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Top Chef Review: Leaving New Orleans

After a long and impressive season, it’s the last episode in New Orleans before the remaining chefs head to Hawaii.

To commemorate the occasion, the Tom, Padma and Gail all show up at to present a two-step quick fire challenge where the winner gets a new Toyota Corolla.

Immunity if finally off the table and the chefs rely only on their skills in the kitchen during the Elimination challenge to move onto the finale. It’s about time.

Quickfire Challenge
For the first part of this Quickfire Challenge, the chefs are challenged to create a perfect bite, as judged by Gail. She has high standards for this teeny tiny bite of food and it pretty much has to rock her world if they want a chance to move on to the second part of this challenge.

After tasting all the bites, Gail picks Carlos and Nicholas to move on. It’s odd to see Nina and Shirley sharing the bottom. They usually dominate in these challenges.

The guys take different paths for the second round. Nicholas does something complicated with eggplant and Carlos serves up a simple roasted red pepper soup. Simple is the name of the game and Carlos wins the challenge and the car. Much to Nicholas’s dismay (Cue whining from Nicholas that he’s never won a big prize in a Quickfire.).

Emeril wines and dines the chefs at one of his New Orleans restaurants, allowing the chefs to taste some of his New Orleans inspired fare. The food comes in droves and the chefs are overwhelmed with the sheer amount of dishes to taste.

For the Elimination Challenge, Emeril wants the chefs to create a dish that represents what they’ve learned during their time in New Orleans. Something that represents how this rich city has left an imprint on their cooking style. Oh, and as a bonus, the winning dish will be serve at all of Emeril’s restaurants in New Orleans. Not too shabby!

Nina is immediately inspired by a dish they ate at Emeril’s and Shirley is determined to marry her Chinese heritage with New Orleans flavors. Carlos sticks true to himself and makes a traditional tamale, but filled with New Orleans seafood and spices.

Nicholas vows to keep his dish simple, but it’s obvious he has the most complex dish of the group. It’s doubtful that Nichola’s idea of ‘simple’  is vastly different than my own – or anyone else’s, really.

Nina: Speckled Trout with Baby Vegetables & BBQ Sauce – while she forgot to add her pasta, it was a blessing in disguise because the chefs were all about her simple, perfectly seasoned dish.
Nicholas: Charred Cobia, Roasted Bass & Tuna Confit with Crispy Rice & Shrimp Consume – The broth was full of assertive flavor, but the fish itself lacked seasoning.
Carlos: Steamed Seafood Tamal with Saffron Cream Sauce & Pickled Okra -The judges were pleasantly surprised
Shirley: Black Drum with Zhenjiang Vinegar Butter Sauce, Braised Celery & Mushrooms

The judges are impressed with Shirley’s use of the ‘trinity’ in her Chinese application and award her the win. She and Nina are safe and will both be traveling to Hawaii. Shirley is her typical adorable self. 

It’s down to Nicholas and Carlos. How funny that these two were vying for the win during the Quickfire, but now are in the bottom in the Elimination Challenge. After quite a deliberation, during which Nicholas’ inconsistency with seasoning came up several times, the judges decided to keep Nicholas and send Carlos packing.

His tamal was a bit cold and Tom felt the mousse texture was brought down with the incorporation of the seafood. Poor Carlos. He has really taken off these last several weeks and it would leave been great to see what he came up with for the finale. At least he has his new car to get himself home.

It might not be over! Carlos will battle Louis in Last Chance Kitchen for the chance to make it into the finale. Either way, their will be a surprise fourth chef next week in the first part of the finale.