Jen Jasinski doesn't win Top Chef Masters -- but she wins for WOW
The Broncos smacked the Raiders on Monday night, but the hometeam couldn't repeat the triumph on Wednesday, when the final episode of Top Chef Masters aired on Bravo. Jen Jasinski, chef/co-owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall, who was named this year's Best Chef Southwest in the James Beard Foundation competition, had made a strong comeback to reach the finale, facing off against surviving chefs Douglas Keane and Bryan Voltaggio.
The final challenge called for the contestants to cook four dishes for the judges: something old (a dish that started it all for them, and inspired them to embark on a cooking career); something new (a dish that shows where they are today); something borrowed (a dish inspired by a mentor or someone else); and something sous (the dessert created by their sous chefs in the last Battle of the Sous Chefs -- in Jasinski's case, Jorel Pierce, exec at Euclid Hall).
For old, Jasinski made Potato-Sunchoke Galette with Salmon, Caviar, Pickled Apple, and Creme Fraiche.
For new, Paella Gnocchi with Chicken Meatballs, Mussels, and Shrimp, one of her favorite dishes that's been on the Rioja menu (not currently, however) and is included in her cookbook, The Perfect Bite.
For borrowed, Chinese Duck with Shiitake Broth, Eggplant Daikon, Grilled Bok Choy, and Duck Sausage Wonton, inspired by Wolfgang Puck, Jasinski's mentor for the eleven years she worked in his organization.
And for sous, Smoked Macadamia with Chocolate Bavarian Napoleon, Tapioca, and Milk Caramel, created by Pierce.
Her dishes earned raves. "I thought I had a handle on Jennifer's excellence as a cook, and then during the finale meal, she served us her paella gnocchi. My God, it was the single best dish I ate all season -- so perfectly balanced, so beautifully executed, so lovely to look at. ...if we're handing out prizes for individual plates of food, this one is the season five gold-medal winner," said James Oseland, the Saveur editor who was a judge on the finale.
"I couldn't imagine them being any better," judge Ruth Reichl said of Jasinski's final dishes.
But they weren't good enough for the rest of the panel; Keane won the competition, adding $100,000 to the $20,000 that he'd already gotten for his charity, Green Dog Rescue.
But Jasinski still came out a winner -- because over the course of the series, she won $35,000 for Work Options for Women, the Denver non-profit that teaches food-service skills to women in poverty.
Watch Jasinski's assessment of her time on Top Chef Masters here -- and taste her talents for yourself at one of her restaurants.
Those are the real win for the home team.