Top Chef S11E16: “Maui Wowie”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “having confidence in your own cuisine.”

This is never an easy discussion to have, but it’s important that you know.  We need to have this out in the open so that we can begin the healing process and take steps to repair the damage.  Look, I’m just going to come right out and say it.

Top Chef and I are definitely not on the same page right now.  Sorry to be so crude, but it’s the truth.  This show is really cheesing me off right now.  Apologies for the coarse language.  But seriously what is going on, Top Chef?  Are you working your way through a trauma?  Because your behavior is completely bonkers honestly and I need to know if I should be worried about you.

First of all, I didn’t appreciate the way you rubbed in the beautiful scenery of Maui.  I mean, for real, you know us East Coasters are struggling through a horrific winter, so what’s the deal?  Not cool, Top Chef.  Not.  Cool.  Then the chefs started to arrive: Shirley, Nina, and Nick.  All three of them seemed relaxed and rejuvenated, but Nick’s transformation positively chilled me to the bone.  He laughed, he joked, he didn’t give off the impression that he would disintegrate before our eyes.  He chalked it up to time spent with family, but regardless of the reason, I didn’t like it.  Not one bit.  Hold me.

Before the Quickfire Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here), the three chefs stumbled upon a party with people getting lei’ed left and right and Tom drinking something out of a hollowed melon while donning the hat of a seventy year old lothario.  Time for a luau!  Anyhow, before that, Padma needed to introduce the winner of Last Chance Kitchen, and–the one decision this show’s made right lately–it was Louis!**

**I loved when Padma told Louis he “certainly earned it” with all the enthusiasm of a robot.  Sell it, girl!  Wow.  Now I know why some reviewers refer to her rather unaffectionately as Padbot.  For real!

So the Quickfire introduced guest judge Sam Choy, who tasked the chefs with creating a dish out of Hawaiian steak, aka spam because obviously.  Sam Choy started listing the various preparations of spam he’s ingested over the years but none disturbed me as much as the image of a spamcake, whatever on earth that is.  I would prefer never to think of that again, please and thank you.  Anyhow, the winner of this Quickfire would pocket 10 grand, and the chefs were off!

Nick immediately confessed that he was not a practitioner of spam and that it really pushed him out of his comfort zone because he could not think of a way to encase it successfully in cornsilk (I added that last part, tbh).  Louis, meanwhile, found himself inundated with questions by local Hawaiians curious about his technique.***

***He didn’t care for the distraction, but it did allow me to come up with a fantastic band name: Louis and the Curious Hawaiians.  I mean, right?

I wonder how long Padma practiced her “Hands up!  Spam down!” line when time elapsed on the Quickfire because I had the impression she was incredibly pleased with herself.  When it came to tasting, Padma said that Louis’s spam mousse was so silky in her mouth, which forced me to pause the television and immediately go to Confession even though I’ve never gone to Confession.  It just seemed like the right thing to do?  Still, ever the tease, Louis didn’t even win the challenge!  That honor went to (who else?) Nick for his spam broth, quail egg, and fricassee of mushrooms.  Ugh.****

****For a brief second, I thought Nick was having a stroke on national television.  What was happening to his mouth?  OMG!  That’s a warning sign!  It’s a warning si–Oh.  He’s smiling.  Somehow, that was worse?

I just don’t know what to say anymore.

As for the Elimination Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here), Professor Padma once again took to the podium and gave us a lecture on the history of Polynesian settlers coming to the shores of Hawaii.  I’ll be frank with you, I wasn’t really paying attention because THAT DRESS.  Padma, you might be part robot, but when you look like that who cares?  Anyhow, she introduced the topic of canoe crops and the chefs had to create a dish using them.

Then before you could say Double Elimination Challenge, a few canoes landed ashore and scantily clad Polynesians emerged!  This show!  So, the chefs selected their ingredients and headed back to scope out their new living quarters.  Nick took the largest ocean front room because he needs the space to plug in his oversized ego overnight.  Puppy’s gotta charge!  Meanwhile, Nina and Shirley shared a room (I bet those two would be delightful roomies), and Louis found himself shoved into a closet Harry Potter style.

Before the cooking started in earnest, the quartet wandered around Maui and found themselves confused over the sight of a waterfall, which I can completely relate to because I never know what to call streams of water falling down the sides of mountains.

And then the cooking!  Nick decided he wanted to make chicken skin salad with his opakapaka because he’s doing an excellent job of making me hate him.  He then told the group he planned to stick his pork butt into the pressure cooker.  I’m not sure, but I think this offended the ladies.  I mean, what a man wants to do in the privacy of his kitchen with whatever appliance tickles his fancy is his business, but I’d prefer not to have it aired in public.  Am I right?

Louis made opah (one tough fish to cook) with sweet potato and coconut glaze while Nina went a little bit more traditional and grilled her opah in a simple broth.  Shirley was the odd (wo)man out, opting to cook pork in lieu of fish.  But poor Shirley immediately began fretting over the sweetness of her meat because #SweetPork.

Top Chef then made it juicy as rain began to fall*****.  Nina joked about the show’s ability to control the elements, but I don’t think it’s a joke.  Can’t you see Tom, Emeril, and Hugh gathered in a circle around a blazing fire and engaging in a rain dance?  Or maybe that’s just an idea best kept between me and my diary?

*****After the raindrops stopped falling, Nick engaged with his diners by dabbling in some playful race humor about sticking the only white guy in the sun without a cover.  And…crickets.

 Unfortunately, at Judge’s Table (insert aggressive smash cut here), Nick was the unquestioned victor because nothing in the world makes sense any more, and HE IS IN THE FINALE.  Please don’t make this season another Hosea situation because that still haunts me to this day.  Louis’s opah was inconsistent, so after all his grueling work on Last Chance Kitchen, he packed his knives amidst a tearful admission that he wanted his son to see him win.  I found this a real shame because Louis was my favorite.  But, this being a double elimination, the axe had not yet ceased falling.  It was down to Nina and Shirley, both of whom belong in the finale over Nick.

In the end, Tom agreed with Shirley…about her #SweetPork, so the adorable, tenacious, and talented chef packed her knives and left.  For those keeping track at home, that leaves N squared to face off for the title: Nina and Nick.

Take him down, Nina!  Do whatever it takes!  Make a voodoo doll and stuff it with cornsilk if you must!  Seriously, if Nick wins, I’m never watching this show again, Top Chef.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course I will watch until the end of time, you wily rapscallion.  Until next week!



Leave a Reply