‘Top Chef: New Orleans’ Recap: Mississippi Mud Bugs

Last time on Top Chef: I was stuck in some country without Bravo. It was pretty great. Anyway, Questlove showed up, everybody got pissed at Carlos, and Justin went home.

This week on Top Chef: Crawdads and etouffee! The shellfish that looks like horrible tiny mutant lobsters and the dish that looks like vomit on rice. Fortunately both taste really good.

What follows are the random thoughts that came to mind last night as I watched the show.

-The show hasn’t even started yet and I’m playing my own game of “guess which chef knew they were coming to New Orleans and didn’t think to learn how to make great etouffee.” I’m going with Carlos.

-The seven remaining chefs toast to their continued presence on television.

-Stephanie is talking to her boyfriend/employee, meanwhile Nicholas is still really pissed at Carlos for sandbagging him to Tom. Might be time to let it go.

-John Besh is back to announce the crawfish etouffee quickfire challenge.

-Steaphanie is allergic to all seafood that turns red in water. WHAT? That’s a crazy specific allergy, Steph. Anyway, Carlos fetches her mud creatures while Carrie stands by just dying for the opportunity to sink that EpiPen into Stephanie’s leg and/or heart.

-“Ettouffee? I’ve never heard that before.” Yes, Carlos! I knew I could count on you. He’s just going to cook soup, or something.

-Nicholas is “smothering” his etouffee in…cabbage. He’s never cooked the dish either. Did these guys not know the show was in New Orleans this year? Or have they never seen Top Chef.

 “F*ck it, we’ll cook ’em live.”

-Shirley is the only one who cooked rice. She’s worried she took the challenge too literally. No, Shirley. Everyone else is stupid.

-Nina is up first with her pici pasta and tomato crawfish broth. It looks pretty tasty. The judges enjoyed it.

-Carrie took things in a Spanish direction with crawfish broth thickened with chickpeas and almonds.

-Nicholas prepared crawfish with shrimp mousse stuffed in Napa cabbage with brandy and corn. At least it looks like vomit?

-Shirley’s Singapore chili crab etouffee with crawfish stock, cucumber and egg. It looks like the clear winner so far. John Besh exclaims “I could eat a whole bowl of it.” Yes, John, that’s usually how food works.

-Brian is my new favorite because he made gochujang etouffee. For those who aren’t Korean or H-Mart hipster shoppers, gochujang is Korean for “super tasty life-changing pepper paste.” His dish has corn, peppers, crab, crawfish, andoullie and pasta. And a whole crawfish that is sunk head first into the bowl with its tail hooked on the rim. Give him all of the immunity right now. I don’t even care how it tastes.

-Carlos stuck with his mother’s homey Mexican soups. This one has crawfish, guajillos, garlic, corn,, potatoes, and crispy chorizo. There is no way in the world that this should ever be called “etouffee,” but it looks good. Padma calls Carlos out for having no clue what he’s doing. She would have made such a good/bad high school teacher. You know, if she wasn’t so good looking.

-Stephanie couldn’t taste her crawfish bisque with Parisian gnocchi and poached crawfish due to her aforementioned make-believe allergy. But you don’t have to be able to taste it to know that bisque and etouffee are totally different things.

-John didn’t like the offerings from Carrie, Nicholas, or Stephanie. They were either not good, or not etouffee. Carlos gets a special mention for his dish which just wasn’t even close. Let’s go to Nicholas for a reaction…

-That’s some high quality schadenfreude. It’s also fair trade and sustainably sourced.

-Carlos says if they give him another chance to make etouffee again then he knows what he’s going to make. Fifty bucks says it’s not etouffee.

-John loved the other three dishes. Shirley wins, and earns immunity from the elimination challenge. Speaking of which…

-This week’s elimination will be a big ass party thrown by Louisiana Seafood. The challenge is to create a dish highlighting two different types of seafood. Oh and they’re cooking for a thousand people. That’s f*cked up. Wait, Padma was kidding. It’s just 200, which is good news for the Gulf’s critter supply.

-Before we get to that business, we’re all invited to John Besh’s house for a simple down home Louisiana feast. DON’T EMBARRASS ME.

-John’s house is huge and absolutely beautiful. Shocker. He cooks them a bunch of perfect food in his perfect kitchen. Everyone has a sazerac in front of them, and OH GOD WHAT DID STEPHANIE JUST EAT?

-Eh, she’s still alive, so I guess it wasn’t something that turns red when you cook it.

-John and his wife have known each other since kindergarten, obviously. God, he’s such a perfect asshole. I bet even his asshole has great hair.

-But enough about that, it’s time for the challenge. Everyone grabs their seafood, and we’re off.

-Once again, Carlos is trying to make a crudo and totally ruining it. His Global chef’s knife is not the right tool, and Global should probably file suit. He asks Nicholas for a sushi knife and is rebuffed. Carlos seems surprised, for some reason. He hates you, Carlos.

-Eventually Nicholas gives in and lets Carlos use his precious sushi knife. He explains that it was a wedding gift and means a lot and blah blah blah, Carlos is going to drop it in a garbage disposal.

-Brian leads off with his grilled swordfish, shrimp and sweet onion puree with fennnel and daikon relish. It’s well cooked and “really delicious” according to Tom.

-Nicholas is next with oysters three ways. He has oyster leek soup, champagne emulsion, green apple yogurt and cured amberjack. I’m big into pretentious food and sh*t, but Jesus. It’s probably great, whatever. Let’s look at Padma eating it.

-Yeah, that’s the good stuff.

-Hugh gives a perfect summation. “Nick’s dish is very advanced. It’s technically sound. It’s just not all that exciting.” Boom. Kenny Rogers roasted. He and Padma agree that it needed acid, which is what everyone with a good palate says about a dish that falls flat. Try it some time.

-Carrie made flounder croquettes with oyster emulsion and pickled cucumbers. Tom questions why Carrie would take this beautiful fish and manipulate it to within an inch of its life, then drop it in the fryer. This is when Carrie should lean on the whole “I’m from the Midwest” thing.

-Shirley presents a ceviche of tuna and amberjack with aged soy sauce, lime dressing, toasted pecans and crispy fried shallots. Maybe it’s good, maybe it isn’t. She has immunity either way and could have just pissed on all of her food.

-Nina is serving marinated wahoo with salsa verde, tonnato sauce and pickled vegetables. People seem to think that her dish is more refined than the others, which makes sense if you have watched any of this season.

-The judges make their way to Carlos, where he’s plating an amberjack ceviche. It’s served with rustic peach and shrimp relish. Nothing about this dish is the least bit rustic, but English is his second language. Maybe he thinks it means “cheffy and contrived.” Sorry, I’m just hopping on the anti-Carlos bandwagon this week.

-Stephanie is last with her fried oysters with tuna and pickled beech mushrooms. It’s crispy and it doesn’t lack for acid or spice. Seems like a potential winner.

-And in the aftermath of the challenge Nicholas finds his beloved sushi knife covered with bits of dried fish and crap. Bravo has a live poll on the screen asking if Nicholas is making too much of the situation. That’s crap. Knives matter to chefs. If you do borrow one (but really, don’t borrow one) then you’ better take care of it and return it as clean and as sharp as when you received it. Dick.

-Let’s get judgmental. About food.

-They do that thing where the television turns on in the stew room and they compliment some dishes and bitch about the other ones. Based on that, Carrie and Carlos are in the most trouble. Nick’s dish had its faults, but there’s no way they’d dump him now.

-Stephanie, Nina and Brian head back to see who the big winner will be. Stephanie is relieved/shocked. Nina will probably win.

-But no! It’s Stephanie. She won’t be needing any Xanax tonight. Winning cures all neurosis, for a few minutes at least.

-Carrie, Carlos and Nicholas are up for elimination. This would probably be the right time to dump Carrie, who never did hit her stride in this competition. And that would allow Nicholas and Carlos to fight (each other) another day.

-It’s worth noting that none of the dishes were bad. That’s something that the losing chef can pack up in their knife roll and take home with them.

-Yep, Carrie’s gone. Everybody is bummed, including Padma who is definitely not starting a new master race with John Besh.


Top Chef Top Six

Eliminated: Carrie (last week: 7)- It was her time. She is lovely and pleasant, but in over her head.

6. Carlos (3)- Yes, he lied about Nicholas “stealing” his oven. Yes, he borrowed a knife and made a mess of it. But the reason he’s DFL is because his lack of formal training is catching up to him. Carlos is a really talented chef who struggles immensely when taken out of his comfort zone.

5. Brian (6)- Brian is steady and capable of winning any challenge at this point. And yet he’s fifth, because the people in front of him are doing really well.

4. Stephanie (5)-  Her big win keeps Brian at bay for the time being.

3. Shirley (4)- Shirley was the only cheftestant who didn’t have to go in front of the judges at all. But she had immunity, so who cares.

2. Nicholas (1)- He really likes that knife. And he really hates Carlos.

1. Nina (2)- Just give her a bye to the finale.

Next week on Top Chef: A bunch of French people are mean to the chefs.