Spoiler alert! This story contains spoilers for Episode 15 and 16.
Vegas-based fans of Top Chef have had a big reason to watch this season: a petite culinary powerhouse known as Shirley Chung. The Chinese-born Silicon Valley dropout has worked for such A-list names as Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Mario Batali, and most recently served as executive chef at José Andrés’ Mexican Chinese joint, China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan.
If you ate there during her tenure, you know the girl’s got game, and on Season 11, Chung quickly established herself as a frontrunner. Week after week, she delivered bold flavors and impeccable execution, and week after week she survived as Padma delivered the “pack your knives and go” blow.
In the final New Orleans-based episode of Top Chef, the four remaining competitors—Chung, Nina Compton, Nicholas Elmi and Carlos Gaytan—were asked to make a dish inspired by their time in the Big Easy and their experience on the show. The prize for the winning plate: It would be added to the menu at Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants.
For Shirley, that meant creating West Lake Meuniere, a fish dish using local black drum with Zhenjiang vinegar butter sauce, braised celery and mushrooms—Chinese flavors built from Louisiana ingredients that wowed the judges and won the day.
Through the month of February, you can sample that winning dish for $36 at Lagasse’s local restaurants—Delmonico Steakhouse, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House and Table 10—but you won't see Chung in the finale episode of Top Chef Season 11 on February 5. The fiery competitor was eliminated in Episode 16, the first round of the finals in Maui. As Top Chef judge Gail Simmons said following that episode, "She’s such a fighter, such a strong contender and such an extraordinary cook. ... I have no doubt that whatever she does next will be extraordinary."