On last week’s “Top Chef,” we saw more of the Amar Santana we know and love, cooking distinctive dishes that understandably wowed the judges, included Richard Blais, in whose San Diego restaurant Juniper & Ivy some of the cooking took place. Santana did very well in the sudden-death fish-taco Quickfire and even better in the elimination challenge, where he finished in the top three. (Finally!) How he wasn’t chosen winner is a mystery for the judges to (not) answer, though admittedly he was cooking against pretty strong talent.
For the elimination challenge Santana was tasked with preparing a dish to pair with a Padma Lakshmi-designed craft beer that had flavors of tamarind, ginger, and jalapeño. There were immediately flashes of familiar (to O.C. diners) Amar humor and imagination, resulting in a chicken-two-ways that intelligently employed sous-vide to make something special of often-maligned chicken breast, and included a playful (and delicious-sounding) high-end jalapeño popper.
The level of cooking in season 13 has been unusually high overall, making for exciting watching. I can picture Santana easily crushing the competition from some past seasons—the eventual winner this time will really have worked for the title.
The road trip returns to Los Angeles for tonight’s episode 7, where we’ll all see if Amar lives to cook another day. You can read my earlier “Top Chef” season 13 posts here.
UPDATE: Amar survives! He did well in the Quickfire, despite being robbed of the top spot, and wasn’t part of either the winning nor losing trio in the elimination challenge. Seattle chef Jason Stratton got booted, but in “Last Chance Kitchen” beat Angelina Bastidas and so retains a chance at the final.