A Houston chef has packed her knives on Top Chef. The judges eliminated contestant Sasha Grumman on only the second episode of the show’s 18th season.
Grumman is one of two Houston chefs competing on this season of Top Chef. Formerly the executive chef of Rosalie Italian Soul, she currently sells baked goods at area farmers markets as Sasha’s Focaccia.
Grumman heard the dreaded phrase due to a dish she created with fellow contestant Brittany Anderson of Richmond, Virginia. Tasked with crafting a dish that utilized both beer and coffee, the chefs served a beer marinated pork loin with beets, milk stout vinaigrette, coffee romesco, and coffee hazelnut crunch. It looked pretty, but faced immediate criticism from the show’s judges.
Gail Simmons called Grumman’s romesco sauce “chalky,” but the harshest comments were reserved for her hazelnut crumble.
“I can remember that dish because of how bad those hazelnuts were,” judge Dale Talde quipped.
Overall, the chefs’ creation was “Like a collection of ingredients brought together, but there was not a holistic identity to that dish,” host Padma Lakshmi added.
It’s an abrupt end for the chef, who seemed to be emerging as a fan favorite due to her outgoing personality and penchant for quips. A writer for the AV Club even tagged her as the favorite to win the competition.
On a more positive note, Houston’s other representative, chef Dawn Burrell of the forthcoming restaurant Late August, finished among the top three favorite dishes of the night for her collaboration with Gabriel Pascuzzi: coffee and beer braised pork ribs with sour beer glaze and herb salad.
In an Instagram post Thursday night, Grumman thanked the show for giving her an opportunity to share her story of overcoming an addiction to alcohol. “Remember. It’s ok to talk about hard things and cry on national TV,” she writes.
Thankfully, viewers may not have seen the last of Grumman. She defeated contestant Roscoe Hall in the first episode of Last Chance Kitchen, an online show that will provide a route back into the main competition for at least one eliminated contestant. Head judge Tom Colicchio raved about her dish of fried oysters with cherimoya and green apple puree and toasted pistachios.
“This is an outstanding dish. It’s quite surprising,” Colicchio said. “Sasha, is this the beginning of a little run?”
We certainly hope so.