Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 10: "Like Mama Made."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 10: "Like Mama Made."

Now that you’ve brought mama into this. I guess this time it’s personal.

Um. There's something on my forehead.
Sara’s gone. Now there’s more room in the bathroom for everyone else to get ready. 

Justin’s super relieved. He knows he barely survived Restaurant Wars. Had Sara not been so unpleasant and annoyed Padma, we’d still have a crowded bathroom.

Travis is feeling pretty good about himself right now. After a really strong showing at the restaurant manager position, he feel like he’s finally part of the gang. Um, last time I checked this was called Top Chef and not Top Restaurant Manager. 

Ugh. If I have to listen to Travis talking about his sexuality I’m going to scream. Because you know what? It has nothing to do with anything! 

Bourdain once said, “Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. You can either cook five hundred omelets in three hours—like you said you could, and like the job requires—or you can’t. There’s no lying in the kitchen.”

Shut up and cook. Oh wait. I don't even cook anymore.
Speaking of which. Time to get back to the kitchen.

Standing next to Padma is owner/chef of the French restaurant Fleur-De-Lys in San Francisco, Hubert Keller! Chef Keller is a James Beard Award winner and a Top Chef Masters Alum. I’m guessing culinary chops aside, he’s here because of the connection between the name of his restaurant and the iconic New Orleans symbol.

By the way, aside from being a bad ass chef, Hubert Keller can be seen spinning records and dropping needles from time to time. He’d been known to guest deejay at various food events in San Francisco and Las Vegas. Talk about the world’s most interesting man! 

You know what brand is always associated with New Orleans and Top Chef caliber food? Dunkin Donuts! Um..ok. Not really. But since we’ve already had Philadelphia Cream Cheese on, so what the hell. Let’s just do this.

The world's most interesting shirt.
At least coffee is widely used in cooking and it does provide a unique flavor profile so there are culinary elements to this challenge. Chefs will have 30 minutes to create a dish featuring Bostonians’ favorite coffee, Dunkin Donuts. (Really. I used to live there and they swear by this stuff. I can’t even...)

Since this is a sponsored challenge, winner gets immunity AND ten thousand dollars. See, selling out has its perks. 

Stephanie says that everything she owns is “old and kinda sad looking and broken.” You know what? I actually felt kinda bad for her. 

Mad scramble time.

Carrie is going to make dessert. I thought that sort of missed the point. Anyone can make a coffee-flavored dessert, the trick is to pair with something savory. Oh well, Carlos is making dessert too. At least he’s doing that “cooking a sponge cake via microwave” thingy so that’s pretty impressive. For some of you who haven’t seen that before check it out here.

Shirley’s using beef. Now that’s smart. Coffee always pairs well with red meat. Somehow it manages to bring out the beefy flavor of steaks. If she wins, Shirley’s going to buy an air conditioner because she claims it gets to be about 150 degrees in Las Vegas. For 10 grand, that air conditioner better come with a set of wheels and a small engine.

Brian is making risotto. Coffee risotto. Has the dude never watched the show before? Talk about pushing your luck. Guess he also like to walk under ladders, open umbrellas indoors, and watch nondescript old VHS videotapes with the word “copy” on it. Doesn’t he know risotto is cursed? Ah. Brian is confident because he’s won back-to-back Quickfires so he says he’s gotta “put his balls out there...let it swing.” Ew. Congrats. You’ve just replaced Travis as the creepy guy on the show.

Times up. Let’s see how they did.

Travis - Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, Coffee Ponzu, & Coffee Roasted Eringi Mushrooms.

Dude pretty much sliced up raw salmon and mixed some coffee with ponzu and called it a day. We get it! You only make Asian stuff! Oy.
That's just not right.

Carrie - Coffee Custard with Candied Coffee Beans & Cocoa Nibs.

This is how you play the game. Carrie didn’t have time to make crepes, so she changed it to a simple custard with NO mention of the omitted crepes. #Protip.

Brian - Coffee Risotto with Andouille Sausage & Sugar Snap Peas.

You don’t need to be a gourmand to realize this combination sounds disgusting. You know what’s even more disgusting? Having the person who just cooked your food show you how sweaty he is. #NoThanks

Carlos - Coffee & Macadamia Sponge Cake with Mascarpone Coffee Sauce.

Sounds like a winner here. But it is a dessert. It’s kinda like cheating.

Nick - Roasted Sockeye Salmon with Hazelnut Coffee Caramel & Hon-Shimeji Mushrooms.

This one's at least cooked.
Where are all these exotic mushrooms coming from?? As part of his ‘presentation’ Nick pours the foamy chocolate sauce on top of the salmon right in front of the judges. 

Shirley - Coffee Crusted Tenderloin with Garlic Puree & Coffee Brown Butter Sauce.

Just in case they forgot Shirley feels the need to remind everyone that she’s Asian and that apparently Asians drink coffee with a lot of cream? Speaking as an Asian person, I have no idea what she’s talking about.

Stephanie - Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crepe with Ham & Bacon Coffee Jam.

Ham AND Bacon. Guess there’s no such thing as too much pork product in a dish. Sweet and salty, plus some coffee, it could be delicious. Also, she’s poor. #LetHerWin

You guys, I want a makeover!
The fails are Brian and Nick. No surprise on Brian’s dish. But Nick, who won Restaurant Wars last week, delivered a bomb. Chef Keller found his paste “unpleasant.” #Womp.

Carrie’s custard, Shirley’s tenderloin, and Stephanie’s Crepes are amongst the favorites. Alas, Stephanie will have to continue to look like a bum, as Shirley takes home the immunity and the 10 grand for her Asian influenced coffee rubbed tenderloin. I still have no idea what being Asian as anything to do with that dish. But hey, it’s gonna be ice cold at Casa Shirley this summer!

Elimination Challenge time.

Padma tells everyone that for this challenge, “Going home is a good thing.” 

In walks New Orleans native actor Anthony Mackie. Anthony is probably best known for his role on the Oscar winning film, The Hurt Locker. He also recently hung out with Tom Colicchio on Tom’s fishing show on the Reserve Channel via YouTube, 'On the Hook.' 
No need for a makeover here!

For Anthony, this is a homecoming. And the food he craves most when he returns to New Orleans is from Dooky Chase. For the cheftestants, this challenge will be a culinary homecoming as well. They will have to draw inspiration from home and create something they crave whenever they’re home. 

They will have $275 and 2 hours to cook in the Top Chef kitchen. The next day they make the pilgrimage to Dooky Chase, where they will cook for the judges and Leah Chase. Leah appeared earlier this season and judged the gumbo Quickfire. Cooking homey comforting food for Leah Chase? They’ll have their work cut out for them.

If any challenge is about cooking from your heart, this would be it. 

Because of the nature of the challenge, this is the perfect time to work in everyone’s back story. 

We learn that Justin used to hunt and eat squirrels. He’s making rice and gravy and substituting chicken thighs for squirrels. I don’t care what you really crave when you go home, because serving rice and gravy to Leah Chase is like serving blanquette de veau to Paul Bocuse. Go ahead and Google that. I’ll wait.
Hunting squirrels?! (I know he's a chipmonk, people)

Carrie’s reminiscing driving around and foraging wild asparagus with her mom. Her dish is creamed asparagus with egg on toast. Hey, no knocking the simplicity in this challenge. It’s all about simple, homey foods!

Speaking of simple dishes, Travis is going with straight biscuits and gravy. Yup, that’s it. Biscuits and gravy. Somehow I can’t help wonder what someone like Michael Voltaggio would come up with. You know no matter that would be it’d be some kinda amazing, “air quote,” biscuits and gravy dish. Sigh. I’d give all the gravy for a Voltaggio on this season.

In case you missed it, and I don’t know how you could have, Nina’s from an tropical island. And that means curry and spices. Thank you Nina. Wait, now where is Shirley from again? 

Right...she’s from that foreign exotic land in the Far East. Some call it the Central Kingdom, others call it Land of Our Creditors. For Shirley, it’s simply China. So for this challenge, she’s going to out of her comfort zone like she always has and making something called Jajanmyeon. It’s basically a Chinese version of pasta bolognese. Whatever it is, you can bet Tom wouldn’t known how to pronounce it.

Adorable alert! Nick is making his daughter’s favorite dish, “gnudie.” He’s actually making gnocchi, but his daughter calls them “gnudie” because it reminds her of bath time when she has to get nudie. Ok I don’t have kids and I don’t know the rules - so all this talk of nude babies is making me uncomfortable.
Put some clothe on kid!

Stephanie’s home craving is a big bowl of mussels? I’m calling foul right now because who the hell’s family’s go-to dish is a bowl of mussels? She says that since her family didn’t cook, that’s what she made for peeps and thus it’s what she associates with going home. Guess I’ll buy into that. Plus, mussels are cheap and we all know about her financial situation…

Carlos is making something called cochinita pibil. It’s a pork shank stew with black beans and homemade tortillas. Yeah it’s pretty much sounds like everything Carlos’ ever made. Whatever. 

Brian has previously told us he’s from a wealthy family. So naturally his home craving meal is freaking grilled New York Strip. Tom looked amused. While everyone else is making humble food like rice and beans and biscuits and gravy, dude over here grew up eating steak. Maybe he can buy Stephanie some new clothes.

Big pot of love right there!
First day of cooking is done. The gang returns home to a delicious smell from the kitchen. Surprise! The Grand Poobah of New Orleans, Emeril Lagasse, decides to share his homecoming comfort meal with the chefs. He made a big pot of caldo verde. A simple Portuguese soup of onion, celery, kale, and love. That’s right. Love!

There was no need for this scene. There’s no product tie-in, no forced back story, no scripted drama, just one mentor chef wanting to feed his fellow flock who’s been working all day something warm and comforting - just like what Emeril’s mom did for him back in the day. That my friends, is love. #Respect

You can tell the chefs appreciate it too. While Emeril’s chatting them up and asking about tomorrow’s dishes, everyone’s heads are down in their bowls, tucked in, feeling the love. 

After a long day’s cooking to come home to a simple and delicious bowl of soup with crusty baguettes and pats of butter, I’m telling you right now that is a lot of chefs’ dream of a last meal.
Can't talk. Too busy eating.

You know how when you’re little and got into a fight at school, you always manage to not cry and keep your brave face on until you get home. And the tears fly the moment you see mom? Yeah that’s what happening here. Everyone is tired, worn out, and now coming home to “Uncle” Emeril’s comforting soup, tears start to fly.

Brian tells us about his dad’s massive stroke and how he feels guilty for not having around been there enough for him. Since then his dad doesn’t talk much anymore, that opportunity might be lost. Somebody grab the tissue box. While you’re at it, pass me one too.

No doubt inspired by the soup and crusty bread experience, the gang talks about their hypothetical death row meals. Nic says bread and butter (see, he can die happy now) and Justin says caviar, champagne, and tacos. The atmosphere is loose and seems like for the evening, everyone forgets they’re in a competition.

The next morning, it’s Nick’s turn. He feels guilty missing a lot of his daughter’s first year. The first steps, first words, basically he missed everything because he was working so much. Eyes starts well up. Somebody pass him the tissue box.

I’d say there’s no crying in Top Chef again, for the umpteenth time, but apparently that doesn’t apply to this season. So let’s just get to the food while we can before people get emotional again.
Here you go Brian!

Dooky Chase.

This legendary restaurant has been visited by numerous presidents and dignitaries. What started out as merely a bathroom and sandwich shop became a meeting place of entertainment, music, and civil rights in New Orleans. One pays homage to Dooky Chase when one’s in town. That’s an order.

The chefs will have 1 hour to finish their dish. A lot can go wrong in an hour.

For example. Brian discovers that there are no grills of any kind at Dooky Chase. So his original plan of making Korean-style strip steak with a sugar marinade for the crust is out the window. Hard to get caramelization without a proper grill. He’s going to have pan grill the steaks. Outlook hazy.

Travis’ biscuits are not turning out the way his test biscuit did yesterday. See, the kitchen at Dooky Chase is just a little be warmer than the Top Chef kitchen. And if you ever made biscuits you’ll know that the success of a biscuit relies on the temperature of your butter. Warm, soft butter = terrible biscuits. So while the outside appears okay, the inside of the biscuit is raw. The only thing he can do is to slice them in half and cover the mistake with gravy. Trouble ahead.

The judges are here. Time to eat.
See. George Bush cares about Dooky Chase.
Just not the rest of New Orleans.

Leah tells the table about how she ended up in the kitchen. When she first married her husband, Edgar Dooky Chase, Jr., she came to be a waitress. But soon she stepped into the kitchen to show everyone a bit of her influences and background, and in the kitchen she stayed. Now she is known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. 

Since we’re all in the sharing mood, Anthony Mackie tells us that growing up his family only had gumbo twice a year, a cheap one and a “good” one. See, the good gumbo can cost upwards to $250 a pot, so they only had that once a year. The other one had the little shrimps, no crabs, and chicken wings. That one only cost $50. I gotta say, Anthony Mackie is one charming and well-spoken man. #ManCrush

First up. Carlos, Brian, and Travis.

Looks like everything Carlos ever made.
Carlos - Cochinita Pibil with Black Beans, Orange Pico De Gallo & Corn Tortilla.

Brian - Korean BBQ New York Strip with Potato Salad.

Travis - Biscuits with Maple Sage Sausage Gravy & Sour Plum Jam.

Everyone loves the flavor of Travis’ gravy, but as suspected, the biscuit is raw. Not even the delicious gravy can hide that fact. Emeril puts it perfectly when he said, “If you’re gonna serve biscuit at this table, it better be spot on man.”

Little puglet! More tissues please!
As usual, Carlos’ made something rich, balanced, and super delicious. He just keeps bringing his style of elevated Mexican food every round. 

Brian’s lack of a charcoal grill, or any grill for that matter, is hurting him. It’s hard to sell the judges on a Korean BBQ flavor without the char that’s usually associated with it. That and it’s too sweet.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen Nick is still emotional. He’s missing his family. Ok, I know the whole “no crying in Top Chef” thingy is out the window, but who the hell cries in the middle of service? Wait. It doesn’t just stop there, Nick is actually getting choked up while explaining his dish to the judges!

If you're getting this look from Padma...#WIN
Nick - Ricotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Peas, Lemon & Parmesan.

Shirley - Beijing Noodles, Fermented Bean & Pork Sauce with Pickled Radish.

Stephanie - Mussels with Spicy Pickled Peppers & Tomatoes.

Well, tears or not, Nick’s love for his family shows through in this dish. Padma loves the soft and pillowy gnudi, and everyone loves the crispy pancetta that provides some texture.

Shirley's dish is also spot on. Usually this dish comes with julienned cucumber to provide some crunch and balance against the highly seasoned fermented bean paste, here she used pickled radishes. Smart move.

Stephanie’s mussels are perfectly cooked. The surprise here is the pickled peppers in broth. Tom says he’s never had that combination before. And if you can surprise Tom (in a good way,) then you’re looking pretty good.

Last round.
Say! I would eat them anywhere! Need ham though.

Justin - Louisiana Rice with Chicken Thigh Gravy, Pickled Mirliton & Jalapeño.

Carrie - Creamed Asparagus over Toast & Poached Egg.

Nina - Curried Chicken with Fried Bakes

You can never gone wrong putting an perfectly cooked egg on top of something. It’s almost like bacon. As long as the yolk’s still warm and running, it’ll make everything tastes good. That’s what Carrie’s done here. The yolk mixes with the asparagus cream and turns the toasted bread into that perfect consistency of soft and crunchiness. It was a table pleaser.

Nina’s Nina. It’s now a foregone conclusion that her dish is good. However, I get the feeling she’s starting to be strategic about her dishes and is now coasting. Don’t expect her to take many chances.

Oh oh. Mean Girl Padma's here.
How quickly she can turn on you!
Justin is serving a traditional southern Louisiana dish to a table of folks who grew up eating southern Louisiana food. If that chicken and gravy isn’t perfect, he’ll get dinged for it. Guess what? It’s good, but not perfect. He’s gonna get dinged.

Dinner’s over. I gotta say this was the one episode so far where the judges pretty much enjoyed every dish. There were no egregious mistakes. It’s going to be hard for the judges.

During the interlude Tom and Anthony brought up potted meat. Apparently during their fishing expedition Anthony tried to get Tom to eat the “delicacy” and Tom say NOPE. He refuses to eat something that the law says it must declare “mechanically separated meat.” C’mon Tom! It’s like industrial pate, almost like charcuterie! 

Freddie Kruger called.
Back in the stew room, everyone feels really confident about their performance today. Brian says it’s going to be hard getting sent home this week because the challenge was so personal. They really put a piece of themselves out there.

That’s why the Flat Screen of Doom has been replace by the Flat Screen of Love. The judges loved everything. Each dish was brought up and someone had something positive to say. I love episodes like this where Tom is proud of the chefs and their dishes. Too often when the dishes suck Tom is embarrassed and have to talk about how hard the challenge is. Not today. Kudos all around.

However, there can only be one winner. This week, the emotional gnudi prevails. One of the best compliments Emeril can give a dish is when he says he can feel the love. It’s so funny how my personal perception of Emeril has evolved. He’s gone from that showy television chef who yells “Bam!” while throwing raw spices over everything, to the gentle Gandalf-ian Master Chef he is today. So much love.

Oh why not. Everyone else is doing it.
Now for the bad news. Someone is going home for putting their fondest home food memory out there.

Travis, Brian, and Justin all get called to the bad side of judges’ table. Travis for his raw biscuits, Brian for his uncharred steaks, and Justin for dried out chicken. All three dishes were good, but this was the wrong week to not be perfect.

One last tissue for you.
In the end, Travis just can’t hide from raw biscuits. You know, all season long he declared his expertise in cooking Asian food. And every week he would manage to draw Asian influences into his dish. The one week where he made something as “American” as biscuits and gravy, he gets sent home. That’s what I call irony. Maybe he should have made Asian biscuits. *rimshot*

So long Travis! 

Next week, the gang takes a field trip to LSU. Geaux Tigers!

Written by Mykl Wu 

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