It’s a funny thing: in today’s TV climate, with product placement reigning supreme, “Top Chef” very rarely does episodes that tie in with Thanksgiving food and products. In fact, only a handful of “Top Chef” episodes have anything to do with Thanksgiving, which is arguably the most food-centric holiday in America.
If you’re planning a Thanksgiving menu of your own, why not sit back and watch one of these “Top Chef” challenges to get some inspiration?
What Not to Do
If you want an example of how not to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, the Season 2 episode “Thanksgiving” is like a guidebook of dishes to avoid.
The five chefs who finished on the bottom of the Quickfire were asked to create a cutting edge Thanksgiving meal for the other contestants, the judges, and special guest Anthony Bourdain. The resulting dinner was anything but cutting edge. The meal started with turkey and egg toast canapés, followed by a salad of smoked peppers, queso fresco, pumpkin seeds, and butternut squash dressing (the losing dish, made by Carlos.)
Elia made a delicious soup of portobello and button mushrooms (the winning dish.) Marcel made a turkey roulade with stuffing and cranberry gel filling. The fourth course was Michael’s stuffed potatoes with shrimp, with the fifth course consisting of two underwhelming creme brulee dishes. The final course was a cheese plate.
The judges panned the meal for a number of reasons. Firstly, none of it was cutting edge. Secondly, the order in which the items were served seemed a bit off. Finally, some of the dishes were too simple, or not flavorful enough.
Cooking for the Foo Fighters
Home-cooked meals are especially important to people who travel a lot for business. Nobody knows that better than the chefs who prepared a Thanksgiving feast for Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters in Season 5.
Working in two teams, the chefs had just three hours to prepare their menus. Hosea got top marks for his peach and blueberry crisp with cinnamon-infused whipped cream, while Radhika shared the win with Hosea for her vegan cornbread stuffing. Richard was eliminated: nobody liked his banana s’mores.
Knock the Stuffing Out of Them
While it wasn’t exactly a Thanksgiving-themed challenge, the All Star episode “Advantage Chef” had a challenge that revolved around a traditional Thanksgiving menu item. In the Quickfire, the chefs needed to make stuffing. The twist: all the cutlery and utensils had been removed from the kitchen, forcing the chefs to get creative. Tre won the challenge (and $20,000) for his Southwestern-inspired bread pudding with smoked bacon, cheddar, and peppers.
Last Chance Leftovers
As part of the elimination process in Season 9, “Top Chef” introduced a new segment called “Last Chance Kitchen.” In this segment, chefs who had been eliminated had a second chance to re-enter the competition. In the third installment of “LCK,” Keith and Richie faced off in a challenge where they had to repurpose three common leftovers from a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Keith won the face off with his platter of turkey and sweet corn hash, ham fritter, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie “smear.”