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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)
                      http://www.nola.com/tv/index.ssf/2014...

                      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.
                      http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/bl...

                      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.

                                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              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"

                                        http://www.amazon.com/Koon-Chun-Black...

                                          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.

                                              http://www.amazon.com/Unknown-Koon-Ch...

                                              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.