Top Chef S11E14: “Po’ Boy Smackdown”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “tilting our bowls to get the broth out.”

We open up our latest Top Chef installment in the devastating aftermath of #ImmunityGate.  With back-to-back scandals under his belt, Nick seemed to feel the weight of both, shielding his face from the red-hot glares of his competitors.  Meanwhile, Shirley collapsed into hysterics; my keen insight into the human condition told me she might not have been taking Stephanie’s ousting so well.

But this is Top Chef.  Emotions are for prep cooks.  Suck it up, Shirls!

For the Quickfire Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here), food truck mogul Roy Choy was on hand to dispense his brand of culinary wisdom.  The chefs continued to comment on how daring and innovative the man is, which made sense to me personally because I found his shirt incredibly rebellious.  He tasked them with creating Po’ Boys because duh.

Shirley, having wiped the tears from her eyes, said she never made a sandwich before** but dove in, proving herself a lethal quick study when she realized all she needed was bread and something in it. I could tell Nick wanted to get back on my good side because he didn’t make anything with cornsilk, so that’s an improvement?

**Um, what?

Ultimately, reviewing what the chefs made is irrelevant.  Chef Roy Choy knows his way around a Po’ Boy and kept it real—like really real—when he told the chefs that basically they should all give up cooking and just get it over with and donate their organs to science already.  But seriously, he hated all of their Po’ Boys so much!  He then provided incredibly helpful advice to the chefs if they’d all been high as a kite, suggesting they get down to wok talk, find their souls, and go dancing.  I’m not really sure what he was talking about, but I think he had a point in there?  Then Padma threw in her two cents and told the chefs their fillings were good, which I thought was some suggestive language for prime time television.  She then pointed out that they forgot that their fillings needed to rest in two bread pillows, which I think—frankly—sounds like the most amazing way to sleep ever.

Still, someone had to win because Top Chef is like a middle school spelling bee, so Shirley won, but Chef Choy did not seem happy dispensing that quasi-good news because the victory came with an immunity prize.

Chef Roy Choy swapped places with Jon Favreau, who read the room like the champ he is and cracked a joke about their Elimination Challenge involving dumpster-diving in the French Quarter for their ingredients.  What a jokester!  Actually, their Elimination Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here) took its inspiration from Favreau’s latest movie project about a guy who takes a food truck around the country, bonds with his son, and finds his culinary voice.  Using this as a launchpad, the chefs had to recreate a meal that encapsulated a turning point in their career and the development of their culinary voice.

But first, the chefs had a night on the town with Emeril, Gail, Padma, and Jon.  The chefs felt like standing in the middle of a congregation of food trucks was the perfect time to open up about themselves.  Brian took an express train to The Overshare Forrest and regaled us with a little anecdote about a rock-bottom DUI; Shirley made all the judges feel great about themselves and said that the shrimp boat challenge was her personal turning point.  Victory sealed.  Shirls, you a stone-cold killer, girl!

After spending the night throwing darts at a picture of Roy Choy’s face, the chefs prepared for service at Café Reconcile, which sounds like the coolest charity (and spearheaded by Emeril, as if I needed another reason to love him), taking at risk kids and providing them with training and opportunities in the food service industry.

But while the diners felt the warm-and-fuzzies, the kitchen was a madhouse.  Nick immediately set the tone with his Nicholas Cage-esque meltdown over the specificity of his pot placement, threatening to break the face of anyone who dared move his pots; this made me suspicious that Nick might have been having a scandalous relationship with one or possibly all three of his pots.  Wow, he was possessive about those pots!

It seemed, then, like all the hard work Nick put into revitalizing his image came crashing down at his announcement that he meant to make five preparations of carrots.  I want to smack him in the face with a carrot.  And let’s not even talk about that blackened quinoa because I never want to talk about blackened quinoa again.

In the end, Shirley’s succulent dish (snapper in a crustacean broth) earned her a win after it made Gail drool all over herself, proving to Nick that that’s what a real chef with immunity cooks like.  Also, it let Top Chef pat itself on the back, so smart play, Shirls!***  Brian served dressed up skinless chicken breast and undercooked potatoes, and Nick’s carrot fourteen hundred ways plate was no huge hit (they really missed the blackened quinoa).

***For my money, Carlos’s pork belly looked mouth-wateringly good, and—had it been socially acceptable—I’m pretty sure Tom would have ordered a second round of Nina’s amazing fettuccine and calamari dish and stuck it right down his pants.  Boy was all about Nina’s food!

At Judge’s Table (insert aggressive smash cut here), Padma talked about how hard Emeril’s potatoes were, and the second time she really pushed her luck with the censors this episode.  And I think Tom wanted more carrot from Nick; I found this odd since his dish contained carrot powder, which—typing this—makes me want to hit Nick in the face with a carrot again.

In the end, Brian packed his knives and left, proving Nick really is the hemorrhoid on the buttocks of this show.  UGH!  Send him home!

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