Top Chef Recap: Leaving New Orleans


Oh my goodness, sad!  I have loved New Orleans– between Top Chef and American Horror Story: Coven, I absolutely need to visit this city.  I can’t believe season 11 is almost over.  When’s season 12?!  Anyway, on to our last challenge in New Orleans.

The top four, Shirley, Nina, Nicholas, and Carlos, head into the Quickfire to see Padma standing with Tom and Gail.  Padma announces that this is to be a two part Quickfire and the winner gets a Toyota Corolla.  Gail’s part of the challenge is to make one perfect bite on a cocktail fork in 20 minutes.  Only two will move on to Tom’s part of the challenge.

  • Carlos comes up with grilled mango with shrimp and chile glaze
  • Nick prepares beef deckle with aged balsamic and a purple potato chip
  • Shirley has made seared steak with with black pepper cherry and crispy onions garnished with mint
  • Nina’s dish is shrimp with potato aioli & pickled shallots

Gail was impressed overall, but her favorites were the men: Carlos and Nicholas.  These two move on to Tom’s part of the challenge.  (Shirley don’t care; she already won a car!) He wants them to showcase either the a pepper or an eggplant.  The have to race to get which one they want.  Carlos wants the eggplant, but Nick sprints for it and wins.

  • Carlos makes roasted red pepper soup with fennel, basil, and onion.
  • Nicholas cut his eggplant to look like a scallop and roasted it with sesame seed sriricha tahini.

And the winner of the Quickfire and the Corolla is: Carlos!

Padma announces the finale location: Maui, Hawaii!  Emeril comes out to announce the challenge: what has the city of New Orleans given to you?  The winning dish goes on the menus of all of Emeril’s restaurants in New Orleans.  That night, the cheftestants get to have dinner at Emeril’s flagship restaurant.  At the chef’s table.  With Emeril cooking.  No big deal.

The next day, the cheftestants get cooking.  Emeril, Tom, Padma, and Gail sit down with Andrew Carmellini, Grant Achatz, and Top Chef Masters winner Douglas Keane.  Nina is the first to serve.  She forgets to put her malfatti on the plate.


Tom says, if the challenge is to work New Orleans into what she does: mission accomplished.  Good thing she did forget the malfatti, because the dish did not need the ricotta.  Nicholas is up next.


Nicholas yells at his servers for good measure: do not sauce on the fish; sauce next to the fish.  But okay, this looks bomb.  Everyone loves the broth, but the fish is a bit flat.  Maybe they should have sauced on it.  Next up, Carlos.


Surprisingly, Carlos’s seafood tamale works.  I think the judges were surprised too.  Chef Keane thinks it’s a great, creative concept.  Shirley is the last to serve.


Shirley’s dish, with its holy trinity, achieves its goal.  The judges feel like they’re floating down the bayou eating Chinese food.  And then we’re on the final judges table in New Orleans.

Nina and Shirley have the top two dishes!  The winner, whose dish will appear on Emeril’s menu, is Shirley!

Carlos is ultimately asked to pack his knives and go.  He still has a shot in Last Chance Kitchen.

I’m psyched that two women are off to the finale in Maui!  Especially two who have been so consistently strong throughout the competition; these are truly the top contestants in my eyes.  Can’t wait to see what Maui has in store!


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