Top Chef episode 3 recap: Wine, uni, surf, turf and a whole lot of drama

Top Chef is back for another action-filled 75 minutes for episode three, so get ready to chew on some over-stuffed drama!

When we last left off—after the season 13 premiere—villain No. 2, Garret, was booted. So what happened in episode two of the two-part premiere? Of course, villain No. 1, Renee the Sassy Chef ™ from Kansas City, was sent home as well, her for butchering a vegetable dish in her group’s LA Pop Up Vegan Restaurant Challenge Extraordinaire.

And in the “Previously on Top Chef” recap, it was all about Grayson, so with two villains gone, there’s only one left. And she wants to put sparkles on Emeril’s food.

Before we move on to this week’s episode, hey Padma, tell the cheftestants what they can win.


The cheftestants are also told they’re headed on a road trip, as this season isn’t just about Los Angeles, but the entire Golden State—oh my God I hope they have a Steph Curry challenge in Oakland—with the first stop being lovely Santa Barbara.

My mom used to watch a soap opera called Santa Barbara when I was a kid, but I thought they were called “so boperas” back then until someone made fun of me because, yeah, soap opera makes much more sense.


Anyway, off to Santa Barbara, where we check in with Jeremy Ford, who tells us he likes to go on road trips with his daughter, who he named Madeline because he wanted a food name and loves the French cookies. He said they went through a bunch of other options before Madeline, like Ginger, but Jeremy says, “it just sounded too much like a…puppy name.”

Yeah, Jeremy, Ginger is a puppy name. If your puppy is a stripper.

It’s okay, man, you’re on Bravo. You can say you didn’t want to name your kid a stripper name. That’s why my kid is named after a Muppet.

Frances, the cheftestant from Buddakan in New York, has a road trip story. She took a car and left home when she was a kid, because her dad didn’t want her anymore. Plus she was on drugs. That’s… some road trip story, Frances.


The cheftestants think they’re going fishing, but instead they pass around sea urchins. Uni time. And Dana Cowin time, the editor of Food & Wine Magazine!


They are all standing in a winery, which has nothing to do with uni and I am super confused until Padma says the QuickFire challenge has to do with the region’s two favorite things; uni and wine.

Ah. Pairing wine and uni and their time starts now! NOW!!!! It’s a sudden death challenge, and they have 25 minutes, so good luck, jerks.


Chad quit drinking 18 months ago, so this is a horrible challenge for him. I get that this is a food show and the wine company is paying to sponsor the challenge, but I always wonder about this kind of stuff. Like when Chopped has a vegan chef and throws calf tongue in the basket or when there’s a chef allergic to peanuts and Skippy is sponsoring the challenge. It’s not dramatic to screw with people’s lives and well-being. Or maybe it is.

Giselle works with uni all the time and wants to make scrambled eggs, which my eight-year-old named after the Muppet can make, but she can’t find the eggs because someone took them. It was Carl. Dammit, Carl. You egg whore.


Isaac is from New Orleans, who Chad says is “like swamp people, on steroids” and he’s making uni potato salad. Oh, and more egg-like dishes from Karen who is making uni drop soup where the uni replaces the eggs. What could go wrong?

Angelina is making pasta with uni butter, because she wants to play it safe so she isn’t knocked out. (She’s totally getting knocked out.) Grayson is going all out with crab and wine and attitude.

Karen’s uni dissolves because the bowls aren’t good. Well, Karen, you are in the middle of a vineyard, did you not think bowls might be an issue?


Time’s up, utensils down and Giselle finds out about Carl’s eggs. This won’t end well.

Wait, rewind to the commercial break. Is Kim Fields on Real Housewives of Atlanta? Tootie!


There’s a myriad of uni and wine dishes. The dishes eat sour and salty and crabby and light on the uni. Karen’s dish doesn’t work as the “whipped uni” disappears. Giselle should have murdered Carl for those eggs, because when this is the face Dana Cowin makes about your dish, you’re fried.


Carl’s omelette is the size of a thumbtack, which makes me wonder what the hell he did with the other 11 eggs in the carton. Of course, the judges like it.


More dishes, more wines, more judging and it’s time to announce the winner. Grayson’s crab dish was liked. Wesley, episode one’s slob, and Carl, which of course Dana says his eggs were a smart choice, are the final three. Giselle’s hair immediately catches on fire.

The winner: Grayson. The losers: Angelina’s pasta with uni butter, Karen’s uni drop soup and Giselle, who had the least favorite dish. Die, Carl. Die.


The way the challenge works is that now Giselle has to pick any other cheftestant to go against and if she wins, they both stay. If she loses, she’s gone from the competition. She has to pick Carl, right? I mean, she must. Pick Carl.


She picks Angelina. Coward.

The cheftestants have ostrich eggs. Eggs! Who would have thought the producers might do that? (Everyone.)

There’s some cooking and some running and then more cooking and more running and two egg dishes and the judges are now wearing coats so it’s probably freezing and windy in this winery, obviously ideal for a cooking competition. The winner is… COMMERCIALS.


Giselle wins, and gets to stay. A whole lot of drama for nothing. Also, Carl is going to get his.

On to the Elimination Challenge.

Grayson is solo, everyone else is in pairs and Angelina and Giselle are a team. A crappy, crappy team. The winning group gets their own wine with their own label. And they pick their surf and turf proteins while trying to kill each other. GET THE SPOT PRAWNS.


Then there’s like 20 minutes of the chefs working together, like the one Italian chef working with the Thai chef. Jeremy and Phillip got the prawns and ribeye so they’re psyched and will somehow manage to totally screw it up, because this is Top Chef, and that’s what always happens.

Gnocchi is part of Jeremy’s soul. He said that. He said those words. He should have named his daughter Gnocchi.

I can’t wait until Tom Colicchio says Jeremy’s gnocchi are gummy.


The teams go shopping—and no, not for shirts—and figure out their dishes. Jason and Frances are my favorite team because they make zero sense together.

Carl is making eggs. No, kidding. I made that joke just for the halibut. (That’s actually what he’s making.)


Tom arrives to rock music. Seriously, they put rock music under him, because Tom is a bad ass and I’m not even being sarcastic in any way. Now instead of surf and turf, it’s surf versus turf and the losing chef in each group has to face the judges. Grayson gets to pick any of the groups she wants to go against.

Carl says he should have picked Giselle. DAMN. Now I think he’s going home. Top Chef doesn’t do hubris.

We come back from break and it’s a driving music challenge with tons of cooking and cooking and cooking. That’s good for a cooking show.


Wesley is sous viding rib eye, Amar is sautéing chicken feet and Chad is having trouble butchering his lamb so Kwame, his teammate turned opponent, helps him. HARBINGER OF DOOM ALERT.


Cut to the judges food table and hey look it’s Cat Cora! And my guy Richard Blais! It’s going to be awkward when Wesley, who took over The Spence from Blais, comes in with a tough rib eye.


Speaking of Wesley, he has stenciled puree like a leaf and then he ruins it because he was jerking around for too much time earlier and is now rushing. Nice work fighting against the resident slob tag the producers gave you, Wesley. He didn’t season the food or put on his other vegetables on the plate, and his meat is so tough he spit it out in the trash. Look. In the trash.


Amar and Wesley and Grayson go first. Amar’s was mixed. Wesley’s did not go over well at all. Grayson lacquered a pork belly, which sounds oddly delicious. Everyone loves it. Blais calls it “fascinating and dynamic.” Amar and Wesley are up for elimination, then Blais throws Wesley under the rib-eyed bus.


Back from commercial and it’s more cooking montages and shots of the city. Marjorie and Karen are both feeling good. Phillip and Jeremy are up next, and Phillip makes his own butter. Because he’s the guy who makes his own butter.


Jeremy’s soul-spiced gnocchi went over well. So much for gummy. Tom loved it. Phillip’s turf was rib eye and it was great. The loser of this matchup will surely be safe, but the winner is Jeremy. Phillip can’t feel too bad though.

The Quickfire losers are up next and, according to the table, Angelina tortured her ingredients. That’s not a cooking technique. Giselle has an enjoyable dish. Angelina is up for elimination. “This bitch beat me again.” Take that, Carl.


Chad sings about Flavortown. No, Guy Fieri is not on this show and thankyouverymuch for it. Kwame’s crab dish was called “decadent in a slutty way” which is the exact reason food shows exist on television. This one went down to the wire, but Tom broke the tie and gave it to Kwame. Chad is clearly safe.


Carl the egg thief and Isaac are up next. Isaac overcooked his halibut. Carl had a nice sauce and a well-cooked chicken. It reminds Cat of home. Blais goes with Isaac and so does Tom. Carl wins, but it was close and surely Isaac is safe despite overcooking a few pieces.


Back to Karen and Marjorie and Karen is missing a piece of fish. She’s missing a piece of fish. SHE IS MISSING A PIECE OF FISH.


Psst: there it is, next to that… I want to say, blood orange… and the other scraps. Drama. Commercial break. More drama. They gave Padma the fishless plate. Why didn’t Karen just cut a piece of fish in half and serve two people smaller fish? How is that not the first thing that popped into her head?


Karen’s rock cod is great. Padma seems very upset. Marjorie make dry pork. Dana called it “1960’s nursery food.” That’s worse than no fish. Karen wins.


Jason is panicking and starts changing his dish. Frances is torching her skin. Not her own skin, that’s dangerous, but her fish skin. Jason’s pork is boring but mostly because he was convinced into making a Thai dish as a team and then got forced in that direction by himself. Blais calls it a “classic Top Chef scenario” where someone gets screwed by being nice. Frances gave the judges a “hodge podge of stuff on a plate,” per Tom. The skin irritates people.


Neither chef did well, but Jason wins and Frances is in danger of going home. On to Judges Table!

But first, Wesley pissed, and Kwame tries to cheer him up.

“I was trained to do this.”

“No one is trained to do this.”

“I was. Nobody beat me because they were better than me, they beat me because I cooked like sh**.”

This is like a scene from Creed, only the guy needing a pep talk decided to sous vide a rib eye.


The favorite dishes were Jeremy, Kwame and Karen, even though she didn’t give Padma any fish. So she can’t win. Kwame and Jeremy are the two finalists and Kwame wins!


“Is this real?”

It is, and Kwame gets his own barrel of wine. Oh, wow. A whole barrel!

Frances, Angelina and Wesley are the worst three. Wesley said he plated too late and his dish sucked because of it. “I cooked like a child today.”


Angelina thinks she had too much going on and her mussels dish was dry because she took them out of the shell. Frances did too much and ran out of time too, and gets the tired food cliché “sometimes the most important ingredient on the dish is the one you leave off.”

No, it’s not. It’s salt. Salt is the most important ingredient on the dish. Always. Don’t leave off salt.

Blais rips all the chefs for saying they didn’t have enough time. They had two hours. TWO HOURS.

Who packs their knives and goes? Frances.


Angelina survives again and Wesley seems relieved he didn’t get sent home by Blais… yet.


Next week, the cheftestants go to Palm Springs! They’ll cook in the dessert and use rocks as plates and have broken glass and hey look it’s Padma golfing in the strangest golf shirt I have ever seen! See you next week for more food… and drama.

Dan Levy

About Dan Levy

Dan Levy has written a lot of words in a lot of places, most recently as the National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. He was host of The Morning B/Reakaway on Sirius XM's Bleacher Report Radio for the past year, and previously worked at Sporting News and Rutgers University, with a concentration on sports, media and public relations.