"Top Chef" delivers a creative and visual tour de force with tabletop dishes: 7 takeaways

As the show winds down, with only five chefs remaining, who will rise to the challenge and take the crown?

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published June 5, 2024 4:20PM (EDT)

Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio and Laura Ozyilmaz on "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)
Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio and Laura Ozyilmaz on "Top Chef" (David Moir/Bravo)

I loved this episode of "Top Chef," from the Quick Fire to the elimination challenge and everything in between.

Prior to this, the top standout episodes of this season have been "Chaos Cuisine" and "The Good Land."

In "Lay it All on the Table," we were treated to a triumphant return from "Last Chance Kitchen" and stunning dish from Laura, a sharp turn in the Quick Fire and a beautifully classic elimination dish from Savannah. There were top-tier tablescapes from Danny (who apparently competed in the Bocuse D'or, which I don't think we've heard him mention before) and Dan (who apparently had tried out for "Top Chef" 13 times prior to being cast!), a quasi-successful risotto and a fun little nugget that Manny was once in an "emo punk" band. You learn something every day!

This was also the first episode in which you can start feeling that familiar anticipation as the end-of-the-season closes in. I love endgame challenges on this show, so I know we must have some amazing dishes and stories just around the corner . . . 

Here are my other takeaways for episode 11: 

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I loved the editing throughout the Quick Fire. It started with a moment in the cars on the way to the challenge as Savannah said, "I want to walk in there and see someone cooing already," followed by her looking all around the kitchen and noticing the six — not five — cutting boards. Good for her for knowing she should grab the wok. Fun challenge!


And good for Sav — $10,000, two weeks in a row? Not too shabby ... (Loved the quick glimpse of her infamous mirror, too!) 


I did notice that Dan and Danny didn't seem especially thrilled to see Laura, which was interesting — both have "history" with her, sure, but that struck me as a little odd, especially from Danny. I loved how Laura's new, reinvigorated post-LCK energy seemed to really carry her in this episode, capping off with her strongest dish yet.


What a stellar elimination challenge! When Kristen discussed the challenge, she mentioned Grant Achatz and Disfrutar, as well as the communal meals of kamayan, seafood boils and grazing tables, but this challenge also made me think of Gaggan Anand, who appeared in one of last season's best episodes. 


Laura's dish, highlighting the "chewy" Turkish ice cream maraş (a mastic or battered iceream cream), along with flavors of sour cherry, pistachio, honey and baklava sort of blew my mind. The "didn't see it coming" baklava rings were just the cherry (ha! pun intended) on top, really.


Dan's Pollock-inspired vegetarian tablescape, complete with "puffins" and an amazing array of ingredients, along with Danny's Basquiat- inspired paella with a super cool "border" made of sauces and purees alongside his usage of negative space were also really exciting, inventive and commendable.


Poorly cooked octopus, be damned! I wonder if Savannah would've been in the top three if not for that. Highlighting the Zensai course of a traditional Japanese kaiseki meal, Savannah's "celebration of the sea" was so visually arresting. I loved how Gail phrased it as "leading up to the high castle of oyster decadence." How beautifully put!


Unfortunately, Manny and Michelle didn't fare as well, but I was happy to see Manny's risotto get relatively high marks. 


How great was that bit of editing showcasing Laura's gentle, languorous painting and plating in contrast to Savannah's frenzied, last-minutes plating, complete with appropriate music (classical and dramatic, respectively) to accompany each? That was a very funny little moment of contrasts there.


Also, didn't the judges look so funny whenever they just awkwardly sat in their chairs as the tables were taken in and out? Cracked me up 

I'd say this season has had a few standout dishes, like Danny's chou farci, Savannah's hard-to-define dessert, Soo's Caesar, Dan's smoked walleye and "relish tray," Rasika's bonkers barley-pretzel cake with granita and honey mustard sabayon, Michelle's coconut curry collard green saag, Manny's pozole and his many moles. I'd definitely add Laura's remarkable tabletop dish to the list.

Michelle's boot seemed like it had been coming; her departure sort of reminded me of Kaleena's, in that there felt like there was almost a tangible relief. I found it interesting that we were shown that Gail, along with Tom, "didn't even think the Quick Fire comes into play" insofar as judging Michelle v. Manny, which from what I could glean, wasn't the case for Kristen. 


I think she could've been immensely successful had, as Kristen and Gail both noted, she gone with some sort of convivial, rustic barbecue tablescape (or, as Kristen put it, "thrown the food on the table"), but alas!


I can definitely see her as a potential All Star candidate for a future season. She has built a real fanbase.

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Slight pivot: In all of my "Top Chef" coverage, I’ve tried to keep the focus on the show and the show alone, but I feel like I’d be remiss to not touch on the tone from some members of the "fandom," especially in recent weeks.


The bulk of the discourse, honestly, is beyond silly. It’s bizarre to be so impressed and inspired by the food on the show and the talent of the chefs, then head to twitter or Reddit and see literally nothing but an endless (and oftentimes baseless, frankly) litany of complaints.


Now, I get it: I love this show personally and cover it professionally, so I have a vested interest in it that sometimes goes beyond what more casual or fair-weather viewers might think of it. I most certainly have had my share of things to say about the edit, the challenges, and some of the seemingly peculiar producing decisions this season, but in no way do I find this to be a subpar, unentertaining or unenjoyable season. As a matter of fact, it’s the most I’ve enjoyed the show, personally, since probably the Colorado season with Chef Fati, back in 2018.


And if you think this lineup  which includes James Beard nominees and Michelin Guide stalwarts, alum from Eleven Madison Park, the French Laundry and Café Boulud, plus one of my favorite come-from-behind dark horse "Top Chef" contenders of all time  is in any way untalented or undeserving of being finalists on "Top Chef," then you’re really just telling on yourself.


Could a Laura-Savannah finale be in our future or is a Dan-Danny showdown inevitable at this point? Could Manny sneak in there? 


I’ve had all my eggs in the Savannah basket for weeks, but Laura has come on incredibly strong in recent episodes (especially after what felt like a low-grade villain edit in the first half of the season), Danny is arguably one of the most winning-est cheftestants ever, Dan has been remarkable, and Manny is likable, capable, and a confessional superstar. I’d be thrilled with anyone of them winning, which to be fair, I couldn’t say about the final five in the majority of "Top Chef" seasons. We shall soon see . . . 

"Top Chef" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo and streams next day on Peacock.

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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