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Published on May 17, 2024
Austin Chef Amanda Turner Exits 'Top Chef Wisconsin' After Quickfire Challenge WoesSource: Atresmedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Last Wednesday's episode of "Top Chef: Wisconsin" got heated as contestants tackled a Quickfire Challenge centered on the state's abundant cranberry harvest, followed by an Elimination Challenge that spotlighted Native American ingredients. According to Eater Austin, with only eight chefs remaining in the competition, stakes were raised as judges announced that henceforth, Quickfire's performance would directly impact elimination decisions.

Austin's own Amanda Turner stumbled with her cranberry-inspired dish, serving a corn-and-cranberry hoecake with fried chicken and cranberry-maple sauce. Despite the judges’ warning for creativity, Turner’s sauce was labeled as expected. "Everyone’s that here is here for a reason," Turner told Eater Austin, but even after a 15-year culinary career, her gamble did not pay off with the quickfire judges wanting more than a traditional sauce.

The episode’s main challenge featured Indigenous food experts as guest judges and pushed contestants to craft modern dishes with ingredients like elk, wild rice, and sumac—without the benefit of dairy, wheat flour, cane sugar, pork, beef, or chicken. It was a significant detour from the usual fare, pushing chefs out of their comfort zones and into the uncharted territory of indigenous food traditions. Turner herself opted for a dish holding roots in Japanese cuisine, a bison and venison tataki, yet had to pivot to elk meat due to pantry limitations.

After a stressful cook-off, Turner's dish—a fusion of elk tataki tartare, confit mushrooms, pipian rojo, and duck fat tortillas—received mixed reviews. Turner confessed her sauce was too heavy, leading Tom Colicchio to quip, "You’re doing our job for us," as reported by Eater Austin. The confusion on the plate left her, and another chef in the crosshairs for elimination.

Ultimately, North Carolina chef Savannah Miller took home her first win with a squash and maple jelly cake described as "amazing!" by the judges upon tasting, according to Cap Times. But it was the end of the line for Turner and San Francisco chef Laura Ozyilmaz, both sent packing after the dust settled on a double-elimination round marred by Quickfire struggles and muddled Elimination Challenge dishes.

While Turner's journey on the televised stage of Top Chef came to an end, the battle wasn't completely over. As Eater Austin notes, Turner had one more shot in the show’s companion series Last Chance Kitchen, where fallen contestants get a chance to cook their way back into the competition. Meanwhile, the Cap Times reminded readers of the importance of indigenous challenges like these, suggesting these be made a regular feature much like Restaurant Wars, a testament to the influence and significance of Native American cuisine.