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As if a surf and turf team challenge with a double elimination looming wasn't intimidating enough in the May 6 episode of Bravo's Top Chef, the Elimination Challenge was made even more complicated for Nelson German, who had been battling a knee injury since the contestants cooked in the Hood River Fruit Loop earlier this season.
With cooking being such a physical activity, that of course affected Nelson's performance in the Elimination Challenge as he and partner Gabriel Pascuzzi prepared their dish featuring crispy skin steelhead, antelope, chanterelles, and berries. "I know Gabe has been in the top a lot, so I was like, 'Damn, you've got a good partner,'" Nelson recalled in the Top Chef After Show, above. "But then the pain started getting worse for me, so my head wasn't in the game."
Unfortunately, after winning that episode's Quickfire (the first of Season 18 to not offer immunity), Gabriel had to pack his knives and go, along with Nelson in the first double elimination of the season. "You know, I think if we had 100 percent Nelson, like, we would have definitely had a little more time to taste everything, had a little more time to do everything, just 'cause, you know, you would have been moving faster," Gabriel remarked in the Top Chef After Show.
Nelson said that getting an injury just goes to "show you the chef life," adding, "We've worked so hard throughout our careers. Sometimes it just catches up to you."
Thankfully, Nelson has since recovered from his injury. "I haven't felt any pain," he said. "So kind of a new man, you know?"
He's also now back at work as the executive chef/owner of alaMar Kitchen and Sobre Mesa in Oakland, California. "I've been working a lot," Nelson shared. "We just reopened our second place again."
Gabriel also returned to his restaurants in Portland after competing on Top Chef, noting that, during the pandemic, his Stacked Sandwich Shop was "doing about 50 percent of what we were doing" and was trying to take advantage of nice weather with outdoor dining when possible. He has also been talking "about doing some dinners" with his fellow Season 18 cheftestants. "I'm trying to get some stuff on the books," Gabriel said.
Of course, their businesses back home were top of mind for Nelson and Gabriel while they were off competing this season of Top Chef, especially amid the devastation to the restaurant industry brought about by the pandemic. "It was always worrying about: Is my restaurant going to close down when I'm here? How are my cooks doing? For me, how's my wife doing with the restaurant? She's never ran a restaurant. She left her job to take care of it while I was gone," Nelson recalled.
The pandemic also impacted the state of mind that the cheftestants were in this season, according to Gabriel. "Most of the time, chefs are coming straight out of their kitchens being creative in the workflow going straight into Top Chef. We all came in, dare I say, a little pudgy, with some pandemic rustiness. We haven't been in our kitchens. We've been in survival mode, not creativity mode," he explained. "I know, for sure, it took me a few episodes to get my brain to switch over to that, because I'd just been so ingrained in pivot, pivot, pivot, pivot, and still worrying about my restaurant. So I would love to go into Top Chef with like a clear conscience."
Still, Gabriel is grateful he got the chance to compete on Top Chef. "I've been a fan of Top Chef since its existence," he said. "You know, I've watched so many chefs be on this show, and it's kind of surreal to be on it yourself."
Nelson also said that competing on Top Chef is something he will "never forget." "You know, I miss everyone, not just with the chefs, but also the production team, the producers," he shared. "I think it was the most memorable thing I've ever done in my life, and I wouldn't change it for the world."
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