White truffles almost did in Kevin Gillespie on the latest episode of “Top Chef All Stars: Los Angeles,” but he persevered and is now in the top four.
This particular fungus found in Italy is super rare, super fragrant and super expensive — nearly $3,000 a pound, according to the show.
Kevin, who runs Atlanta restaurants Revival, Gunshow and Cold Beer, came back last week after winning “Last Chance Kitchen,” the Bravo online competition where eliminated chefs battle back onto the show. He had previously been eliminated during the Restaurant Wars episode.
During the competition that aired Thursday night on Bravo, Kevin tried to use the truffle multiple ways, including a meatball. And while the judges enjoyed aspects of his dish, the challenge was to highlight the truffle. Other flavors buried the truffle flavor.
“Kevin’s dish was disjointed,” said judge Gail Simmons. “It didn’t come together.”
Fortunately for Kevin, two other chefs had similar issues: Stephanie Cmar of Boston and Gregory Gourdet of Portland, Oregon.
It appeared at one point, the judges had narrowed their choices to Kevin and Gregory.
Gail noted that she thought “the truffles went better with Kevin’s dish because of the more subdued flavors than Gregory’s and therein lies the conundrum.”
Gregory of Portland ultimately went home because his dish was too heavy on the boar, not on the truffle. “And he used the most amount of truffles!” judge Tom Colicchio exclaimed.
Kevin earlier in the episode won the Quickfire Challenge and pocketed $10,000.
The five chefs had to make an Italian happy-hour dish with Peroni beer. (Peroni provided the winning prize.)
Kevin’s winning dish was a creamy polenta topped with prosciutto and radicchio agrodolce.
While the final five were leaving Los Angeles for Tuscany, Italy for the last few challenges, Kevin tied in how he almost died of cancer a couple of years ago with his current mission.
“I’ve learned over time to fight every day like it’s your last,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to be the next ‘Top Chef.’”
Melissa King of San Francisco has the best track record to date. She has won three Quickfire challenges and five elimination challenges. Kevin has been the victor of four Quickfires and three elimination battles. Stephanie has pocketed one Quickfire and two eliminations, while Bryan Voltaggio has only taken home a single elimination win.
Kevin also has on his résumé his five well-earned wins in “Last Chance Kitchen,” the Bravo online off-shoot show where eliminated chefs fight to get back onto “Top Chef.”
And it’s worth noting that three past chefs have been named “Top Chef” after winning “Last Chance Kitchen.”
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