‘Top Chef: New Orleans’ Recap: Oui Si a Challenge

Last week, on Top Chef: Mudbugs, bitter Nicholas and Carrie’s farewell. This week, on Top Chef: A bunch of European chefs make the show extra judgmental, and somebody screws up horribly. What follows are the random thoughts that came to mind last night as I watched the show.

-The six remaining cheftestants are greeted by the legendary Jacques Pepin in the Top Chef kitchen. He’s a pretty big deal.

-Jacques shows everyone how to make dover sole with artichokes, then they have thirty five minutes to replicate the dish. Or in Carlos’s case, make mole.

-The focus is on technique, so Jacques shows off with some hand-formed cherry tomatoes and roses made of butter. Stephanie is so nervous that she might actually stab herself.

-Nicholas and Shirley are the classically (French) trained chefs in the bunch, so she figures they’re the favorites. Plus Shirley works in Vegas so she’s used to carving butter into all sorts of shapes.

-While the chefs toil, Jacques is kicking back with a glass of Greystone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc? I am calling bullsh*t. There is no way they are making him drink that stuff. I really hope that they emptied the Greystone bottle and refilled it with some Sancerre.

-Shirley’s prediction is looking good so far, because Stephanie can’t skin her sole and Carlos is chopping mushrooms like he’s on methadone.

-The win (and immunity) goes to Nicholas, with Shirley not far behind. Shirley is the Jimmy the Greek of cable cooking shows.

-Padma introduces the chefs to Julian Serrano and Dominique Crenn, who both have Michelin stars coming out the ass. Carlos also has a Michelin star, but Nicholas is trying to have that revoked for not cleaning his knife.

-The chefs will be split in two groups, one cooking French and one cooking Spanish. They each must feature olives, almonds, mussels, chicken and chocolate. If any of them are bold enough to toss all five into a blender and call it soup they will be rewarded with a column at SB Nation.

-Nina, Carlos and Brian are on team, España, which leaves Nicholas, Shirley and Stephanie on the formidable French side.

-Bravo is running a poll on the screen asking which country’s cuisine is more difficult to compare, which might be the stupidest god damn question imaginable. Stephanie agrees.

-Nina just called Julian the godfather of Spanish cuisine. Somewhere in Washington DC Jose Andres just added Nina’s name to a list.

-Stephanie is the one chef on the French side who has absolutely no idea what she’s doing. Apparently corn silk nests aren’t “rustic” enough for her tastes. French food is kind of hilarious sometimes.

-Julian is going out of his way to be a dick. Do you really need to show professional chefs how to quarter a f*cking cherry, man?

-It’s morning and the chefs are back at the house fretting over their five courses. Stephanie woke up nervous (shocker), but she looks great. Meanwhile, Nick looks like this.

-“I’m going to make liquid nitrogen ice cream for the first time.” -Shirley, adding a quote to my collection of things you should never find yourself saying on a televised cooking competition.

-And here comes Shirley’s dish. It’s a snapper ceviche with dehydrated olives and olive oil ice cream. It looks like she pulled it off. Carlos introduces his team’s first dish in Spanish, because he can. Nick rolls his eyes harder than anyone has ever rolled their eyes. He even threw an “Oh man” in there for good measure. Nicholas hates Carlos.

-Nina’s ensaladilla rusa with green olives, gulf shrimp and potatoes. It looks decent, but if I’m putting my ass on the line with potato salad I’m definitely going to put some caviar on that bitch.

-Both first courses received plenty of praise from the judges and guests. If all of the teasers are to be believed, the hammer will come down shortly.

-“I’m learning that French food is incredibly complicated.” -Stephanie’s contribution to my collection.

-Stephanie’s pickled and poached mussels with crustacean jus and tomate is up next for the French team, with Nina’s ajo blanco with almonds, crab and cherries for the Spanish side. Both were well-liked, though Stephanie’s mussels were grittier than a white wide receiver.

-Next up is Carlos with mejillones (mussels) a la romesco with crispy leeks and Shirley and Stephanie’s chicken liver mousse with roasted chicken bouillon. It sounds like the French won that round easily, with the only dissent coming from the Spanish guy.

-Stephanie is worried about the corn silk nests, Nicholas tells her to relax. Everyone knows that the best way to handle somebody who is a perpetually racked with nerves is to tell them to relax. Straight out of DSM-IV. I think Stephanie is right in this case, because CORN SILK NESTS.

-Brian and Carlos teamed up for pollo con arroz: chicken and saffron rice. Nick counters with cornish game hen and spiced chocolate with that damned corn silk nest.

-The guest chefs are going at each other. It’s a battle of French vs. Spanish cuisine, but more importantly, it’s a battle between progressive vs. traditional technique. I understand both perspectives, but Nicholas’s dish probably didn’t taste as good as Carlos and Brian’s.

-Dessert time. Brian’s flan de chocolate and strawberries goes up against Nichlolas and his almond flan, plum and dark cocoa. Neither one is all that great, apparently. Stupid flan.

-Oh god, Padma looks so f*cking good. Sometimes you just need a reminder.

-The Spanish team will face the judges first. They are your winners. Nina was responsible for two of their best dishes, so she’s an easy pick for the individual win. And so it is. Maybe that ensalada didn’t need any roe.

-If Nicholas didn’t have immunity he might be done. Instead, it’s going to be Stephanie or Shirley. Spoiler: It’s not going to be Shirley. The judges were in agreement that their dishes were the standouts, while Nick’s were the weak spots. He probably threw the challenge in an effort to get Shirley out of his way. So diabolical.

-DAGGER. Jacques Pepin just asked Nicholas if he thinks he should resign. There is no coming back from that question. Nicholas should be put on suicide watch immediately. Nicholas takes his time and comes up with the best answer he could muster. He feels he did enough to earn the immunity he has. Tom writes it off as “part of the game.” Maybe don’t give out immunity when we are this close to the finale.

-Stephanie says that if positions were reversed she would give up her immunity. Well she says that to the camera, not to Nick. Then Shirley says the exact same thing. Then TOM says he should fall on his sword. Drama.

-The judges give Nicholas plenty of time to say “WAIT! This is my fault, I’m packing my knives.” Instead he keeps his mouth shut and his good friend Stephanie gets the boot. Nobody can even look at Nicholas.

-There is no way Tom won’t make sure Stephanie wins Last Chance Kitchen. She can be just like her IRL best friend Kristen who won last year’s competition after being eliminated.

Next week, on Top Chef: Roy Choi makes his return to the show after featuring in one of last season’s most memorable episodes. He’s joined by Jon Favreau for some reason that may become apparent.

Top Chef Top Five

Eliminated: Stephanie (last week: 4)

5. Brian (5)- He better not pull any of that Korean BBQ strip steak sh*t with Roy Choi next week.

4. Nicholas (2)- I have a really hard time believing that the other chefs would have given up their immunity if the positions were reversed.

3. Carlos (4)- He cooked some pretty good food without pissing anyone off. That’s a good week.

2. Shirley (3)- She should cruise into the finals, which are in Hawaii thank God. Gratuitous Padma bikini scenes are coming.

1. Nina (1)- Another win, but the promos keep promising a “big mistake” for her at some point in the future.