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Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #15 - 01/22/14 (Spoilers)

We're down to four in the TC Kitchen.

In the Stew Room, Nicholas is still baffled that he squeaked by for the third time in a row. Shirley says to him she respects what kind of chef he is, and says you can be an asshole, but she appreciates an asshole. He also freely acknowledges that he's an asshole.

Carlos gives the "I came here to cook food, not to make friends" schtick in the house the next morning. Shirley says Carlos is predictable and she thinks she can beat him in the finale.

When they arrive in the TC Kitchen, Padma is there with Gail and Tom. It's their last QF Challenge in New Orleans. Padma removes the cloche to reveal a key to a 2014 Toyota Corolla as the prize for this final QF win.

This is a 2-part Quickfire Challenge. Gail said all she wants is one perfect bite on a cocktail fork, including salty, sweet, a little sour, and just a bit of spice. Two of them will move on to Round 2. They have 20 minutes to create their perfect bite.

Nicholas knows that those who have been winning challenges are those that making dishes that are 3 or 4 ingredients, and he's making dishes with 7 or 8 ingredients, so he can't overthink this challenge. Both he and Shirley are going with steak, and Carlos and Nina are going with shrimp.

Nicholas asks Shirley if she turned up the oven or left it at 300°; she replies "sort of, but not really." Nicholas says "What do you you mean - you left it or you turned it up?" She said "I didn't turn it up; it's whatever it is!" He said "Don't get pissed, baby!" and she replies "You said it first!"

They are all having problems getting the ingredients they want to use on the small cocktail fork - Shirley says it's like playing Jenga.

Carlos - Grilled Mango with Shrimp & Chili Glaze.

Nicholas - Beef Deckle with Aged Balsamic & Purple Potato Chips.

Shirley - Tataki Style Flank Steak with Black Pepper Cherry & Crispy Onions. (When Gail picks up her fork, most everything but the steak falls off; Shirley whips out her chopsticks to pick up the ingredients and restack them.)

Nina - Shrimp Escabeche with Potato Aioli & Pickled Shallots.

Gail loved Carlos' flavors and Tom liked it starting sweet and finished with acid; Shirley's beef was cooked well, but wished it was tighter and Tom thought there was too much soy; Nicholas's deckle was cooked and seasoned well, Tom thought the crispy potato set it off nicely; Nina's shrimp was fantastic, but thought it ate a bit greasy, and Tom thought it was really successful.

The top 2 chefs in Gail's challenge of A Perfect Bite are Carlos and Nicholas. They'll be moving on to the next round to see who will win a car. Nina and Shirley move to stools to watch them.

Tom said he wants them to showcase a bell pepper or an eggplant - whoever gets to the table first gets their choice of vegetable. Carlos is aiming for the eggplant to make a marmalade. They have 20 minutes. Nicholas gets there first and grabs the eggplant; Shirley says "damn, that was fast!" Nicholas says in the confessional "Four-time varsity track; beat you up there, man!"

Nicholas notes highlighting vegetables is tough, he said he wants to do two different versions of eggplant to show versatility. Carlos is going with a soup. Nicholas says in the confessional that he thought Carlos was copping out by just doing a soup, "but we'll see what the judges say."

Carlos - Fried Red Bell Pepper Soup with Fennel, Basil & Onion.

Nicholas - Roasted Eggplant with Sesame Seed Sriracha, Tahini & Chili Threads.

Tom was hoping that Carlos would have featured the pepper in another way and not just pureed, but he thought the flavor of the soup was good; Gail loved the heat and thought it was a beautiful soup.

Tom thought Nicholas's eggplant could have been seasoned better; Gail loved how smooth and soft the eggplant was, and thought the tahini was delicious.

And Carlos wins the Corolla! He does a dance in the confessional and says "Nick, in your face!" Nicholas's confessional has him saying he's the only one who hasn't won a major thing - Shirley has won $10K and a car; Nina's won $10K, and Carlos just won the car. Nicholas gets a cup of sorrow.

Padma tells them that three chefs left standing will go onto the finale in Maui, Hawaii. She notes that each of them has experienced local cuisine and embraced those flavors in their own food. She welcomes Emeril, who has left his own mark on New Orleans. Emeril tells them that it's time to see what NOLA has done for them.

Padma tells them to take all the experiences, flavors and knowledge they've gotten in New Orleans and to create a dish that will leave their mark on the city. Emeril will host a dinner at which they'll serve their dishes, and has invited chefs who have left their mark on the culinary world: Grant Achatz, Andrew Carmellini, and Douglas Keane. Emeril tells them that the winning dish will be featured in all of his restaurants in New Orleans. And if they haven't already, it's "time to kick it up a notch." (Oy.) He also invites them to dinner that evening at Emeril's so he can personally cook for them.

They hop into the new Toyota Corolla that Carlos just won to shop for their ingredients. Nina's shopping for two dishes as she's not quite sure what she's going to make; Nicholas's dish is going to be thoughtful; Carlos is going to be making a seafood mousse tamale, and Shirley is going with a seafood dish.

They head to Emeril's and they have a chef's table in the middle of the kitchen. A BBQ shrimp dish with a Creole coffee sauce and a petite rosemary biscuit looks amazing! Nina wants to do her own take on this dish tomorrow in competition. Carlos explains what he's going to be making (the tamale). More food comes out, and it all looks amazing, and Nicholas toasts Emeril as a warm and gracious host.

The next morning, they're getting ready, and Carlos calls his family and tells his wife he won a car. They arrive at Emeril's restaurant, and start prep. Nina wants to be in the finale; Nicholas is going WAY overboard with the number of ingredients, and overthinking his dish. He knows he overthinks and underseasons, and Shirley notes that if one ingredient in Nicholas' dish doesn't work, his dish doesn't work. Carlos says his seafood tamale dish is very risky, but he thinks that's why his dish will stand out.

Emeril and Tom show up to discuss the chefs' dishes and discuss how they've developed in New Orleans. Nicholas says about Carlos's tamale dish "that's what Carlos does - he does Mexican! I don't know if Carlos has grown much at all."

The judges arrive - Gail, Tom, Padma, Emeril, Grant Achatz, Douglas Keane, and Andrew Carmellini. Tom notes that there are two times you don't want to go home: You don't want to be the first one out, and you don't want to be the last one eliminated before the finale. Padma says to Douglas "You know what that feels like, right?" (He was the winner of the most recent Top Chef Masters.) Douglas said you're tired, but you're amped up and you definitely want to make it to the finale.

Nina is finishing her dish, making sure that it's plated at the last minute. After the timer goes off, she realizes that an ingredient doesn't make it to the dish (the malfatti). She's pissed off at herself.

NINA - Speckled Trout with Baby Vegetables & Barbecue Sauce. Tom asks her what happened to the malfatti, and she admits that she forgot to put it on the plate. She's thoroughly embarrassed. Tom said that Nina had noted in the kitchen that she had talked about putting ricotta in the malfatti, and he said "this dish does not need ricotta!" Andrew says the dish has a New Orleans umami in it; Tom said the challenge was to take what you learned from New Orleans and work it into what the chef cooks - and she did it.

NICHOLAS - Charred Cobia, Roasted Bass & Tuna Confit with Crispy Rice & Shrimp Consommé. (Personal note - HOW is that "simple", as he told Tom and Emeril he was going to do?) Douglas loves the broth, and Andrew said the seafood was cooked perfectly. Grant said a few flakes of finishing salt would have been good for him - the fish was a little flat. Douglas said if you had the fish with the broth, it was good, but if you just went in with a fork and just grabbed the fish, it needed seasoning.

CARLOS - Steamed Seafood Tamal with Saffron Cream Sauce & Pickled Okra. Douglas said his concept embodied the challenge, Emeril said he was hesitant at first, but when he started eating it, it works.

SHIRLEY - Seared Black Drum with Zhenjiang Black Vinegar Butter Sauce, Braised Celery and Mushrooms. She tells them she wants to feel as if they can eat this in the West Lake of China or here in the Louisiana bayou. Grant likes the way she worked in the "holy trinity" - celery, peppers and onions - and that she called it right out when describing the dish. He also loves the sauce. Gail said having the celery under the fish seems very Chinese, and Grant notes that eating the celery in the sauce, you're immediately transported to that area of the world.

Back in the kitchen, Nina is still pissed off at forgetting the malnatti, which she said was to have elevated the dish. (It'll be interesting to see if it helped or hindered her by forgetting it!)

In the in-between, Nicholas said he practiced until 5:30 in the morning what he was going to say over and over again as he presented his dish. Carlos says his Spanglish comes out really well; and Shirley never realizes how nervous she gets when she's presenting her dishes. She said "I totally blacked out and have no idea what I said!" when presenting one dish earlier in the season.

At Judges Table, all four are brought in. :::Obligatory whooshing camera shots::: Padma asks Nina how her day went - Nina notes about forgetting the malfatti, and Tom said he didn't think it needed the ricotta cheese, and Gail said they loved that it was kept so simple. Tom said if she had left something off the plate that was important to the challenge, they'd have had a problem with that, but they judged it on the taste, and the taste was superb.

Emeril said Shirley's sauce was spectacular and he was impressed how she incorporated the trinity, and that the other judges commented on that. Tom said the fish was perfectly cooked, and the sauce with its Chinese influence worked with the Creole, Spanish and French cultures of New Orleans.

Padma asks Nicholas to walk them through his dish, and Nicholas said he liked incorporating the fresh Gulf seafood. Tom said the dish was beautiful to look at, and the way he had properly cooked the fish, some more than others but all properly cook. When he took some of the broth, Tom said "Ahh, OK - he got it!" But then when he took some of the fish...it was underseasoned. Nicholas's face was incredulous at the fish being underseasoned and he quietly says "Oh, Jeezus!" Gail said she's come to know that his style is subtle and restrained, but it's focused and precise, and she thought this was the best dish she's had from him all season.

Padma asks about Carlos' tamale. He said it was inspired by all of the seafood in NOLA. Emeril asks his thoughts on not serving it in the banana leaf, and Carlos replied he was afraid that serving the banana leaf was not something you're supposed to be eating, so he pulled it out. Gail said she's amazed that after hundreds of years of traditional tamale cooking, Carlos was able to improve on it and come up with something different. She wished there was a bit more heat and more acid. Tom said the sauce had a lot of flavor, but the mousse was so nice, by mixing the seafood in with the mousse, it broke up the lushness of the mousse, but he did like the dish.

Padma tells Nina and Shirley - very dramatically and quietly and softly - that they are safe as they had their favorite dishes of the day. Shirley is very happy and starts to cry - she says "I'm really happy to find myself!", which brings a tear to Emeril's eye.

Padma says one of them will win tonight and one of their dishes will appear on all of Emeril's menus. Emeril tells them that the dish that really shone with incredible flavors was Shirley's! Woo hoo! She's jumping up and down and so excited for the win.

So it's between Nicholas and Carlos as to who is heading to LCK. They leave the JT, and now the judges have to deliberate. Gail said Carlos did a great job with NOLA flavors; Tom said technically it was well done, but he had a problem with the mousse and seafood together. Emeril said his was not so warm, which is why he asked him about the banana leaf - if served with that, it would have kept the steam in.

Tom said he thought Nicholas's dish, minus a few grains of salt, was as good as Nina's or Shirley's dishes. Padma stops him and says "Wait a minute. What does it mean that we're sitting here in the final challenge and we're *still* saying that Nicholas's dish needed a little salt - it's basic Cooking 101." Gail said it would have made his dish infinitely better.

In the Stew Room, Nicholas wonders how long it would take the judges to flip a coin - they obviously liked both dishes. Carlos says in the confessional "My dish - it was more creative than Nick's dish, so I feel very confident I will be in the finale." Hmm.....is that the Elves telling us who will be going home? Nicholas tells Nina he'll need her address to send her tacky Hawaiian shirts to wear. Nina said "You'll be there. I want you to be there." and Carlos glances up at Nina without saying anything.

Back at Judges Table, Tom does a quick review of both dishes, and then turns to Padma. She announces that it is Carlos who will be asked to PYKAG. She seems very pained to say that, and Tom says Carlos has one more chance in Last Chance Kitchen. As they walk out, Tom said that Nicholas just stepped it up a little bit more, and Emeril agreed.

Shirley and Nina are elated to have Nicholas be the third person going to Maui, and Carlos gets to cook against Louis in LCK. They'll be doing that in Maui.

Preview for Part 1 of the Finale shows them in Maui with a guest in a chef's coat (unrevealed behind a palm frond, but obviously whoever wins LCK, which, by the way, isn't revealed in the online Bravo video just posted!), and a Top Chef twist of a Double Elimination Challenge.

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  1. Seattle has the 12th man... Top Chef has the 4th (or is it 5th?) judge... Padma's boobs. They were really 'out there' tonight.

    And, I'm pleased with the final lineup.

    2 Replies
    1. re: juliejulez

      I said that to my husband while watching last night. Padma has a nice cleavage shirt on. Woohoo. LOL

      1. Here are my early thoughts.

        At the beginning, Nick was complaining that he put out an incomplete dish. Can someone tell me what dish and what the missing element was?

        I liked this episode, it concentrated on cooking without too many gimmicks. 

        If Nick had better seasoned his eggplant dish, he might now be driving a Corolla. The red pepper soup made by Carlos can be more accurately described as deep fried red pepper soup. (I wrote this off-line befire reading Linda's OP.) If his soup had a lot of heat, wouldn't that mean that other peppers and/or seasoning dominated the red bell pepper, which is mild?

        Padma told Nick and Carlos that the road to the title of Top Chef "ends here." Did she forget about LCK?

        I was sure that Nick was going to be PPYKAG. I guess a cold fish tamale is worse than underseasoned fish. Why was Nick penalized for underseasoned fish since it is obvious that the fish was not supposed to be eaten without the sauce/broth that was seasoned well?

        Before the final results were announced Nina told Nick "you'll be there, meaning the finale in Maui, I wonder what Carlos thought of that comment?

        This episode really shows how important the sauce is in fine dining. I know this comment should come with a slap to my forehead. 

        I wonder if Scott Conant would serve malfatti with fish?

        Tom liked Carlos' fish mousse, but said he would have liked it better without the other seafood. If Carlos had done that, Tom likely would have told Carlos his dish needed texture.

        Since what I am about to comment on I saw on this episode of Top Chef, it cannot be described as needing a spoiler alert. Stop reading now if you will be annoyed by my prediction. At the end of tonight's show there were previews for next week's episode in Maui. I'm quite sure I saw both Louis and Carlos in Maui. I also heard Tom say "...this is a double elimination challenge." I predict that both Carlos and Louis will be in Maui for the finale. I have not yet watched LCK where Carlos and Louis compete against each other for the last spot on the penultimate episode.

        (I've said this before, but here it is again. The term "double elimination" in a tournament does not mean two contestants are being eliminated. "Double Elimination" means a contestant has to lose twice to be completely out of the competition. If somebody loses, they go into the lower, consolation bracket so they can still win third place. Top Chef is a modified double elimination competition because with a single loss, a contestant can re-enter the competition to win first place. Of course Top Chef does not use brackets for chefs to compete one-on-one, and they can misuse any term they wish too.)

        At the end, when Nick, Shirley, and Nina embraced each other at the thought they were all going to Hawaii, it is clear that they actually like each other. What a contrast to season 4 when, Lisa asked Richard Blaise why he did not congratulate her on making the finale. I think this season could have used a better bad guy than the Nick/Carlos thing.

        19 Replies
        1. re: John E.

          The incomplete dish was the last dish where he burned the quinoa and had to leave it off.

          Carlos and Louis are both in Maui because the final Last Chance Kitchen was held there.

          I have a prediction/guess about who is behind the palm leaves, based solely on the mid-section of the chef that was revealed between the palm leaves. It's not who I was hoping. I'm hoping that I am wrong.

          1. re: chefhound

            Anothee face palm for me, how could I forget the quinoa.

            I wonder why they do the last LCK n Hawaii? Am I asking another stupid question?

            1. re: John E.

              They probably wait until the last minute for the last LCK because doing it earlier would make the result vulnerable to leakage. (Huh: leaking and spoiling are both kitchen terms as well as tv series terms.)

              1. re: ennuisans

                I figured it out. They don't worry about the leakage any more than they do about the first three. They bring all of the contestants to the finale. Some of them will likely be sous chefs. On TC 9, the kid who was told by Tom to leave ended up being a sous in the finale.

                1. re: John E.

                  Here's a timeline puzzle: Gail is back, and back to fighting weight after giving birth in late December. So there is probably not much time this season between filming the end and the end; we can assume last night's episode was taped within the last three weeks, right?

                  Also, Gail shows cleavage as generously as Padma, but somehow she never gets grief for it. That I do not understand.

                  1. re: ennuisans

                    I wondered about the timing, too, but I think Gail was maybe 3-4 months pregnant. Thought I remembered reading that the regular seasons were filmed months and months in advance. It'd be interesting to find out the timing.

                    I'm sure all contestants are in Hawaii. It's like the Amazing Race ... You can be cut first round but still travel the world. One of the perks of signing up, I suppose. Plus the finale usually has a pick-your-sous-chefs from former contestants.

                    Edit: thought I'd read all the comments. Seems I just echoed John E. More coffee, please.

                    1. re: ennuisans

                      According to this interview with the executive producer, the New Orleans part was filmed from May through July. (Kind of an interesting interview)

                      I read in other areas that the Hawaii part was filmed in October. I believe Gail gave birth right at the start of the year.

                      Okay, edited to add that it was filmed in October.

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        Yeah, the summertime filming in New Orleans made for inordinately hot kitchens. The finale episodes are usually filmed 2-3 months later.

                      2. re: ennuisans

                        Gail shows cleavage, but Padma is close to letting it all hang out. I mean, I'm a straight woman and I couldn't help focusing on...well, the anatomy, as it were.
                        On some prior season they had one of those fluffy bits showing the behind-the-scenes stuff, and it appears Padma has a stylist who picks out clothes and the rest of the look. I'm almost sure Gail does not, as her clothes border on dowdy most of the time. After all, she is not a top model, she is a food writer, albeit a good-looking one. I guess I would normally characterize her décolletage as "normal," and compared to Padma she's a little zaftig, but Padma's can verge on Victoria's Secret/slutty. A bit like Heidi Klum's, actually, on one of her more daring days on Project Runway.
                        I guess it's just part of the Padma package, even if it's nothing to do with food. (I do admire that with all that bosom, neither of them seems to "wear" their food much; I can't make it past the third sushi roll without having an accident to my, er, balcony.)

                        1. re: kleine mocha

                          Wonder if she showcased her assets (consciously or subconsciously) to draw attention to her self and away from to other woman (Gail) in the room.

                          1. re: kleine mocha

                            In Padma's reddit AMA she said she had a stylist, but she picked her own outfits, and many of them were her own clothes.

                            That said, I love, love love Gail's Radish dress! I hope it comes back for an encore.

                            1. re: Firegoat

                              "she picked her own outfits, and many of them were her own clothes."

                              Any stylist who actually chose Padma's clothes would never work again. Only a woman so beautiful that she's never really worried about whether her clothes flattered her or not would even consider wearing most of her outfits.

                          2. re: ennuisans

                            I didn't notice Gail's either.

                    2. re: chefhound

                      chefhound I had the same thought re: the midsection of the hidden chef....BUT if you look at their Bravo profile pics, it could be either. And the finale is held several months after the main competition, so either physique could have changed.

                      1. re: chefhound

                        I feel the same and actually froze the frame there. I hope it's the elves f...ing with us.

                        1. re: chefhound

                          I really hope it it not Carlos. If anyone deserves to be back it's Louis - he's one every LCK and he is a terrific chef. Carlos is one note and if he does come back and wins the whole thing........well, I can't even think about that!

                        2. re: John E.

                          "Why was Nick penalized for underseasoned fish since it is obvious that the fish was not supposed to be eaten without the sauce/broth that was seasoned well?" This!

                        3. I don't get to watch the Top Chef episodes until a later date on Hulu, but I must admit I got up at midnight to come out to the computer and read Linda's recap! Thanks Linda! Shirley has been so impressive as of late, but I admit, mostly I wanted to see if Nick made it through.

                          1. Elfin bastards! I KNEW it was a trick!

                            Whew! Hang in there Nina!

                            I'm going to have to try this black vinegar.

                            I knew Carlos would be leaving when he won the car.

                            Thanks Linda!

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                              Black Vinegar is really amazing!

                              I had the same feeling, Shrinkrap.

                              I sure hope Louis won the last Last Chance Kitchen!

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Delicious, and simple recipe that utilizes black vinegar. I've made it with chicken as well. Sub ketchup for the tomato sauce.


                              2. re: Shrinkrap

                                I had that very same thought when Carlos won the car.

                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                  I also want to try black vinegar. Shirley's sauce sounded amazing.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    This is at least the second, maybe third time she has used black vinegar, right?

                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                      So I had heard of black vinegar awhile back and at one point bought something labeled "black vinegar" at a Chinese grocery. However I don't think I've got the same thing. Its ingredients are just vinegar, caramel, salt and spices. Did I get scammed?

                                      1. re: DGresh

                                        This one says "Made of fermented rice, wheat, barley, and sorghum"


                                          1. re: DGresh

                                            Do you know the brand name? Maybe there's more info online. Buying it at a Chinese grocery, I would *hope* that it would be authentic!

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              It is this. The reviewers like it, but the ingredient list is kindof suspect. Although it is labeled half in chinese, so perhaps it is a translation issue. "Vinegar" is rather vague as an ingredient.


                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                Interesting. That's the same brand I linked above that had the list of ingredients.

                                            2. re: DGresh

                                              You didn't get scammed. It's a really cheap product, for the most part. I'm sure, like shaoxing wine, there are superior brands that cost more, but I think the cheap stuff is good enough to get started.

                                              I'm excited to try a few of the recipes in which Shirley used it in a bit if a non-traditional way.

                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                          I think so. I just noticed that someone was using it for their dinner tonight on the What's for Dinner thread. I'll have to keep an eye out for it. One of my local supermarkets has a very good Asian section; I'll check for it there.

                                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                                              I have a cheap bottle of Chinkiang black vinegar. It is the very same one I saw often in shops in mainland China. I can buy it here in Canada for $1.99 - 2.79 or so, depending on the store. It is like a very intense, cheap balsamic vinegar, but has a good balance of acid to sweetness. I use it to season soups at the table and for dipping northern Chinese dumplings.

                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                Yeah my bottle was cheap; under 3 dollars for a big 20 oz bottle. I've apparently used it a couple of times, since it's not full; I'll have to try it some more. It smells fine; somewhat complex. Maybe the ingredient list is just poorly translated on a product that was not really meant for the US market; I've certainly noticed lots of things in this particular Chinese grocery that have no English on them at all, which is probably not strictly legal.

                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                  I'm sure it's not legal, but these products seem to fly well under the radar. I have bought packs of dried fish, dried squid or dried shrimps that contain completely spurious nutrition information stickers (i.e. 0mg sodium!!!).

                                                  Edit: I pulled my bottle out of the cupboard. The price tag says $1.39.

                                                2. re: 1sweetpea

                                                  It's usually labeled Chinkiang vinegar no matter what the brand is. We use it a lot and I've never paid more than a couple of dollars for it in Chinese groceries - but I'm no expert. I don't know what the top-shelf stuff even is.

                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                            I know, letting those elves play me like a puppet. Go Nina!

                                          2. i have to say i was actually rooting for Carlos for the first time. Padma was right - undersalting at this point seems like a send-you-home event. I thought Carlos' dish seemed really different and creative, and showed that he has grown, despite what Nick said.

                                            It says a lot about Nina's dish that she left off a component she thought important, but she still made it to the top 2 of the episode.

                                            22 Replies
                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                              I believe that Bryan Voltaggio was often criticized during his season for under-seasoning. He still made it to the finale.

                                              1. re: chefhound

                                                I seem to recall him being told that if he had not underseasoned his food in the finale he would have been the winner.

                                              2. re: mariacarmen

                                                Ditto to everything Maria said. I was rooting for Carlos for the first time. Nick is on my last nerve. I thought Carlos had a brilliant idea. Too bad he couldn't perfect the dish. And I was actually happy with something that came out of Padma's mouth at judging table.

                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                  I'm with you on this, mc. I thought that Carlos's dish was very creative, and that Nick had the same old, same old, same old problem. Perhaps they felt that Carlos couldn't get out of the Mexican groove enough, even though his take was very creative. Or maybe Emeril's cold dish was enough to turn them off. Anyway, I was happy for Nina and Shirley -- they have both been so consistent this entire season.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    " Or maybe Emeril's cold dish was enough to turn them off."

                                                    Carlos shouldn't have taken the tamale out of the banana leaf, even though he was afraid he'd get dinged for having something on the plate that couldn't be eaten. That's why it got cold. Of course you don't eat the banana leaf - it's the serving plate. It would be like taking a creme brulee out of the ramekin, because you can't eat the ramekin.

                                                  2. re: mariacarmen

                                                    I also thought the comments about Carlos only doing Mexican were unfair. I thought what he did was very creative, and a nice interpretation of the assignment.

                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                      As well, Mexican is a very diverse cuisine. Not at all a one-note samba. I think the other chefs don't have enough knowledge of the complexity of Mexican cuisine. [Maybe they need to spend a week in the kitchen with Enrique Olvera!]

                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                        I agree. Carlos does Mexican but puts his spin on it combining influences from here and there. I actually like that he sticks with Mexican versus doing something completely different then fails. At the level these guys are at, it seems like they all specialize in a certain cuisine. Besides, when a chef does mexican one day then french the next, it's a bit too Cheesecake Factory. Didn't a contestant in one of the past finales (hawaiian??) go completely french and screwed it all up? There is a bit of damned if you do and damned if you don't thing that happens on this show too. I think there's fine line to walk on with being innovative and Carlos walked it well.

                                                        1. re: trolley

                                                          I don't recall where that particular finale took place but Carla got knocked out when she tried something that was not "her" food (home style comfort food) and the judges talked at length about it.

                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                            i remember it was sheldon. he turned things around and did french or something like that. they talked at great lengths about it as well.

                                                        2. re: ChefJune

                                                          The tamales Carlos made were not even Mexican, he made seafood mousse and steamed it in banana leaf. Neither bananas nor his preparation of seafood mousse are particularly Mexican. Bananas (cooking in banana leaf) are native to Asia and he said his mousse preparation was French.

                                                          I think he showed range in his last dish, and he should have kept his tamale wrapped. I also don't have a problem with a chef that cooks primarily one cuisine, as long as he/she cooks great food within the parameters of each challenge. All the great cuisines have a tremendous variety of techniques and flavors. I was incredibly annoyed the season Beverly was criticized for cooking "Asian", ignoring that Asia encompasses numerous countries, countless ingredients, techniques, styles, flavors, representing over 2 billion people, vs. Italian, French, etc.

                                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                                            Beverly did cook Asian, but only a small subset. She cooked Korean. People who said she cooked Asian simply couldn't distinguish the various cuisines that Asia encompasses.

                                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                              Beverly actually cooked with flavors and preparations from many different styles of Asian cuisines. Curry, lemongrass are not Korean. Brian cooks with more Korean flavors than she did.

                                                        3. re: DGresh

                                                          Shirley only does Asian, Nina only does Italian and Nicholas only does New American.

                                                          1. re: hal2010

                                                            I agree (I assume you're being facetious) Shirley won the LSU challenge with roast beef and mashed potatoes. Nick won with gnocchi. Nina has also cooked a lot of Carribean flavors. That being said, Carlos has cooked many dishes from his homeland. He also either won or placed high with those dishes, maybe that's the real complaint.

                                                        4. re: mariacarmen

                                                          When Carlos said he would do a tamale, my heart kind of sunk, because I figured he would be playing right into the "he only cooks Mexican!" complaint. But once he described it, I was very impressed and thought he was undertaking the challenge in a very personal and creative way.

                                                          I'd really like to try that seafood tamale.

                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                            I felt the same way. Jen Carroll was sent home for slightly undersalting her pasta. It seems like a basic error. I thought Carlos was creative and his fit the challenge the most. And he was right that had he served it in the banana leaf, they would have criticized plating something inedible.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              Both Carlos and Nick used Gulf fish in their dishes. I don't think one was more 'NOLA' than the other.

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                I disagree. The banana leaves aren't garnish. It's like serving food in the pan it was cooked in.

                                                                1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                  I agree. I have seen criticism of dishes with things like a big branch of rosemary that is decoration but not meant to be eaten, but I don't think banana leaves would be the same. I can see why Carlos would be hesitent however.

                                                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                    Yes. As I said above, it was like taking the creme brulee out of the ramekin because you can't eat the ramekin.

                                                                2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                  If all four dishes were lined up on a table and I had to pick one not knowing who made it? Carlos' dish, for sure.

                                                                3. Another clip on Bravo that I thought was pretty interesting was "Behind the Kitchen Door" that talks to one of the producers, showing how they film the show.

                                                                  1. West lake fish. Oh my!! That dish is incredible.

                                                                    And the food porn from Emeril's restaurant. We need more dammit!!

                                                                    As a side note, I like this Emeril much more than the over the top version of Emeril, the one who was atop the Food Network empire, the Emeril of Emeril LIve. This Emeril is a gracious, calm, intelligent, and shy guy who knows a lot.

                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                      I too an liking Emeril a lot this season. My theory is that he acting as an ambassador to his adopted home town which he clearly loves and he's home, he's not living out of a suitcase. Sleeping in your own bed every night can make for a much more personable chef the next day.

                                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                                        I think Top Chef is doing wonders for his career for a whole new generation who never saw the BAM! and Kick it up a notch! days. Almost makes you wonder what more Food Network Chefs are like when they get to shed the schtick and be themselves.

                                                                        1. re: Firegoat

                                                                          And reminding those of us who saw him before the "Bam!/Kick it up a notch" days, who he really is!

                                                                      2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                        FWIW, this is the real Emeril. The other was made up by producers on TFN.

                                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                          Isn't Emeril just a cool man now? He's calm, knowledgeable, and seems happy with his place in life.

                                                                          Reminds me of some past presidents. George Sr. and Bill Clinton come to mind. Both could be annoying as leaders, but now they come across as such kind, gentle and loving-of-our-country statesmen.

                                                                          You just wanna hug them all.

                                                                          1. re: KrumTx

                                                                            I read somewhere that Emeril's FN years pretty much killed his first marriage, to the point that he was not invited to his daughter's wedding. He sure is different now. At the time, I did not understand why FN kicked him to the curb. He had a show on some 'green' network. I think the only national TV he is doing these days is Top Chef.

                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                              He has "Emeril's Florida" on Cooking Channel, which seems to be currently in production. I think CC shows reruns of his past shows as well, at least the laid-back ones. That's a shame about his personal troubles, but it would seem E and the Food Network family still have a working relationship of sorts.

                                                                          2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                            Yes, the OG Emeril before the BAM!

                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                              I agree and was thinking the same thing during the show. Definitely don't miss the Bam!

                                                                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                Baby Emeril!


                                                                                Using powdered onion and garlic and black pepper no less. So adorable.

                                                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                  Nice! How much teaching was THAT! A "small" dice, making a blond roux, and you can store it? He mentions "smothered"! Come ON! Check out the grocery store spices! Was that early "product placement"? Live crab and crawfish, into the pot!

                                                                              2. Some thoughts and comments on some of the comments....

                                                                                A quick Google does show that the finale was filmed in October.

                                                                                I was surprised they let Carlos tell his family about the car. They would then have to be sworn to secrecy. In fact, i always assumed no one received any prizes until after the finale.

                                                                                I was rooting for Carlos over Nicholas who I've come to regard as a bit of a douche but i was a little confused by the seasoning critique of Nicholas' dish. The fish with the sauce (which is how it's supposed to be eaten?) was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The fish without the sauce was a bit under seasoned. Wouldn't it then lead one to reason that if a properly seasoned fish were eaten with the well seasoned sauce, the new combination would be an over seasoned dish? Maybe I'm over thinking it but that's why i thought Nicholas stayed and Carlos was gone.

                                                                                I'm glad Carlos won the car.

                                                                                I wouldn't mind seeing Carlos back just to annoy nick but i think in the preview the expression on Nick's face was designed to make us think Carlos so therefore it must be Louis.

                                                                                I think Nina was lucky she left the pasta off the plate.

                                                                                Shirley is kicking ass. I like her in spite of the uncle Emeril and finding herself schtick.

                                                                                Finally, I've given a lot of thought to Padma and Gail's respective cleavage's and while i think Gail's can hang with the best and has been featured often this season, Padma's is more often displayed as a "featured" item whereas Gail is more balanced in her appearance. I'll study this some more in the finale.

                                                                                21 Replies
                                                                                1. re: bobbert

                                                                                  << i was a little confused by the seasoning critique of Nicholas' dish. The fish with the sauce (which is how it's supposed to be eaten?) was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The fish without the sauce was a bit under seasoned. Wouldn't it then lead one to reason that if a properly seasoned fish were eaten with the well seasoned sauce, the new combination would be an over seasoned dish? >>

                                                                                  I thought the same thing about the seasoning of Nicholas' dish

                                                                                  1. re: thimes

                                                                                    I remember Nicholas telling the wait staff to be sure to pour the broth from the side of the dish, not over the top. Depending on how much broth was poured in, some of the fish (at least the top portions) wouldn't have had any broth on them. Unless you made it a point to mop each portion of fish throughly through the broth, you'd have bites of just plain fish. If the seasoning of the fish was that dependant on the broth, better to pour it over the top (though it probably wouldn't look as nice).

                                                                                  2. re: bobbert

                                                                                    "Shirley is kicking ass"

                                                                                    Go Shirley Go!!

                                                                                    "Finally, I've given a lot of thought to Padma and Gail's respective cleavage's. I'll study this some more in the finale."

                                                                                    Sounds like a plan I can get behind.

                                                                                    1. re: bobbert

                                                                                      They've said in the past, and I tend to agree, that a properly seasoned dish should be able to be consumed in components as well as in combination.

                                                                                      1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                        A musician who was a guest host said that. And there was plenty of eye rolling when she did.

                                                                                        1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                          If there is a sauce then I think some of the sauce shoukd be included with each bite. So in Nick's case, he had several types of fish, but each bite of fish should include some sauce.

                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                            I was just trying to give context to the thinking of the judges. They don't agree with you so that's why they differed with what you would have done at Judges Table.

                                                                                            There are a lot of reasons why I agree with them, but that's neither here nor there. It's important to the judges.

                                                                                            1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                              I can understand why a flaky finishing salt would have been beneficial ti nick's dish. But if I were eating it, I certainly would not use a fork to eat the fish without the sauce, that would be silly.

                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                I think we're extrapolating too much from one very brief mention from a guest chef who said that the fish was good when with the sauce versus every other diner at that table saying the opposite. What Tom said was that he tasted the sauce alone and that the sauce was well seasoned. Then he ate the fish and it needed salt. You're presuming that everyone ate the fish alone with no sauce when they complain of the lack of seasoning.

                                                                                                Until we get taste-o-vision, I'll take Grant Achatz's word for it that the dish as a whole would have improved had some finishing salt been used.

                                                                                                With the little data we have, I'm reading the comments as: sauce alone was well seasoned, fish alone was not, both together lost the impact they should have had be ause the combination was slightly underseasoned.

                                                                                                Tough to tell, though, with so few seconds of actual criticism.

                                                                                                1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                                  I did not presume anything. I just made a comment about how I would not eat the dish. I also said the dish could have bebefittd with some flakes of finishing salt.

                                                                                        2. re: bobbert

                                                                                          I'm starting to not like Shirley based on her repeated story line. I dislike Carlos already and even more so with his repeated story line.

                                                                                          Emeril and Shirley, get a room.

                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                            "Shirley is kicking ass. I like her in spite of the uncle Emeril and finding herself schtick."

                                                                                            Call me a softtie, but I found the "Uncle Emeril" sincere and endearning - and the hugs, too. I think his reaction at JT shows that it's mutual.

                                                                                            As for you research, you may need to capture still frames - and share.

                                                                                            1. re: WNYamateur

                                                                                              Shirley seems sincere. It's a cultural thing, I call older people who are respected or dear "uncle". For those it bothers, I feel something is lost in translation if you're not Chinese.

                                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                I flash back to her being so excited to see him that she shoved the beignet in her mouth so she wouldn't have to talk to him

                                                                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                  I don't have a problem with her usage of "uncle" but I hate her expressions (san ba 3 8).

                                                                                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                    For those of us unversed in Chinese, I had to go a-Googling. So she's calling others a bitch?


                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      I didn't hear Shirley using any Chinese expletives on the show. San ba does not mean b#tch, it's more like a fool or idiot or just someone you think meanly of. I'm thinking that maybe Worldwide Diner is calling her a san ba.

                                                                                                      I personally wouldn't consider her that. I think she's charming, not clownish.

                                                                                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                        I don't consider her that either. I wonder why WWDiner does.

                                                                                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                          She's a middle aged woman acting like a teenager with her expressions. That's 3 8 in my book. Many Chinese think that kind of behavior is cute, but to me it's like nails on a chalkboard.

                                                                                                          Her stories are contrived though. She made a catfish po boy because her mom likes to cook catfish. As it turns out, her mom can't cook worth a shit.

                                                                                                          1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                            Her giddy behavior grates on my nerves, too.

                                                                                              2. I don't know whether on-demand has the same commercials as the live show, but near the end there was an ad for Millionaire matchmaker, and she was fixing up Stefan (from Top Chef).

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                  LOL DGresh, I had to immediately google Stefan and Millionarie.... and I found this.....


                                                                                                  1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                    Do people actually watch these shows???

                                                                                                  2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                    DGresh, I posted about Stefan being on Millionaire Matchmaker on the "Top Chef - Where are they now?" thread a couple of days ago.


                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      And Thank God you did LW!

                                                                                                      I have cleared my social calendar so that I can devote myself to it tonight!

                                                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                        Woof, better you than me - so you're going to take one for the team and post a brief description? Millionaire Matchmaker might just be the very crassest show on a network that airs almost nothing else but crass shows (and also,incongruously, Top Chef).

                                                                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                          You must never have seen Shahs of Sunset, then .... Or the one about the very rich kids.... ;-)

                                                                                                          I will post a report!

                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                            My report : I fell asleep!!

                                                                                                            Hopefully I can catch it On Demand and fill y'all in...

                                                                                                            Sorry guys!

                                                                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                              Ack! I totally forgot as well.

                                                                                                              Edit: rerun at noon today CST

                                                                                                            2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                              "the one about the very rich kids.... ;-)"

                                                                                                              Ha! you mean all of their other shows? Good one.

                                                                                                              It's the whore element of the TV dating shows that makes them grosser to me - and MM barely even makes any pretense that money is not the crucial part of the hook-up. Just old-fashioned I guess.

                                                                                                    2. Just a silly pun I saw on a blog somewhere - maybe this is their new sponsor? ;-)

                                                                                                      "Top Chef New Orleans is sponsored by Apple's newest tablet, the iPadma."

                                                                                                      1. I think Nick is a cat and has 9 lives. They must see and taste something I'm not getting through the TV.

                                                                                                        Shirley is my favorite. How she has grown and been inspired is so touching, heartfelt and lovely.

                                                                                                        Nina is a steady work horse with amazing skill and talent as well. I'm thinking anyone that comes back is going to have a tough time between these girls.

                                                                                                        I admire Louis for making such an amazing sprint in LCK but it's hard to see how any of the guys would be able to beat the momentum Nina and Shirley have built up. Maybe Louis could because of the crazy, stressful events of LCK.

                                                                                                        Go Shirley!

                                                                                                        1. Didn't Nicholas say he was going simple on his EC dish? Several different types of fish, cooked in different ways, preciously plated on a plate with broth poured table side? I guess we all have different opinions of what constitutes "simple." But I think that his technique is what carried him past Carlos.

                                                                                                          But I agree with many others here: Nick and the LCK winner are going to have a tough time beating Nina and Shirley--those women have been kicking butt consistently all season.

                                                                                                          And, as always, thanks for the great write up LW!

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                            He did say that, which is why I noted:

                                                                                                            NICHOLAS - Charred Cobia, Roasted Bass & Tuna Confit with Crispy Rice & Shrimp Consommé. (Personal note - HOW is that "simple", as he told Tom and Emeril he was going to do?)

                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                              Yes, I was going to ETA. You know my problem--I read your recap and then watch the episode, so I had forgotten you had noted that. I should have known you would not have missed an opportunity to tweak Nicholas a bit ;)

                                                                                                          2. Am I the only one who thinks the LCK winner has about a shot in hell of winning?

                                                                                                            I know TC is judged dish-by-dish, blah blah, but I don't think there's any way they let a LCK winner win the whole thing the first two years straight. It would diminish the actual show.

                                                                                                            I think it'll be tight between Shirley and Nina. Didn't a preview last week show the judges during the final judging table saying 'closest race ever' or something like that?

                                                                                                            As for Nick, I think his season-long lack of seasoning knocks him out. They won't want someone who has been dinged so many times - and also been in the bottom so many times.

                                                                                                            All these thoughts point to conspiracy, but I don't put it past all those little elves.

                                                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                              Uh...Kristen won last season. She came out of Last Chance Kitchen.

                                                                                                              1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                                KrumTx is saying "they" (producers, judges, whoever) wouldn't allow someone from LCK to win two years in a row. That conspiracy theory again that the producers have a say in who wins.

                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                  Yes, what she said.

                                                                                                                  Sorry for the confusion. I'm easily confused.

                                                                                                                  1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                    No, i was the confused one. I think I'm more easily confused. And have to work on my reading skills.

                                                                                                                2. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                  How many seasons of Top Chef have there been? Take that number and subtract one (for the first season) and that is how many "this is the closest ever" there have been. And the formula will continue.

                                                                                                                  Actually, one finale where the judges say, "All of the dishes were great, but this year the winner was clear" would be refreshing.

                                                                                                                    1. re: nosh

                                                                                                                      I think it's Reality Show Law that requires that to be said. ;-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: nosh

                                                                                                                        I think it was quite clear that Kevin won TC 7 over Ed. Ed did no research on food in Singapore.

                                                                                                                      2. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                        It wouldn't be the "first two years", the first LCK was in Season 9 (Texas) when Beverly came back (and didn't win TC). This is the 3rd LCK, and I see absolutely no reason to believe a conspiracy theory that they wouldn't let Louis win. In fact, I suspect that there are many people who would be rooting for Louis.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                                                                          You're right. I'd forgotten that last year wasn't the first LCK. I think I've mentally blocked the Texas season.

                                                                                                                        2. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                          Did you watch TC last season? Kristen won LCK and then took the title.

                                                                                                                          1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                                                            Yes, I watched.

                                                                                                                            I don't think someone from LCK will win two years in a row. Just my personal feelings about it. I'd edit my original comment if I still could. It was apparently poorly written. Gah!

                                                                                                                        3. Excellent recap by LW.

                                                                                                                          I thought this was a good episode: chefs cooked; judges judged; and the outcome was not controversial.

                                                                                                                          I appreciated that the director/editors focused on kitchen activity, and that Includes Emiril in his shop prior to the final competition. There didn't seem to be any trumped-up drama. And for that I am grateful.

                                                                                                                          Surf's up!

                                                                                                                          41 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                            This season has certainly been a big change from TC Texas. Maybe they saw the light. Or more likely, New Orleans didn't ask for *silly* concessions to NOLA culture. Maybe I'm biased against Texas :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                              TC Texas was the nadir of the franchise. Even an 8th grade intern could guide them out of that.

                                                                                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                No. Respectfully, that would be Season 2. Nothing was harder to watch than that. And besides, despite so much that was terrible about TC Texas, at least we got Paul as the winner. A watchable guy and an amazing chef. Season 2 got us a finale of Marcel and Ilan, with Mikey the Manimal as a sous chef. And the scary thought is that if not for some misplaced fish during the prep day, Marcel could very likely have won that season.

                                                                                                                                Season 1 was also just kind of not that good.

                                                                                                                                1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                                                                  Season 2 was much better viewing, with more imaginative challenges.

                                                                                                                                  I'd binge watch the whole season again in a heartbeat. I have no interest in watching Texas.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                    To each there own. I'll never watch anything with any chef from Season 2 again. I think that season almost killed the franchise.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                        That was a pretty bad, too. I was not into the Fabio/Stefan European bromance, either. Not a highlight.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                                                                          Strangely, an inordinate number of Season 2's cast members have appeared on other shows.

                                                                                                                                          And I don't see how it "almost killed the franchise" as Season 3 was pretty decent and Season 4 was arguably their best -- or at least one of the best. Plus it's lived for 9 more seasons. If anything was going to kill it Texas would have.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                            Again, to each his own. I look at each season based on:
                                                                                                                                            1. How good, interesting, and creative does the food look.
                                                                                                                                            2. How interesting are the chef's and what perspectives are they bringing to their cooking.
                                                                                                                                            3. How contrived are the challenges on a scale of: "this is really not how a kitchen works" to "this is a circus act."

                                                                                                                                            For me, season 2 failed so incredibly hard on criteria 1 and 2. They also didn't do all that hot with the criteria 3. Remember, there were a few times when no dish was good enough to be declared a winner for a challenge. Yikes. That's bad. (And I've only seen Ilan and Marcel in any non-Top Chef TV. Doesn't seem inordinate).

                                                                                                                                            Top Chef Texas had people that I really liked. Nyesha, Ed Lee, and, one of the most likable TC Champions, Paul Qui. Man, even Grayson was a crack up and I thank her for introducing "jam out with your clam out" to me. The challenges were really, really bad. So. Bad. Bicycles. Ingredients frozen in ice. So stupid. The Beverly bullying was tough to watch, too. But, I could watch Paul cook all day. Ed, too. And this season introduced LCK, which I think is pretty cool.

                                                                                                                                            In terms of almost killing the franchise, that's hyperbole, but I don't follow your logic. TC survived that season. Because it did, it could recover and grow again (though each year, rating are steadily declining). A low point can occur at anytime in a lifespan. And as you say, a pretty decent season 3 was a sorely needed course correction.

                                                                                                                                            I'll say this: I'm liking this season a lot because of what Shirley, Nina, and Louis are cooking, because the challenges haven't been outrageous, and because I like most of the personalities. None of these would be my favorite champion, but it's been an enjoyable season to watch.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                                                                              To each his/her own, for sure. I definitely loved Paul Q!

                                                                                                                                              I've seen Frank, Cliff, Mikey, Marcel and Marisa on other non-TC shows. Ilan has his own show but Ive never seen it.

                                                                                                                                              And Marcel, Elia and Josie were on other TC or TC-related related shows.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                                                                              Wasn't terribly impressed, though he was clearly the best chef that season. The fact that he wasn't even in the finale despite cooking well is another reason Season 2 was the worst IMO.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                                                                                          I have to agree that Season 2 was the worst. The challenges in Season 9 were the worst, and perhaps some of the personalities too (though some of the best, or at least Grayson). But the chefs in Season 9 were quite excellent. Paul was a deserving winner, and some of the other chefs blew doors off most of Season 2's chefs.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                        Hell, I'm biased against Texas and I live here.

                                                                                                                                        What an awful, awful season.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                                          The season was so bad I stopped watching it. I live in Texas and am not biased against it, but what I hate are the media perpetuated stereotypes. Whenever a cooking show or whatever comes here they have to buy boots and a hat. Nobody where I live wears either, except Mexican immigrants and at rodeo time. Me, I'm biased against New York, except upstate.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                            where do you live, JC? I visited a friend who lives in Katy (near Houston) and everyone wore boots everywhere I went. cowboy boots. and I saw quite a lot of hats. cowboy hats. it reinforced my prejudices. Austin dispelled them. A bit.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                              Houston, a suburb of Katy. I work at a big retail joint and see tons of people and very rarely boots or hats. I saw a tall fellow wearing a black hat last night but he appeared to speaking Russian, which I hear a lot down here. Personally, I avoid Katy like the plague, sprawling strip centers on the prairie. Were you here during the rodeo by chance?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                oh god no. I would avoid Katy like the plague as well if a good friend of mine didn't live there (CA transplant). actually, I've avoided it like the plague for many years now, since she makes a yearly trip to Napa and I can see her then.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                  Maria, let's see, Napa/Katy, Katy/Napa, it's Katy by a nose. After further review, it's Napa by a hair. Vineyards and scenery trump flatness and strip centers, just barely though. Katy is in Texas, and many style points are given.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: mariacarmen


                                                                                                                                                Inaccurate with regards to most Texans. Katy is full of hipster Cowboys/pretend rednecks... which is something you see an abundance of in Houston and at the Rodeo in particular. Everyone likes to bust out their plaid shirts and boots to pretend they grew up on a farm. Day to day activities throughout the state, it just isn't that normal, or you might be misclassifying what you consider to be Cowboy boots (vs work boots).

                                                                                                                                                1. re: benjihana

                                                                                                                                                  oh, I know cowboy boots. I live in the Mission district in San Francisco and there is a cowboy boot store practically across the street from me as there is a very large Mexican population in my area.

                                                                                                                                                  I noticed them in the malls and supermarkets when I was in Katy. i'm talking a long time ago tho.... 8 or more years?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: benjihana

                                                                                                                                                    I'm in Minnesota and my father wore cowboy boots to work (office with suit and tie every day for about 20 years until his doctor told him he should switch to comfortable shoes to help reduce backpain. During that time he went to a Governor's ball where the only two men wearing cowboy boots with a tux were my father and the governor.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: James Cristinian


                                                                                                                                                  What's the bias against NY? Native Texan here, spent about 6-7 years in Philly/NYC. Both places have their appeal - NYC is really the ultimate point for dining, though.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: benjihana

                                                                                                                                                    Born in NYC, raised in Jersey, schooled up in Massachusetts. I've done business with a lot of men and women from Texas. I like them: smart; polite; soft spoken. They love football. I spent a lot of time in Houston and Dallas.

                                                                                                                                                    I'm also pretty partial to NYC: lunch plans at Minetta Tavern with an old buddy coming up; tickets for the New York Philharmonic's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (meat pies!) in March. Pre-theater dinner at Boulud Sud.

                                                                                                                                                    I was at a French bar/eatery in Singapore (L'Angelus on Club Street. They cater to expats) awhile back. They had a hand-printed sign hanging on the front window: No Birkenstocks! Now that's a prejudice I can get behind.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: benjihana

                                                                                                                                                      NYC is most certainly the ultimate point for dining. Wish I got up there more often. Texas is so far down the list.

                                                                                                                                                      On the other hand, a very nice dinner in NYC is close to a mortgage payment for me. Can't beat the cost of living down here.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: benjihana

                                                                                                                                                        benijhana, actually the bias against NY was a tongue in cheek reply to a New Yorker that had a bias against Texas with no reason given. The anti-Texas thing I've read on other topics with no specifics mentioned. It's a bit tiring. I've been to NYC once and loved it. I'd love to have a penthouse there. I've been upstate many times and really enjoy it, although it is a solar system or two away from NYC and Texas, in a good way.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                          Upstate New York is a hidden gem. Actually wonderful that way, because some of the best attractions are never crowded.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                            If that was me you're referring to (probably) I live in the Hudson Valley. Specifics about Texas? Oh just your politicians I guess. But I'm getting off topic, which is why I didn't mention it before :)

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                          There's definitely a stereotype. I think most people in the country assume all us Texans are packing, too.

                                                                                                                                                          I'm about 30 miles north of Dallas and very rarely see cowboy boots or hats. Went to college in Lubbock and rarely saw them there either. And no one I know, including me, eats chili more than once every blue moon. TexMex is a different story, though.

                                                                                                                                                          I'll admit that I stereotype other places, though. Not intentionally. But Philly = cheesesteak, Wisconsin - people with dopey cheese hats on their heads, Seattle = coffee, Boston = I didn't understand a word you said, Miami = are you seriously wearing that? It's all in good fun. (I hope.)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KrumTx

                                                                                                                                                            I only know one place in Houston that serves chili, although there must be others. I make a darn' tootin' good chili about once a year. YEE HAAA!!! I'm fixin to saddle up Old Nellie, put on my boots and spurs, grab my trusty Winchester 30/30, and navigate the tumbleweeds to the local HEB.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                              Ok, I have to ask, as a Texan, do you really own a Winchester .30-.30? I'm no Texan, but I bought a Winchester Model 94 .30-.30 carbine when I was 14 (dad bought it, but it was my $80) I have not hunted with it for years, nut I did shoot a snowshoe hair with it when I was 17. That hare was in the freezer for a couple of years because my mom didn't really want to cook it and I had no idea how to cook it myself.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                No, but I always wanted one, and an M1 Garrand the Army used in WWII. Let's get back on topic, my wifeacita, Hispanic from the Rio Grande Valley was pissed that Carlos didn't advance. She was equally upset when Susie Jimenez didn't make it in Next Food Network Star. I want someone of Hispanic heritage to break through for my lovely wifeacita and me, now being an honorary Mexican by her nephew at our wedding six years ago, as in "You're one of us now!", insert Mexican accent. John E. you could of made chili out of the hare. My Granny used to chicken fry squirrels we shot. Personal gun ownership. two shotguns for home defense. I haven't hunted in 20 years or so as I can't bring myself to kill an animal anymore. Fish are a different story.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                  At 17 it would not occur to me to make chili out of that hare. Back then I tbink I was only grilling and cooking breakfast stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                  I really like Louis in LCK, so I'm still partial to him. However I would not have been upset if Nick had been eliminated instead of Carlos.

                                                                                                                                                                  Somewhere on these TC threads I wrote a post where I said I would like to have Carlos' recipes before any others. The only recipe of Nick's that I can think of that I would make is the gnocchi.

                                                                                                                                                                  One recipe of Carlos' that I intend to cook is his Cochinita Pibil. I 'll go to a Mexican market and buy banana leaves.

                                                                                                                                                                  (My dad has two Garands and two M1 carbines.)

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                HEB is where i saw the cowboy-booted-and-hatted folk!

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                    It's a grocery chain in Texas and expanded into Northern Mexico. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-E-B

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                    I was at the Katy suburb of Houston HEB Bunker Hill this evening and made a conscious effort to look for boots and hats and saw none, nor did I see any at my mega retail place next door. Hundreds of people seen in boots or hats, zero. People in shorts in freezing temperatures, two. 1.97 chuck shoulder roast scored, two. By the way, how many Top Chef episodes left, one or two?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                      did you make a special trip - be honest!

                                                                                                                                                                      well, it was a long time ago. Maybe Katy's grown up (or got a sense of fashion).

                                                                                                                                                                      3, i believe? next one brings in the reigning LCK chef, double elimination leaves two chefs... maybe two, then....

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                        I like you. I'm going to break a precedent and follow somebody that has lots of followers, if that makes sense.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                        Katy is about 20 miles away, depending on the definition of Katy. The HEB is solidly in the Houston city limits. No special trip needed, normal after work stop, mere hundreds of yards away.

                                                                                                                                                        3. Here is a question I have had since the first episode of this season. In most seasons of Top Chef, the opening credits show video of all of the contestants in their chef coats. 

                                                                                                                                                          I noticed that has changed to still photographs, although only 12 of the contestants are shown. Not a big deal if Ramon and Aaron are not seen because they were two of the first three to be eliminated. Shirley is in the finale and Carlos got to Hawaii for the last LCK and might be in the finale, and yet they are not seen in the opening credits. 

                                                                                                                                                          Has anyone else noticed that only 12 of 19 contestants are seen in the opening credits? 

                                                                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                            I noticed there were only a few still shots of 3-4 chefs each. I think it's an improvement over previous years when they each had a shot doing a silly pose and by the 15th show you'd forgotten who half the eliminated chefs were.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                                                                              I liked the old way because the video had the name of each contestant to remind you who was whom, which is helpful to me until they get down to at least 10 chefs.

                                                                                                                                                              The current season has four photos of three chefs in each photo for a fraction of a second. I had to pause the video on each photo to tell exactly who was in each photo.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                I noticed that too and it annoyed be because I liked the names.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                  I like the old style too, but now they have so many chefs it's impractical. I think they need fewer chefs, I have no clue who was in at the beginning and eliminated. At least with the names I can more or less remember everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                    I did like seeing the names. I'd also like them not to eliminate in the first episode. Especially without a quick fire.... Seriously... how many weeks did they do Padma's Picks to get the two Louisiana chefs and then give them first round immunity? One round to see what everyone can do would be nice. And that's what I'd make the first round challenge. Make in your opinion, your best dish.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Solid episode, I think. The women aren't just cooking better (and have been all season long), but they really showed how much they absorbed from their experience in NOLA.

                                                                                                                                                            I still don't get Nick. I haven't dug into any posted recipes on the Bravo site, but I have the hardest time imagining how his dishes taste in total, except I know I'll need to add salt.

                                                                                                                                                            Tough break for Carlos. That tamal looked on point.

                                                                                                                                                            And it looks like the "s/he only cooks Asian" mantra of seasons past has been swapped for "he only cooks Mexican." I'm not exactly sure that means what Nick and others think that means. I hear,"he only cooks in the rich and varied tradition of a country that brought the world tomatoes, chillies, chocolate, vanilla, etc.,. A cuisine that has incorporated influences from meso-American cultures, Spanish cuisine, French cuisine, along with small, but significant, contributions from places like China and Lebanon.

                                                                                                                                                            Unlike Nick, who seems to cook like nearly every other CIA grad who hasn't found a particular voice yet.

                                                                                                                                                            That tamal might have been rooted in Mexican cookery, but Carlos took it to a really new place.

                                                                                                                                                            I'm certainly bummed that it's an either/or with Louis and Carlos. I loved the idea of the manchamanteles mole for a challenge in Hawaii. And, this time, it's a recipe that can actually be (barely) properly done in an hour. Louis never got a chance to get his legs in the competition proper, but based on his LCK run, I love the kind of food he's been cooking. Shame to see one of them sent home. I'd rather see both of them instead of just one of them and Nick.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Agree about the surprise of Nick squeaking in yet again. How does he not learn to tone it down after his simple bite on the fork was so well received?

                                                                                                                                                              People were saying they were so annoyed with Nick but he seemed a little looser this episode and could joke about his uptightness. It didn't seem to affect Nina and Shirley *too* much. Which brings me to John E's comment regarding Nina telling Nick he'll be in Hawaii while Carlos sitting right there. That's not very nice. And obviously impossible to predict with what the judges said. I'd bite my tongue if it were just 4 of us sitting there and wait for the final word.

                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Joanie

                                                                                                                                                                I really like Nina, but I thought her comment to Nick was terrible.
                                                                                                                                                                Abosolutely no regard for Carlos.
                                                                                                                                                                I was very upset with that!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                                                  Well, I agree but it could have been in the editing too.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                                                                                                    now I'm worried they left that in (so they can play it again) when carlos comes back into the competition.....

                                                                                                                                                              2. This week Nick came forward and said his Dad was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's. It is a lousy thing to have and I am in no way trying to make light of his father illness. But every week Nick seems to be being portrayed as having a different sob story:
                                                                                                                                                                Had to leave family behind.
                                                                                                                                                                Only one fired.
                                                                                                                                                                Only one not to win a big prize.
                                                                                                                                                                Struggling with a new restaurant…Dog ran away.

                                                                                                                                                                I know everyone has their story but they seem to be playing up his struggles.

                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                                  At least it's a different story line each episode as opposed to Shirley's & Carlos's story lines. Speaking of which, we've hardly gotten to know Nina.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JAB

                                                                                                                                                                    I give Nina props for being drama free - after her gossip girls all got booted.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah she got all the suck a dick comments and big attitude early on. Then Shirley got the crazy running around the kitchen screaming about who moved her pot (beets?)
                                                                                                                                                                      I just think they are scraping the barrel for drama this season. Which is nice. Means they have professionals.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                                    I bet he's down to seeds and stems again, too. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                  3. I am amazed by a lot of the hatred for Nick. On some other sites even the recappers just seem to hate Nick, calling him a douche, ass, etc....

                                                                                                                                                                    I keep thinking ... this was the most bland season villain-wise ever. If Nick was on the Texas season he would have been the damn hero compared to some of those vipers.

                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                    1. Completely agree regarding the professionals comment in these comments - which is the primary reason I can't stand Carlos and barely tolerate Nick. Nick has a chip on his shoulder and it comes through his treatment of others, but he does maintain a sense of decorum in the kitchen. Nina and Shirley are both very creative and very talented from a technique perspective... they seem to "understand" it all. Carlos took a step forward by modifying a traditional Mexican dish this episode, but I'm not thrilled by his lack of technique, his inability to understand the different elements of a well prepared dish, and his reluctance to stray from Mexican cuisine. His most creative moment of the series has been a modification of one of the most simple parts of Mexican cuisine - that's not Top Chef worthy.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Here's a fun interview with Shirley about this episode. I love their nickname for nick.


                                                                                                                                                                        She also explains what she meant when she commented about Carlos always cooking Mexican.

                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                                                                                                          Good interview. I love the video of the mock judges table. See, Nick does have a sense of humor!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not going to be able to look at nick now without calling him Moon Pie in my head