‘Top Chef’ New Orleans Recap: Episode 11 ‘Giving It The College Try’


After ten weeks of the cheftestants getting along on “Top Chef” the previews for this episode finally promised some emotion. The show needs some competitive edge because none of the chefs this season create food that connects with the viewers. Everyone of their dishes feels the same from week to week. There isn’t a cheftestant like Richard Blais bringing to mind a “Top Chef” Willy Wonka as he dunks fruit into liquid nitrogen. The good news is that there was a bit of emotion shown between chefs this week, but like all things this season it fizzled quickly into nothing.

Last week on “Top Chef” Travis was sent home for making raw biscuits. The rest of the chefs made quality dishes, and Travis made inedible soul food for a judging table full of New Orleans legends. Shocking that he was sent home. This week Nina is getting over losing her best friend in the house, but she’s focused on winning the entire thing. Nina is still my pick to take down this season.

The Quickfire Challenge welcomed Questlove to the kitchen as a guest judge. A drum line brought in the ingredient for the challenge. The chefs have to use drumsticks in their dishes. Get it? Qwestlove is a drummer. “Top Chef” brought in a drum line. They’ll cook drumsticks. It’s hilarious. Sadly that counts as “production” values this season. I give them credit for at least paying for the drum line, but all it was missing was Padma winking and some Benny Hill music to make it perfect.

This was an important Quickfire because the winner would receive immunity in the Elimination Challenge. Qwestlove liked Brian’s chicken soup take on the challenge, but awarded mousey Carrie the victory for her drumstick. Qwestlove then drummed the group outside to a drum of pickles he brought in from Brooklyn. That didn’t happen of course, but with “Top Chef” this season it sounded believable.

The Elimination Challenge involved the Chefs traveling to Louisiana State University to feed 500 Freshmen on campus. The winner of the challenge would take home their very own Toyota Rav-4. That’s a spicy product placement meatball right there. They could only use the equipment and ingredients that were on hand at LSU. The Chefs packed a bag, and headed out for the road trip to Baton Rouge.

Arriving at the LSU student center the Chefs find a bunch of different kitchen setups. Some of the more interesting setups are the cold station, a pizza oven, and a flat top grill. Shirley is making a version of fried rice, and claims one of the flat top grills. Carrie has immunity from the Quickfire, and she decides to take on the cold station. The chefs are combing through the pantry for ingredients when Carlos finds fish. This is the perfect fish for him to use, but he needs the flat top grill claimed by Shirley.

Carlos announces that he’s making fish, and can only use the flat top. This leaves Shirley in an awkward situation. She claimed her spot fair and square. Instead of making a scene or showing emotion Shirley takes the WASP way out. She tells Carlos that him taking the grill is fine, while stuffing her true feelings deep insider her. Shirley then shifts over to the pizza oven, one of the toughest stations available. Could that end up sending Shirley home?

The LSU Freshmen arrive, and they are hungry. One of the biggest disappointments is Carrie’s dish. She made broccoli with yogurt sauce. Her dish is similar to items available among the healthy options at New Jersey Turnpike rest stops. No one wants her dish, especially hormone laden Freshmen. Everything is going fine with service until Tom arrives at Carlos’ station. Carlos explains the delay in food is due to Nick stealing ovens from him. Low blow there Carlos. Nina hears Carlos give Tom this excuse so there is no way he can deny making the statement. The show might finally have a villain.

Back in the stew room Nick confronts Carlos about his oven stealing comment. Here come the fireworks. Get your popcorn folks because we finally have a fight on “Top Chef”. Carlos seems shocked by Nick’s comments, but he can’t deny what he said with Nina hearing him. It’s the shortest fight in “Top Chef” history. Carlos apologizes for what he says and reassures the rest of the group that he isn’t a bad guy. Everyone this season is so afraid to make waves. No juice from these guys.

In the end New Orleans local Justin went home for his bland shrimp dish. What college freshmen don’t love under seasoned poached shrimp? He deserved to go home for that dish. The winner of the Challenge and the Rav-4 was a chef owed a strong dose of Karma. Even though she had to use the pizza oven, Shirley was able to still produce the best dish on the menu, and she took home a brand new car. She deserved it for being so selfless, but next time I’d prefer if she ripped someone’s head off.

Guest judge Chef John Besh returns next week on “Top Chef”.

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Tags: Bravo New Orleans Recap Top Chef