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Chef Laidlaw and ‘Next Level’ teammate cook their way to top floor in competition – Chicago Tribune


Elgin Community College-trained chef Zach Laidlaw and his teammate Nicole Renard won the challenge on Thursday’s episode of “Next Level Chef” and will compete from the top floor next week.

Laidlaw, now a professional chef in Hawaii, and Renard, a social media chef from Washington state, are on a team overseen by celebrity chef Richard Blais. They cooked from the basement level Thursday, with access to inferior equipment and ingredients the two other teams passed over.

The team mentored by chef Gordon Ramsay cooked from the top floor, with access to the best ingredients and equipment. The team overseen by chef Nyesha Arrington worked from the mid level. Those two teams each had three remaining competitors/chefs to start the night.

The challenge this time was for the chefs on each team to work together to prepare a three-course meal – an appetizer, main dish and dessert.

Left with what they had, Laidlaw prepared an octopus appetizer and a roasted rabbit main course, while Renard wound up making a crumble with olive oil for the dessert.

The judges complimented the visual presentation and cohesiveness of the three dishes. Arrington said the octopus was showcased well. Ramsay said the rabbit was a bold move and beautifully prepared. The three celebrity chefs said the crumble was on the right track but needed a topping.

The celebrity chefs picked deep fried halibut prepared by Von Smith, a professional chef from Scranton, Pennsylvania on Team Arrington, and a steak prepared by Jordan Torrey, a social media chef on Team Ramsay, as the night’s worst dishes. Ramsay found the steak underwhelming and said the halibut was dry and should have been pan seared.

To remain on the show, Smith and Torrey had to compete head-to-head making chicken and waffles.

Despite Smith having that dish on the menu at his family’s restaurant, the judges favored Torrey’s version.

Thus Ramsay’s team will be in the mid level kitchen on the next episode and Arrington’s team will work in the basement. Next week, the seven remaining competitors will face an “out of the box” challenge.

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