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Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #10 - 12/11/13 (Spoilers)

I see Dooky Chase, Hubert Keller, there's crying, and I hear something about biscuits in the previews for this episode.

We start back in the house as they're getting ready for the next challenge. The guys are chatting in the living room; Travis talks about being accepted. They head out to the TC Kitchen and Hubert Keller is there with Padma.

The Quickfire Challenge features Dunks cawfee (as they say here in the Boston area, a.k.a. Dunkin Donuts). Keller says coffee is also used in dishes to give a rich flavor. They'll have 30 minutes to prepare a dish featuring coffee. And FINALLY, they get a prize in additional to immunity - the winner will get $10,000!

Both Carrie and Stephanie are making coffee crepes, some are doing desserts; others are going full-on savory such as salmon, beef tenderloin and risotto. Brian realizes that making risotto is a huge risk, as it's never worked well on Top Chef. Carrie ends up not having enough time to make her crepes, so changes her dish entirely.

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

CARRIE - Coffee Custard with Candied Coffee Beans and Cocoa Nibs

BRIAN - Coffee Risotto with Andouille Sausage & Sugar Snap Peas

CARLOS - Coffee & Macadamia Sponge Cake with Mascarpone Coffee Sauce

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

SHIRLEY - Coffee-Crusted Tenderloin with Garlic Puree & Coffee Brown Butter Sauce

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

We don't see Justin's and Nina's dishes.

Bottom Group - Brian, NIcholas
Top Group - Shirley, Carrie, Stephanie

The winner? Shirley! (I also thought her dish looked and sounded the best!) She gets $10,000 - and she gets her air conditioner for her house in Las Vegas.

For the Elimination Challenge, they welcome actor and NOLA native, Anthony Mackie. He said because he travels so much, every time he comes back home, he wants to eat with his family. He said they always go to Dooky Chase. Padma says she wants them to create a dish that is inspired by food they eat at home.

They'll eat have $275 to shop at Whole Foods and 2 hours to cook in the TC kitchen, with an additional hour the next day to finish their dish at Dooky Chase. Joining them during service will be Leah Chase and some of her family. (This is her second go-round on TC-NOLA.)

They go shopping at Whole Foods, and then rush into the TC kitchen to start prep and cooking. Nina is going with a curry, Carrie is going with an asparagus on toast with a fried egg, Nicholas is making gnocchi, although his young daughter calls them gnudi. She likes the word because it reminds her of going to take a bath, because she gets to "go get gnudi." Stephanie's going with fresh bread to go with a mussel and tomato dish, although she said cooking wasn't a big deal in her family - chicken nuggets and mac & cheese were usual dishes in her family. Carlos is going with a cochinita pibil - pork shanks wrapped in banana leaves and braised.

Shirley's also making a bread, but her kneading is rocking the work table that she's sharing with Stephanie. Stephanie asks her to try and keep it as motionless as possible so she (Stephanie) doesn't cut herself, and Shirley says she's almost done - but "the next motion I'm going to do is pretty annoying too" and she takes a cleaver and begins to mince meat.

Tom Colicchio shows up and talks to Travis about his biscuits - Tom asks "No buttermilk?" and Travis said "No" - he's going with heavy cream. As Travis said "Everyone has their own best biscuit recipe." They wrap their food, store it and leave the TC kitchen and head back to the house.

They smell good smells as they walk into the house - it's Emeril Lagasse there cooking. He's making his Mom's Caldo Verde for them. Shirley says "I love Emeril - he's like Uncle Emeril for us!" Emeril asks them if they're thinking "homey dishes" tomorrow - Brian said he's going Korean, and describes in the confessional that several years ago, his father had several severe strokes, and doesn't talk much more. He gets very emotional thinking he's not there as much as he should be for his father.

The next morning, Nina calls her grandmother after feeling homesick. Meanwhile, Brian and Nicholas are talking about how tough this challenge is, as it's very emotional.

They're in Dooky Chase's kitchen finishing their dishes. Brian finds that the restaurant doesn't have a charcoal or open grill, so he has to pan-sear his meat in a skillet. Travis is making his biscuits - the test biscuits came out perfectly the day before, but he has one chance to make them right today. Nicholas is concerned with how humble is dish is, but he has no other game plan. Travis takes his biscuits out and they *look* great, but when he opens one up, he realizes there might be too much butter in the biscuit dough - the inside looks a bit raw. He has to figure out how to fix it.

The judges arrive and say hello to Leah Chase and her family. Leah tells Emeril "What were you doing in my sleep? I was dreaming about you all night long!" Emeril replies "I just want to make sure you didn't forget me!" Padma asks Leah how long it was after she got married that she started cooking in the restaurant. Leah says "I didn't come here to cook - I came here to waitress! But there was no one in the kitchen that knew where I was coming from, so I got in there to start cooking and I stayed there."

The cheftestants are finishing their dishes - Carrie's poaching 13 eggs at once; Travis pours the gravy over the split biscuits and puts jam on the side to "hopefully save his butt." Rut-roh! Why am I thinking this might not be a good idea?

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

Anthony Mackie likes Travis biscuit & gravy with jam; Emeril said he likes the flavor, but the biscuit is raw. "If you're going to serve biscuits at this table, it's gotta be spot-on!" Emeril likes Carlos' pork, and Leah enjoys the bite/heat of his dish. Leah's daughter thinks Brian's dish is a bit sweet, and Tom misses the charcoal flavor you usually get with the dish.

Back in the kitchen, Nicholas is getting very frazzled, and is worried on getting the plates finished. BUT he finishes.

NICHOLAS - Ricotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Peas, Lemon & Parmesan

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

STEPHANIE - Mussels with Spicy Pickled Peppers & Tomatoes & Focaccia

Everyone loves Nicholas' dish; Keller noticed how emotional Nicholas had gotten when explaining his dish; Anthony Mackie said "I wish I was his daughter!" Leah's granddaughter digs in with chopsticks into Shirley's dish, and Emeril and Leah both like the dish; Tom liked the noodles - very nicely seasoned. Emeril liked Stephanie's mussels; Leah is used to a lot of garlic in her mussels, but she finds the dish interesting; Tom likes the pickled peppers with mussels, and seems to really like the dish.

JUSTIN - Louisiana Rice with Chicken Thigh Gravy, Pickled Mirliton & Jalapeno

CARRIE - Creamed Asparagus over Toast & Poached Egg

NINA - Curried Chicken with Fried Bakes

Leah's daughter loves Carrie's dish with the fried egg, as did a Chase gentleman whose name I didn't catch - he said "I could go to town on this!" Hubert Keller loves Nina's dish - he said he could eat a bowl of it; Emeril liked the crunch from the coconut, but Leah and Padma both would like rice vs. avocado. Justin's dish is getting a mediocre response - Anthony Mackie would like more gravy spooned on top of the rice; the Chase gentleman said he thought the dish was reserved in its flavor.

Everyone was impressed with the dishes overall - nothing really negative to say about anything. Padma asked Anthony how his homecoming was - he replies he wasn't disappointed. Tom asked Anthony if he was going to make cocktails after this - Anthony replied "Give me a bucket of ice and a shaker...." and Tom said "Here's your shaker!" and motions to Padma. LOL!

Back in the Stew Room, everyone is thinking that going home on this challenge would be the hardest, because the dishes came from their hearts. The TV comes on - Tom says "the chefs did a great job; the stories were all great and the food were absolutely delicious." Carlos' pibil, Nina's curry, and Stephanie's mussels were featured as very good dishes by Tom and Padma; Anthony liked Carrie's egg and asparagus on toast; and Padma notes that Travis's gravy was good. Travis says in the confessional "no comments about the biscuits - that could be good!" Brian's beef jus, Shirley's noodles, and Nicholas's gnocchi were also enjoyed. Padma says "This is a really tough decision!" and the TV goes off. But the cheftestants all realize that no one except Shirley should feel comfortable.

Padma comes in and asks for Nicholas, Stephanie, and Carlos. :::wooshing camera shots::: These three had the favorite dishes! With Nicholas's dish, they could feel the love. Tom thought Stephanie's pickled peppers with the tomato and the mussels was a great combination and no one got a stinker in there. Stephanie said "Trust me - I smelled every one!" Carlos' dish's flavor was great and the tortillas were great - Anthony waited until the last of the food was gone before he finished the tortilla, it was that good.

The winner? Nicholas! The judges then ask to see Travis, Brian and Justin. They're in the bottom group.

Padma said it was a difficult decision, and they had to move down to the finer nuances of every dish to make the decision as to who was in the bottom group. Brian's dish really needed the grill for the flavor. Padma asks Travis about the biscuits and gravy - Travis wasn't happy with his biscuits. He had difficulty cutting the butter into the biscuit dough. Anthony was impressed with the jam with biscuits and gravy, and told Travis when he opens his own restaurant, that should be on his menu.

Anthony then asks Justin about his dish. Justin said he craves that dish when others make it for him. Anthony asks why he would make the dish for someone from South Louisiana when it's not his strongest dish. Justin said he's made the dish hundreds of times, although not lately, but it is a dish he's super-familiar with and it's a strong dish for him. Anthony said he wanted more gravy on the rice, so the chicken didn't dry out. Tom said plating timing was an issue with Justin's dish.

They leave; the judges review. They're back in front of the judges. Padma asks Travis to PYKAG. Travis said "That's all right. You live and die by the biscuit." Tom laughs. But as they leave Judges Table, Tom said "He knew that biscuit was sending him home; he knew the second it went out."

Previews show the cheftestants at LSU, serving cafeteria food. Annnnd it looks like the oven mitts will come off and there will be some throwing under the bus at LSU.

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    1. Did Shirley say she was making bread? I don't think she made bread - just noodles.

      Is it just me or is Nick just adorable? I seem to like the tortured, self-doubting but super-talented chefs (I'm a Blais fan). I'm picking Nick to win at this point. Though I think Nina has a chance to win too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chefhound

        I couldn't hear who it was, nor could I figure it out in a couple of rewinds, but SOMEONE said "I'm making bread too!"

          1. re: LindaWhit

            Didn't I hear Padma compliment her, or someone, on baking her own bread?

        1. I thought Carrie's dish seemed super simple for the amount of time they were given but she did bake the bread herself. Fried egg over toasted asparagus is my go-to breakfast when it's in season so I was wishing they'd show more of how she creamed it.

          3 Replies
            1. re: Worldwide Diner

              But when they do simple if they do it great the judges love it.

            2. re: ennuisans

              I thought she'd be in trouble because it was so simple, but wow, did it look good.

            3. Still on here.

              Bookmarking with "mechanically separated meat". Potted meat immediately made me think of those little paper wrapped cans I wanted but couldn't afford.

              I liked the reminiscing theme. Good job Linda!

              Actor guy was interesting! At the judges table? With strong opinions! Did he have credibility? I thought so.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Shrinkrap

                I was surprised at the strength with which he was questioning Justin. He didn't sit there and let Emeril, Tom and Padma do the questioning.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Me too. Non-culinary guest judges are supposed to gush about the good things and not talk bad about anything. He did, however, seem to have good, legit, input. Guess those actors go off script occasionally.

                2. re: Shrinkrap

                  I was impressed by him as a guest judge.

                3. Shirley's ja jiang mein looked awesome. Made me all verklempt at the memories.

                  Am I th only Stephanie fan here? Two top group finish in one day, pretty good. Hopefully this will give her confidence as we move towards the finish. Disappointed that she has a boy friend though. :)

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    She's a local Boston gal, so I'm a fan as well. Although I'd be surprised if first Kristen Kish and then Stephanie Cmar won in back-to-back TCs.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      I'm still Team Stephanie but mostly because I'm glad she got a second chance. But I wouldn't be disappointed if Nick or Nina won.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        Honestly, I'm not a Stephanie fan. Don't hate her, but seems like there have been several times she probably should have gone home already. I don't think she'll last much longer.

                        1. re: Firegoat

                          "...seems like there have been several times she probably should have gone home already."

                          SEE: Hosea Rosenberg.

                          :-)

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Stephanie isn't making kissy faces at someone else.

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              Well, she sorta is - every cute guest judge, she's done a confessional about how cute they are. Maybe not real kissy faces, but she moons about how hawt they are. I want to say "This is not Top Dating!" ;-)

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Playing real kissy face-huggy bear with a fellow contestant, as disgusting as that was, seems to give you a little bit more time. Especially if you've both got someone waiting back home for you. Ah, the human interest/reality TV angle.

                        2. re: Phaedrus

                          Still a Stephanie fan for all the wrong reasons - I just find her adorable. I love her expressions and her sense of humor.

                          But she continues to appear to not have enough faith in herself - she was astonished to be in the top 3.