Cafe Society

Jen Jasinski moves to the finals of Top Chef Masters

Denver will be in the national spotlight next week -- and we're not talking about Monday Night Football. The really big game is on TV two days later, when Jen Jasinski will compete in the final round of Top Chef Masters. The chef/co-owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall, who was named this year's Best Chef Southwest in the James Beard Foundation competition, has made a strong comeback since she was kicked off, then won a challenge to rejoin the show. Brought back from the dead on last week's installment, she won both challenges, netting another $15,000 for Work Options for Women, her chosen charity. And last night Jasinski's burger took the first challenge -- judged by Sang Yoon, who was kicked off the week before -- and won another $5,000 for WOW.

See also: Denver's 50 most essential restaurants, No. 47 -- Rioja

But Jasinski's really big win was surviving the final elimination, the "Teacher Tribute," even though her lamb was considered "undercooked" by both the judges and the sniping chefs in the kitchen.

Here's judge Gail Simmons's explanation of why that lamb didn't get Jasinski sent home:

I thought the lamb was a little undercooked. I didn't have a problem with it personally, but I know that's a very subjective question. In general, I do think it was undercooked for the majority of people there and for how lamb really should be. It was just a little too pink in the center, almost blue. I think that was daunting for a lot of people. I also wish it had been more seared on the outside, that she would have developed a little more crust or char, which would have given it more flavor and also helped the texture. There's a lot of fat on the outside of a lamb chop like that. If you don't render it down, it becomes chewy and fatty to eat.

But the grains and fennel she paired with it were absolutely outrageous! I loved that she started with the idea of porridge and, just like Mama Bear's, it was just right

The honored teacher also had a very touching reaction to Jasinski's dish.

And so instead, David Burke was sent home, and Jaskinski moved into the finals against Bryan Voltaggio and Douglas Keane. That episode will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 25 on Bravo.

Best place to watch? Euclid Hall, where all the TVs in the place will be tuned to that channel.