A "Last Chance Kitchen" winner reenters the competition as the chefs reimagine Prohibition-era cocktails.
Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo

Top Chef Kentucky roars back this week as the chefs cater a party inspired by the Prohibition Era and classic cocktails. First, we see Brian who is still floored by his Restaurant Wars win. "[It's] given me a huge amount of confidence," he says. "I’m ready to go. Let’s kill this." Kelsey and Adrienne though are feeling pretty drained after the elimination challenge and are wondering if they’ll see Nini again. Little do they know they’re about to walk into the last round of Last Chance Kitchen, a head to head duel between Nini and season 15's Brother Luck who has won four challenges to get here and possibly have a chance to reenter the competition. "We have no idea what’s going on," Justin says. Oh, they will soon find out.


Tom Colicchio quickly informs the cheftestants that not only will one of these two chefs be getting back into the competition, but that this is a Last Chance Kitchen and Quickfire mashup where they’re going to be split into teams to help Nini and Brother pull off a three-course menu inspired by Restaurant Wars. Before they started cooking they drew knives with the cheftestants names on them to split into teams. When the clock starts, Nini and Brother start giving the cheftestants instructions for completing dishes in the 30 minutes they've been given.

If Brother Luck wants back in he must wrangle a team of unfamiliar faces.
| Credit: David Moir/Bravo Media

David Moir/Bravo Media

Brother has a clear disadvantage here since he doesn’t know anything about these chefs or what their skillsets are but he puts them to work on a Southwestern and Japanese inspired menu that sounds… interesting. Nini is using a concept similar to Third Coast (her team’s restaurant during Restaurant Wars) as her inspiration, combining Asian flavors with ingredients of the Gulf Coast or, in this case, the Mekong Delta with the Mississippi Delta as she puts it. "This is my redemption," she says.

Justin and Brandon attempt to help former competitor Nini get back into the competition.
| Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo

Michael Hickey/Bravo

The courses are staggered so first up is Nini’s po' boy-style fried shrimp with fish sauce chili glaze. Tom says the breading is "a little dry" but the "flavors are really bright." Brother is serving a remake of his pickled jalapeno popper that he served in the previous Last Chance Kitchen. "I don’t know if the pickles are pickled enough," Tom says. And with that vague feedback they’re sent back to the kitchen to make their second courses.

Kelsey, Adrienne, and Brian assist on Team Brother.
| Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo

Michael Hickey/Bravo

For her second course, Nini serves a lemongrass grilled pork chop with a corn and tomato salad. Tom praises Nini’s ability to balance acid and sweet but feels like the pork chop could have been spiced more. Brother makes a cumin-dusted scallop with yuzu guacamole, toasted seaweed, and a kumquat gastrique which Tom also praises for its balance but says that the dish as whole has a "ton of flavor." There’s no clear winner as they head back to the kitchen to make their last courses.

Nini, relying on her strong pastry background, goes the dessert route for her last course with a tapioca pudding with bananas foster, coconut foam, and peanuts. Brother goes savory with a seared tuna dish with pico de gallo, beurre blanc and bonito. They both get high marks for their flavor combinations from Tom and the defeated Last Chance Kitchen chefs. "You’re making this hard for me," Tom says as he tries to make a decision. And in the end, it’s…. chef Brother Luck who suddenly becomes a contender in Top Chef Kentucky. The cheftestants are (rightly) dumbfounded as a tearful Nini leaves the kitchen for the last time.

Nini's shot at redemption falls short in her final round of "Last Chance Kitchen."
| Credit: David Moir/Bravo Media

David Moir/Bravo Media

Elimination Challenge

This week the cheftestants will have to throw a raging 1920’s Prohibition Era-style party at the Seelbach Hotel's Rathskeller speakeasy and make a canape inspired by a classic cocktail from that time period. "The tough thing about making a canape is that you have to define all of your flavors in one bite," Justin says. They have 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods and then will have three hours to prep and cook for 100 partygoers. It’s a difficult challenge and using a drink as an inspiration means there’s no limit to the ingredients that they can use. They’ll have Gin Rickey, Southside Fizz, Old Fashioned, The Last Word, Whiskey Sour, and the 12 Mile Limit to choose from, but there’s only two of each meaning the last chefs to pick will have to do so out of what the other chefs left behind.

During the ride over to Whole Foods, the cheftestants have a chance to chat with Brother who is still in shock that he’s back in the kitchen and feels like he has something to prove after his "heartbreaking" elimination last season. At the house, Brother is suddenly thrust into a tight-knit group of chefs. "Brother’s the new kid in school," Sara says. "He’s got to catch up really quick." As Brother chooses one of the emptied out "cursed" beds, some people are not feeling the new addition. "Honestly, we don’t want anyone coming into this house," Kelsey says.

The next day the chefs walk into the gorgeous, ornate Seelbach hotel in downtown Louisville where they’ll have one hour to get their dishes ready. In the dining room, Tom, Padma Lakshmi, Graham Elliot, and guest judge chef Ken Oringer are decked out in full 1920’s costume ready to taste the dishes. Here’s how things played out:

Edmund "Eddie" Konrad
Cocktail: Old Fashioned
Dish: Bourbon-cured salmon crudo with peach puree, carmelized orange gastrique, and brown butter

Eddie is worried that his salmon cured with bourbon might be too simple. Luckily, Tom praises the dish and Padma loves that it reminds her of the cocktail.

Brandon Rosen
Cocktail: Whiskey Sour
Dish: Duck and artichoke croquette with pickled fennel relish

The judges love how Brandon paired artichoke with the duck which gave the whole dish a pleasant bitterness. Padma thinks it could’ve used more salt.

Brother Luck
Cocktail: Southside Fizz
Dish: Chicken salad with cucumber, peanut sauce, beef liver mousse, fresno chiles and herbs

During prep, Brother realizes that the chile on his duck liver mousse is really strong so he tries to dilute it but runs out of time. The judges notice the "spice bomb" of the dish and Ken says that while it’s a chicken dish "you wouldn’t know chicken is in it." Uh oh.

Brian Young
Cocktail: Last Word
Dish: Pork, fennel, and Calabrian chile sausage with basil and fennel gnocchi

Brian runs out of time during prep and cooks his sausage on a flat top griddle instead of into casings and deep fries his gnocchi which will ultimately change the texture of the entire dish. Tom confirms it by remarking that each component is dried out and it’s like "sand in a cup." Even worse, Padma says it has an aftertaste of "stale oil." Yikes.

Kelsey Barnard Clark
Cocktail: 12 Mile Limit
Dish: Scallop ceviche, rhubarb cherry consomme, and corn puree

"Kelsey’s dish just worked," says Tom. She gets bonus points from Padma for making the sauce that the ceviche was sitting in not only taste like the cocktail but also look like it.

Michelle Minori
Cocktail: Whiskey Sour
Dish: Liver mousse
gougeres with pickled cherries
Padma finds that the liver mousse made the gougere — which is supposed to be airy and light — feel soggy very quickly. Graham can’t find the tie between the drink and the bite at all. "There was no sour," he says.

Justin Sutherland
Cocktail: Old Fashioned
Duck a l’orange with duck liver mousse, bourbon, and greens
Justin decides to go classic French with duck a l’orange, a dish that pairs fatty duck with the brightness of oranges. Tom says Justin has managed to create a lot of complexity in one bite while Ken says he "nailed it."

Sara Bradley
Cocktail: Last Word
Dish: Bay scallops, avocado, eggplant, and crudite

Sara’s crudo looks really pretty going out but fails to stand up to the cocktail that inspired it, confusing the judges. Tom says it’s "one note" while Graham says it’s a "great dip."

Eric Adjepong
Cocktail: 12 Mile Limit
Dish: Oysters with bourbon and rum mignonette, grenadine nage floater and pumpernickel

Eric has to shuck 200 oysters in 40 minutes while getting the rest of his mise en place together before service. But it seems to have paid off when Graham says Eric’s oyster is one of the best things he’s tasted in a while and that it combined the flavor profile and story behind the cocktail (a nod to taking a boat out to International Waters to drink legally during Prohibition) really well.

David Viana
Cocktail: Gin Rickey
Dish: Shrimp tartare, cucumber, apple and radish

David’s shrimp tartare on a puffed rice cracker packed a big punch thanks to flavors that had a long finish.

Adrienne Wright
Cocktail: Gin Rickey
Dish: Shrimp and avocado toast with cucumber, watermelon, juniper, and serrano chile
The judges are split on Adrienne’s shrimp toast. Tom loved the "acid up front with sweetness on the end" while Padma says all she got was oil.

Judges' Table

Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo

Ken tells the chefs that they did a really good job serving very "tasty food" while Graham seems to be perplexed by the bottom dishes that "were really misses." The top three are Kelsey, Eric, and Eddie, the ever-stressed looking cook who swears that he’s cool as a cucumber. And the winner is Eric! This is his first solo challenge win and he’s very excited.

Erik takes home his first solo win on 'Top Chef.'
| Credit: Michael Hickey/Bravo

Michael Hickey/Bravo

As far as who’s on the bottom it’s Brian, Sara, and Brother. The judges are confused by Sara’s choice to combine an acidic drink with a lean protein like a scallop instead of a fatty fish like salmon. Brian says he was happy with how his dish turned out but the judges disagree. Padma says frying the gnocchi turned it into a "greasy sponge." Ouch. Brother looks surprised that he’s on the bottom since he just got there but understands that he "lost the integrity of the drink" and focused too much on making a dish inspired by a banh mi. It’s a bit of deja vu for Tom because Brother went home during season 15 for losing sight of the challenge and making a dish out of left field. So who goes home? Ultimately it’s Brother, which must sting all the more since he just got there, but also makes sense since his dish didn’t follow the challenge rules.

Despite his best efforts, Brother Luck leaves the competition as suddenly as he returned.
| Credit: David Moir/Bravo Media

David Moir/Bravo Media

Next week, the ten remaining chefs take on a whole lotta meat in a butchering challenge. Who will make the cut? Tune in to find out!

Episode 7 of ‘Top Chef’ in Kentucky airs Thursday, January 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. ‘Last Chance Kitchen’ streams immediately following the show at BravoTV.com/Last-Chance-Kitchen. Find additional interviews, chef bios, and more at BravoTV.com/TopChef.