Top Chef S11E15: “Leaving New Orleans”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “teaching Emeril to cook.”

I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but I’m pretty sure I carry considerable influence with the executive producers of Top Chef.  If you’ve followed my recaps on the season, you’ll know that Nick and I have not been getting along.  He thinks I’m pushy; I think he’s a jerkface.  Clearly, the producers felt our animosity had to end, so they kickstarted this episode with Nick’s heartfelt confession about wanting to make his dad, who happens to be afflicted with Parkinson’s, proud.  For a brief moment, my heart began to thaw; I didn’t care for the foreign sensation of warmth–I was scared and needed to be held.

Fortunately, Shirley intervened and called Nick a total a-hole.  And we’re back!  Thanks, Shirl, for dragging me back to reality!  Because, let’s lay the cards on the table here, folks.  I hate to beat a dead horse and everything, but I have no problem beating up on Nick.

This week’s Quickfire Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here) was a not just a two-parter.  It also happened to be the dreaded car challenge.  Loyal viewers know that winning the car pretty much means you simultaneously might as well start packing your knives, which gives me pause.  Why are the cheftestants consistently so excited for this challenge?  I mean, yeah, it’s a car.  But it’s no quarter of a mill.  All I’m saying.

Anyhow, the chefs had to participate in a two-roud challenge, first impressing Gail with one complete experience in a single bite and then wowing Tom by highlighting a veg (what we call vegetables in the food service industry).

The first challenge forced Nick to reflect on his need for self-editing**, but when Shirley started talking about the plumpness of her cherries, my cheeks started to burn.  Girl, you bad!

**Though, oddly, it did not prevent yet ANOTHER paranoid delusion about a phantom competitor tampering with the temperature of his deep fryer.  This guy!  #FryerGate

In the process of the tasting, Gail struggled with her forking skills.  When she finally managed, Carlos’s mango shrimp and Nick’s meat and potatoes (with a purple potato chip because UGH) bested the ladies.  Thanks, Top Chef for sending women’s lib back to the stone age!  I’m surprised Gail didn’t slap Nina’s and Shirley’s bums and demand them to collaborate on a pie on their way out.

My heart began to flutter.  Nick was through to the next round!  Suddenly, I found myself rooting for him to continue the show’s track record of sending home the car winner; this despite him getting to the veggie table before Carlos and boasting about his high school varsity track record (really?).  But then he had to go and cut eggplant into a scallop because Nick hates each and every one of us, so Carlos’s simple but elegant pepper soup emerged the victor.

Carlos, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Stop dancing and demand a re-taste!  Spit in your own food!  Do something!

But before you could say eggplant scallops, it came time for the Elimination Challenge (insert aggressive smash cut here).  Before relocating to Hawaii for the finale, the chefs had to create one last dish that summarized their New Orleans experience, then prepare that meal in Emeril’s flagship restaurant.***

***Nick waxed poetic and claimed that his New Orleans experience had humbled him, which worried me a great deal because I’m starting to think maybe Nick might not have a level-headed view of himself?

Anyway, Carlos prepared a seafood tamale without corn (nifty idea), Nina dove into Italian fare with speckled trout and some kind of mini-biscuit, Shirley wanted us to take a trip down the bayou with black drum fish, and Nick prepared roughly ten thousand mini-morsels of fish in a broth.  This might sound judgmental, but Nick’s dish was basically a pile of garbage next to everyone else’s.  Also, I’m worried he might have a glandular problem because two minutes in the kitchen, and the man started to sweat like he’d just been water boarded.

Nina forgot to plate her mini-biscuits and completely lost her mind, apologizing for her catastrophic mistake in front of the judges in a mishap that pretty much came across like the Top Chef version of the Holocaust.  Little did Nina know that Tom was all like, “Yo, yo, yo.  For you, for me, for you, this didn’t even need that ricotta dumpling, dawg!” (Maybe I’m confusing Tom with Randy Jackson?)

Later, in a sequence that really strained my understanding of good taste, the judges wanted to bathe in Shirley’s broth and rub it into their naughty bits, so we all assumed Shirley won.  And guess what?  She did!  Because #ButterSauce!

Emeril felt personally affronted that Carlos didn’t wrap his seafood tamale in a banana leaf, while some of Nick’s fish felt underseasoned for what I can only postulate the ninety-eight zillionth time this season (plus or minus one or two).

At Judge’s Table (insert aggressive smash cut here), the producers seemed like they wanted to make up for past mistakes.  Reflecting on their collective sexism from earlier, the judges let the ladies sail through to the finale, leaving the gents on the bottom.

On the one hand, my heart began to flutter again.  Could this be the moment?  Was Nick doomed at last?  Or would Carlos fulfill the prophecy of the Doomed Car Winner?  For a glorious moment, I thought the former possible.  Padma was all like, “Um, ya’ll want to send some chump into the finale who still can’t quite grasp the purpose of salt?”  And all the judges nodded solemnly.  In that moment, Padma’s beauty seemed more radiant than ever.

But guess whaaaat?

Seems like Nick and the witches of American Horror Story: Coven have been holding clandestine meetings.  How else to explain the fact that NICK IS JOINING SHIRLEY AND NINA IN THE FINALE?  Carlos went home because of the dark arts at work, folks.  Nothing makes sense any more.  I’d like to thank Top Chef for making me question the very fabric of everything I hold dear.  Had I known, when it began, that this season would cause me to embark on a philosophical journey of the soul, I might have packed more cornsilk.

Next week, the chefs will meet up in Hawaii and learn the identity of the winner of Last Chance Kitchen.  That means the two part finale has begun!  Let’s just hope Nick leaves his tiresome tomfoolery on the mainland.

Hey, a guy can hope!

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