So I'm sad to say that our last local representative bit the dust on Top Chef New Orleans. After a couple weeks of an increasingly grumpy Justin, he makes one bad dish too many and is knifed. It seemed like he had just squeezed out every drop of creativity that he had and was going through some sort of food block. I'm sure that being on the show is incredibly exhausting and that having to perform like that, constantly thinking on your feet and needing to be creative and inventive 100% of the time is incredibly taxing, and by the looks of it, the stress is starting to take it's toll on all of these once-polite non-snarky group of cheftestants. As we get into the nitty gritty of the top players, we're starting to see squabbles, slight back-stabs, short tempers and stink faces.
This week we get a visit from Roots drummer Questlove, who I'm pretty sure is one of the coolest people alive. Dude oozes coolness out of his pores, which is why all the women on the show were looking at him with such adoration as he tasted their offerings. As a drummer and as a former restaurant owner of a fried chicken joint, the show thought it would be cute to introduce a poultry drumstick challenge ushered in by a New Orleans drum-line to celebrate Questlove's appearance. Have they always started off the quickfires with these theatrics? Maybe they have and I was never paying attention and I'm only aware of this because I live here ... but can you imagine being one of these chefs and having to stand through these introductions staged mainly for the viewing audience? And you have to look excited for the camera or be caught on tape rolling your eyes and coming off like an asshole on TV.
Anyways, there were all different kinds of drumsticks, even though I'm not sure New Orleans is necessarily known for them? I mean, there's Popeyes and Lord knows the folks down here love their fried chicken like my husband who can seriously nom on a box of dark meat, but when I think of places like Brothers I don't necessarily think about wings. But whatever, Questlove is a drummer so hey, I get it.
We have the tried and true chicken along with goose, quail, turkey, squab, guinea hen, and duck. And they range in size from the hilariously tiny to the big honkin' legs that you see people loving at renaissance festivals. Makes you feel like Henry VIII.
Questlove wasn't so fond of Nick's over salted quail, Carlos's goose with bone shards (he had no idea what he was doing there), or Justin's drummettes with smoked aioli, for being something you can order at the chain restaurant down the street. Carlos is visibly embarrassed about the bone shards but he's smiling and takes the criticism, Justin looks like he's totally over this business and Nick just looks sad. Like, his whole aura is just one big sad tear drop. I literally want to wrap him up in a blanket, bring him hot chocolate and tell him that everything is going to be okay.
Carrie's Squab Legs Marinated in Thyme, Juniper, and Cocoa Powder with Fig Mostarda
For Questlove's faves he's all about Brian's chicken soup with crispy skin, Carrie's squab with fig jam, and Nina's spicy jerked guinea hen, with Carrie for the win and boy will she be lucky that she nabbed that later.
Field trip to Baton Rouge! LSU Tigers, yea. And while it's true that New Orleans has a plethora of college football fans it makes me realize that this season of Top Chef is sorely lacking in anything Saints-related. Can we maybe have Jimmy Graham judge a black and gold-themed challenge? Please? I'd love you forever, Top Chef ... be your best friend!
The chefs get to stay in a college dorm for the night and take a tour of the campus which includes a visit with Mike the real actual live bengal tiger, and it makes me wonder how they keep him so safe? You'd think that with that many college students around they'd be dying to live out their Hangover fantasies after a particular juicy LSU win. Seems dangerous to me.
For the challenge, the chefs get to cook a cafeteria-style meal for hundreds of LSU freshmen. Some adapt better than others choosing dishes that will translate well to the setting. Justin talks about how he never went to college and seems lost but did he not go to high school? Pretty much the same concept. Nina plans to do a nice puree but discovers that the cafeteria kitchen doesn't have a proper blender so she's left pureeing in small batches, which makes things go downhill for her.
And then there's some weird argument involving Nick and Carlos about an oven. Apparently Nick was warming plates and Carlos needed to cook some fish. Maybe we were not privy to the whole story, but I'd think that cooking fish is a little more important than warming plates. If someone was warming plates while my butt was on the line to cook perfect fish, I'd be like warm your damn plates with a flame torch for all I care, but I need to use the oven to like, cook! All the other chefs seemed to rally behind Nick though, so maybe Carlos was being an ass after all. Can't say.
The longest line was for Brian's shrimp cakes which looked pretty delectable and the shortest line was for Carrie's broccoli salad with yogurt sauce and pita chips. Carrie says something about college students not liking their vegetables so it's not her fault, but lol whatever. Was she punking them with the broccoli? She had to have been. Girlfriend took the day off and I can't say I blame her. If I had immunity I would make a dish and put absolutely no salt in it and just sit back and watch Tom Colicchio's mind explode. For the fun of it.
In the top was Carlos for his Seared Tilapia With Chile Ancho and Mexican Coleslaw, Shirley for her Roast Beef With Potato Puree and Fire Roasted Tomato Relish (where she roasted tomatoes in a kick-ass stone oven, you go LSU cafeteria!), and Brian for his fan-favorite Shrimp Cake and Spinach With Chipotle Aioli.
Shirley wins with her roast beef which a young freshman lad said was "the best thing I've ever put in my mouth". It's a hell of a compliment but I'm sure that winning a Toyota was slightly better.
Roast Beef With Potato Puree and Fire Roasted Tomato Relish
During the deliberation, the chefs in the stew room confront Carlos about telling Tom and Emeril about ovengate and Carlos is very apologetic and sits there and smiles like he always does. He seems surprised that it was such a big deal. I think Carlos just needed to tell Tom why he was taking so slow getting his food out, but didn't necessarily need to name Nick, who is sitting at the table looking like someone kicked his dog.
For the bottom the judges call in Stephanie, Nina, and Justin. Stephanie's grilled cheese had a strange texture and she made a big mistake serving it in the soup, making it mushy by the time you sit down and eat it. Nina had to spend so much time getting her corn puree together with her tiny blender that apparently she didn't actually add any flavor to it ... and Justin's dish was just a big disappointment. He says that he was too "chefy" about the whole thing, cooking for a restaurant instead of 500 college freshmen. It cost him. And now we have no one left on the home team.
For the top three, I'm really hoping for an all-woman face-off, but I like the dudes too. I actually like all of these people and would be happy to see any of them win.
Next week: More Nick/Carlos squabbling. Oh dear. Also, Louis seems to be kickin' it in Last Chance Kitchen. You go, Louis! Let's bring back that smile!