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 Four, “Thrown for a Loop,” Tran continues to make her mark on the show where so far, three chefs were eliminated.
Episode Four starts with a Quickfire Challenge giving the contestants the task of creating a food that evokes a memory using Campbell Soup. Tran chose tomato soup to use as a base for Vietnamese shrimp tomato soup. “During the shut down, this is one of the things I automatically went to,” she says on the show.
Tran says she turned to a spicy Vietnamese soup for takeout a lot during the pandemic as a comfort food. “I don’t know why I was turning to spicy soup, but it was something that I was eating to comfort me during that time,” she says during an interview with Eater Vegas. “Gabriel [Pascuzzi]’s next to me and he kept on eating it and he liked it so I was excited to pull it out in 30 minutes.”
Chris Viaud won the challenge that gave him immunity and $10,000. “We’re so happy for him that he’s finally hitting his stride,” Tran says.
Next the contestants headed to the Fruit Loop in the Hood River Valley to pick fruit from an orchard to use in a dish in the Elimination Challenge. The catch? The contestants couldn’t use vegetables in their dishes meant to highlight peaches, apples, and pears. “Not knowing our ingredients until tomorrow feels kind of worrisome. It feels like a Quickfire Challenge,” Tran says on the show.
Tran had ACL surgery on her left knee, so running through the orchard to pick fruit proved to be a challenge. “I would just run to the nearest whatever tree and it was a pear tree so I was like I’m just going to go with pears,” she says.
She opted for a tongue twister of a dish: Pepper pear sauce with grilled pork, goat cheese polenta, and poached pear with pickled grapes. She poached pears and pureed pears in the polenta, pickled pears for the grapes, and glazed the pork with a pear sauce. “The cool part of this challenge is highlighting the fruit without making it too sweet,” she says on the show.
Tran ended up in the middle again with Pascuzzi landing in the top three with his oysters three ways. “Gabriel’s idea was my idea I gave him during the Quickfire,” Trans says after the show of the balsamic fish sauce he used on one of the oysters. “I was telling him about that so he had me taste that because I gave him that advice.”
Another story behind the challenge the producers didn’t show was Tran having an anxiety attack in the middle of the challenge. “Honestly, for me to even hit the middle was great because I was struggling with that during that challenge,” Tran says in an interview. “It’s not a big deal for me. It happened and then I knew I got through it.”
Tran became close with Kiki Louya, who was eliminated on the episode. “We’re always the two kids in the class … the teachers wants to separate,” she says. “Kiki is one of those people that …. has a calming effect on everyone. She’s the one that you turn to [when] you want to talk to somebody, or you want to laugh with somebody.”
Top Chef: Portland airs on Thursdays on Bravo at 8 p.m. PDT.