Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details

Damarr Brown, Evelyn Garcia, Jae Jung, Buddha Lo, Ashleigh Shanti, and Nick Wallace were the last six chefs left on “Top Chef: Houston” heading into episode 10, “Dinner in Zero Gravity,” as the competition neared its conclusion. It was time for them to aim for the stars now that they had reached the top of the competition. But their first test brought them back to earth.

Challenge “Quickfire”

“Grab a map and meet me at the Houston Farmer’s Market,” said host Padma Lakshmi as they awoke before blasting into space. At the very least, that aspect of the task was clear. The Padma and the challenge’s guest judge, “Top Chef” All-Star, greeted them when they arrived. Zepeda, Claudette. They gave a brief history of the market, which Claudette described as a “must-see” Houston attraction. They would also be preparing a well-known Tex-Mex dish that had become popular in Houston. “Does anyone have any ideas?” To crickets chirping, Padma inquired of the class. Even Evelyn, a native Houstonian, couldn’t figure it out.

It’s fajitas, guys. At the farmer’s market, they would shop for and prepare their version of fajitas, with the winner taking home a $10,000 prize. Nick’s back was instantly marked as a target. Because he’s earned so much “bread” during cash-prize challenges, the other chefs fondly refer to him as “the baker.” Could one of his rivals prevent him from raking in more cash? Okay, I’m finished with the bread puns, though to be fair, I only used half as many as the chefs.

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The time constraint was one of the most difficult components of this task. They had 45 minutes to shop and cook, but no one could tell them when to stop shopping and start grilling. “I have to make a fantastic fajita platter or my mother is going to yell at me,” Evelyn explained.

Indeed, the chefs’ strategies — or lack thereof — were on display. Jae planned to make Korean-style crepes for her fajitas, so she needed to shop quickly. Nick, Buddha, Evelyn, and Damarr were the first to cook, but Ashleigh was still missing. She was still hunting and gathering her ingredients with one-third of her time left on the clock, and she knew she’d have to hurry to finish.

Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details

Surprisingly, both the first and last chefs to begin cooking, Jae and Ashleigh, found themselves in a time crunch. In a rush, their time was over, and neither Ashleigh nor Jae had finished plating their dishes, leaving essential elements off their plates. When the judges announced the finest and worst meals, it was clear that they would come in last, which they did. Damarr, whose grilled steak was too thick and whose salsa was too sweet, joined them at the bottom.

The judges praised the other three contestants, but Nick was declared the winner! He cooked tri-tip, cabbage, and black bean braise, and he was the only chef who succeeded in making his own tortillas, increasing his season total to $35,000. Even if he doesn’t win the entire competition, that’s not a bad sum of money.

Challenge: Elimination

Now for a change of pace. The Padma welcomed guest judge Marcus Samuelsson, who explained the chefs’ next task: moving from the farm to the stars. “It’s a space race!” exclaims the narrator. At the first hint of NASA, Evelyn was ecstatic. They’d have to think like chefs and prepare meals fit for astronauts in space. They’d have to think about things like eating in zero-gravity, where spilled drinks and crumbs could cause problems.

Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details

The first thing they did was go to the Houston Space Center to learn about the unique issues of food in flight. For example, astronauts don’t have to eat the same thing over and over again because space cuisine is varied. There is, however, a limit on salt because it may cause bone loss. To avoid stray drips in the cabin, sauces are thick. In a zero-G environment, the more hot sauce comes in useful to increase flavor.

Damarr struggled for inspiration in such a highly particular technical problem when it came time to organize their meals and purchase ingredients. Not about the challenge, but about her career as a chef, in which she has put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into helping other people’s restaurants succeed. She seemed to have a little issue coming up with a challenging concept: hot sauce salmon ceviche, which she would offer as “tinned fish reinterpreted.”

Others were experimenting with new techniques. Jae was making bulgogi, a Korean beef dish, and needed to thicken the soup. Evelyn was making a roux to thicken her pork and chili stew. Nick was also preparing a gumbo from Mississippi.

Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details


Marcus Samuelsson, a trio of astronauts, and Top Chef” All-Star Melissa King joined Padma, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons to judge the chefs’ out-of-this-world culinary creations. Evelyn and Buddha, two dependably outstanding chefs with predictable strong dishes, were the first to serve their meals in pairs. Evelyn’s guiso Rojo stew had a tasty spiciness with a decent texture; it was spicy but not overbearing.

Buddha’s coconut mousse with berry compote balls was also a hit: interactive, lively, and playful, it leaned into the challenge’s theme without being overly gimmicky. According to the Padma, this par’s “a pair of magnificent dishes” set a high bar for the other chefs that presented.

Next up were Ashleigh and Nick, although only Nick met the high bar. “Mississippi goddamn!” Marcus exclaimed over Nick’s gumbo, quoting Nina Simone. But Ashleigh went too far with the astronaut challenge, and her meal (complete with scissors and a plastic packet of sweet potato slaw) was all concept and little flavor. To properly absorb the taste of her pickling liquid, she should have sliced the fish into smaller pieces.

Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details

The Table of Judges

It had been a day like that. Nick, Buddha, and Evelyn were in the top three, while Ashleigh, Damarr, and Jae were in the bottom three. But, unlike in the Quickfire, where Nick emerged victoriously, this time Buddha triumphed. He had previously won “Doppelgangers” with the now-booted Jackson Kalb, but this was his first solo success. His balls will now be used to create a true space supper.

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This was Ashleigh’s seventh low score (counting the task where she was ousted and then won her way back in “Last Chance Kitchen”). She even joked about being “the MVP of the bottom… ” as she consoled Jae. “This is something I’m used to.” Except for winning “Restaurant Wars,” I thought Ashleigh would be eliminated again. Meanwhile, despite her inconsistencies, Jae just won her second challenge, while Damarr, despite this one-off day, has been a rock star all season.

Top Chef Houston Episode 10 - Know All Details

Surprisingly, the judges appeared to be undecided over whether or not to send Damarr or Jae home. And it turned out that Jae was the cook who had to pack her knives and leave. In just one week, I went from top to bottom. Unless you’re Ashleigh, in which case the competition has been really lenient.

By Emily Johnson

Emily's nickname is Em. Emily is a voracious reader who enjoys the outdoors. She's also a traveller who has travelled to many different parts of the globe. She contributes to on a variety of themes, including entertainment, celebrity, and entrepreneurship, as well as modern-day relationships. Emily believes that her life experiences have taught her to be strong-minded, what she shows in her work. She likes to gather and provide the right set of information.