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In a pool of some of the most talented chefs in the country competing in Season 18 of Bravo's Top Chef, Sasha Grumman had kind of been crushing it. She was part of the team that won the very first Quickfire of the season, earning her immunity for that week's Elimination Challenge. Sasha then found herself on the top again as one of the judges' favorite dishes in the next Quickfire, where the chefs went head-to-head with their made-to-order breakfasts.
So, Sasha was just as surprised as the rest of us when she was eliminated in the April 8 episode of Top Chef. "Honestly, I didn't see myself going home because I had been so successful in Quickfires. Like, they know I can cook," she explained in the Top Chef After Show, which you can view, above. "And then it was like, 'Sasha, pack your knives and go,' and you're like, 'I think I heard you say my name, but I'm not sure.'"
Heading into the second Elimination Challenge of the season, the chefs thought they were going to be creating a solo dish highlighting either coffee or beer. However, Tom Colicchio later surprised them with the twist that they would actually be pairing up with a partner to create a dish highlighting both coffee and beer using the ingredients they had already purchased.
Sasha teamed up with Brittanny Anderson to create a beer marinated pork loin with beets, milk stout vinaigrette, coffee romesco, and coffee hazelnut crunch. Unfortunately, the judges didn't feel like the individual ingredients of Sasha and Brittanny's original ideas were successful when they brought them together into one dish. "We thought that our ideas blended together. Clearly, that's not the case from the judges' perspective," Sasha shared. "I think the problem is we didn't trust our chefly instincts of throwing our dishes away."
Looking back, Sasha said she would have approached the Elimination Challenge differently. "If I ever were to have another chance or for anybody else watching that wants to be on the show, when there's a collaborative challenge, throw your dishes away and start from scratch," she said. "You're good enough to do that."
The Houston-based chef experienced a difficult time after competing in Season 18 as winter storms in Texas devastated the state in February. "Lost power, lost water. It was not a couple days; it was a couple weeks of problems," Sasha shared. "I was helping out with World Central Kitchen, facilitating relationships between vendors and places in need. That kept me busy, thankfully, because it was a dark time for Texas."
However, life after Top Chef has also been a productive time for Sasha, who said the culinary competition "1000 percent" gave her the confidence to try something new. "I started a bread business, because baking is so therapeutic for me. I started working on this focaccia recipe over the summer, and I started giving it away to friends. They were like, 'You should sell it.' And I was like, 'People aren't gonna buy this,'" Sasha shared. "I started selling. I'm gonna be in a farmer's market starting next month. I can do this and help make people happy, so Top Chef was a huge push in the right direction."
Top Chef wasn't easy, but Sasha said she wouldn't give up her experience for anything. "It was magical, difficult, super hard," Sasha said of her time in the culinary competition. "But I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Want more Top Chef? New episodes air every Thursday at 8/8c or catch up on the Bravo app.
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