Top Chef, New Orleans (S11E5) by BB
This week’s New Orleans term: KING CAKE – Extra-large oval doughnut pastry dusted with colored candied sugar. A plastic baby doll is hidden inside the cake–the lucky person who gets the piece of cake with the doll inside (and doesn’t break a tooth or swallow it in the process!) buys the king cake for the next party of the Mardi Gras season.
Sara is pretty upset that she and Travis messed up the Vietnamese challenge resulting in Janine’s elimination last week. She feels like they failed her. Travis is also a little melancholy, and calls his mom. His mom knows he’s gay, but his dad doesn’t. He does now.
Quickfire Challenge: When the chefs report to the Top Chef kitchen, Padma and Gail are standing there and everything, I mean everything is wrapped in aluminum foil (Reynolds Wrap product placement). Padma’s and Gail’s moms join them. There will be two teams – Team Lakshmi and Team Simmons. They have to create three dishes in 30 minutes after the moms choose the ingredients and the cooking equipment in five minutes. The teams must use every ingredient the moms put in their shopping carts. The winning team will win $10,000. The chefs start calling out ingredients and cooking equipment for the moms. Padma’s mom seems to be moving more quickly.
The chefs start unwrapping the ingredients and sorting into different categories. It’s going to be hard for them to use all the ingredients the moms collected. Team Lakshmi splits up into three separate teams. Nina, Brian and Bene are making a soup out of their ingredients (canned beans, ginger, cherries, strawberries, okra and cheddar cheese). Carlos and Travis are making clams with coconut cream sauce. Nicholas and Patty are making sea bass and snapper papillote. Team Simmons seems a little more disorganized with regard to who gets what ingredients. Justin and Michael are making red snapper papillote. Shirley, Louis and Carrie are making buratta and sabayon. Sara and Stephanie make lamb and fonduta with sharp cheddar. After all is tasted, Team Lakshmi wins the $10,000. Nobody gets immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge. Lea Michelle (from Glee) will be the guest judge. She is hosting a Halloween costume party and they will be catering it. Teams of two will make two dishes. Nina and Michael are together. Michael is happy because Nina has been doing well. Nina doesn’t like Michael. Right away, Lea Michelle tells them she lives a Vegan lifestyle. Nina is like “Oh shit, really?” She thinks that God put animals on this earth to eat. When Lea wants to give herself a little bit of a break, she goes to Vegetarian in which she is allowed, hold your breath, cheese (gasp), her favorite food in the world. She’s not a sweets person. She likes all vegetables, she’s Italian and she likes cheese, cheese, cheese. Got it. She loves lots of spice and loves Mexican food. She doesn’t like beets and she doesn’t want just salads.
While food shopping, Nina is already complaining about the dish Michael has decided to make. She calls it amateur and says a five year old could make that dish. He’s going to weigh her down (according to her). Here are the teams: Red (Carlos and Travis); Yellow (Patty and Nick); Blue (Shirley and Louis); Grey (Sara and Justin); Green (Brian and Bene); Orange (Nina and Michael); and Black (Stephanie and Carrie). When Nicholas finds out Nina and he are making the same dish, he starts to rethink it. He thinks Nina is one of the best chefs in the kitchen. Nicholas should realize that eventually, if he makes it to the end, he will be going head to head with the best. There are at least three versions of Arancini (risotto) being prepared (Michael’s being one of them). Nina and Michael aren’t getting along. Nina thinks Michael is lax and Michael doesn’t like that Nina thinks he’s bringing the team down.
There is a segment where the chefs go visit what is supposed to a haunted nursing home behind their guest quarters. They don’t see any ghosts, but have fun scaring each other. The next day, they will be completing and serving their dishes at Mardi Gras world. Michael keeps calling Nina Boo Boo and Baby and she’s pretty much ignoring him and concentrating on her own food.
Party time. Tom, Padma, Hugh and Lea take a turn around the party and sample all the food. The Black Team offers Doomed Shrooms (Mushrooms with Black Garlic and Radicchio) and Freaky Leeky (Ash Coated Vegetables with Fontina Fonduta). Tom and Lea liked the food and the theme. Team Yellow prepared a Fall Theme: Butternut Squash Cannoli with Ricotta Salata and Lemon Arancini with Smoked Mozzarella. Hugh asks them about the Halloween aspect to their food. Patty tells them it’s the colors. The judges aren’t fooled. There is no spooky to Yellow Team’s food. Andy Cohen’s at the party. Moving on. The Green team has made Spooky Spa food: Crispy Quinoa Salad and Mushroom Espuma and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Wilted Kale. Tom and Lea don’t seem overly impressed.
Orange Team made Candy Corn: Ricotta Gnocchetti with Kale Pesto and The Bloody Eye: Yellow Arancini with Saffron and Tomato Jam. They love Nina’s Gnocchetti, but think Michael’s dish is too sweet. The Red team made Dia De Los Muertos: A Vegetable Civiche and Goat Cheese Fondue with Fried Zucchini. Padma loved that both the dishes were really spicy. The Blue Team made Severed Thumb: Braised Quinoa and Onions with Potato Puree and Worm Salad: Hand Cut Noodles and Fresh Daikon Radish. Tom and Lea like the story behind the severed thumb better than the taste and love the worm salad. Grey Team made Blood Pasta: Beet Pasta with Green Tomatoes (Lea had told the chefs she didn’t like beets, but Justin wanted to prove her wrong). They also made Evil Eye: Arancini with Moroccan Tomato Chutney. Lea didn’t spit the beet dish out at least. Toms says another risotto ball that looks like an eyeball. I think Team Yellow’s Arancini was the best according to the judges.
Results: While the chefs watch, the judges deliberate. Lea loves Patty’s Arancini. They also liked Nicholas’ dish. Justin, Travis and Carlos were also liked by the judges. The judges didn’t like that Nina’s dish was good and Michael’s dish was not because, as a team, they should be tasting each other’s dishes and helping each other. When Nina hears this, she starts preparing herself to go home. The judges also weren’t fond of Brian and Bene’s salad offerings (Green team).
Padma calls in Nicholas, Patty, Carlos and Travis. They are the top two teams. Lea announces the best two dishes and they are: Carlos and Travis, the Red Team. Lea asks them to go back to LA with her.
Up for elimination are the Orange and Green teams. They are afraid they will be sending a team instead of an individual home since they announced two winners. Bene and Brian are told Lea wanted the opposite of Spa Quisine and didn’t like that they made two salads, too predictable because Lea eats vegan. They needed to stand out. Michael’s dish was too sweet. Padma tells Nina that Michael’s dish should have been as important to her as her own dish. Michael is asked to pack his knives and go. He will be joining Janine in the Last Chance Kitchen.
Last Chance Kitchen: The curse of the Risotto. Since it seems Risotto (Arancini) has contributed to the demise of many a Top Chef contestant, the Last Chance Kitchen challenge will have Janine and Michael making a Risotto dish. Having an Italian background, Michael thinks he has this one in the bag. While being observed by the losers (eliminated contestants) Ramon, Jason, Aaron and Bret, Janine makes a mushroom based risotto and Michael, who can’t seem to find any butter, makes more of a cream based risotto. Janine’s risotto wins, so she lives to see another day. The men seem to be falling like flies.