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Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #13 - 01/08/14 (Spoilers)

We're down to 6 cheftestants. Jacques Pepin shows up tonight.

We start off with them back at the house. Carlos doesn't think he'll make it to the finale, but he's glad he's still there. They head out to the TC kitchen, and see Padma and Jacques Pepin there. The Quickfire Challenge has to do with technique. Each will get to prepare Chef Pepin's favorite dish: Dover Sole with Artichokes and Asparagus. He'll show them how to make it, and they will then have 35 minutes to prepare their own version. The winner will have immunity.

They gather round to watch Jacques Pepin prepare the dish. He also makes his own cherry tomatoes by wringing the tomato flesh into a small tightly packed "tomato" by tightening the flesh in a cloth, and he makes a butter rose. He sets them off on their 35 minutes, and pours himself a glass of wine.

Shirley and Nick are both classically trained in French cooking. Shirley thinks the competition is between the two of them. Nick explains that he was the EC of a fine dining French restaurant, and when new management bought out the restaurant, everyone was offered their job back except for Nick. He had to leave and find his own gig, so he's been cooking pissed off for the last year. (Perhaps that's why he's been so pissed off throughout Top Chef!) Carlos never went to cooking school, so his technique is less refined than others. Stephanie is having difficulty pulling off the skin from the sole filet.

Nick, Shirley and Nina start to cook, and Nick's surprised that some haven't yet started cooking. Carlos is way behind as he's still fileting his fish. Unfortunately, Nina never turned on the burner under her skillet, so she's now short on time to cook her fish. Brian doesn't have all of his components ready either.

Carlos - His dish isn't complete (no tomatoes).
Shirley - she completes her dish; Jacques seems impressed.
Brian - his dish isn't complete. (He had no sauce.)
Nina - her dish seemed complete.
Stephanie - her dish seems complete as well.
Nicholas - his dish is complete, except for the butter rose. But Jacques liked the tarragon in the dish.

Bottom group - Brian, Stephanie, Carlos
Top group - Shirley, Nicholas

The winner is Nicholas. And he has immunity for the Elimination Challenge. Padma explains that at different times, both the French and Spanish have had control of the Louisiana Territory, and both cultures have enormous influence on the cuisine in the area. This time, they're fighting for control of Top Chef Territory. She welcomes two chefs, each with two Michelin stars: Julian Serrano (EC of Aria Resort & Casino) and Dominique Crenn (Chef/Owner, Atelier Crenn).

They'll work in two teams, and each team will prepare a five course meal in the Spanish or French style. Five ingredients that are quintessential in both cuisines are to be highlighted: olives, almonds, mussels, chicken, and chocolate. The team with the best overall meal will win the challenge.

They draw knives for their teams:

French Food - Shirley, Nicholas, and Stephanie
Spanish Food - Carlos, Brian, and Nina

All three on the Spanish team don't cook Spanish food, so Nina's worried. Jacques tells them the two chefs will be their coaches all day today. Tomorrow, they'll cook at Revolution Restaurant, where the chef/owner and his partner will join the judges.

The teams speak with their coaches. Dominique is suggesting they go avante garde old-school with their dishes (new school-old school?), encouraging them not to go heavy on protein since they'll have 5 courses. Julian explains that Spanish food is simple, and he encourages them to focus on that, keeping it old school.

They head out to Whole Foods to shop. Dominique is running around around enjoying the shopping, while Julian seems a bit lost in WF, as Brian said he thinks Chef Julian thought it would be like a farmer's market.

They get back into the TC kitchen and start preparing. The French Team seems to be working smoothly, whereas the Spanish Team seems to be learning on the job. Chef Julian shows them the type of precise cuts on the vegetables, and is micro-managing every last little detail.

Stephanie seems to be the most out of place in her group, but she manages to hold her own, at least during prep.

The next morning, Stephanie expresses her concern over the corn silk nests, and Carlos calls home to speak with his daughter. They then head out to Revolution Restaurant to finish their prep and cooking. Both Shirley and Stephanie seem to be leaning on Nicholas for taste assistance. Nina is concerned her team's first course is too simple.

The judges arrive at the restaurant and are joined by Chef Dominique, Chef Julian, and the chef/owners of the restaurant, John Folse and Rick Tramonto. Emeril and Jacques Pepin also join the table.

FIRST COURSE:
(French) - Shirley: Snapper Ceviche with Dehydrated Olives & Ice Cream. Enjoyed by Dominique, Chef Folse, but Tom C. didn't like the ice cream and fish together. Emeril loved the quality of the olive oil - Dominique tells everyone it was a Spanish olive oil that she used. Tom laughingly says "Cheating!"

(Spanish) - Nina: Ensaladilla Rusa with Green Olives, Gulf Shrimp & Potatoes. Jacques loved it, saying it was soulful and comfort food for him; Emeril said the potatoes were perfectly cooked, and he thought Nina did a great job.

SECOND COURSE:
(French) - Stephanie: Picked & Poached Mussels, Crustacean Jus & Tomate. Tom C. said there's serious old school cooking going on, but there are also modern twists. John Folse had some grit in his mussels, but Tom thought the flavor was great.

(Spanish) - Nina: Ajo Blanco with Almonds, Crab & Cherries. Emeril said he could eat another bowl, but Dominique thought the crab was lost, but Julian said it had great balance.

THIRD COURSE:
(French) - Shirley & Stephanie: Chicken Liver Mousse with Roasted Chicken Bouillon and Roasted Maitake Mushrooms. Dominique and Jacques were amazed by the dish, with John Folse nodding his head, but Julian didn't like the softer mousse, although he liked the broth.

(Spanish) - Carlos: Mejillones a la Romesco with Crispy Leeks. Julian thought the romesco was well combined with the mussels, but John Folse thought the dish, while good, was one note. Tom C. said the dish was about the sauce.

FOURTH COURSE:
(French) - Nicholas: Cornish Game Hen & Spiced Chocolate with Corn Silk Nest (focus is on the chocolate) (Note: Stephanie didn't want to put the nest on the plate back in the kitchen, but since it was Nicholas' dish, she couldn't tell him to remove it from the plate). Julian was surprised at this course, saying to Dominique "You like that? You're kidding me! My God!" Dominique noticed he wasn't trying the dish, and said she thinks she has hurt some feelings, and said "You have to eat this!" to Chef Julian.

Meanwhile, Tom C. and Emeril are laughing at Chef Julian's reaction and refusal to eat the dish. He replied "For this particular dish, we're talking about the new cooking. This dish doesn't make any sense. The chocolate overpowers, and the chicken is tough. I'm sorry, but this is exactly what I don't like about the new cooking." Dominique says "We can like or not like a dish, but I think it's important to embrace what everyone is doing here, and not be so one dimensional."

John Folse said the thought process was there, but the execution fell flat. Tom C. said "it's good that Nicholas has immunity, as this (holding up the corn silk nest) is what you pull out of the drain after the shower - when I had hair!"

(Spanish) - Brian & Carlos: Pollo con Arroz (Chicken & Saffron Rice). Julian said the flavor is fantastic, but Dominique said she thought it was safe, and her chicken was dry. Julian said the chicken was super moist. Padma's chicken was beautifully done.

FIFTH COURSE:
(French) - Nicholas: Marcona Almond Flan, Plum & Dark Cocoa. (focus on almond). Dominique said it's not as clean-flavored as it could have been. Tom said the flavor and texture is nice, but the actual custard of the flan is not as good.

(Spanish) - Brian: Flan de Chocolate & Strawberries. Emeril thought the flan was too sweet, and Chef Julian agreed.

Padma states that both team made great courses, but which team did better as a whole? John Folse said it comes down to two dishes for him - the gazpacho and chicken liver mousse. Tom C. said if everyone was asked which dish was their favorite, most would said the consomme was their favorite, and the chocolate chicken was the least favorite....and those two dishes were from the same team. Emeril said he has to go with Spain. Tom C. said he'd just prefer they arm wrestle and get it over with. :-)

We're back in the kitchen, and Nina said there was a lot of what-ifs. Padma comes in asking to see the Spanish Team. They served the judges' overall favorite meal. Nina thought her dish would send her home, but she had to step back and realize that that's why it's classic - it's simple. Her ajo blanco was subtle, elegant, and classic as well, per Jacques. Brian and Carlos' chicken dish - Emeril and Jacques like that Carlos put in a wedge of lemon with the chicken to pop the whole dish. They all agree that the chocolate flan was out of the 1960s, but Chef Julian was set on his old style.

The winner of the Elimination Challenge is Nina!

The French Team is asked to go into Judges Table. Since Nicholas has immunity, Shirley or Stephanie will be going home. :-(

Shirley states that Chef Dominique pushed for the ice cream, and Emeril said he wasn't so sure about the ice cream, but what she did to represent the olives was very well executed, and Tom agreed. Emeril also tells Stephanie that the mussel dish was well executed, even though Stephanie never would have thought of it, and thought the dish was "out there." Shirley's consomme was very classic and excellent. Nicholas said his chicken and chocolate dish was out of his comfort zone. Tom asked "But did you like the dish?" He replied "I liked the sauce - it had a bit of heat to it, it was bitter, it had a lot of madeira..." But Padma said they didn't get any of that, it was straight chocolate. Tom C. tells him that it was the least favored dish of the night....but it's only going to get worse, as the dessert equally bad. Jacques said the dessert's texture was granulated, and it didn't work.

Tom said that Shirley and Stephanie are in a tough position, as the judges just got done telling them how much they liked their dishes, but they are the only two choices the judges have. Jacques said cooking is a team effort, and he asks Nicholas "Do you think your team should be penalized for you, or do you think you should resign?" (WOW! WTG, Jacques!) Nicholas replies he thought he did well enough yesterday to earn immunity today. Both Shirley and Stephanie look disappointed. Tom C. says "Part of the game." They are excused while judges deliberate.

Nicholas explains in the kitchen that he is the reason they are on the bottom, and explains what Jacques had told him. Stephanie says in a camera aside that if she had had immunity, she would have given it up. She considers Nicholas a friend, but she can't even look at him right now.

Back at Judges Table, Emeril if immunity wasn't in play, Nicholas wouldn't be going home. Jacques said the crudo wasn't in par with the other dishes. The mussels made by Stephanie, and the sauce were very good. The next dish with the consomme and mushrooms were done by Shirley, and the mousse was done by Stephanie. But Padma and Emeril both say that the mousse was the best bite they had had all day.

Shirley says in her confessional that it sucks that Nicholas had the worst dish, and he won't take his chance in LCK. After their decision is made, Tom is still hoping Nicholas comes out to JT and falls on his sword.

Tom reviews the dishes, pretty much telling Nicholas he has the worst dishes, but with immunity, not all is fair in love and war. Nicholas remains silent. So it's Stephanie who is going home. DAMN!!! She begins to break down and walks out, as does Shirley. Nicholas says nothing and leaves. Tom said he won immunity fair and square, he deserved it, it's part of the game. But I think all four judges were disappointed he didn't step up.

Stephanie notes she had a good role model in Top Chef in Kristen Kish the previous season. She lost in Restaurant Wars and came back and won the whole thing.

The previews for next week don't look good for the Quickfire, it doesn't look good in the Elimination Challenge, with Nicholas and Carlos going at it again.

As a personal aside, I truly don't believe Nicholas deserves to be in the finale. There's Nina, Brian, and Shirley - get rid of Carlos and Nicholas, have either Louis or Stephanie come back from LCK, and let the four of them battle it out. I'm DONE with Nicholas and Carlos.

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  1. Et tu Nicholas?

    Hugh has his blog post up already. Last week he was not too kind towards Nicholas. This week he's getting downright well, let's say, even less kind towards Nicholas. Agree with Linda on who I'd like to see in the finals.

    9 Replies
    1. re: bobbert

      I like how Hugh ends his blog:

      Stephanie is going home. This one was hard to watch. Painful.

      Dear Stephanie,

      You will go far in this world. Your wit and your craft will take you to great places. Be well.

      Sincerely,

      Hugh

      1. re: LindaWhit

        That says it all from Hugh. Skill is awesome, but character makes you go farther.

        Stephanie has a great future ahead of her, just probably not in fancy French settings

        1. re: autumm

          She's cooked at a fancy French place for quite some time now ...

      2. re: bobbert

        Just ONCE I would like to hear one of the Asian/Mexican chefs say in interview, "<insert name here> only cooks rustic American (or French) food." Take Carlos to task for being a twit...fine...but I'm really sick of these sorts of comments. Shirley's French dishes would wipe the floor with Nicholas' Chinese ones, no doubt...I think she's the most impressively well-rounded chef left at this point. Nina is a remarkable chameleon...I still can't really figure out her style, but I have no doubt she would serve me excellent food. I am also on board with LW's finale...and Chimayo's comments below about how this episode turned a competition into a game.

        1. re: Wahooty

          I also am irritated by the comments about Carlos' Mexican cooking. A real chef has a style, and as a Mexican chef with a Mexican restaurant, yes, Carlos puts a Mexican spin on his dishes. They are certainly not all classic Mexican (which they easily could be - Mexican cuisine has a huge range) but even if they were, so what? No one would be bothered by a chef using classic French technique and flavors in every challenge.

          1. re: Wahooty

            I think Nick's point is that Carlos doesn't seem to fare well outside of Mexican cuisine. I believe it was the 2nd episode when Carlos did a pho that sucked. Carlos also didn't know what an etouffee is. There's plenty of evidence that Carlos isn't as well rounded as some of the other chefs.

            1. re: Worldwide Diner

              But Carlos is faring better than Nick, or at least just as well. Carlos and Nick have both had 2 Elimination wins, but Carlos has been in the top group 5 times and the bottom group twice, while Nick has been in the top group only 2 times and the bottom group 4 times. And Carlos may have not known what etouffee was, and thus been in the bottom 4, but Nicholas knew what it was and was in the bottom too.

              1. re: littlemissmuffin

                When Carlos is on, he's REALLY on. I could say the same about Nick. Shirley and Nina have been more consistent on a week-to-week basis than either - they are the most versatile chefs in the competition if you ask me. Brian, on the other hand, owns the fact that he does better when he goes back to his Korean roots. I maintain that there is nothing wrong with that - in season 1 it was Dave that did best when he did what he knew and fell back on his personal style. But nobody said, "Dave only knows how to make flavorful American food." I just find the challenges more interesting when I know that someone will have an "Asian"* take, another will have a Mexican take, someone else will go classical French, someone brash American, and someone else Caribbean or African or Hungarian or wherever they came from.

                *cringe. SO over "Asian" as a culinary category.

              2. re: Worldwide Diner

                He has a habit of reminding us of his short comings.

          2. Top Chef needs to stop giving immunity for Quickfire wins this late in the game, and Top Chef needs to stop doing team Elimination challenges ths late in the game.

            I don't blame Nicholas for still being in the competition. I blame Top Chef.

            64 Replies
            1. re: Chimayo Joe

              Yes! Why are they giving immunity if they hold it against the holder of the immunity?

              Did they hold it against Carrie when she made broccoli and yogurt sauce? Did they say, Carrie, you made no effort - we revoke your immunity!

              Nick won the immunity fairly. Why should he give it up? Yes, it would be the noble thing to do and you can see that Nicolas was torn up about it, but it would be hard to give up your shot at the win. I know lots of people would say that they would give up the immunity but I don't think they could actually do it when it came down to it. It's too close to the end and they want it so badly.

              1. re: chefhound

                His reply of having earned the immunity in the quick fire was spot on.

                1. re: chefhound

                  I agree, this is how the game is played. But was Carrie the reason anyone else lost like Nick was, so I don't thing that is a fair comparison. Do I wish he had stepped up - yes, I do, but he totally had the right to do what he did.

                2. re: Chimayo Joe

                  I don't necessarily mind the team challenge this late (with a minimum of 6 chefs left) but I do agree that no one should have immunity at this point. What ever happened to the QF winner getting to chose what team they're on or choice of proteins, etc? How about $5000 and you get a pick of team France or team Spain.

                  1. re: bobbert

                    The "prizes" have been very few and far between this season for anyone in the QFs or ECs. I wonder why.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I've been wondering the same thing.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Early on, a team of 7 got to split $10,000, Nina and Shirley have won $10,000 prizes, and Shirley won a Toyota. I am sure the prizes are a function of finding sponsors to provide the prizes. The question is, are the ratings down, or are the elves not really making enough of an effort? There have not even been any smaller prizes such as cookbooks, giant bottles of wine, or anything related to New Orleans.

                        1. re: John E.

                          Maybe they are doing away with some of the product placement, and the prizes go with it.

                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                            They have not been shy about product placement in the past. I don't mind it unless it's an ingredient that does not seem sensible (Philadelphia cream cheese, diet Dr. Pepper come to mind).

                            Instead of having them make their own hit sauce, they could have required them to use Tabasco as an ingredient. Of course I'm guessing they approached McIlhenny and could not make a deal.

                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                              I think there's still quite a bit of product placement and for these companies, $5000 is chump change. Surely Dunkn Donuts can afford that for every QF or EC. Hell, I could probably come close myself - I think I'd like to hear Padma say "...and the winner gets $5000 provided by Bobbert..." Yeah, I like the sound of that.

                              I think someone on the Top Chef team screwed up or a sponsor pulled out at the very end and there wasn't enough time to find a replacement but surely these would be lame excuses.

                              A quick google shows Whole Foods, which doesn't do too much advertising, spent $47 million in 2013. Dunkin Donuts spent $121 million in 2010. $5 or $10 thousand dollar prizes for these guys are nothing.

                              1. re: bobbert

                                I'm going to have to give some thought as to how much I'd be willing to pay Padma to call out my name.

                              2. re: Shrinkrap

                                I just can't believe how crappy, low quality the foods they pimp are. Healthy Choice,, DD coffee? BLEAH.

                              3. re: John E.

                                nothing compared to Paul Qui's season....Cars, trips , wine, money, 500 dollar modernist cuisnine cookbooks, bob kramer knives.....

                                1. re: girloftheworld

                                  With the state of the economy, I feel like maybe even Top Chef is feeling the pinch. Or at least the sponsors might be - TC might still be doing well but maybe Dunkin Donuts is tightening the belt.

                            1. re: Chimayo Joe

                              I also had a problem with how the chefs had to follow these "master chefs." At this point, if you go home you should go home for your own food, not for following the instructions of another chef.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                I agree; some of the problems on the French team can be laid at the door of their mentor. Corn silk? Really?

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  Yeah, even Tom disliked that entire idea.

                                  1. re: DGresh

                                    Part of me wonders if that was a test - as in, she wanted to see if they would point out how stupid it was or just follow blindly. Or maybe she was trolling them.

                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      Stephanie kept commenting on it. She seemed to understand bad food by Nick would be bad for her as she was the "weakest link" with classic french technique

                                  2. re: Chimayo Joe

                                    Its their show.. play by the rules... you can easily sabotage other folks by getting immunity, screwing up your dish on a team challenge and forcing another person to be elminated. Its strategy... this game is more like Survivor than Julia Childs French Kitchen. And you cannot discount the producers for trying to create evil people. Nicholas is about as innocuous a person as you can find, and they are editing so much to produce conflict and controversy thinking that is what their audience wants.

                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                      There's no bad guys left so they're trying to invent one.

                                      1. re: hal2010

                                        No bad guys left? Really?

                                        Maybe "bad guy" is too strong for Carlos, but I don't think so.

                                      2. re: Chimayo Joe

                                        I completely agree with this. Nicholas clearly seemed enthused to be working with Dominique Crenn and having a chance to try some new things. I don't believe that he would have chose to do essentially two risky dishes (the silk nests and then dessert) had he not been safe.

                                        I also think that the specific nature of this challenge really left the chefs at the mercy of their mentors. The mentors strongly steered the teams to the point where out of respect and deference I didn't really see anyone stepping up and saying "I won't do that because I'm not confident and it might send me home".

                                        A challenge where someone else (either a client, a mentor, etc) has such a strong sway in the challenge just shouldn't be around this late in the competition.

                                        Everyone asking Nicholas to fall on his sword is ridiculous, and I thought he responded perfectly at judges table. That he did good enough during the quick fire to earn immunity. Had there been an elimination during the quick fire, the bottom 3 probably would have tried harder to put out better dishes rather than accepting "eh, I won't be good at this - that's ok, I won't go home".

                                        1. re: cresyd

                                          I wonder if Jacques Pepin received a bad edit or, if he in fact initiated the idea of resignation?

                                          1. re: JAB

                                            I'll give Pepin the benefit of the edit - but when Tom said that he would have fallen on his sword, that bothered me. He knows the rules and nature of this show better than arguably anyone else there. So for him to criticize someone for just going with the rules/structure of Top Chef seemed really unfair.

                                            I think if anything, Nicholas may have thought he was being a "stand-up guy" by taking the most risky dishes (corn silk and dessert), so that if their team was in the bottom then the girls would have been judged on the less risky elements. Now obviously there were edits, but given that Shirley was happy to go along and try ice cream with fish, I don't think that someone else would have said "Chef Crenn I do not trust your corn silk nest idea, I want to do x instead".

                                            At the end of the day, the fact that this decision was required all comes down to the nature of the challenge. The quickfire gave immunity and the final challenge basically asked the chefs to not make decisions, but just execute the mentor's wishes. However they were expressed. Had the Spanish team lost, someone was going to go home for making a Julian Serrano dish. I think whoever left, it was always going to feel unfair.

                                            1. re: cresyd

                                              I had that exact same dish at Atelier Crenn a year ago. It was executed perfectly, and one can safely assume that Chef Crenn had taken a considerable amount of time to perfect it. My problem is that they had him attempt to replicate one of her signature dishes rather than cook from his own ideas. I think part of the fault lie on the producers. Mind you, I still would have prefered for him to fall upon his own sword and bow out "gracefully" than allow Stephanie and Shirley to remain on the chopping block.

                                              1. re: djquinnc

                                                If Stephanie cooked a better dish than Shirley she would still be in the cempetition. Stephanie was not competing against Nick.

                                              2. re: cresyd

                                                Maybe Tom felt that was because Nick's dish was that bad. Apparently it was really awful.

                                                1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                  Again, after reading all of the responses, I think the error was the producers' in giving immunity to the QC winner at this stage of the competition.

                                                  AND for allowing the two "mentor chefs" to direct what was to be made with little to no input from the cheftestants. It wasn't Nick's dish. It was Dominique Crenn's dish that he attempted to recreate.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    of course they always could have pulled a Next Food Star and suddenly said "the worst dishes from each team"
                                                    Then said " well nick it is a good thing that you have immunity Carlos your chicken was dry and just not very interesting pack your knives"

                                                    1. re: girloftheworld

                                                      Or pull a Hell's Kitchen and have Gordon Ramsay stop by and revoke the immunity like he likes to randomly do....

                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                      I totally agree Linda. And who knows how immunity played out in the choice of dishes and cooking, as has been pointed out here. Maybe Nick chose the hardest dishes, the dishes nobody wanted, because he had immunity. As much as I wanted him to fall on his sword because I was so bummed that Stephanie or Shirley would have to go, I also realize it wasn't fair to even ask him or criticize him for it. Getting "unfairly" eliminated is just part of how this works, it happened to Kristen last year and Nyesha the year before.

                                                      The fault most certainly lies in the way this challenge was set up. Putting aside the mentor chef issue, giving immunity at this point is questionable, and giving it out and then having a team challenge is just wrong, for precisely the reason that this episode demonstrated. Still, that's the way the game is played.

                                                      1. re: LurkerDan

                                                        Likewise Justin went out when Carrie had the immunity for that cold broccoli thing. His dish had some problems, but it was not the worst. Tom even had a little zinger about it when Carrie came into Last Chance Kitchen aimed at Justin.

                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                          Yeah, my "WTG, Jacques!" in my original post was premature, and mostly predicated on the fact I'm tired of Nicholas and wanted him out of the competition.

                                                          Hopefully the Elves figure this one out for next season and end the team challenges AND immunity when it gets down to 6-8 cheftestants in the competition.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Unfortunately, it made for good television. We may see even more of this sort of thing.

                                                            1. re: ennuisans

                                                              I hate this kind of manipulation. For me It's not good tv and takes away from the show. I'd rather see chefs cook their heart out and do the best food they can do than see them in contrived, emotionally manipulative situations. I didn't like the season with the 120 degree outdoor marathon challenges for exactly this reason. Don't give immunity then ask the chef to give it up. Don't give immunity in the first place. I do believe that Carrie was punished for her broccoli dish, not just by being eliminated but also in LCK as well. All of it just starts to reek with a lack of integrity and is very similar to what killed Project Runway.

                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                I wish they would go to blind taste testing on both the regular competitions and the LCK. I don't care how fair and open you are, you can't help being around these people and not having favorites that you are going to weigh things toward. I'm not saying that doesn't mean they won't eliminate them, I think clearly Stephanie became a judge/editor favorite and she still went down.

                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                          I agree that what made for such a frustrating elimination was far more the the fault of the design. To have immunity, a team challenge, and the mentors heavily altered the nature of the competition.

                                                          I was mostly upset with Tom for not acknowledging that more honestly. They were presented with a structure where this could have happened. I also think that given the stage of the competition, to have a competitor be like "I can't go home today, I'm mentally fried, I'm going to take a bit of a break" shouldn't be a surprise.

                                                          1. re: cresyd

                                                            I really wish Tom were blogging this season. The blogs used to be one of the best parts of post-show analysis, and this is precisely the kind of thing where a blog from him would help clear things up.

                                                            1. re: LurkerDan

                                                              Yes, I keep going over to bravo.com and then I remember he is blogging this season. So frustrating. More often than not Tom's blogs are far more interesting than the show. I've said before I'd like to see him do a general food-oriented show like Gordon Ramsay's old show the F-Word.

                                                      2. re: cresyd

                                                        It has taken me a week of hacking, but I have found the unedited transcript from judges table. It begins right after Stephanie has been told to PYKAG:

                                                        ****
                                                        Nicholas: I feel terrible about this. I chose to do a very difficult dish, one I had no experience with and probably shouldn't have tried, but I was inspired by Chef Crenn, and I just feel terrible and I (continued whining and drivel and blah blah blah)
                                                        Peppin: (Rolling eyes, cut from final scene that aired) Do you think you should resign?
                                                        Nicholas: (long pause, staring at floor for over 5 minutes) No. I think I did enough yesterday to have won immunity.
                                                        Peppin: Then shut up and keep cooking.
                                                        Tom: Line edited: (I don't know if) I would have fallen on my sword.

                                                        ****

                                                        We've been ELFED!

                                                        jb

                                                        1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                          there you go! Pepin was not suggesting he resign, he was asking if *NICK* thought he should resign. very different. And Tom steps up and validates Nick's decision. Much as I felt bad for Stephanie, this is for me the right reaction.

                                                          so much more of an interesting exchange than creating false drama.

                                                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                            How do we know that this is true? Where'd you find it?

                                                            An unedited transcript wouldn't have descriptions like "rolling eyes" etc.

                                                            1. re: sal_acid

                                                              Yes, I'd be interested to know where this "transcript" was found as well.

                                                                1. re: donovt

                                                                  I got it from some of my friends involved in the Target...oops. I shouldn't have said that.

                                                                  Never mind.
                                                                  jb

                                                                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                    Shoulda figured - coming from someone huffing the smoke from their grill in their avatar pic..... :-)

                                                                  2. re: donovt

                                                                    I was suspect when I read the Pepin line telling Nick to shut up.

                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                      But wouldn't you just love to hear that accent say that? :)

                                                                      jb

                                                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                        I have and I find him annoying, Ludu Lefebvre. ; )

                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                          Agree with Ludo. With Pepin it would be the contrast of the pleasant sounding voice and the harsh words. Comedy is often about opposites.

                                                                          1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                            Several years ago I was walking with my mother on a sidewalk in front of a Starbucks. My mother was using a walker. There were people, early 20s, inside staring at us. I told my mom to flip them the bird, they would be telling their grandkids about the day they were flipped off by the old lady with the walker. My mother stopped, looked up at me and said, "you're a doofus." She had dementia, and she was really funny.

                                                                2. re: sal_acid

                                                                  It also would not have omitted parts of what we saw, with Tom saying that the rules allow immunity, etc...

                                                                3. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                  Ya had me there for a minute, JB.

                                                            2. re: cresyd

                                                              None of the others would have "fallen on their sword." It's easy to say when it's not even possible.

                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                I have to comment that I think the Quickfire was unfair to everyone except Nicholas and Shirley, the two with training in Classical French techniques. Another reason that immunity should have been off the table.

                                                                1. re: judybird

                                                                  I think that in terms of measuring "fairness" a lot of challenges could be viewed that way. The rotating Quickfire that Brian won appeared to me to be one of the least fair challenges in that he was just lucky to end up at a station with the most consistency/fewest disasters.

                                                                  As a viewer, I'd like the challenges towards the end to be structured to be "more fair" and the more gimmicky challenges to be in the beginning. But I don't think that it was any more or less fair than other challenges. I mean, should Carrie have offered to go home during the LSU challenge because her dish was decided to be the worst?

                                                                  I think the way things ended up created the worst visual possible. The immunity winner was part of a team, and the team lost, and he was the worst on the team. But I think to not address the mentor's vision for the team is unfair. And to assume that Nicholas would have made the same choices had he not had immunity is also unfair.

                                                                  1. re: judybird

                                                                    Whether you have had classical French training or have just been a student of your craft and learned technique, you should be able to compete.

                                                                    There's never going to be a contest where everyone knows every cuisine or technique. It's a measure of skills and creativity and performance under pressure.

                                                                    1. re: judybird

                                                                      Using that logic, they should have easily won the EC.

                                                                2. It is easy for anyone say they would have stepped aside. It is like when somebody says " If I had a million dollars I would give half to charity" look at them and say well how much do you have in you wallet now? I am taking some stuff to the food bank Ill drop half of it off for you.

                                                                  I think Nicholas was put in a tough position a 2star chef designed a horrid dish what were they going to do? He knew the safest person to take it was him. If Stephanie had that dish it would have been even worse. Then she would have been " I cant believe they gave me that dish knowing how insecure I was with the style of cooking" He could have killed it with mussles... Knowing he wasnt going home he took the hard crappy dishes... You are not going to insult the godess of French cooking and not serve her cornhair nightmare.

                                                                  81 Replies
                                                                  1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                    How could anyone say no to Dominique Crenn? She's amazing. I haven't had the chance to sample her food yet but I follow her on Instagram and her food looks indescribably good. It would take a stronger man than Nicholas to put down one of her suggestions.

                                                                    And you're right - he saved Stephanie and Shirley from having to be responsible for the horrid dish.

                                                                    1. re: chefhound

                                                                      it's very true. i've had DC's food - it's truly amazing. and agree - in a way, it was noble of him to take on the harder dishes. although i'm sure he thought he could pull them off.

                                                                      1. re: chefhound

                                                                        But it might not have been the concept of the dish but the execution that was flawed. I mean, it sounded wack to me, but what do I know?

                                                                        I believe if Chef Crenn recommended using the corn silk, then it can be done and done successfully. (I bet Richard Blaid could do it!) Nick did not do it well, and Stephanie expressed her concern - and he rudely brushed her opinions aside. He chose to put it on the plate.

                                                                        Also, the chicken was dry and the chocolate sauce bad, and the flan grainy. I am not a chef or even very skilled home cook, but I can make moist chicken, a good chocolate adobe sauce and a smooth flan. Those are execution errors, plain and simple.

                                                                        1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                          I agree with this: "I believe if Chef Crenn recommended using the corn silk, then it can be done and done successfully." on her FB page, she says that it is a good idea if it is executed properly. I've eaten her food and I have no doubt she can make it delicious and in no way resemble what Tom Colicchio used to find in his drain trap.

                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                            I was curious, so I googled and found this. Sounds like there are many ways to do it poorly, but it actually *can* be good to eat (and pretty too!)

                                                                            http://blog.ideasinfood.com/ideas_in_...

                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                              I wonder if NIck - or anyone else - actually tasted the corn silks before they put them on the plate. From the trial and error described in the blog link in a previous comment, there are techniques that work and others that don't.

                                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                                Was I the only one watching thinking, "Holy cow you can eat that?"

                                                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                  Well my googling which turned up the lovely, and apparently edible, result, by far mostly turned up "how do I get the corn silks off my corn so I don't get it stuck in my teeth?" So I think most of us never conceived of eating them! But I guess that's what makes a great chef great, if they can pull it off.

                                                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                                                    Alex and Aki -- the Ideas in Food people -- are two of the top experimental chefs in the world. The fact that they were able to do something great with corn silk isn't surprising, but what you can see on the web site most likely the result of a huge amount of trial and error, lots of trashed approaches, etc. I don't think it's fair to expect the typical Top Chef contestant to be able to reliably execute something so completely arcane. I think chef Crenn did the team a huge disservice.

                                                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                      I definitely wasn't implying that I thought that the contestants should have been able to do it; more that Crenn must be pretty talented to do it. And I agree, she did them a disservice.

                                                                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                        I agree that Chef Crenn did her team a disservice in providing them with ideas that required more time to perfect than the contestants had. In addition to the corn silk, while the olive oil ice cream was liked on its own - the judges didn't really like it with the fish.

                                                                                        I think that the biggest problem the challenge had was the deference both teams had for their Mentors. I think a better design of the challenge would have been if the Mentors gave their teams a class where they gave their teams ideas/techniques/etc - and then the teams decided on their meals on their own.

                                                                                  2. re: chicgail

                                                                                    they did. they said something about not being able to swallow it! i can't remember, i'll have to watch it again. that's why Stephanie wanted him to remove it from the plate, but she didn't want to tell him.

                                                                                  3. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                    If it was possible, then Chef Crenn should have shown him how to do it successfully.

                                                                                    I personally would not have used corn silk. I wouldn't want to eat it, so I wouldn't serve it.

                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                      But as I recall, even though the corn silk was mocked at the dining table, it wasn't brought up at JT as a problem with Nick's cooking. I've erased the show but from Linda's recap the problem was bland sauce and grainy chocolate.

                                                                                      It would seem the judges were willing to look past the eccentric ingredients and judged on simple execution, and Nick failed in places he should not have.

                                                                                  4. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                    I don't disagree that he could have executed the dishes better. It was a failure of execution. But that doesn't negate the immunity. He earned immunity and was attacked for sticking to it. If the immunity has no value, why bother putting any effort into the Quickfire at all? Might as well mail it in and wait for the Elimination.

                                                                                    1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                      Dominique Crenn serves a very similar dish at her SF restaurant Atelier Crenn. Here's a picture of the bird's nest, duck fat, corn silk, chocolate, apple, vanilla

                                                                                      http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/atelie...

                                                                                      Dessert? Savory dish? I have no idea of her intention. If she doesn't pair it with duck/cornish hen/chicken, why did she want the Top Chefs to do so? She sure took offense when the Spanish chef did not like the dish.

                                                                                      1. re: seamunky

                                                                                        I'm sorry, but that kinda looks like something pooped next to the nest.

                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                          And little beige maggots are wriggling through the poop. Such an unattractive dish.

                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                            i know a lot of people pooh-pooh (no pun intended) this kind of cooking, but you have to take it in context. every dish of hers is a landscape, and fits into her theme of the season. it may look funky here, but in person, with the rest of the dishes having followed the theme, and with the exquisite TASTES in your mouth, it is a fantastic experience.

                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                              I haven't been to Atelier Crenn yet (but it's way up on my list, believe me!), but I have been to similiar restaurants, and I agree with mariacarmen on this. What may look or sound strange, in the hands of a visionary chef, can indeed be a fantastic experience.

                                                                                              I did, however, have a chance to try one of Chef Crenn's dishes at a brunch event at a food festival. She made a hot cereal dish with various nuts and grains, topped with a chocolate "vine." A very adult porridge that both Ferran Adria and Euell Gibbons might have been proud to call their own! I think it's a variation of a dish she serves in her restaurant, that's usually more Tom than Emeril (i.e., savory).

                                                                                          2. re: seamunky

                                                                                            And why is that being served on WET SAND?

                                                                                        2. re: chefhound

                                                                                          This was the best episode I've seen in all of Top Chef, and the first one I've seen where you really see the difference between where the chefs are today and where they need to elevate to get to the top of their craft.

                                                                                          Dominique Crenn is a fantastic chef. It was great to see the competition between avant garde and traditional in one competition.

                                                                                        3. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                          girloftheworld, you are wise beyond your years. I hope you still have time for just fun young teen years stuff. We used to go to the bowling alley and play pinball machines. (Ask your parents.)

                                                                                          1. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                            I guess that at some level i can't blame Nicholas but i do believe chefs in past years have basically fallen on the sword. Just last season, Kristen refused to defend herself against Josie at judges table and took responsibility for the restaurant wars debacle that had her packing her knives. She didn't "resign" but she may have just as well done so. And she didn't know there was a last chance kitchen. Now THAT was character.

                                                                                              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                Not much different. Same result in the end. She accepted responsibility for Josie's mess. Had she defended herself she might have stayed. I think (though i can't think of names right now) others have stepped up and taken the fall and i know at least one person gave up immunity and was sent home without the LCK safety net. Of course, no one remembers his name.
                                                                                                I really liked the QF on this episode but the EC and the immunity factor threw a huge monkey wrench into the challenge. Take, for instance the snapper ceviche and ice cream combo. Tom and emeril liked both components but not necessarily together. It certainly wasn't Shirley's idea to put them together. She might have been sent home for that. The chefs were all basically sous chefs or even line cooks producing what Dominique and Julian came up with. The chocolate chicken was probably a lost cause before the first burner was turned on.
                                                                                                Still, Nicholas proved himself not to be the stand up poster child for integrity than he proclaims he is. Would i fall on the sword? Probably not but i wouldn't claim to have so much integrity either.

                                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                  Why is Nick's integrity even questioned? Isn't he playing by the rules? In Kristine's case, she accepted responsibility and was sent packing. Nick didn't say his dish doesn't suck - he accepted that his dish did suck. Fortunately, he had immunity and he chose not to give it up. There were many prior immunity winners that would've been sent packing but they were never put on the spot. Did they all lack integrity? If so, why wasn't this issue raised before Pepin opened his mouth?

                                                                                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                    I think that the issue was raised at all was that his food really sucked and the other two - one of whom had to be sent home - did really good work. He knew it. He was ashamed of it. And in spite of his earlier protestations of his own superior integrity, he wasn't a "stand-up guy" and didn't take responsibility for it. What he did may have been within the rules of the game, but he will live with this one for the rest of his life.

                                                                                                    1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                      And in spite of his earlier protestations of his own superior integrity, he wasn't a "stand-up guy" and didn't take responsibility for it.
                                                                                                      ~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                                                      I think that is the main issue everyone has with Nicholas at this point. He's been spouting off about integrity in his cooking for the past few episodes....and then this comes to pass.

                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                        Nobody else in the history of Top Chef,as far as I can recall, has ever been put on the spot as Nick was. I would like to see unedited footage of that JT. I think it was ended with him saying he was playing by the rules. I also think people are letting their emotions get in the way on this issue.

                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                          "Nobody else in the history of Top Chef,as far as I can recall, has ever been put on the spot as Nick was."

                                                                                                          I've watched every episode of every season, and no, nobody has ever been asked to surrender their immunity and resign. Such bullshit. Fake drama all the way. THIS is why they've been pushing this Nick vs. Carlos thing - to make Nick look hypocritical when he refuses to do what no one else In The Whole History Of Top Chef has ever been asked to do. And he's not even my favorite or anything!

                                                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                          I don't think a lack of integrity is the issue here. He's playing by the rules he's given to play by; and also making a dish that he couldn't have loved but was pushed by the mentor.

                                                                                                          Not the storybook response Pepin wanted, but it wasn't decent of him to suggest it.

                                                                                                          If anybody is at fault its the ones who put a team challenge together where the last few contestants don't get to cook their own stuff. Or its Crenn for that foolish pair of dishes.

                                                                                                          1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                            He had a choice. He chose to follow the mentor/coach vs. do what he was supposed to know and has cooked in the past - French food. I don't disagree that Crenn's chicken and chocolate idea was poor; was it supposed to be a take on chicken mole? It obviously failed miserably.

                                                                                                            But either way - Nicholas still had a choice. He chose to blindly follow what Crenn suggested. Doing that worked for Julian's Spanish food; not so much for Crenn's team and the avant garde take on traditional French food. I didn't like that the cheftestants essentially became sous chefs to the judge/mentors. They had no creativity in this challenge - they were told what to do and how to do it, and obviously chose to go that route vs. saying in the kitchen that they wanted to do something else. But Nicholas has been talking "integrity in my cooking" the whole time. Yes, he played by the rules. He could have made a choice when he realized that both Stephanie's and Shirley's dishes were light years ahead of the dishes he made, but he didn't.

                                                                                                            This ended up being Crenn vs. Serrano, NOT cheftestants against each other. And I think that was wrong as well for the Challenge Elves to do things that way.

                                                                                                            So I don't think we really disagree on a whole lot; but I still think Nicholas and his integrity took a hit with him not taking the high road, despite his immunity. He's proved to be more a whingy-whiny person than I had expected, and it's not fun to watch.

                                                                                                            And for John E., Josie was taken to task by the judges for her dish last season. Perhaps she wasn't asked directly to fall on her sword, and perhaps that's what prompted the request this time, because the judges realized that they were sending home a worthy chef vs. the one who effed it up for her team. When it's a team effort (also agree that the team concept shouldn't have been used at this point in the competition), everyone should be considered expendable, so the immunity card shouldn't have been played.

                                                                                                            Hopefully the Elves look at last season's debacle and this season, and make some changes for next season.

                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                              I agree that it became Crenn vs. Serrano, and I agree wholeheartedly with others here who felt TC just plain screwed up.

                                                                                                              I thought Serrano acted like a petulant child for not tasting the dish. My gosh. Show some respect.

                                                                                                              If Crenn is as fabulous as she seems (and she certainly seems fabulous), she should have re-thought the dish on the fly once they found out duck wasn't available. Would duck have been better? Who knows. But chicken, chocolate, and hair balls? Really?

                                                                                                              It's too bad, because I loved the French vs. Spanish aspect. They should have done this way earlier in the season.

                                                                                                              As for Nick, I think of him as Beverly. Yes, he's been slighted a couple of times, but for God's sake, put on your big boy pants, put your head down and get through it. Whining isn't going to help you advance. That being said, I still think he got royally screwed for being put on the spot like that.

                                                                                                              If I got a guaranteed academic scholarship to Texas before my senior year, then slacked off on studying and had my grades drop while other seniors lifted their grades, do I give up my scholarship in deference to the others? Hell no. I earned it and it's up to me to prove myself going forward. (Probably not a good analogy, but I'm trying to think of one that's not sports-related.)

                                                                                                              It feels strange to feel bad for a cheftestant I don't like. The guy now has an absolute zero chance of winning the whole thing, though.

                                                                                                              1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                "The guy now has an absolute zero chance of winning the whole thing, though."

                                                                                                                He does if they judge fairly.

                                                                                                                I hope they do not do the finale in the format they did last year.

                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                  It appears from the preview that at least they did away with the live audience & scoring - it looked like a traditional Judge's Table.

                                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                      Linda, I know you've been thanked a million times, but I don't think the word "painstaking" has ever come up - the number of verbatim quotes you've been including is incredible.

                                                                                                                      1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                                                        Thanks, WNY. :-) I thought the judging quotes were important this episode.

                                                                                                              2. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                Agree. Don't think Nick should have "accepted responsibility" for the dish because, ultimately, it wasn't his dish - it was
                                                                                                                Creen's and I'm not sure any of the others would have executed it more successfully.

                                                                                                      1. re: JAB

                                                                                                        Meaning, did she take the leadership role in Restaurant Wars? Yes, she did. IIRC, she and Sheldon had won the top spots in the previous challenge, and were designated as their teams' leaders.

                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886605

                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                          Then it's a completely different situation.

                                                                                                      2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                        She knew LCK was likely because it was started the previous season. Since LCK generates a lot of hits on Bravo's website, it will certainly be around for the foreseeable future. I don't know if Kristen was aware of that at the time of her PPYKAG.

                                                                                                      3. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                        I thought Nick came up with the dish with her help. I am pretty sure the corn nest was his idea too.

                                                                                                        Btw, I love DC.

                                                                                                        1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                          I thought I recalled Dominique's voice asking someone "have you ever used the silk?" while the camera was showing someone shucking the corn.

                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                            Thought she mentioned the cups even earlier than that.

                                                                                                            1. re: ferventfoodie

                                                                                                              I'm pretty sure it was her idea from the start.

                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                              I will have to watch it again but I do remember her asking Nick that question. What it comes down to is Nick's failure to execute or edit his dish even if it was her idea.

                                                                                                              1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                By that logic, then the other chefs should (could?) have stepped in and edited.

                                                                                                                If the hairball was a failed idea, why didn't Shirley or Stephanie stand up? They knew Nick had immunity.

                                                                                                                1. re: hambone

                                                                                                                  Stephanie did suggest they not serve the hairball, but Nicholas refused and, since it was Nicholas' dish, Stephanie felt she couldn't remove it herself.

                                                                                                                  1. re: hambone

                                                                                                                    There was a clip of Stephanie saying that the nest sucked but she didn't speak up because it was his dish. They both should have said something - they are a team but it sounds like the entire dish was poorly executed.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                      If it were an individual challenge or Nick didn't have immunity it would make sense not to say something but the reality was it wasn't Nick's ass on the line, it was Shirley's and Stephanie's. They, more than anyone, needed Nick to put out successful plates. In the moment, I can understand not saying something to Nick but in hindsight they should have been screaming at him to "leave the damn hairball off the plate!" If he objected, they would have been well within their rights to point out that if he f^%#ked up they, and not he, would be going home. In hindsight, to Shirley and Stephanie, Nick's dish was at least as important as their own. It was in their interests to speak up.

                                                                                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                        hind site is always 20/20 - next seasons contestants (if they keep going, haven't we almost had enough) will definitely not make the same mistake.

                                                                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                          I agree. Stephanie should have said something.

                                                                                                                        2. re: JonDough

                                                                                                                          Jon- she definitely said it. As I remember it, it was softly to the camera.

                                                                                                                          My tenure at TCK on the line... those hairballs are not being served.

                                                                                                                          1. re: hambone

                                                                                                                            I just watched LCK on hulu and the introductory clip showed Stephanie with her arms folded watching Nick cook the silk and saying something like "it's the corn silk...I'm afraid it's like...my ass." So she definitely spoke up.

                                                                                                                            On the other hand, I agree that the biggest problem was the level of influence of the mentors this late in the season combined with the team challenge and immunity. This might have worked more fairly earlier in the season with a larger group. Stephanie was unfairly eliminated, but I think it was the design of the challenge more than Nick's fault.

                                                                                                                            1. re: bear

                                                                                                                              " I think it was the design of the challenge more than Nick's fault."

                                                                                                                              Yeah, that's really the bottom line.

                                                                                                                              1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                Maybe we see stephanie again as a make-good next yr.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                  I think Stephanie would definitely be invited back for the next All-Stars edition.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                                    She's such a downer. And, her food really isn't at the level of the other chefs from what I can see on TV and not taste. Maybe that's just my reaction to her reaction in that tomato challenge that's colored my thinking. I think they would bring back Janine for the hotness, sadly, because I'd like to see Carrie make another run. I am still intrigued by her odd looking winning gumbo

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                      I thought she was a big-time downer earlier in the season, but her dry wit made me come around. She grew on me. They'll have lots of choices for the next All-Stars, for sure:)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                        She has 2 wins and 3 times in the top group, I think she's at their level. I think sometimes her self-deprecation adds to a lower perception of her cooking chops, but I think she's a darned good chef.

                                                                                                                                        I don't find her a downer, but she does seem to harbor an unhealthy amount of self-doubt.

                                                                                                                                        As for All-Stars, while I am sure they will do one, I think it has less meaning now. The early seasons had a lower level of competition, with just a few great chefs, so it was fun to see them bring back some of these people. Now, even the first people eliminated are excellent chefs, so an All-Stars becomes more about selling us personalities or drama, not about bring back the cream of the crop.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                          I'd like to see an all stars where they bring back the first person eliminated from every season. You hardly get to know these people and they don't get much of a chance to show anything about their food.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                            They'd have to call it something else. Like "Betcha don't remember these chefs" :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                I remember Nyesha and I still regret not having gotten to see her compete to the end.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                                I don't know if I want to see John from TC 7 again.

                                                                                                                                              3. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                                There were plenty of knuckeheads this season.

                                                                                                                        3. re: girloftheworld

                                                                                                                          I don't recall that corn in any form is considered to be a particularly "French" ingredient. Wrong?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                            that is an excellent point. It seems that this corn silk thing is a signature dish of hers, and she more or less shoe-horned it in to this dinner. It certainly didn't need to be there, given that corn is *not* classic French. A bit of ego here?

                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                              My biggest complaint about this whole challenge was how much weight these mentors were given in a situation where they had so little to lose. I think had the set up been more like the Vietnamese challenge (spend time learning from your mentor, and then go and design a menu) - then there could have been more ownership of the entire meal by the team.

                                                                                                                              At this late in the competition, if you're going to have a team challenge - really let the contestants make the major decisions and just be inspired by outside forces.

                                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                A bit!? Did you see the guest chefs sparring at the tasting? I think the French team were so star struck they would have done just about anything their mentor asked them to.

                                                                                                                                1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                  I thought Serrano came across as a bit rude.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                    Prejudging and refusing to taste something qualifies as rude in my book. He wouldn't even taste the individual components separately.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: seamunky

                                                                                                                                      I think he was far ruder at the table for the reason you mentioned. She more seemed to have her finger on the scale (the Spanish chicken was "dry" when no one else thought so, etc.)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: seamunky

                                                                                                                                        Rude and arrogent. It shows a huge lack of professional respect for his colleague(s).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                          Petulant. I'd like to be able to say Serrano was a ham, but he was just an ass.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Leepa

                                                                                                                                  "I don't recall that corn in any form is considered to be a particularly "French" ingredient. Wrong"

                                                                                                                                  when they feed it to their poulet

                                                                                                                              2. Every season needs an episode like this to justify the duds. Just damn.

                                                                                                                                1. Spanish vs French

                                                                                                                                  Some early observations.

                                                                                                                                  Chocolate corn silk nests were not Nick's idea. 

                                                                                                                                  I think it was bullshit that Keller and Colicchio called out Nick on this challenge. If he sandbaggeged his dish in order to send his teammate's home, (think Angelo's Ants on a Log in TC8) then he should have resigned. 

                                                                                                                                  I do not believe Stephanie would have given up immunity. She went batshit crazy for almost a year because her former roommate won Top Chef 10 while she did not make it past the preliminary round. I was not a fan of Stephanie early on because she was such a sad sack. She has recently been a more positive presence on Top Chef, but she is wrong in this episode.

                                                                                                                                  I think Shirley, Nick, and Nina will be in the finale. I would be happy if Shirley or Nick were the winner. 

                                                                                                                                  63 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                    It was Pepin that called out Nick and I think that's b.s. Everyone knows the person with immunity may do something out of his/her comfort zone because of such immunity. Is this the first time the judges called out an immunity winner? Is this scripted to stir up discussion?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                      No it's not the only time an immunity winner has been called out. Josie was called out and she was told she *would* have been going home if she didn't have immunity. Carrie also heard the judges say that she'd be going home for her broccoli and sauce if she didn't have immunity in the cafeteria challenge.

                                                                                                                                      I'm pretty sure there were other immunity winners who fared poorly in the ECs in the past and were told they'd have gone home had it not been for immunity.

                                                                                                                                      I'd have to scan previous threads to find out who else, however.

                                                                                                                                      And I'm supposed to be working. :-)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                        Immunity winners are called out all the time ....

                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                          Neither Josie nor Carrie were essentially told to resign the competition. Yes, others with immunity were told they would be going home if they did not have immunity, but none of them were essentially told they should 'fall on their sword' and resign. Hell, after TC2 when Mis resigned to save Ellia the contestants were told in a later season that the judges decide who is going home, not the contestants.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            Yes, the judges decide who's going home and that person is the one with the worst dish. In the vast majority of EC's, the person with immunity would not have been packing even without the immunity. If Nick had given up immunity, that alone would not have sent him home. The judges would have deliberated, decided that he had the worst dish and then, yes, the JUDGES would have sent him home. Had Shirley won the QF and for giggles decided to give up immunity, she still wouldn't have been sent packing.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                              Tom essentially told Nick he had the worst dish when he said rgat Nick was the reason the three of them were there as the wkrst team. Pepin essentially told Nick he had the worst dish when he asked him if he was going to resign. (By the way, I was referring to Mia in TC2.)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                Went back to review season 2. What a f&%k fest! Two different chefs resigned (although I don't recall if it was an integrity thing but it could have been) and we had one DQ'd because of the hazing incident. The good old days!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                  Although it's been a long time, Otto quit in the second episode of TC2 because he left Whole Foods with some lychees that somehow did not get paid for. Mia quit to protect Elia, and then there was Cliff, what was he thinking? There must not be much of anything interesting happening back at the house in NOLA, otherwise they would be showing it.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                            Agree.

                                                                                                                                            But did anyone in the past get advised to fall on their sword?

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                              I don't remember anyone being asked outright by the judges to fall on their sword, but I think there have been times when they've talked about it amongst themselves. And there have been contestants who have offered to resign.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                First that we know of. Who knows what was left on the editing floors in pervious seasons.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                  "First that we know of. Who knows what was left on the editing floors in pervious seasons."

                                                                                                                                                  Yes, this is always a possibility, but if it didn't make it onto the show, then it's not part of the show and its rules. Nick is the first who was asked on the air.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                i think carrie deserved being asked to fall on her sword more than nick did. At least nick was trying something out of the box, which was suggested by a renowned chef. Carrie totally mailed it in.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                  I'll defend Carrie here. Her using immunity resulted in the 2nd worst dish going home. In Nick's case (I'll defend him a bit later in this post) his poor dish resulted in the team going down and someone with what might have been the 2nd best dish of the night being sent home. Big difference between a team and an individual challenge.

                                                                                                                                                  Further, and this is most important, because she had immunity, Carrie sat out the fight for product and which station she would cook on so as to not inadvertently sabotage another chef. What would we be thinking of her if she had fought for shrimp and the flat top grill? If anything, she showed real class in deciding to not fight for those things BECAUSE she had immunity - she could have been an ass to try to get the Toyota but she didn't. She surely could have come up with a better dish but she also deliberately placed herself at a disadvantage so as to not hurt anyone else's chance.

                                                                                                                                                  Back to Nick. Of course he did not throw the challenge. They were stuck with having to produce a chocolate chicken with a side of hairball dish. It's very likely that neither Stephanie nor Shirley could have done any better - certainly not Stephanie (just ask her) so the best chance for the team to have not lost this challenge was for Nicholas to take on that particular dish. He probably would have killed the mussels and we might be talking about how it was wrong for him to stick Stephanie with the chicken.

                                                                                                                                                  My issue with Nicholas is how he has portrayed himself to be the epitome of integrity and all that is good in the kitchen and he has his chance to put his actions where his mouth is but takes a pass. At least Carlos isn't going around exclaiming what a stand up guy he is. I'm ok with Nick not falling on the sword - just stop telling us how great a person you are.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                    OK, bobbert just said it way better than I did a bit further upthread. :-)

                                                                                                                                                    And I had forgotten about Carrie not fighting for a cafeteria location and product - she *did* take the high road in that situation (although I still think she could have come up with a better broccoli dish than she did!).

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                      I guess I just don't recall Nick saying he's a great moral leader. I just recall him bitching about Carlos' underhandedness (with the oven stealing comment and then whining about borrowing Nick's knife). Were there instances in which Nick actually claimed moral superiority?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                        He certainly has used the word "integrity" quite a bit in describing himself. I'm not really too good with the English language but a quick "google" brought this up as the first definition:

                                                                                                                                                        Integrity - the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
                                                                                                                                                        "he is known to be a man of integrity"

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                          Didn't Nick say there were no holds barred after the incident with Carlos? He wasn't going to be a nice guy any more.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                            I assumed he was talking just about his relationship with Carlos, not everybody else.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                              I don't think Nick was being 'not a nice guy' because he did not choose to give up his immunity. It's a competition and they're all competing. If it were some sort of real life situation and not a reality TV show, then maybe Nick should have volunteered to leave.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                I agree. I think Nick would have chosen to go if it was a real-life situation. But it's not. They all signed up to be in a competition and it would have been honourable but dumb to bow out.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                            Let e add that I'm not defending Nick because I'm a fan. I never liked him because of his close association with surfer boy. But I identified with him when Carlos' told the judges that Nick stole his oven, and then harangued him about borrowing the sushi knife. I just think his "integrity" would never be an issue if Pepin hadn't asked him to resign. To my knowledge, no prior immunity winner had been asked to resign even if they made the worst dish. So why single out Nick? Did anyone else catch Shirley giving Nick the evil eye when they were asked to return to the stew room?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                              Shirley giving him the stink eye, and Stephanie unable to look at him at all.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                Even though I posted above remembering someone giving up immunity - I think it was actually a Survivor or some other show where that happened. I do recall fairly regularly someone accepting full responsibility for a team's failure - often Restaurant Wars (you're a fool to be the exec chef). Yeah, Pepin did put Nick in a shitty spot and I did feel for Nick - he appeared sincerely heartbroken. And, yes, that was the most evil of evil eyes that Shirley gave Nick on their way from JT.
                                                                                                                                                                If it had been Carlos who kept his immunity, I don't think we'd be having this discussion.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                  I think if Shirley went home instead of Stephanie I'd be more outraged. I think Shirley has been outstanding the entire season. I still can't get past Stephanie and the tomato challenge.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                    If it had been Carlos who kept his immunity, I don't think we'd be having this discussion.
                                                                                                                                                                    ***
                                                                                                                                                                    Because you expect him to keep the immunity? Frankly I'm not sure any of them would actually give up immunity, notwithstanding Stephanie's confession that she would.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                      Have to agree who would give up immunity?

                                                                                                                                                                      Easy to say if you don't have to or you have been eliminated as a result of anthers immunity.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                                        Those are the rules they all agree to play by. No one should bitch or be surprised if someone else's immunity bumps them out. Suck it up an kick ass in LCK.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                        Because the story line of the show did not have him waving the integrity flag all the time. The Carlos story line is that he's self centered and doesn't care about the others so it would fit that he wouldn't give up immunity and that's what we'd be expecting. It wouldn't be such a surprise.

                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                        <I do recall fairly regularly someone accepting full responsibility for a team's failure - often Restaurant Wars (you're a fool to be the exec chef). >

                                                                                                                                                                        but no one had immunity in those situations.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                      100% agree.

                                                                                                                                                                      Time to shut up now Nick.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: superfuture48

                                                                                                                                                                        But, in the preview for the next episode, we see Nick and Carlos at it again.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think integrity is the issue here. Integrity does not require one to behave without self interest. It requires honesty and honoring one's values. His statement that he felt he'd earned his immunity reflects that.

                                                                                                                                                                        I think some of you are confusing selflessness and sacrifice for integrity.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                          I think we are splitting hairs. He's made the point several times that he is somehow morally superior to (at least) Carlos. At least the story line is that he's being portrayed as such and, as such, one might be led to think that if he really believed he deserves to sit atop that high horse he should have fallen on the sword.

                                                                                                                                                                          Once again, I don't think Nicholas should be expected to do that and I believe he's been wrongly placed in a shitty no-win situation but the least I'd expect is for him to get down off that horse. Slum with Carlos a bit. He might even find it liberating not to have the moral and integrity dilemma to deal with.

                                                                                                                                                                          I'll also reiterate that I believe the chicken/hair ball dish was a loser no matter who attempted it. Stephanie wouldn't have had any chance with it and Shirley would have had at least as difficult a time as Nick. Their team's best shot at pulling it off and staying out of the bottom was with Nick executing it. Didn't work - not because he mailed it in - didn't work because it was a badly conceived dish to begin with. If I were to hand Mr. Pepin a pile of dog shit and have him cook with it, in the end, no matter what he came up with, it would still taste like shit.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                            I call BS on that whole moral superiority thing. Carlos mischaracterized what Nick did, and it pissed him off as much as it would anyone. He showed it.

                                                                                                                                                                            He wants to win it all, of course. He's earned the right by playing by the rules. He's also been a gentleman throughout, helping Stephanie stay out of the weeds at times, so he's an honorable competitor,

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                              "... Carlos mischaracterized what Nick did, ..."

                                                                                                                                                                              Sure, I agree but I also saw Carlos apologize and try to explain that he did not mean it the way it came out. Language issue maybe? Nicholas just refuses to accept that. I liked Nick a lot when he was helping others out, tasting food, picking them up off the floor, etc. Not so much since he's been on a one-man vendetta trash talking Carlos behind his back at every turn. I haven't seen Carlos talking shit about Nick but there appears to be at least one scene in each of the last few episodes where Mr. Integrity questions Carlos' integrity or abilities. No one (except Hugh's blogs) has really looked at Nick's mischaracterization of what Carlos does, is, cooks, whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                              When it comes to his relationship with Carlos, I'll stick my neck out and say Carlos, not Nicholas, has shown more maturity and, dare I say it, integrity. (Give me a couple of minutes to don my flack jacket)

                                                                                                                                                                              Of course there is the real possibility (probability?) that the elves have cherry picked all the choice tidbits and Nick and Carlos are really best of friends. Just doesn't make good TV.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                No flak, I just see it differently.

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't think Carlos has shown more integrity, I think he's very self serving and self absorbed, and knew very well what he was saying. He knows English and knows stealing and merely using are two very different terms.

                                                                                                                                                                                Nick is hard to watch because he's very tightly wound and angsty.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                  And obviously still pissed off at not being invited back as Exec Chef at the restaurant at which he had been working a year ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                    "And obviously still pissed off at not being invited back as Exec Chef at the restaurant at which he had been working a year ago."

                                                                                                                                                                                    Le Bec Fin...which closed months ago. Big flop after total makeover.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                      And he was the only staff change. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                        He was the EC of Le Bec Fin. The new owner was, I believe, an FOH person from the French Laundry who brought his own husband-wife EC and pastry chef from California. As Sal remarked, it was a total flop.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                      I thought he seemed really wounded over that. Said he was angry a long time, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                        From my OP:

                                                                                                                                                                                        "Shirley and Nick are both classically trained in French cooking. Shirley thinks the competition is between the two of them. Nick explains that he was the EC of a fine dining French restaurant, and when new management bought out the restaurant, everyone was offered their job back except for Nick. He had to leave and find his own gig, so he's been cooking pissed off for the last year."

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                          Wounded is one interpretation. Chip on his shoulder is another. I'm not saying one is righter than the other, but something is definitely going on.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                        I am sure Nick's continued bashing of Carlos is being prompted by the elves.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Absolutely. Those elves have been doing a good job. I'm sure Carlos' slights towards Nick are also mostly elf generated.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                            Agreed. I'm sure Carlos has irritated Nicholas in a similar way that Carlos irritated Shirley during the LSU challenge. There just has been more of it to use.

                                                                                                                                                                                            When you think about previous contestant conflict such as what happened around Marcel from Season 2 or Beverly on the Texas Season, this is just incredibly civil and restrained.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                              I meant "called ou"t in the sense of being asked to resign, as others have also stated.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                                Nope, I think this is probably the first time someone's been asked to step down, but again - perhaps the Josie debacle last season prompted this.

                                                                                                                                                                                It could be resolved by not having team challenges like this so late in the season, AND having the mentor/coaches be actual mentors, and NOT be the ones who formulate the menu so specifically that there's no room for movement.

                                                                                                                                                                                If the Elves would just ask me, I'd solve their problems. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                  "Nope, I think this is probably the first time someone's been asked to step down, but again - perhaps the Josie debacle last season prompted this."

                                                                                                                                                                                  It is the first time and it is bullshit. Previous to this, for example, the person who went home on Restaurant Wars was very rarely the person who made the worst dish or was even the most responsible for the team's failure. It's always been the rules of Top Chef, and to start playing around with them now is all about the manufactured drama.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                                                                                    I wonder if Tom's response and the editing in general was a result of how overall low drama this whole competition has been. The Nicholas/Carlos "drama" would never have seen the light of day on a season like Texas. In general the chefs are all fairly mild mannered, and any of the meaner stuff said in the confessionals reads far more as "I'm tired and frustrated and this person has bothered me slightly".

                                                                                                                                                                                    So if there was to be no high drama from the contestants - then let's pump more into the challenges! Let's create a situation where the judges do not get to make a simple choice - and put all of the drama there.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                      The thing is, the challenges are created LONG before the chefs ever arrive on set.

                                                                                                                                                                                      From what Sandee Birdsong (former cheftestant) has said, who is now in charge of the production side, challenges have to be thought up, vendors approved, site approval, those sites scoped out, planned down to the last detail, including the trucking in of equipment, if needed. All of the pre-production is thought out prior to the chefs' arrival. A change to a challenge mid-stream in the midst of production could throw the shoot schedule off.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                        also, part of how the mentor thing worked out may well have been the personalities of the mentors, who chose to take a more active role in the planning of the meal. I can imagine them standing back more than they did. But they didn't. And it would be hard to know that this was going to be the dynamic beforehand.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                          Exactly, they have had "mentor" challenges before where the mentors helped brainstorm, but didn't tell them all exactly what to cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, I completely get that. However, doing something like "you'll be judged as teams, a winning team and losing team" versus "you'll be judged as individuals" - I don't buy that something like that couldn't have been tinkered with midstream.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                                                                                              Sure, that could be changed. But they originally made the call to a) give immunity with 6 chefs left, b) have a team challenge, and c) have mentors for each team. Given that they made those choices, choices we all seem to agree were bad from the get-go, what would have changed during filming that would cause them to change their minds?

                                                                                                                                                                                              What happened was a natural result of the way the challenge was set up, something that they clearly chose. I suspect that they were very aware that this could happen, and in fact maybe even hoped it happened. Because the "injustice" of it makes for compelling tv, and heightens interest in the show.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                                                                                And also produces a lot of discussion about the episode, as is evidenced by this thread. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Despite all of those elements had everyone been judged individually - then I think the drama would have been mitigated. Brian's dessert wasn't well liked, and while it still would have been "the guy with immunity did the worst" - the person who went home would have also had a weak performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  However, by creating a situation where one team won and one team lost, the judges were placed with making trickier choices. Though team Spain and Nina won the challenge - the judges appeared to think the French chicken liver dish (and ultimately Shirley's performance) was the best of the day. So the judges had to weigh out entire meals - a less exciting but consistent meal versus a roller coaster meal. Then they were left with a situation where the best dish of the day was made by 2 people, and the dishes they made themselves didn't reach those heights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  All of that led to judging drama instead of just having the following: "Shirley was the main contributor to the best dish, congratulations you won the challenge - Nicholas shame on you for tanking - but Brian pack your knives and go". If I were on the production team and trying to drag out any kind drama from these contestants, then by adding the team component to the judging you could insert (….manufacture…..) drama there.