‘Top Chef: New Orleans’ Recap: Commander’s Palace

 I see Janine has played Knifey Pulley before. 

Disaster. I missed the first eight minutes of the episode because I was out celebrating my anniversary like a chump. Instead of eating seared foie gras, I could have been watching people eat seared foie gras. Then writing about it. I’m such a fool. Naturally my wife neglected to record Top Chef. You’d think that after three years of marriage she would realize that I am too stupid to record shows on my own and take charge, but no.

So what did I miss? Did Jason force his way back into the Top Chef kitchen and make everyone watch while he executed a perfect plank on the luxurious and functional GE Monogram range? Did Padma toss a cheftestant a dismissive glance? Did Tom scoff at the use of an out of season ingredient??? I will never know! At least not until they replay this episode in an hour*. What follows are the random thoughts that came to mind last night as I watched the show.

– Let’s pick things from the exact moment I turned on my television.

– Nope. Dana Cowin looks way too judgey. Let’s try another moment.

Much better.

– Shirley made rice congee with shirred egg. More importantly, she’s picked up on Padma’s elusive tell. “I’m feeling quite good right now, because I do notice one thing that Padma likes to do. When she likes something she pick it up and then eat more. ” Read more about this in next month’s Food and Wine cover story, Sh*t Everyone Does.

– Sara is next up. Her dish is called “Smoked” because apparently everyone had a theme that I would have known about if I hadn’t lingered over my coffee. She’s made tuna tataki with an arbol chile vinaigrette. Emeril liked her use of orange. I like that she didn’t call it Japanican fushion.

– Michael is also working with the smoked theme, only he makes the judges guess his theme. Because Michael has to be the most annoying person on the show now that Jason is gone, just as the ancients predicted. He made an oyster. Oh, but he let his secret slip out.

– Get f*cked, Michael.

– Sexy Janine made a sexy roasted pork loin, then everyone else made bacon this and bacon that. Seriously. Everything had bacon. All of a sudden everyone is Josh from last season without the jaunty lip fur. Except for Patty, who made kale. Apparently she was working with a CSA basket.

– Justin and Aaron also made kale. So it seems like they split the cheftestants into four groups, with one using egg, one using smoke, one using bacon and one group stuck with kale. Aaron made the best of his bad draw by frying his greens, then dressing them with soy, mirin, rice vinegar and yuzu sauce. But when I do it it my wife complains that I rely too heavily on Asian flavors. Three years of bliss!

– Apparently Padma told the kale people that she hates Kale salad. Naturally, Bret made kale salad. Padma is ready to eliminate him on the spot. And she didn’t even taste his shot of kale juice. No seriously, he gave them a shot of kale juice. The only question is whether Bret is tanking for Jadeveon Clowney or Andrew Wiggins.

– Shirley gets the Quickfire win, and she’ll get immunity. Now we sit back and wait for Bret to lose.

-The one good thing about this stupid interactive poll is that I just learned this is an elimination quickfire. And thank god. Otherwise Top Chef’s season was going to last longer than the NHL’s season.

– If you answered “No” on that poll, you win! Well, you win at guessing who is going home, but you lose at life.

– It’s actually Aaron who is going home. You may remember Aaron as the guy who showed up for Top Chef: New Orleans without knowing how to make gumbo. He always struck me as somebody with a ton of talent, but that’s some next level apathy. He will be missed until we all forget that he ever existed. Meanwhile, Bret lives to f*ck up another challenge.

*Now that I’ve had a chance to catch up, I know that the cheftestants were tasked with building a dish around a fad that Dana is so totally over. Ugh. You know what’s worse than fads? Magazine editors declaring kale as so totally 2012. Your challenge sucks, Dana. I hope every tasting menu you order in the next year opens with  a kale caeser studded with smoked lardons. Then you can go on and on about how kaleidoscope greens and speck are the new kale and bacon, and how you can’t wait to declare those fads dead before most of us have gotten used to seeing them on menus. 

– The cheftestants are off to eat at Commander’s Palace. They are all excited, because all sorts of famous chefs have worked there. Janine mentions that she own’s the restaurant’s cookbook. Others marvel at the numerous James Beard awards. Then there is this guy.

– “It’s their own plate.” -Anonymous cheftestant who is impressed by the weirdest things

– Executive chef Tory McPhail introduces himself to the cheftestants, and doesn’t even bother to explain how lucky they are that he wasn’t available to kick their asses up and down the bayou this season. No surprise, but Justin and Tory know each other a bit. Small town, N’awlins is. They went head to head for a Beard Award this past year. Justin didn’t win.

– Tory informs the cheftestants that their elimination challenge will involve recreating the dishes his kitchen will prepare for them. Justin has a look on his face that I haven’t seen since that time LeBron James ruined Gilbert Arenas’ mind.

– The first dish up is basically the prettiest thing ever put on a plate.

– Shirley is at ease because she is what’s known as a “shadow chef.” That means she is very good at mimicking the efforts of more creative chefs. So that’s a feather in her knock-off Philip Treacy cap.

– More food comes, and it’s all representative of the different chefs who have come through the restaurant, like Paul Prudhomme and that Emeril guy. It’s all delicious and blah blah blah get to the challenge.

– The chefs are seated in groups of four, and that’s no coincidence, because each four-top (restaurant lingo) will be responsible for recreating one of the of the dishes they just sampled.

– As you can see, everyone is very excited to be mimicking somebody else’s food alongside three other chefs that they probably resent and/or flat-out hate.

– And to make things more fun, they’ll be serving these dishes for the very chefs that made them famous. Thoughts?

Nope, still sexy.

– OK, time for this disaster of a challenge. But hey, who wouldn’t want to make other people’s food? Creativity and originality have never been hallmarks of a “top” chef.

– “Right away, a lot of the other chefs grabbed all of the space to the grill, so I decided to wait a little bit and go right from the grill to the plates. It’s a little risky, but I feel good about it.” -Bret, who doesn’t understand that this foreshadows his imminent doom.

– You know it’s a special occasion because Tom waxed his head and Hugh is wearing his formal eyebrow.

– Based on the comments, it seems like this will be a battle of who ruined their dish the least. Almost everyone is terrible at making food that isn’t their own.

– Commercial break: Bravo is still trying to pass Shahs of Sunset off as a real television show that they didn’t just make up to give The Soup something to talk about.

– It’s desert time, and this is just cruel. No cheftestant should be judged on pastry, especially when trying to mimic somebody else’s dish. This is why people (me) sometimes (always) hate this show.

– Hugh lets Tory know that Stephanie’s biscuit is better than the one his executive sous chef prepared. DAGGER. Hugh just got somebody fired.

– Everyone agrees that the dessert group equipped themselves the best. Then Dana declared herself to be a “whipped cream whore” and everyone got really uncomfortable. Let’s just skip ahead to the judge’s table.

– The chefs gather in the stew room to watch the judges talk sh*t about them on a closed circuit broadcast. Some producer out there has been watching Barbecue Pitmasters.

– “It’s a different style of cooking, and it’s a lot to learn in a short time.” -Good guy Hugh

– “I was expecting more.” -Dickbag Emeril

– So who do you think is going to be, sad people watching at home while hanging out on Bravo’s website?

– Typical sexist Bravo audience. And yet they are right. Justin wins. Man power!

– Louis, Carlos and Bret head to the judge’s table facing elimination.


– Louis made the blackening spice for everyone. That explains why the judge’s felt every dish was under-seasoned. That’s probably bad news for Louis.

– But no, it’s Bret! It’s like the judges are inside my head. Or vice versa. Bret’s food wasn’t good enough, now he’s gone. And yet, he’s so damn gracious in defeat. Then he mentions that he’s between jobs. It almost makes me bummed to see him go.

– Next week , on Top Chef: Vietnamese food. Nice! Anyone who has watched seasons 2-3 of Treme (or, you know, experienced actual life without the filter of television) knows about the important role of the Vietnamese population in this part of the country, and anyone who has ever eaten Vietnamese food knows that it is delicious.  I can’t wait to see how everybody manages to ruin it!

– Still no Top Chef Power Rankings, but with two jerks eliminated we’re getting closer to a manageable number.

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