Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #6 - 11/05/13 (Spoilers)
It's John Besh night.
Quick review in the Stew Room. Nina tells Stephanie that Michael wanted her to carry his weight. She says "I'm sorry Michael. Suck my d*ck." She's glad he's gone and calls him a douche. (Have to say I'm really disliking this side of Nina.)
Justin asks Carlos how he feels about their roommate, Michael, being gone. Carlos said he's sorry, but in the end, only one of them has to make it to the end. He's had a lot of obstacles, but has overcome them.
The next day, Padma and John Besh show up at the house. Besh tells them he's taking them to their next challenge, and Padma tells them to pack an overnight bag.
They head out on their Cheffy Field Trip, as Sara calls it. They arrive at Covey Rise Farm. This farm bring their fresh ingredients to over 50 local top restaurants, and also grow the coveted Creole tomato, only grown in Louisiana.
Padma explains the Quickfire - they have 20 minutes to create a dish that highlights the Creole tomato. Pots and pans and utensils are all in the back of Padma and John Besh's Toyota.
Travis is having a problem coming up with anything because of the heat (and others say the same thing throughout the challenge). Stephanie eats tomatoes every day and she can't come up with anything. Nicholas said the tomatoes are similar to the local tomatoes in Philly - the beefsteak tomatoes - and that anyone who can't come up with a tomato dish should go home. Bene gets ribbed for making a tomato dish the past two challenges - he's now called Bene Tomato by the other cheftestants.
Bene - Chilled Tomato Watermelon Soup with Balsamic Reduction
Carlos - Olive Oil-Poached Tomato with Red Onions, Cilantro & Basil
Stephanie - Creole Tomato Steaks with Vinaigrette & Olive Oil
Nina - Chilled Watermelon Tomato Soup with Jalapeno, Fresh Basil & Shaved Zucchini
Nicholas - Caramelized Melon, Cherry Vinegar, Tomatoes with Watermelon Cucumber
Justin - Tomato Skin Tartare with Squash Blossoms & Olive Oil
Travis - Seared Creole Tomato with Steak, Feta and Wilted Arugula
Louis - Tomato Seed Bouillon, Marinated Tomato, Watermelon Cucumber & Zucchini
Brian - "Toad in the Hole" Creole Tomato with Andouille Sausage
Patty - Roasted Tomatoes Marinated in Olive Oil and Cherry Vinegar with Arugula & Asparagus
The Bottom group - Patty, Stephanie, and Travis
The Top group - Nina, Carlos, and Louis
The winner is Nina! She is safe from elimination in the next challenge. For the Elimination, it's a farm-to-table challenge in 90 minutes. John Besh tells them they'll be cooking tomorrow in his restaurant, La Provence. He's invited his executive chefs from all eight of his NOLA restaurants to the dinner. The cheftestants will each be responsible for a single dish served family style, and they will be required to incorporate cream cheese into their dish. The only dairy available to them will be cream cheese, fresh milk, and cream - NO butter.
They'll draw knives to see which course they'll work on, and Nina gets to choose - she chooses appetizers. The winner of the challenge will get $10,000. They'll spend the night at Covey Rise Lodge and cook tomorrow. They play pool ON the pool table and play IN the swimming pool. They also go for a walk on the farm throughout the fields, and then chat around the fire and inside.
The next morning, they head out to La Provence. The pantry is limited to what's in season. Travis calls it "Black Friday in a very small walk-in."
Justin knows a lot of the executive chefs that they're cooking for, so he has to make sure he shows up for this one. Shirley overcooks her first batch of steamed custard. Nicholas can't find yeast, as he wanted to make beignets, so he goes with a Jersey Shore funnel cake - and they come out greasy and heavy, so he has to start all over as well.
John Besh comes in to ask what dishes they'll be working on, and tells them all his whole team is hungry and waiting to taste their food. Sara underestimates the time it takes to stuff her lamb loin because the filling won't come out of the piping bag.
John Besh introduces his executive chef team to Padma, Tom and Gail Simmons, and they go in to sit down. Tom asked John how his walk-through went - he said there were some that stood out as having it under control.
Patty - Snapper Crudo with Cream Cheese Vinaigrette with Ginger and Carrot Sauce
Brian - Summer Squash & Zucchini Tagliatelle with Poached Oysters & Emulsified Cream Cheese
Carlos - Poached Beets & Pickled Carrots with Peach, Habanero & Cream Cheese Sauce
Nina - Crispy Zucchini Blossom with Eggplant & Cream Cheese Puree
Sara - Island-Spiced Lamb Chop Stuffed with Cream Cheese & Curry Powder
John Besh liked Carlos' depth of flavor and complexity. Gail thought Patty needed to do more with her dish, but Matt Regan (EC, Luke) liked her sauce. Gail did like the floral note of the carrots. Alon Shaya (EC, Domenica) liked that Nina's Zucchini Blossom stayed crispy. Octavio Mantilla (Partner in Besh Restaurant Group) said it was a perfect instinct to stuff a squash blossom. Brian's oyster was too salty as an app, but it was thought it would be good in a po-boy. Sara's lamb was very undercooked.
Bene - Roasted Chicken Breast filled with Caramelized Onions and Tarragon Cream Cheese
Carrie - Vinegar-Braised Chicken in Cream Cheese Sauce with Chilled Cucumber
Justin - Roasted Duck Breast with Eggplant Vinaigrette, Chanterelle Mushrooms & Corn Puree
Travis - Seared Lamb Chop with Moroccan Succotash & Cream Cheese Aioli
Carrie's braise was dry, and Gail thought putting the crunchy cucumbers in the soupy sauce wasn't smart - she called it bloopy and soupy. Bene's dish looked like it was just a steamed dish, especially the vegetables. John Besh thought Travis's dish was done well - Gail said her lamb was well cooked, but looking around the table, others' lamb were not consistent. One EC said that hers was consistently raw. Justin's chanterelles stood out and while Brian Landry (EC, Borgne) couldn't tell where the cream cheese was in his dish, it *was* the most focused and most flavorful.
Louis - Graham Cracker with Blackberries & Cream Cheese Mousse
Nicholas - Funnel Cake & Carrot Cake with Peach-flavored Cream Cheese
Shirley - "Philadelphia" Steamed Egg Custard with Olive Oil and Black Pepper Macerated Blueberries
Stephanie - Cream Cheese, Peach & Cherry Mousse with Cream Cheese Short Dough
It was noted that it seemed taht Stephanie just presented what she could, as it's obvious that something happened. The custard was very broken on many levels. Nicholas's carrot cake cream cheese was very much enjoyed and was surprising to many. Shirley's custard was a bit overdone and needed a touch of sweetness. Louis's graham cracker was soggy and chewy.
In the in-between, the cheftestants play "If I was a farm animal, I would be...." Louis - a bull so he would be left alone. Sara - a sheep, because she'd have big hair. Brian said Shirley would be a duck, because they're loud. Shirley said Brian would be a fighting cock. Nina would be a horse and that no one wanted to be a pig, at least until Travis said he would be a pig, as they're one of the cleanest animals in the world (as they show some really dirty pigs! LOL)
The cheftestants are back in the Stew Room, and the TV comes on. Padma said she was surprised they didn't do better with the lush produce. Gail said it wasn't up the expectations that she had. John Besh said what stood out best was Nicholas's dessert. Gail said his stood out far and beyond. Padma thought Nina's blossom was awesome. Gail liked Justin's duck and Tom said it was by far the best entree and one of his favorite dishes.
John Besh said his chefs were disappointed at Travis's raggedy cuts on his dish - Travis is heard saying he wanted it that way. Tom said that both Travis's and Bene's vegetables were "bad family meal" dishes. Padma said Sara's dish lacked a balance of flavors, and her lamb was raw. Tom said that Stephanie's dessert seemed like something went wrong and at the last second, she had to throw something together.
Padma comes in and asks to see Nina, Nicholas and Justin. As we already know, they're the Top 3. Tom said Nina hits everything she tried to do. For Nicholas's dessert, John Besh said it was one of the best dishes out there. Justin's duck dish was a complete dish. John Besh announces the winner, saying the person who best incorporated the farm fresh food with the cream cheese is Nina again! She wins $10,000 - and she's won 4 challenges so far!
Bene, Sara, and Travis are asked to come into the Judging Room. (Stephanie somehow squeaks by and doesn't have to go in there!) Sara said her plating wasn't coming together; and time management in getting the lamb done was part of the issue. Bene was concerned his vegetables wouldn't be done in time, so he put a lid on the pot. When he removed the lid, they had steamed. Tom told him he tried to do too much - he should have done fewer things and done them well. He also told Travis it looked as if he was in a rush to plate, as it was sloppy. Tom said the lamb was fine, but the vegetables were mush. John Besh said if they had cooked *their* style of food within the confines of the challenge, they wouldn't be in the bottom group.
Nina is sad that both Bene and Travis are in the bottom group, as they're her best buds amongst the cheftestants.
The judges deliberate. All three dishes are very poorly reviewed by all of the judges, so anyone could go home. They're back in front of the judges, and Tom reviews the dishes and looks to Padma to tell them who's going home....and it's Bene asked to PYKAG.
Previews show them playing musical chairs in the kitchen around cutting boards with various ingredients. And Bene heads over to LCK to compete against Janine.
My question is, why wasn't Stephanie on the bottom?
I still do not like the judges deliberating with the chefs watching on close-circuit television. I realize the chefs are seeing just a tiny portion of deliberations, but I don't like the change. I think Top Chef decided to make this change, just to make a change to the show for the masses. I much preferred the old format.
re: John E.
I thought the same thing. The judges all thought something had gone terribly wrong with her dish for Stephanie to have served such a dish. I'm surprised they didn't bring her out to question her about it.
Were the bottom three dishes so bad that the judges were able to let her through?
I really do not believe the judges always decide on whom to send packing by the food in each episode. I think Bene's past bad dishes caught up with him and the judge's beleive Stephanie has some better cooking ahead of her.
Maybe they are keeping her around because she worked closely with Kristen TC 10 winner, (not to mention the roommate thing and the matching tattoos thing.)
re: John E.
This train of thought use to raise a big ruckus. I'm hoping we don't go down that road again. I tend to think that subconsciously the judges will give credit to past performances.
Stephanie seems really candid about not being particularly creative. After Travis and Patty, she would be in the next tier to go.
Per Gail's Bravo blog:
GS: "The desserts were a mixed lot. Some of them tasted great. Stephanie’s custardy mousse was completely soupy, and clearly not set up, but it had good flavor, which is why she wasn’t called out on the bottom. We could definitely tell there was an issue with it -- the recipe wasn’t right, or she didn’t have enough time. Something happened there."
So it tasted good enough to keep her out of the bottom group.
And I broke up laughing (several times!) at Hugh's blog. This one, in particular:
"Nicholas is frying what looks like dough snakes or breaded penises. Besh drops in to check on the people. He hair is perfect. His hair is always perfect. "
And both Gail and Hugh called out Travis on his "knife is too sharp and he butchered the cut of the lamb". I meant to note that in my initial post - I thought it was DULL knives that screwed up the slices?
re: John E.
I don't like the contestants watching, either. It was always interesting to watch them sweat it out sometimes while walking into the judging room not knowing if they were on the top or bottom. You'd see contestants who assumed they were in the bottom get surprising news, or some smug chef get the smirk wiped off his face quickly after being called in with the first group and hearing 'Your dishes were our least favorites.'
That's probably mean to say:)
Yeah, I know it's the elves. I just thought perhaps she wouldn't go down that road with the snottiness. If Stephanie Izard can win TC without any nastiness shown, I don't see why Nina couldn't. Put your head down and cook your food, regardless of what the behind-the-scenes Elves try and get you to say.
Nina certainly doesn't seem inhibited from showing her unpleasant side, but Michael was insulting to her, going by what we saw and heard, and the way she experienced it might easily have been worse. A big scale business like Galatoire's probably isn't immune to the Peter Principle, and maybe Nina sees M.as a puffed up, under-qualified ego who gained his position through bluster, arrogance, luck, and connections.
under-qualified could also describe about half (or more) of the cast this season, like too many others, and to me none of them axed so far had anything noteworthy to contribute. the casting call resembled staffing a new restaurant that's set up to crank out a few hundred meals each night -- bodies needed to fill those places before the stoves and grills.
I'm so glad somebody finally brought this up about this season's cast because I had very similar thoughts running through my mind last night. For all of Nina's talent, she's not a WOW, IMO, like frontrunners from other seasons. There's really nothing noteworthy about these cheftestants, and, for me, one of the compelling reasons to watch TC (or any other reality competition, tbh) is because of the personalities. Ergo, I'm not as invested in this season as I have been in others.
I was talking about this general phenomenon with some friends a few months ago regarding another reality competition show, and all of us cited TC6 as one of the examples of what a reality competition show should be :)
One friend surmised that it's because once people in general know "how to play the game", they're less likely to stick their necks out, lest they become a target.
Another surmised that it's "goodwill toward your competition in lieu of being portrayed as "whatever": by the producers because you don't want the public to have a certain opinion of you.
Both are totally understandable, but, for me, it does make for rather yawn-inducting TV no matter how compelling the game/competition itself may be. If contestants/cheftestants are so overly concerned about being on TV, then maybe they shouldn't have applied.
I agree that many this season seem under-qualified, but I'm still enjoying the season because of it's absence of big drama.
Stephanie seems like she's absolutely miserable and almost comatose. Her tomato dish was maybe the most unimaginative plate this season.
Sara needs to check her jealousy of Nina and grow up.
The food has been uninspiring so far this season. I'm definitely not learning anything.
Most seasons I learn about something new - bacon jam, pickled cherries, pickled celery leaves etc.
This season we're getting roasted chicken and vegetables? Tomato and watermelon salad? Yawn. Show us something new, dammit!
No one else has said it, but why the hell cream cheese? Outside of the obvious product placement. It just seems like such a non-factor. Taking away the butter did more to force them to think than forcing them to use cream cheese. Not against forcing ingredients on the contestants but cream cheese seems kind of boring.
"cream cheese seems kind of boring."
I would say less boring than a perfectly awful ingredient to get stuck with. Not surprising that Nina, who could have chosen any course, chose appetizers. Honestly I was thinking crab rangoon, etc., plus those cream cheese roll-ups Tom was talking about. Gotta love these product placement challenges. Diet Dr. Pepper anyone?
By the way, here's a link to the La Provence menu:
Don't see much there that would involve the use of Philly.
Mmmm crab rangoon. Of all the mystery ingredients they could force on them to use in all three courses, I don't think that was such a bad choice. (Especially with a $10k prize). It can go sweet or savory pretty easily. Sure, not as easy as butter, but it could have been a lot worse. Imagine that challenge done with Velveeta.
There is no "outside of the obvious product placement." The Philadelphia Brand folks paid for the placement. Revenue is revenue. Cream cheese - boring or otherwise - goes in every dish.
I couldn't help thinking how annoying it would be to have to taste that many different consecutive dishes that featured cream cheese.
I also love how every other comment from everyone on the show was "look at all this beautiful fresh, locally raised food" or "this farm has produced such a beautiful bounty"- and then they just tacked on "plus this cream cheese" to the end of the sentence. It was an odd match up to me.