Reaching Restaurant Wars on Top Chef is the goal every contestant has. “Everybody wants to make it to Restaurant Wars. Either they don’t want to be eliminated in the first round, they don’t want to be the first one to leave, and if they make that goal, they want to make it to Restaurant Wars,” says Jamie Tran, the owner of The Black Sheep and contestant on Top Chef: Portland. And it’s come to that time in the season when the remaining eight contestants have to create a new restaurant, from menu to name and logo to service in 24 hours.
Tran teams up with Maria Mazon, Byron Gomez, and Shota Nakajima on the project that created a chef’s table restaurant called Kokoson, a meld of the Latinx and Asian contestants on the team. The group decided to do a kaiseki service with dishes that combined Latin and Asian ingredients.
Tran says she stuck to cooking some of the bigger dishes instead of talking to the judges because she get nervous when people watch her cook. “I’m feeling the pressure of letting my team down,” she says on the show. “It’s just a lot on my little brain.”
Perhaps the surprise from the team’s menu was a hot pot that each contributed to. Tran made the broth with Mazon. Tran also worked with Gomez to make a tres leches cake that she ate growing up. It also marked the first time that Season 10 Top Chef winner Kristen Kish experienced Tran’s sound effects.
“Everybody played a part and we all helped each other and it kind of flowed easily with us,” Tran says in an interview with Eater Vegas. “It just worked well because we knew each other’s comfort zone.”
Sara Hauman ended up losing the challenge and packing her knives. “I was shocked. We all were shocked,” Tran says. “They say that all the time, like, it doesn’t matter how good you cooked before … any minor mistakes or anything that you make that you didn’t pay attention to can send you home.”
Next week brings Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from Portlandia.
Top Chef: Portland airs on Thursdays on Bravo at 8 p.m. PDT.