No matter what happens on next week's "Top Chef" Season 15 finale, a chef with Chicago roots will win the title.
Spiaggia executive chef Joseph Flamm faces Chicago native Adrienne Cheatham for the $125,000 prize. The finale is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Thursday on the Bravo network.
The two contestants defeated Los Angeles chef Joe Sasto on Thursday's episode to advance to the final round of the Colorado-based competition. Flamm, Sasto and Cheatham were tasked with catching and cooking a trout in the "quickfire challenge."
Flamm, who grew up in the Ashburn neighborhood on the Southwest Side and now lives in West Town, easily caught a fish and won the challenge with his pan-seared trout, black garlic beurre blanc with fennel, mushrooms, asparagus and bread crumbs.
He was allowed to pick his sous chef for the elimination challenge and assign sous chefs to his competitors.
Flamm chose Colorado chef Carrie Baird to assist him. New York chef Chris Scott was paired with Sasto, and Los Angeles chef Bruce Kalman helped Cheatham. For the elimination challenge, the chefs had to create a vegetarian dish for 200 diners at the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen.
Flamm won the challenge with his grilled baby zucchini topped with hazelnut zucchini pesto, mushroom vinaigrette, goat cheese and raw asparagus salad.
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It was quite the comeback for Flamm, who was eliminated on an earlier episode, but won the "Last Chance Kitchen" contest to return to the competition. The season premiered in December with 15 contestants.
"I can't believe I'm going to the finale. I was out. I was gone. I was off this competition weeks ago and I fought tooth and nail to get back," Flamm said.
Cheatham, who lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood and now works in New York, advanced to the finale with her charred corn pudding wrapped in swiss chard with shishito peppers and champagne broth.
"I'm actually in the finale," Cheatham said. "Oh God, that is so amazing."
Sasto, who made beet carpaccio with beet yogurt, green bean tomato vinaigrette and sourdough bread, was sent home. The judges said the dish lacked cohesion.
The last Chicago chef to win "Top Chef" was Stephanie Izard on Season 4 in 2008. Flamm has worked for Izard, and she coached him before he entered the competition. Her advice? "Don't make anything gross."