Since 2006, the reality competition show, “Top Chef,” has pitted professional chefs against each other in culinary challenges week after week (via IMDb). While each episode generally consists of two competitions, the Quickfire Challenge and the Elimination Challenge, over the years, the Elimination Challenges have contained the most amount of drama.
Jennifer Carroll is one of the most competitive “Top Chef” contestants, after appearing on the show in three different seasons — Season 6: “Top Chef: Las Vegas,” Season 8: “Top Chef: All-Stars,” and Season 15: “Top Chef: Colorado” (via Bravo). However, her elimination in Season 8 is the most memorable.
After coming in fourth place on Season 6 (via NPR), Caroll came back to compete in All Stars with a vengeance. The Elimination Challenge was based on breakfast foods and judges weren’t fans of Caroll’s dish of eggs and bacon using pork belly (via The Philadelphia Inquirer). She didn’t take this disapproval lightly.
The judges critiqued the underseasoned eggs, and found the whole dish unappealing. “Top Chef” contestants often stand up to judges’ criticism, but Caroll took it a step further. In a shocking moment, after insisting the eggs were fine, she yelled, “you guys are the judges; you’re smart enough!” (via Reality Blurred). Caroll was eliminated shortly after, with “Top Chef” judge, Tom Colicchio, insisting that contestants are only eliminated based on their food and not for talking back. Caroll’s exit was equally dramatic, as she spewed an excess of bleeped out swear words in her wake.
Jamie Lynch is eliminated after giving up immunity
One of the most shocking eliminations in “Top Chef” history was Jamie Lynch’s elimination from Season 14. Fans will remember that Lynch won immunity in the Quickfire Challenge, but decided he wanted to forego his immunity and be judged on the plate of food he put out (via Parade).
After giving up his immunity, Lynch was eliminated at Judges’ Table during a pirate-themed elimination (via Mic). While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a reality show contestant get sent home after winning immunity, it was certainly a dramatic one. It seems unthinkable that a contestant would voluntarily choose to make themselves vulnerable during an elimination, but according to Mic.com, after he performed poorly in the challenge, Lynch was adamant that he wanted to save his teammates from taking the blame due to his safety.
While many viewers were in shock and angry that Lynch’s time on the show was cut short, the move gained him a lot of respect from fans of the show (via Bravo). While winning immunity is part of the game, Lynch is still insistent that winning due to immunity wouldn’t have felt like a win to him. The controversial move also made him memorable, as Lynch was invited to participate in Season 17: All Stars (via Parade).
Stephanie Cmar gets eliminated by an immunity
Jamie Lynch isn’t the only “Top Chef” contestant to have immunity drama surrounding him. In Season 11, sous chef Stephanie Cmar was sent home due to an error made by fellow teammate, Nicholas Elmi. Why was Cmar eliminated instead of Elmi? Simple, he had an immunity (via Eater).
The Elimination Challenge was a competition between classic French food and Spanish cuisine (via CarterMatt). Since Elmi had earned an immunity during his Quickfire win, he was a little bolder heading into the next competition.
In an interview with Eater Boston, Cmar reflected on the fact that she knew the judges really liked her dish. Elmi, on the other hand, had created an edible bird’s nest that Cmar had asked him not to put on the plate. But with the confidence of an immunity, Elmi ignored Cmar’s wishes and plated the food anyway. While her food isn’t what sent her home, one of the most shocking moments was when judges asked her to pack up her knives and go due to Elmi’s immunity keeping him safe.
Heather Terhune bullies Beverely Kim
One of the most tumultuous fights at any Elimination Challenge at judges’ table didn’t even result in the antagonizer going home. In Season 9, one contestant, Beverly Kim, was frequently bullied by many of the other contestants (via Medium).
However, one Elimination Challenge made headlines when fellow contestant, Heather Terhune, was paired up with Kim during this double elimination round. Right from the beginning, Kim was met with rude comments from Terhune talking down to her, which quickly turned into veiled racism (via Entertainment Weekly). Terhune criticized Kim’s traditional Asian style of cooking, insisting that her personal rustic American style wouldn’t mesh well and “they” would have to compromise.
Clearly Terhune meant that Kim would have to compromise when she went on to say that she didn’t want the whole dish to be “too Asian,” (via Hyphen). This lack of respect for another culture was bad enough, but when their team placed in the bottom three, things took another turn. According to Hyphen, as Kim began to reply to the judges’ comments on their team’s dish, Terhune cut her off and began to bring up a number of issues that went wrong, including berating her for a mistake made in an earlier competition.
While another team ended up being sent home for undercooked venison (via Hyphen), Terhune’s hateful words made for some classic reality show drama. Even at the reunion show, she refused to apologize to Kim, claiming everything she said was truthful (via Entertainment Weekly).
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