Working in a professional kitchen means long hours of backbreaking labor. So it comes as no surprise that “Top Chef” has showcased a number of exhausting, overnight cooking challenges over the years. Some dishes just taste better if you slave over them all night, and these challenges prove that the extra effort can make or break a dish.
A gumbo “long-fire”
The “Quickfire” challenge in the second episode of Season 11 should have been called a “long-fire” instead, as it revolved around an overnight gumbo cookoff. The chefs stayed up all night, nursing their crockpots of gumbo in their apartment. Poor Michael ended up throwing out his gumbo and starting over at 1:30 a.m., causing to him to finish in the bottom of the pack. Ultimately, Carrie took top honors with a gumbo that paid homage to Trinidadian culinary traditions.
A chili cook-off
Working in teams, the Season 9 chefs had all night to prep for a chili cook-off. The chefs cooked at their residence, rather than in the “Top Chef” kitchen, which limited their equipment and ingredient options. The chili was judged by the public, and the winner was the chili con carne with roasted corn salsa prepared by the team of Chris C., Chuy, and Sarah.
Way back in Season 6, the chefs headed out into the desert for an overnight cooking challenge. Given only fire pits and rudimentary supplies, the chefs worked long hours to cook for a group of two dozen cowboys. Bryan’s dish of roasted pork loin, dandelion greens, and glazed rutabaga really wowed the diners and scored him the win. Sadly, Mattin’s ceviche missed the culinary mark and he was sent packing.
Frozen but fabulous
In an interesting twist on the overnight challenge format, the chefs in Season 3 were tasked with creating a pasta dish that would be frozen overnight and then reheated and served the next day. Creating frozen food might sound pedestrian, but it was a surprisingly technical challenge. Tre and CJ won the challenge with their black truffle and parmesan linguine with grilled chicken and kale. The key to their success was noting that in commercially prepared frozen dinners, nests of pasta and cubes of sauce were frozen in small batches, allowing the food to be reheated quickly and evenly. Joey, sadly, got eliminated after presenting a fusili dish with chicken and sundried tomatoes.
“Top Chef” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.