Jamie Tran, the chef and co-owner of The Black Sheep, the Eater 38 restaurant in the southwest where Tran melds her Vietnamese upbringing with French techniques, competes on Top Chef: Portland with a goal of winning $250,000. Tran already made her mark in Las Vegas with The Black Sheep, which won an Eater Award for Restaurant of the Year.
In Episode Three, Tran continues to make her mark on the show where so far, two chefs were eliminated.
Episode 3 starts with a Quickfire Challenge with a layered dessert and a chance to win $10,000. “I don’t mind baking but pastries are probably my least favorite thing to do,” Tran says in an interview with Eater Vegas. She has 45 minutes to make a crispy burnt end brownie with toasted sesame seeds, yuzu strawberry compote, and chocolate gelato. Her dish lands her in the middle of the competition. “One day, somebody is on top and the next day they can be eliminated,” Tran tells Eater Vegas.
The Elimination Challenge took the chefs to pan-African restaurants in Portland for inspiration. Tran dines at Akadi, a restaurant specializing in West African dishes from chef Fatou Ouattara, a native of the Ivory Coast. Tran says she talked to the owners and found the fried fish reminded her of her parent’s cooking. ”This fish reminds me of a dish my mom makes,” she says on the show.
“We focus on two or three cuisines, French, Italian, possibly Japanese and nowadays we’re opening our eyes to so many different cultures so many different cuisines and it’s just really great to watch young chefs embrace this idea,” says Tom Colicchio, the head judge on the show who has two restaurants in Las Vegas.
Tran makes a crispy snapper with turmeric couscous, heirloom tomatoes, and pickles, added a Vietnamese twist to it. She ends up getting called to the Judges’ Table at the end, landing in the top three.
“You could tell your heritage because of this sweet notes in the tart notes but you still managed to show us how these flavors can be translated in a new modern way,” host Padma Lakshmi says on the show.
“The fish was so crispy, the little pickles that were just perfect and it’s just a couple bites of tomatoes and onions really carried that dish through,” says Kwame Onwuachi, a contestant on Top Chef in 2015 who is judging this season.
Tran didn’t win the Elimination Challenge, but she is relieved. “I’m glad I’m not on the bottom anymore,” she says in an interview with Eater Vegas. “I’m going at a steady pace and then I just found myself in a position to take it a day at a time.”
Top Chef: Portland airs on Thursdays on Bravo at 8 p.m. PDT.