After a rocky start in the season premier of Top Chef: Charleston, Dallas’s own John Tesar pulled out of his tailspin last week and impressed the judges with a okra dish. Last night’s episode once again proved Tesar is firmly back in the game despite having to face Chris Cosentino, the judge who sent him packing back in season 10.
Episode three kicked off with a headed-to-head Quick Fire challenge in which the blue and green teams were tasked with preparing Mise en Place and assembling a dish from the ingredients. Tesar’s seafood skills proved handy when he was tasked with shucking and cleaning clams. The chef was definitely up to the challenge and helped the green team earn an advantage over blue by giving them a three minute penalty. While Cosentino seemed pleased with the green team’s stuffed clam dish, the judges handed blue the win.
For the elimination challenge, the judges asked the competitors to prepare a seven-course progressive meal featuring radishes. The preparers of each sequential course from opposing teams were pitted against one another. The team with the most winning courses would win the challenge. The losing team’s chefs faced elimination.
Some of the best Tesar moments came during the shopping portion of the challenge when season 12 alum Katsuji Tanabe needled the Dallas chef. “He pokes everyone’s bear,” Tesar says of Tunabe, “but he wants to bring that old John Tesar out in me so badly it’s just like poking the bear to see if I will turn to the dark side.”
Tesar assembled green’s sixth dish of the challenge — a radish ramen. “I like the purple radishes because I want to put a little color in the bowl and I’m basically just going to take a puree of black radish and make radish Sriracha,” he says. Tesar was also there with the “we’re not here to make friends” mantra moment of the night required by every reality TV competition ever: “At this point everybody is equal. It’s game on, you know? Forget about rookies and veterans. It’s like everyone’s here to win Top Chef or pack your knives and go home.”
The evening’s scoring was divided between the judges and a group of Top Chef “super fans.” Tesar’s ramen proved a big crowd-pleaser, receiving the majority of the fan votes. Tom Colicchio commented that the broth and noodles were well made and the “hot sauce was right on.” The chef’s dish came through for green, tying up the score and turning the final course into a nail-biter. Alas, despite their best efforts, team green lost it with dessert and went up for elimination. “This is the most terrifying challenge there is because you could make a stellar dish and still be on the bottom,” Tesar remarks.
Fortunately, the ramen dish saved Tesar from the chopping block. Overall the seven-course challenge was “the best meal I’ve ever had on Top Chef,” says Padma Lakshmi, but someone has to go. Green team chef Sam Talbot was sent home for a misstep with his take on banh mi.
• All Top Cheffage Coverage [EDFW]