Amar Santana’s Back in ‘Top Chef’ Episode 5 (UPDATED)

The chef-owner of Broadway also opened Vaca, his second restaurant, during the show’s holiday hiatus

It’s episode 5 for Amar Santana tonight, as “Top Chef” season 13 returns after a brief break. Santana survived the last couple of outings by appearing to (possibly through reality TV editing magic) cruise along in the middle of the cheftestant pack, avoiding attracting much attention either negative or positive. Wouldn’t be the worst strategy, in these first weeks of the fight. Maybe tonight’s monumental-sounding “My Big Gay Wedding” challenge will encourage him to open up the throttle a bit more. Certainly the special guest quickfire judge, everybody’s favorite supermodel, Chrissy Teigen, will inspire. In the real-time interim Santana’s had a lot on his plate, with the opening of his new steak-and-Spanish Vaca near South Coast Plaza—multitudinous paellas, Iberico ham, and a cocktail program designed by O.C.’s cocktail czarina Gabrielle Dion that’s generating a lot of buzz.

Want to get up to speed? Read my earlier “Top Chef” posts here and here, and watch the first four eps on the Bravo site.

UPDATE: Pork belly and sherry (signature ingredients?) helped Amar survive another week. Giselle Wellman, who never seemed to find her footing—or many allies—packed her knives for “Last Chance Kitchen,” where she lost to Grayson Schmidt. Will Schmidt win her way back into the big kitchen? Sure looks like somebody wants her to…

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