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Jamie Tran Takes on Hipster Ingredients and Recipe Writing on the Latest ‘Top Chef: Portland’

The stars of ‘Portlandia’ join the chefs on the show

Two chefs stand in front of a table with diners
From left: Gail Simmons, Jamie Tran, Gregory Gourdet, and Tom Colicchio
David Moir/Bravo

Jamie Tran, the owner of The Black Sheep, continues her run as a contestant on Top Chef: Portland with vintage cooking challenges using hipster ingredients with the stars of Portlandia as judges and a recipe development elimination challenge on the latest episode.

At this stage of the show, seven chefs remain when Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from Portlandia judge a Quickfire Challenge that has the chefs using hipster ingredients in a vintage kitchen complete with electric stoves. Tran tells Eater Vegas she doesn’t watch the show, or much television for that matter, so she didn’t know the actors, but did enjoy how they were fans of Top Chef.

Tran made mushroom and pickled asparagus dumplings with a hemp seed oil vinaigrette. During the challenge, she says her first rolling pin broke as she was trying to make the dumplings. She says she’s accustomed to drinking alternative milks. “I drink flaxseed milk myself and a lot of alternative milks, but I don’t think I’m a hipster. I’m lactose intolerant,” she says on the show.

Tran ended up in the bottom of the challenge with chewy dumplings she says were due to the electric stove and high smoke point for hemp seed oil. Dawn Burrell ended up winning the Quickfire Challenge and 15 extra minutes in the Elimination Challenge, where the contestants created a recipe for a dish that any home chef could make in 90 minutes.

Tran opted to make a riff on peanut butter and jelly with seared foie gras with brioche French toast, blueberry compote, and black sesame. “The first time I ever went to Vegas, I had foie. I fell in love with it and the food there so moved to Vegas and I’ve been there for 11 years,” she tells head judge Tom Colicchio on the show.

“I’ll look you up,” he tells Tran. “And then I get you drunk, chef,” she quips back. Colicchio has Heritage Steak at the Mirage and Craftsteak at the MGM Grand, for the record, so a night of drinking in Las Vegas could happen.

After writing up the recipe and making it for the first time, the contestants return to the kitchen to make their dishes again, only with former winners following their recipes in a separate kitchen. Gregory Gourdet, who competed on the 12th and 17th seasons of the show, made Tran’s recipe. “I thought Jamie’s recipe worked really well,” he tells the judges on the show. “There’s nothing too complicated within the time frame.”

Tran says writing the recipe, something she does with far more time in her own kitchen at The Black Sheep, proved difficult in that short time period. “I’m not gonna lie, I do have a learning disability so sometimes it was awkward writing stuff. It takes me longer,” she tells Eater Vegas. For example, she might write “salt kosher” instead of kosher salt, she says, but when she worked at the Venetian and Palazzo, she wrote recipes all the time.

Despite a good recipe, Tran ends up in the bottom three with soggy French toast that was too sweet. Tran says she wishes she added a crunchy component to the dish.

“At that point, I was like, ‘If I go home, I can relax.’ I was not as nervous as the others now that I’ve been on the other side,” she says about already being eliminated and then winning her way back on the show on Last Chance Kitchen. “Being eliminated honestly put me in a different perspective. No matter if I’m top or bottom, I am so grateful to be there.”

Chris Viaud packed his knives, leaving six chefs competing on the show. Next week brings the Tournament of Tofu.

Top Chef: Portland airs on Thursdays on Bravo at 8 p.m. PDT.

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