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‘Top Chef’ Kentucky: Down the stretch they come at Keeneland

So hungry they could eat ... a horse? Probably not, because horses at Keeneland can go for millions, so that would be one expensive dish. Instead, look for host Padma Lakshmi, left, Keeneland auctioneer Ryan Mahan and guest judge chef Ouita Michel, right, to frame a fun auction-based challenge
So hungry they could eat ... a horse? Probably not, because horses at Keeneland can go for millions, so that would be one expensive dish. Instead, look for host Padma Lakshmi, left, Keeneland auctioneer Ryan Mahan and guest judge chef Ouita Michel, right, to frame a fun auction-based challenge David Moir/Bravo

Things are coming down to the wire on “Top Chef” Kentucky, where this week they will have to bid against each other for their ingredients at Keeneland.

The title of episode 12 is “Kentucky Farewell” and it will be a bittersweet episode for many viewers as well as an unknown number of chefs because this is the last episode filmed in Kentucky last year.

But before heading to Macau for the finale, the show has to get in a few “Top Chef” twists.

One will be the re-introduction of the chef who won “Last Chance Kitchen.”

Spoiler alert: Look away now if you don’t want to know who it will be.

After Eddie’s lackluster chicken dish got him booted from “Top Chef” last week, he went up against Michelle for a chance to come back.

And for once, head judge Tom Colicchio didn’t concoct a weird challenge. Instead, the two had to cook from their heart, creating a dish that represented a time when they had their “worst knockout.”

Michelle went for a Nordic dumpling on beets, fennel and kale inspired by the time Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson’s passion for Scandinavian cooking brought her back to the kitchen.

Eddie thought of his late mother, who never got to see him be a chef, and he decided to cook something — halibut and cauliflower with a relish — that would have impressed her.

Tom was moved by both stories and said both dishes were great. But in the end, it was Michelle’s that had him wanting to go back for more.

He’ll get a chance to taste Michelle’s cooking again this week when the show goes to Keeneland, the Lexington racetrack that is also a Thoroughbred auction house.

Snippets of the episode don’t reveal much, other than Eric still celebrating his big win at the Ali dinner.



There are a few more possible clues embedded in the “Last Chance Kitchen” reveal: At the end, the final five of Eric, Justin, Adrienne, Kelsey and Kentucky’s Sara are in the garden, where signs label their plots. Michelle strolls out to join them, saying, “Did you miss me?”

Hope everybody’s been gardening in their spare time because I have a feeling that might be important, especially with Tom being such an enthusiastic kitchen gardener.

Also, at the end of last week’s episode, there was a glimpse of Gail Simmons, who has been off on maternity leave. And they are clearly cooking for a lot of people ... so who are they?

One of them is guest judge chef Ouita Michel, who is well known in Central Kentucky and to those who appreciate great Southern and Appalachian foodways. She’s been a champion of eating local, buying as much produce, meat, bourbon and even sorghum for her several local restaurants as possible.

I would expect Ouita and Tom to be all over a vegetable-forward challenge.

There’s also a stellar lineup of guest judges, including San Francisco chef Kim Alter, Minnesota chef JD Fratzke, Maryland chef Bryan Voltaggio, Chicago chef David Posey, Boston chef Chris Coombs, and Minneapolis chef Gavin Kaysen, as well as Graham Elliot.

From a comment on last week’s episode, it sounds like the “Top Chef” contestants could be cooking for their mentors, which could bring out the nerves.

How many chefs will “Top Chef” take to Macau, and who will they be?

Feels to me like they would take four, so that means two will be left behind in Kentucky. My bracket was pretty much blown when David and Eddie bit the dust.

At this point, Eric has to be the one to beat, but after that, it’s anybody’s game. Kelsey, Justin, Sara and Adrienne have known the sting of being in the bottom three. And all have won either a Quickfire or an Elimination challenge. And then there’s Michelle, who really has something to prove now.

There’s a lot on the line as they head for the finish line at Keeneland.

“Top Chef” airs 8 p.m. on Bravo.

Also, who will be voted fan favorite? Bravo wants you to vote, and the winner will get $10,000. The Fan favorite will be named March 14 on “Watch What Happens Live” at 11 p.m.

Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business reporter who also has covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.


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