Chow Town

‘Top Chef’ recap: Renee Kelly eliminated in second episode

“Top Chef” contestant Renee Kelly owns Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Shawnee and lives in Merriam.
“Top Chef” contestant Renee Kelly owns Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Shawnee and lives in Merriam. Dale Berman/Bravo

Renee Kelly has been chopped from Season 13 of “Top Chef.”

The chef and owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Shawnee was eliminated in part two of the Bravo show’s premiere on Thursday.

In the episode, the 16 remaining “cheftestants” were split into four teams. Each team had one day to open a pop-up restaurant with a predetermined culinary theme: Persian, Korean, Mexican or vegan. Kelly — who was on the vegan team — whipped up stuffed beets with tofu, roasted cashews and bitter spring green sauce. The colorful dish bombed with the judges, and celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre called it “dry and mushy.”

Despite a stellar performance in part one of the premiere, Kelly landed on the chopping block alongside grumpy New York chef Grayson Schmitz who, earlier in the show, had a meltdown in the produce aisle of Whole Foods when she couldn’t find yellow wax beans.

After Padma Lakshmi told Kelly to pack her knives and go, Kelly said that “cooking under time constraints is not for me.”

The cheerful chef seemed surprised, but not devasted by, her elimination.

“I did the best that I could,” she said. “I arrived sassy, and I’m leaving even sassier.”

Kelly later appeared on the “Top Chef” digital series “Last Chance Kitchen,” where eliminated chefs face off for a chance to re-enter the competition. Her opponent was chef Garret Fleming of Washington, D.C., who called Kelly “Big Red.”

“Don’t let these looks fool you,” Kelly said. “I’m here to win. I’m here to take one home for Kansas City.”

But Kelly’s dish — pan-roasted chicken with sauteed dandelion greens and a crispy poached egg — disappointed judge Tom Colicchio, who said the chicken was burnt and lacking in flavor. After Colicchio pronounced Fleming the winner, Kelly admitted that “this competition is really difficult.”

“I know that I’m talented,” she said, “but I also know that this type of competition is not for everyone, and it’s not for me. I didn’t shine brightly at all.”

In a Tuesday phone interview, Kelly said she was glad she agreed to do “Top Chef” because she made new friends, spread awareness about Kansas City’s culinary scene, and solidified her food philosophy.

“I have a viewpoint that food is nourishment, food is community,” she said. “I cook to nourish people. I always thought that was a weak way of describing my cooking style, but it’s really not.”

“I honestly came away feeling so comfortable and confident with myself and my viewpoint on food.”