrong; some of the dishes in LCK this season have been truly impressive, and in most cases, even eclipsing the "main" competition dishes.


Also, it feels like Kristen and Tom are legitimate, actual pals, which is sort of fun and wholesome, right? Also, I actually laughed out loud when Soo hid his beer from Mei as if he was being reprimanded by a teacher or something. 

I really like the Amanda/Laura friendship, which I felt was a little under-edited until their dual boot. Their being the only two left in LCK  felt like somewhat of a "full circle" moment, after having watched them be eliminated together and then wind up in the finals of "Last Chance Kitchen." 
 It would've been cool to see a further fleshing out of their relationship, which was clearly mutually respectful and very friendly, instead of some of the negative Laura content that felt somewhat shoehorned into the show.





I'm sort of obsessed with the Laura win from an edit perspective: She's arguably the only person who got a negative edit all season . . .  and she’s the LCK winner? For “casual” fans, they’re probably still hoping for Rasika, and out of the final competitors, I think Soo/Amanda would’ve had the edge.


Personally, though, I am so hype for Laura because I love her flavor profiles, her delicate, lighter dishes and food and I am so glad she won, but again, the editing choices remain befuddling this season. Her saucework is amazing!


Found it interesting, too, that Kevin seemed so visibly un-enthused with Laura's win. Perhaps the only time all season, sans his boot from the main competition and from LCK, when he wasn’t beaming and smiling.


Anyway, I loved Laura's cooking "zeytinyagi", her notion to celebrate vegetables that aren't overused and how she always has such a light hand, along with her emotional, celebratory response when she won. Her food is unique and  unvarnished to me, which is a rarity on this show, and I love the ballsiness to serve vegetables cooked in olive oil as your LCK finale dish — and winning, nonetheless! 

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.

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