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Top Chef: One Contestant Reveals a Diagnosis and Everyone Makes a Fine-Dining Meal on a Tight Budget

Former Top Chef champ Buddha Lo recaps season 21, episode 2, which saw chef Dan Jacobs open up about his Kennedy's disease

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Joe Flamm and Kristen Kish on Top Chef episode 2

David Moir/Bravo

Joe Flamm and Kristen Kish on Top Chef episode 2

Buddha Lo is a two-time Top Chef winner, executive chef at Hūso in New York City, and a Saratoga Spring Water brand ambassador. He is sharing his thoughts after each episode of Top Chef season 21, set in Wisconsin, offering a unique perspective as a former cheftestant.

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

Another great episode of Top Chef, this one highlighting the beer of Milwaukee. Straight off the bat I thought this was a great episode, because you saw the versatility of these chefs that are going for it and doing desserts. Not every challenge has to stick to savory. A good chef should know how to do a good amount of pastry skills.

I also want to shout out Dan [Jacobs], who revealed he has Kennedy’s disease [a rare neuromuscular disease similar to ALS]. Good on him for doing Top Chef. It shouldn’t stop him, someone with his passion. I hope he does really well in the competition. I wish him well and hope he’s doing alright.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Dan Jacobs and Valentine Howell Jr. on Top Chef episode 2

David Moir/Bravo

Dan Jacobs and Valentine Howell Jr. on Top Chef episode 2

THE QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

Using raw hops is definitely a curveball. Knowing there is quite the beer culture in Wisconsin, you could anticipate that you might have to cook with hops at some point.

This was where some contestants started to become confident — they could relate the hops to ingredients they were familiar with. When you have bitter, you always have to counteract it with something sweet. And those were the people who did come out on top, the people who used sweet, like Michelle [Wallace]. Kevin [D’Andrea] and Laura [Ozyilmaz], who won for her rice pudding.

Related: Top Chef Gets 'Shaken Up' with New Rules and Kristen Kish as Host — See the Trailer and Meet the Chefs (Exclusive)

On Kenny [Nguyen], who was in the bottom three, doing any sort of grain and calling it al dente in a Quickfire is pretty much saying it’s raw. I’ve heard that word many a time. But overall the subtle negative feedback, like Valentine [Howell Jr.]’s duck being lightly smoked, means everyone did quite well in this Quickfire.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Laura Ozyilmaz won the Quickfire challenge during Top Chef episode 2

David Moir/Bravo

Laura Ozyilmaz won the Quickfire challenge during Top Chef episode 2

THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

Another great challenge, using bar snacks to create a fine-dining meal. A lot of people think Top Chef is about the cooking, but I think a lot of it is about who can lead and who can be a team player.

I know some chefs were little bit uncomfortable doing their snack, but there was a lot of support from teammates because they realized in a team challenge, you have to get over that line together to be safe.

I want to mention the budget. I’m glad Joe Flamm brought it up, calling it “champagne taste on a beer budget.” In fine dining, you’re often cooking with premium products, like wagyu or truffle. Sharing $500 among seven chefs, you’re giving each chef just over $70 to cook for ten people. A pinch of fennel seeds might be 3 cents, but you’re going to have to buy the seeds in a packet, and that’s $5 from your budget.

Related: Top Chef: Buddha Lo Talks Kristen Kish, the Mistakes on Episode 1 and Which Chefs He's 'Looking Out for'

I think it was great to challenge them, but I also thought it was great to highlight that $500 is not a whole lot of money for a team, especially for what the judges were asking for.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Gail Simmons and Joe Flamm in Top Chef episode 2

David Moir/Bravo

Gail Simmons and Joe Flamm in Top Chef episode 2

WHO WON

Rasika [Venkatesa] won. The flavor combinations and the ideas from her dish were really great. The moment Rasika mentioned she was going to do a mustard sabayon I knew if she pulled this off, she’d do really well.

Mustard and pretzels go really well together. Using them together in a sweet application was very smart and elevated.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Rasika Venkatesa won the Elimination Challenge in Top Chef episode 2

David Moir/Bravo

Rasika Venkatesa won the Elimination Challenge in Top Chef episode 2

Related: A Top Chef First: New Contestant Will Join the Competition Late by Cooking on Last Chance Kitchen (Exclusive)

WHO LOST

Valentine was sent home for soup. The soup in the pot already looked very thick, so when it got in the bowl you could tell it was way too thick.

Note: This is not just a competition thing, this is a restaurant thing. We’re living in a time of Instagram, so not only do you have to think about timing for when someone eats the dish, but you have to include extra time for someone to explain the dish, take a photo of the dish and so on.

We'll see how far Valentine goes on Last Chance Kitchen.

Top Chef airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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