Who Won ‘Top Chef’ Season 18?

Top Chef Season 18 Winner

Bravo Shota Nakajima, Dawn Burrell, and Gabe Erales are pictured together on the finale of "Top Chef" season 18.

The season 18 finale of “Top Chef“, which took place in Portland, Oregon, aired on July 1, 2021.

Dawn Burrell, Gabriel “Gabe” Erales, and Shota Nakajima were the final 3 contestants left in the competition.

For their quick-fire competition on the finale, they each had to create a 4-course progessive meal to blow away the judges. And, how much money were the three chefs competing for? This season’s grand prize is $250,000 in cash.

Read on for the rundown on the 2021 finale and to skip to the winner spoilers, scroll down to the bottom of the article.


‘Top Chef’ Season 18 Finale Recap

Top Chef Season 18 Finalists

BravoPictured from left to right: Byron Gomez, Shota Nakajima, Jamie Tran, Dawn Burrell, Gabe Erales, and Maria Mazon.

Each of the three finalists were presented with three castoff contestants to pick from to be their sous-chefs in the final competition of the season. Dawn picked castoff Jamie Tran to be help her, while Shota picked Byron Gomez. Gabe chose castoff Maria Mazon.

Gabe said he wanted his menu to reflect who he is as a chef, so, of course, he was going to include a take on his signature mole sauce. Shota’s strategy was to not have an overly complicated menu. He also wanted to include more soul into his cooking. Dawn said that she wanted to highlight pan-African cuisine for her finale menu.

For Shota’s menu, he opted for a sashimi 3-ways for the first course, octopus karaage with water spinach and burdock root for his second course, and his third course was a beef tongue curry. Gabe’s menu consisted of pig head cheese for his first course, a scallop and tepache aguachile for his second course, and his third was a short rib with Oregon mushrooms and a chichilo negro mole. Dawn’s first course was a lamb tartare with beef tendon and honey bread, a green gumbo with a Carolina gold rice fritter was her second course choice and for her third, a jerk beef cheek with braised black-eyed peas and buttered turnips. Jamie commented that Dawn’s menu was “a lot” for her.

When it came to the desserts, Shota opted for a Hoji tea cheesecake with cedar-smoked gelato. Gabe’s dessert was a candied delicata squash with cafe mexicano ice cream. And, Dawn’s dessert dish was a yam and buttermilk bread pudding.

Sometimes on “Top Chef”, the kitchen gets so hectic that ovens accidentally get overtaken or turned off. Shota thought ahead and put tape over his oven with a message that said to not change the temperature of the oven.

After hours of cooking and preparation, the contestants arrived home to see familiar faces like Richard Blais in their kitchen. The Top Chef alumni together cooked the finalists dinner to celebrate their journeys in the competition.

For the very first course, Dawn faced a major issue. She missed two plates when it came to including her honey bread. The judges weren’t pleased about Dawn’s overcomplication of her dish. They also criticized her time management as this was not the first time she failed to finish plating before her time was up.

The judges and dining panel raved about Shota’s sashimi dish. Gabe’s first course was also revered by the diners but it did face a little bit of criticism when it came to one diner wanting more “crispiness.”

All of the judges thought the second courses of the night were each “beautiful”. The judges loved Dawn’s gumbo but some felt there were some issues with it, including an undercooked octopus. There was a lot of criticism when it came to Shota’s octopus as well. The judges felt it was “oily.”

Shota faced a little criticism again with his third course, while many thought Dawn’s third dish was “flawless.” Gabe’s black mole was a major hit.

Each of the desserts received both praise and criticism from the judges. But overall, there weren’t any big blunders with the food on this finale.


Who Won ‘Top Chef’ Season 18

Gabriel “Gabe” Erales was named the winner on the season 18 finale of “Top Chef”. He said he was proud to be the first Mexican winner of the franchise.

The judges’ table started off with positives for each of the contestants. And then the judges got more into the flaws of the dishes. Alongside judges Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio, Richard Blais and Melissa King helped to deliver the critiques of each meal to the finalists.

When discussing the dishes, King said that it was “inexcusable” for Dawn’s honey bread misstep. Simmons said that Gabe had one of the best dishes of the night. According to the judges, Shota had issues with the rice in his third course, while Colicchio felt Gabe’s mushrooms in his third course were burnt. At this point, the judges felt it was an even playing field.

Moving on to the desserts, Gabe’s dessert was called “innovative,” Dawn’s was “pleasurable,” and Shota’s was called something the judges had never even “tasted before.”

When the contestants returned to the judges’ panel to see who won the title of “Top Chef”, they were joined by the dining panel as well.

Top Chef Season 18 Judges

BravoPictured from left to right were Richard Blais, Melissa King, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons.

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