ASHEVILLE – Ashleigh Shanti will ascend as a top-five finalist of “Top Chef” after an “out of this world” cooking encounter.
The Asheville chef is one step closer to claiming the “Top Chef” title, and she explained why auditioning for the show and potentially winning is important for her.
“I have worked so hard in this industry — so hard — and I don’t feel like I have a whole lot to show for it,” Shanti, owner/chef of the Good Hot Fish pop-up, said on the episode on May 5. “I’ve won restaurants awards that are not mine, put blood, sweat and tears into businesses that are not mine, and I’ve sacrificed birthdays and anniversaries. That’s a big part of why I did this. I’m here to win the title of ‘Top Chef’ for me.”
Six contestants competed in the 10th week of season 19, which airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on Bravo. In an episode titled “Dinner in Zero Gravity,” the chefs faced two challenges inspired by landmarks in Houston, Texas, where the series was filmed.
First, a quickfire challenge took the chefs to the Houston Farmers Market where they had a timed mission to purchase the ingredients they needed to create an original fajita dish. The winner would receive $10K from Chipotle.
Shanti took more time shopping for ingredients than her competitors but managed to make chicken fajitas with a cheese crust, nopal and pickled onions. However, she fell just short of time to finish putting salsa onto one of the judge’s plates.
Although Shanti wasn’t the only chef to leave an ingredient off the plate due to time, it did take her out of the running of winning the challenge.
Next, the chefs made a surprise visit to the NASA space center in Houston for the elimination challenge. There was little room for error for “Top Chef” contestants who were tasked with creating a meal fit for space.
The instruction was to “create a dish for astronauts following NASA guidelines of limiting free-standing liquid and crumbs.”
The chefs received tips from a food scientist and were given a sample menu and had the opportunity to taste existing dishes. One thing they were to consider was that astronauts like to have a variety of food and good flavors as they are sometimes in space for months or years at a time.
The chefs had the extra pressure of knowing that the winning dish would be used as inspiration for a dish that will be sent to space.
And, of course, the chef with the least favorite dish would be eliminated and sent to compete in “Last Chance Kitchen” in an attempt to win a place back in the “Top Chef” competition.
Shanti presented to the judges marinated tuna and shrimp with sweet potato slaw.
She plated the dish with the tuna and shrimp in a can and a pair of shears to cut the pouch of sweet potato slaw and pour it onto the tuna and shrimp. It was a creative approach that the judges appreciated. However, there was a question about if too much effort was put into the presentation and not enough into the flavors and cooking of the dish.
There were “a lot of missed opportunities” by the chefs, host Padma Lakshmi said. Ultimately, Shanti’s was one of the judges’ three least favorite dishes.
After deliberations, the judges decided to eliminate Jae Jung, of New York, and Shanti will advance to the 11th week of the competition.
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: ‘Top Chef’ takes Asheville’s Ashleigh Shanti on a culinary space quest