Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the “Top Chef: Houston” finale.
Australian Chinese chef Buddha Lo was announced as the winner of the Bravo cooking competition show “Top Chef: Houston” during the finale on Thursday night.
During a four-course challenge, the chefs were instructed to make the “most progressive” meals of their lives and were allowed to choose one of the eliminated contestants as their sous chefs.
Season 19 finalists including Lo, Detroit’s Sarah Welch and Houston-native Evelyn García prepared their dishes in Tucson, Arizona, for some of the world’s most famous chefs, restaurateurs and past “Top Chef” winners.
Welch decided on the theme of sustainability, constructing a menu that was waste conscious. She used ingredients native to Arizona and complementary of the desert environment such as miso, corn husk, rabbit and herbs.
Lo’s four-course meal was centered around his family. He started off with hamachi with sauce vin jaune, caviar, apple and bee figures made out of sweet potatoes in honor of his brother.
Next, he made his mother’s panang laksa recipe and paired it with cannelloni, king crab and a carrot butterfly tuile.
For the main course, he prepared a “perfectly cooked” Mongolian lamb, in a tribute to his late father who passed away before the show.
His final dessert dish was an ode to America welcoming him as an immigrant: a pumpkin pie mille-feulle with pumpkin custard, chantilly cream, maple caramel, pumpkin spice cake and pumpkin leaves.
García based her meals on what she had learned from “Top Chef” up to that point, while also incorporating Tucson flavors of spiced squash, currymole sauce, persimmon and other unique spice combinations.
Welch was the first to be eliminated, leaving Lo and García to compete.
Lo’s technique-driven, creative masterpieces gave him the edge over García’s innovative combinations of Latin and Asian flavors.
The season was full of some of the most interesting cooking challenges featured on the show.
In the Tex-Mex challenge of Episode 2, contestants had to come up with something to dip in queso besides a tortilla chip.
In a night market-themed cook-off from Episode 3, paying homage to Houston’s Asian communities, the show’s chefs drew from a knife block to see which culture’s cuisine they had to cook, including Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Chinese.
Lo plans to use the $250,000 cash prize to plan a trip but confesses, “It’s probably going to be able to help me live a little more comfortably. I’ve never had this much money in my life, nor did I think that I would.”