Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 14: "Po' Boy Smack Down."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 14: "Po' Boy Smack Down."

The Aftermath.
It's ok. I can't believe they killed her off in the beginning either.

Shirley is BAWLING. I’m talking type of bawling you get from watching the opening sequence of the movie “Up.” However, these must be tears of relief. Because the person who should be crying is Stephanie. But she’s too busy  losing to Louis in Last Chance Kitchen. Her tears will have to come later. 

The next morning over sponsored coffee products (I can assure you most Top Chefs do not run on Dunkin if they don’t have to) Carlos tells everyone he hopes today it’ll be a Mexican Challenge. What does it matter to him? Carlos is going to cook Mexican food regardless of the challenge. 

We’re down to 5 now. So it’s very likely this might be the last challenge before the finale. 

Does that look like someone you wanna disappoint?
This week’s Quickfire guest judge is Roy Choi, the King of L.A street food. He propelled the food truck movement in Los Angeles by elevating his brand of Korean-Mexican cuisine and made it available to the masses. Roy talks about how in L.A he used the tortilla as a canvass and filled it with his passion and the tastes he grew up with.

Carlos’ eyes just lit up. Tortillas? Could it be? A taco challenge?

Um. NO.

This is still New Orleans buddy. So let’s let Padma make the awkward segue and compare L.A. tacos to New Orleans po’boys.

Parkway Deli. Po' Boy Mecca.
It’s about time we bust out this iconic sandwich! A proper New Orleans po’boy is unlike any sub, grinder, hoagie (whatever you call it) you’ve ever had before. Crunchy baguette filled with crispy shrimps and oysters dressed in lettuce, tomato and a slather of that tangy remoulade. Or one with meltingly tender roast beef drenched in rich gravy filled with debris (those little bits and pieces of beef) that makes the whole thing a delicious mess in your hands. A five napkiner, if you will.

It’s really one of the best thing to eat.

However, I am Jack’s angry taste buds.

The other Po' Boy Holy land.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Roy Choi and I love tacos. And sure, L.A is known for its tacos just like Philly is known for its cheesesteaks, but how about we show some local love and get the owner of Domilise's or Parkway Deli or one of the many po’boy shops to come down and judge this thing? Or at least a shoutout? Or at the very least mention Leidenheimer Baking Company and how important the proper bread is to a po’boy? I digress.

In this Quickfire, the chefs are to create a unique and personalized po’boy. At least Chef Coi brings the passion to this contest because, just like his tacos, he wants the chefs to put some of their history and story into the po’boy.

20 minutes. Winner gets immunity. 

Wait what? Immunity is still up for grabs? I guess any challenge involving such a revered item is worth it.

What a proper po' boy looks like.
Guess what Carlos is making? “Mexican” po’boys. He’s going to make some carne asada and use a baguette instead of tortillas. It’s like a broken record at this point. Gumbo challenge? Mexican gumbo. Étouffée challenge? Mexican étouffée! I guess with this one at least he’s supposed to incorporate where he’s coming from. 

Brian’s going the antithesis of a po’boy. Dude is using lobster. Guess this is his way of reminding  us how he was raised with a silver spoon. He’s also going to use gochujang (Korean bean paste) in hopes to relate with fellow Korean, Chef Choi.

Nina’s going Caribbean and Shirley’s doing Asian. What’s new.

20 minutes flies by. Here come Roy and Padma.

Let’s see if they properly honored this glorious sandwich.
Does that look right to you?

Nick - Fried Shrimp Po’ Boy with Mayo, Sriracha, Fennel & Pancetta.

Shirley - Sautéed Catfish Po’ Boy with Mirin, Ginger, Garlic Glaze & Cabbage Slaw.

Nina - Fried Mahi Po’ Boy with Mojo Aioli & Pickled Onions.

Brian - Asian Inspired Lobster Po’ Boy, Gochujang Aioli & Yuzu with Pickled Napa Cabbage.

Carlos - Al Pastor Po’ Boy with Guajillo Chilies, Pineapple, Onions & Roasted Garlic.

Ok, Carlos literally just said, “I went really classic with al pastor.” Um. Classic what?

Not even close.
Chef Coi was really quiet throughout the tasting. He would carefully peel back the bread and examine the filling. Little questions like “Is the shrimp seasoned at all?” “Did you put any crunch?” was it. The chefs can’t really gauge how they performed. 

Well, that’s because Roy hated it. All of it.

“I’m gonna start talking on the real man, like you guys kinda missed the boat on this.” #WOMP

He said that this was a cook’s dream and they “F’ed it up,” And if this was his kitchen this would be the time where they’d take a tour to the walk-in (refrigerator) for some “straight talkin’.”

Does “straight talkin” means getting your ass kicked? Because Roy looks like he’s about kick some ass right about now. Dude is pissed! 

The al pastor was lacking in flavor. Nick’s po’ boy was too salty and the mayo wasn’t covering the entire bread. Brian’s gochujang didn’t come through. He failed to represent Korean flavors. Shirley’s flavor was good. Chef Choi liked the pops of black vinegar, but he says if that’s a representation of Chinese cuisine, it was “pedestrian.” And Nina’s po’ boys just didn’t make him dance. 

Damn. Dude is rough. This was like an episode of “Scared Straight.”

Chef Choi is right. All season long these guys have been thinking too much as chefs, as contestants, not as cooks who cook for the heart. Sure we’ve seen a little love and soul that comes through here and there, but as a whole these guys are paying more attention on how to win rather than making the best dish. 

We're all hurting over this season.
In a city that’s all about passion for life, culture, and food, the lack thereof is reflected in their dishes and in the season as a whole.

No matter what there’s still has to be a winner right? Chef Choi begrudgingly gave the win and the immunity to Shirley. I guess “pedestrian” is the least offensive of them all. 

Judging from the sidebar reactions, these cheftestants don’t really respect Chef Choi. Carlos went as far as saying that Choi didn’t know what he was talking about. I’m sure Carlos has never heard of Chef Choi before.

Nope. Wrong guy.
Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of this week’s guest judge. Actor, director, and now “chef,” Jon Favreau!

Chef Choi recently worked with Jon Favreau on his new movie, “Chef.” The movie is about a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up a food truck business in order to find his creative self. Aha! That’s why Roy was so harsh earlier. He was setting the stage for this challenge!

Jon Favreau comes in looking like someone who’s been around food quite a bit (ahem) and starts explaining this week’s challenge.
He say this week the chefs must cook using only what they find in the dumpsters of French Quarters. #sike.
That's the guy.

Ah Jon. Always the funny guy. He said the chefs looked nervous and he just wanted to loosen them up. I think Shirley almost had a heart attack.

Ok. For the real challenge, create a dish that represents a turning point in their career.

For this challenge they will be cooking at Cafe Reconcile. This location is apropos because Cafe Reconcile is place where they teach troubled city youths crucial life skills so they can go on to have a productive life. For many at-risk kids of New Orleans, Cafe Reconcile is a turning point in their lives. 

Real Deal Holyfield.
Tomorrow, they’ll have two and a half hours to cook. Tonight, they get to hang out with Jon, Emeril, and Gail and go feast on some food truck food!

Ok. So we’re under the impression that the gang is going to visit a bunch of local food trucks, sample their respective foods, and gather some inspiration right? 

Nope. Seems like the show hired a catering truck from Drago’s, parked it at a Breaux Mart parking lot and created a “food truck” atmosphere! Ugh. Is nothing authentic anymore!

Regardless. Drago’s is local and make these AH-Mazing chargrilled oysters. These giant Louisiana oysters are loaded with herb butter and topped with a blend of Parmesan and Romano cheese. It’s insanely good. 

Yada yada yada...
So Jon’s chatting up the gang. He says that from a lot of the chefs he’s spoken to have had moments where they find their voice, and he wonders if any of the cheftestants have also had that moment.

Brian jumps right in and tells us about how he was burnt out, how he started getting angry in the kitchen, how he started drinking, how he got a DUI…yada yada yada.

You know how at a party where someone’s just babbling on about their live but you really couldn’t care less and yet you’re just staring and nodding? Yeah, that’s the look on everybody’s face. 

Shirley says she was hoping that being on the show would give her that “moment” and she thinks it did. She found it during the Vietnam shrimp challenge, where she was inspired by Emeril and realized the importance of cooking from the heart. 
I have zero interest in what you're saying.

Ah “Uncle Emeril,” as she calls him, inspires us all. It’s all about the love.

Apparently there’s no love for Roy Choi. Carlos drew a picture of him, put it up on a dart board, and actually threw darts at it. Guess he doesn’t plan on opening a restaurant in L.A anytime soon.

Next day. Time for some Whole Foods.

Nina is focusing on the idea that was taught to her by Scott Conant of Scarpetta, “Sometimes simple is the best way,” as well as to cook using the best ingredients and highlight flavors for what they are. She’s going to make (surprise!) pasta.

"Hey Trent. I'm on Top Chef and it's boring me to death."
Nick is going to have a carrot festival on his plate. Dude is preparing carrot 5 ways. He says it’s something he used to do at his old restaurant’s tasting menu, to prepare one ingredient several different ways. 

Oh you remember how his old restaurant got taken over by new management and they kept everybody BUT him? Hm…I wonder why.

Carlos is excited that he finally gets to do his kind of food. I guess making al pastor and putting inside a baguette versus a tortilla was really out of his comfort zone. He’s telling his life story to the butcher behind the counter who I’m sure is as emotionally invested in Carlos as I am. #no

Shopping over. Time to head to Cafe Reconcile.

"Promote your movie baby promote!"
Emotions are running high. Nick all but threatened Carlos when Carlos moved Nick’s pots. “You move my pot again, we’re gonna have a problem.” Yeah. No love lost between those two.

Shirley’s going to make a fish with some crispy skin and serve it with a crustacean broth. No mention of Asian or Chinese flavorings, so we’ll see.

Remember that pasta dish Nina’s making? Well the kitchens too hot so her dough isn’t coming out correctly. So instead of the simple agnolotti dal plin (delicately filled dumplings) she’s just going to make fettuccine instead. 

Next season I'm gonna compete.
Here comes Tom and Jon Favreau for the cook and chat! Aw, they even gave Jon his own chef’s coat. Before you disparage, to research for his movie, Jon actually took some lessons from Chef Wolfgang Puck and actually worked the line during a $190-seven-course tasting menu! Not to mention during this process Favreau spent weeks working in Chef Coi’s kitchen to see what it is all about. So he definitely earned his chef’s coat.

Walking around the kitchen, Jon pretty much follows Tom’s lead. You could tell he is fascinated by all of this, just trying to take everything in. That’s gotta be one of the fun part of directing/acting in a movie. You get to be not just a tourist but a temporary citizen in what field you’re researching. Then, at the end of it all you get to go back to your movie star life. Ha.

Potential controversy time. Nick had planned to crisp up some quinoa for his relatively soft dish. That plan didn’t work because he mistakenly thought the oven was at 275 when it’s really at 500. So the quinoa got burnt. But the controversy is, he thinks someone sabotaged him. Sigh. If there’s one (of the many) thing you learn on Top Chef is the judges don’t give a rat’s ass about that kind of stuff! Either way, quinoa’s burnt. He can’t use it. We’ll see if bites him.

Wow wow wait. What’s Brian making? Boneless skinless chicken breast?! What, does he still have an alcohol problem? Yes, I’m asking if he’s drunk because he’s making boneless skinless chicken!

Time’s almost up. This week’s rotation includes Jon Favreau, Gail Simmons, and Emeril! Emeril’s here because his foundation is involved with Cafe Reconcile. In fact, he’s actually hired some of the students that graduated from here. Papa Bear looks after his city.

Here we go.

Fish and tofu. Who'd thunk.
Shirley - Seared Snapper with Crustacean Broth, Silken Tofu & Napa Cabbage.

Homerun. It’s always a good indicator when one of the judges drool on themselves over your dish. Basically everyone loved it, including the kids who works there.

Nina - Fettuccine with Charred Calamari, Pine Nut Gremolata & Crab Meat.

Girl knows her pasta. Tom enthusiastically praises how well the pasta’s cooked. He said it’s seasoned right, cooked right, and at this stage of the game this is how dishes should taste. 

Brian - Chicken Anticucho with Twice Cooked Potatoes & Feta Walnut Pesto.

Ok. Chicken anticucho is basically a Peruvian chicken skewers. Usually made with beef hearts but nowadays anything could be considered an anticucho. Brian say this is the culmination of his past three years. This is what turned him from a burnt out drunk to the chef he is today.

Right away Padma asks, “So chicken breast??”  Um…yeah.

Overall consensus? Boring. It might be flavorful but it’s boring. Oh and Emeril’s potato was raw. You know you’re in trouble when Tom starts making fun of your food. (On the twice cooked potatoes) Tom says, “Maybe he should have cooked it three times. (chuckle)” 

Carlos - Braised Pork Belly with Sweet Potato Puree & Chipotle Tamarind Glaze.

Farmers Market Foodie.
Can’t really mess up pork belly right? Of course not. How many people ever got sent home for pork belly? To his credit Carlos has put out a good dish. Emeril loved the segment of citrus on top, giving it some sweetness and acidity. He says you can taste every single element of the dish, and Tom agreed. 

During the interlude Jon tells us how he learned the real difference between a foodie’s idea of chefs versus the real life person. Jon thought chefs would go to farmer’s market with chefs’ coats on, smelling apples. But as Gail so eloquently puts it, they’d be called “douchebags.” Chefs don’t go to farmers market, not the ones you go to anyways.

Nick - Yellowfin Tuna, Several Preparations of Carrot & Fennel Pollen Dust.

“So this was inspired by the comedy or Carrot Top?” Jon asks. Yeah. Always great when the judges take your inspiration seriously.
Carrots and...tuna?

We’ve got some problems here. Though technically proficient, the fish was under seasoned. Also Tom didn’t appreciate the few slices of raw carrots on top. Not to mention Nick committed one of the cardinal sins by telling the judges that his crispy quinoa didn’t make it. Now they all think that the dish could have used some texture. 

One of the kids says, “I mean it’s not nasty or nothing…it’s just too gooey.”

That’s the kind of reactions you want from people eating your food. Hey, at least it’s not nasty!

Service is over. Even though it was a stressful day, all the chefs enjoyed their interaction with the kids. Cafe Reconcile has such a great mission, to train kids these skills in and out of the kitchen so they can be off the streets and feel good about themselves. Check them out here.

Since there’s only five of them left there’s no need for the Flat Screen Of Doom. Judges would like to see all of them.

Nina got kudos for switching plans and still coming through with perfectly cooked pasta. 

Shirley got kudos for her amazing broth and crispy skinned fish.

Carlos got kudos for putting his heart on the line and coming through by executing his signature dish.

Nick and Brian? Well instead of kudos they got some questions to answer.

Nick made a delicious carrot sauce and carrot top flavored oil, but why a piece of bland fish that has no connection with the carrot? Also, sabotage or not (it was not) why is there no texture to the dish? 

The biggest question of the day goes to Brian. Why in everything that is delicious in this world would he use skinless, boneless chicken? Not to mention he served Emeril raw potatoes! 

The top three were neck to neck. But when you reduce manage to serve fish with tofu and make that memorable and super delicious? You deserve to win. Shirley takes it (despite the immunity) with that crustacean broth. Wait, she doesn’t get a walk-on role on the movie? C’mon!

Brian's fate awaits.
After last week, when Nick served pocket lint and chocolate chicken but got to stay because he had immunity and refused to give it up, you’d think he’d be on double secret probation and would be sent home for sneezing the wrong way. Well so did Nick. He says he would shocked if Brian got sent home instead.

Guess Nick is in shock. Because when you present something like dry skinless boneless chicken and raw potatoes to judges and you DON’T have immunity? You’ll be going home. Just be glad this isn’t Roy Choi’s show, where something like that would end up with you and him having a “talk” in the walk in freezer.
You're so not money and you don't even know it.

Yup, Brian gets the cut. Frankly he overstayed his welcome. Dude should have been sent home a long time ago. Let’s just hope this isn’t the negative turning point of his life! One day at a time buddy. One day at a time.

Next week, the finale before the finale.

Home stretch people!! We can all get through this together people! See you next week!

[Written by Mykl Wu]

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