Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top Chef 1/22/14--"Leaving New Orleans" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the chefs made po’ boys and were all yelled at for sucking. Eventually guest judge Roy Choi gave Shirley the win and immunity. Then everyone was supposed to make a dish that represented a turning point in their career, for Jon Favreau who is making a movie about a chef who has lost his voice and is sucking. Isn’t that a crazy coincidence? Stupid show. Anyway, cooking, Nicholas being a dick to Carlos because he tried to be smart and say “do whatever you want, don’t touch my pots” and then freaking out when the pots got moved. If I was Carlos, I would hear “do whatever you want” and go OK! And then ignore the rest of his talking. Then Nicholas burned some quinoa which was nice, because he tried to claim someone messed with the oven on purpose. Except for the clip where the camera clearly showed him not checking the temperature on the oven. Shirley won again. Brian was sent home because I guess Nicholas is just better? Sometimes the jerk is obviously talented so you know they’ll stick around for a while, but I just don’t see that level of talent from Nicholas. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: apparently Brian’s sin was to use boneless skinless chicken breast, so the challenge was…cook with chicken skin and bones. Uh, OK. Brian made the best dish he’s made all season, but Louis made the best dish Tom’s TASTE all season so Louis wins again.

Nicholas complains and basically forces people to tell him he doesn’t suck. Normally I would say he’s just feeling insecure, which would be natural, but judging from his past behavior I think he’s trying to get attention. Shirley tells him he can be an asshole but she appreciates an asshole? At least he agrees. Nicholas talks about his dad and winning. Carlos also talks about how he feels everyone thinks he doesn’t belong. Yeah, I can see that. But he’s here to cook! Not here to make friends! Sigh. To back that up Shirley says he’s lame because he only makes Mexican. Whatever, everyone has a style.

Padma is waiting with both Tom and Gail so everyone freaks out. This is the last Quickfire in New Orleans. No immunity, finally. But the prize is another car. Shirley already has a car, though. Hee. Two part Quickfire, each part thought up by either Tom or Gail. Gail first: she wants an amuse bouche. “One perfect bite on one little fork.” Hey, “The Taste” is on another network. Two people will move on to round two.

20 minutes. Shirley tears around all crazy while Nicholas pretends to be calm. He says he’s finally figured out that he does too much shit and overthinks all his dishes. It’s a small bite, so he can’t put too much on there. Tom jokes about how he only needs 8 and a half minutes to whip up a dish. Hee. Nicholas tries to be a jerk about the fryer, but Shirley is not taking any of his crap. He’s kind of smiling, so either he just needed someone to stand up to him, or he’s just an ass to Carlos. Or he’s realizing he should maybe not be an asshole so he’s smiling to be all “oh, just kidding”? Plating is especially difficult today.

Carlos: grilled mango with shrimp and chili glaze. Nicholas: beef deckle with aged balsamic and purple potato chips. The “deckle” is part of the ribeye. Shirley: tataki style flank steak with black pepper cherry and crispy onions. “Tataki” means the meat is seared briefly, marinated in vinegar, and then sliced thin and served with ginger. When Gail picks up her fork, all the stuff falls off so Shirley has to pile it back on. Nina: shrimp escabeche with potato aioli and pickled shallots. Escabeche is poached fish that’s marinated in vinegar.

Carlos did a good job, the judges say. Shirley didn’t do as well, because I think her bite was slightly too big. They loved Nicholas’s bite, but Nina’s was a little greasy. The two moving on are Carlos and Nicholas. The girls joke about being able to relax. Tom says he has steakhouses, but he gets his inspiration from produce. The boys need to showcase either pepper or eggplant. Just when you thought this was a good challenge, they make it stupid by saying whoever reaches the table first gets dibs on whatever vegetable they want. So that Nicholas and Carlos can fight, I guess.

Another 20 minutes. Nicholas wins the race by a mile, and takes the eggplant (which of course Carlos has just said in confessional that he wants). He ruins it by bragging about how he used to run track. Shush. He’s making a duo of course because he can’t handle not doing multiple things. Carlos is going to make roasted red pepper soup. Nice. Nicholas smirks about how soup is too easy.

Carlos: fried red bell pepper soup with fennel, basil, and onion. Nicholas: roasted eggplant with sesame seed sriracha tahini and chili threads. Carlos had a great flavor, although Tom wishes maybe he had not just puréed it. Maybe have it in there some other way. Nicholas needed to season the roasted eggplant more, but Gail loved the puree. Carlos wins. Ha! Nicholas whines that he’s the only one left who hasn’t won any major prize. Yeah, that’s too bad. Wait, I don’t care.

Padma tells everyone the three chefs left after today will go to the finale in Maui. Nice. She brings out Emeril, who gives them their Elimination challenge: take everything you’ve learned on this show and create a dish that will leave your mark on this city. Also famous chefs to eat your dishes. AND Emeril tells them that the winning dish will be featured in all his restaurants in New Orleans. No pressure or anything. Emeril manages to get in “time to kick it up a notch” before inviting everyone to dinner at his restaurant so he can cook for them. Nice. I really do like how this season is spending plenty of time letting everyone be tourists.

Nicholas gets more screen time about how great he is. I’d like to say it’s a loser’s edit, but only because he’s so confident when he’s talking. But I’ve been wrong before. Everyone goes shopping at some random non-Whole Foods market. Weird. Nina is going to make trout almondine, which is classical French. Carlos wants to make a seafood mousse? Shirley talks about a sweet and sour fish.

Dinner at Emeril’s is cool because they get the chef’s table right by the kitchen where they can watch everything. Nina gets a lightbulb and is inspired for tomorrow. Now she’s doing something different, but it’ll be a take on one of Emeril’s dish. Carlos clarifies that he’s making seafood tamales. Sure. There is a ton of food. Oh, it looks so good though.

Cooking day. Carlos gets another phone call home today, to tell his family he won a car. Nina is determined to get to the finale. Cooking starts with plenty of running around. Nicholas is making like 4 different seafood preparations, of course. Carlos is pureeing seafood and then spreading it on banana leaves. Then he and Nicholas have a mature conversation without Nicholas being a jerk! I know!

Tom time! And he’s brought Emeril. Nina lets them know she was inspired by Emeril. Shirley says something about rafts. Nicholas knows he does too much. Carlos’s seafood mousse placates Tom, who thought that the dish wasn’t really showcasing anything Carlos had learned. Nicholas smirks about it, which is so dumb because that’s’ what Carlos does. He does Mexican food. I haven’t seen Nicholas do anything other than overthought fussy dishes. Whatever.

Nina gets her dish together and then realizes she never put the dumplings she made on the plate. Uh oh. And she told Tom and Emeril about them so they know. Nina: speckled trout with baby vegetables and barbeque sauce. She does admit she forgot her dumplings. Tom doesn’t seem to mind, because the ricotta in the dumplings would have been too much. The judges think she’s really done what she was supposed to do, which was take the flavors of New Orleans and incorporate them into her own food.

Nicholas has bolder flavors than usual. Nicholas: charred cobia, roasted bass and tuna confit with crispy rice and shrimp consommé. There are shrimp dumplings in there too. The broth is delicious and everything is cooked well, but it seems to be bland.

Carlos’s tamales …don’t look that appetizing. They’re just beige rectangles. Carlos: steamed seafood tamal with saffron cream sauce and pickled okra. They like the creativity. There are some bigger pieces of seafood on top, so actually everyone seems to like it. Huh.

Shirley: black drum with Zhenjiang vinegar butter sauce, braised celery and mushrooms. The celery is the “raft” that she was talking about. There is some “trinity” in there too. It’s a Chinese dish but with some New Orleans ingredients.

Nina is still freaking out about her dumplings. Yeah, everyone seemed to do really well so it might come down to that. On the other hand, the judges thought they wouldn’t have added anything to the dish.

Commercial interlude: Nicholas got up super early to practice how to describe his dish to the judges. Everyone does it apparently.

Judges’ Table. Padma praises everyone and then the voiceover reminds us that only three of them will move on. Or not, you know how they like to change their minds. Nina says she just forgot to put her dumplings in the pan. Gail and Tom reassure her that her plate was great without those things, and they weren’t part of the challenge so no one minds. Shirley’s sauce was spectacular and they all loved how she incorporated all the local ingredients. Nicholas put out a beautiful plate, and the fish was all cooked well, and the broth was delicious but then when you go back to the fish the fish is underseasoned. Carlos explains that he took his tamales out of the banana leaves because you can’t actually eat banana leaves. Gail loved that it was creative but she wanted some more heat or maybe acid. Tom says if he had to find something, it would be that the mousse was so perfect that when you mixed in the bigger seafood pieces it broke up the mousse.

Padma tells Nina and Shirley they are safe. They are so relieved. They had the top dishes, and the winner is Shirley. She practically jumps up and down. I love her excitement. Tom says Nina fell a little short, but that she’s cooked great “all season long” so she’s going to the finale. See, I told you she’s been too good. Everyone goes back to the Stew Room.

Carlos did a great take on a tamale and on New Orleans. Tom still didn’t like the mixture of mousse and seafood, and then Emeril reveals that his tamale was not that warm, which is why he asked Carlos why he removed the banana leaves. Oo. Tom also thinks that Nicholas’s dish was the equal of Shirley’s or Nina’s, minus some salt. Padma stops him and says they are deciding who is going to the finale. It is way too late to be talking about people who don’t season their food. That’s true. Back in the Stew Room Nicholas is still being a martyr and talking about how he didn’t want to put in all this time and not win the whole thing.

Tom praises both Nicholas and Carlos, before saying only one of these dishes made a mark on all of them. Padma sends Carlos home. Boo. Nicholas just stepped up a little bit more. Carlos promises everyone he’ll see them in Maui. The final three barely wait for him to leave before squealing about how they made it.

Next week: first part of the finale. Nicholas looks slightly irritated so I hope Carlos won Last Chance Kitchen just to screw with him. Cooking outside in the rain. Double elimination.

Last Chance Kitchen: in Maui! Louis is waiting for Carlos. He knows Carlos has skills but he also is very confident. Today’s challenge involves fish. Of course. Make the best plate of food you can, using whatever fish you want. 60 minutes, but you will be plating five dishes because Tom is not alone. They grab fish and go inside. It looks like a really nice home kitchen, not a professional kitchen. Carlos is making Mexican fruity mole, and Louis is doing something new, searing tuna like some red meat. Louis asks Carlos how he got eliminated, and Carlos jokes that they told him to take Louis out. Heh. Beating Louis would be a great compliment. Who is joining Tom for this judging? Emeril and the three finalists. Interesting. Tom explains that they’re going to do a blind tasting. That’s dumb. They know Carlos is there and he’s making Mexican so they’ll know for sure who one person is and which dish is his. Louis has overcooked his fish, more done than he wanted it, but it’s too late to fix. The dishes are brought out without anyone knowing what they are exactly. Louis: yellowfin tuna. There are some mushrooms, and we know it’s seared. Nina says it has more complex flavors, but Shirley points out it’s overcooked. Not quite dried out yet though, says Emeril. Carlos: mahi mahi. The acid goes well but nothing else is seasoned. Nicholas points out that one dish (Carlos’s) has perfect fish, but no seasoning, and the other dish (Louis’s) has great seasoning but the fish is overcooked and the fish is supposed to be the point of the challenge. Everyone writes their votes down and Tom says they’ll get a party tomorrow morning, where they’ll find out who is joining them. Tom brings out Louis and Carlos to tell them Emeril and the finalists voted on who can go back into the competition. Now we get complete descriptions of the dishes. Louis: braised yellowfin tuna with mushrooms, kale, and cabbage. He admits he overcooked the fish and was going for medium. The rest of the dish was great though. Carlos: mahi mahi with mole manchamanteles and taro root. The fish was perfectly cooked, but things were underseasoned, especially the taro root. Tom starts reading votes like he’s Jeff Probst. Aww, they aren’t even going to show us one vote? Carlos wants to win, but Louis seems really upset at the idea that he might win so many challenges only to lose at the end.

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