'Top Chef: New Orleans' Recap - The Finale

The show crowns a winner and says goodbye to its New Orleans season.

Photos Courtesy of Bravo

So Nick won and I knew it would happen because deep down inside I wanted Nina to win.

Just like deep down, I wanted the Broncos to win the Super Bowl meaning that Seattle was sure to clobber them. Ugh.

For the very last challenge of "Top Chef: New Orleans," which is really now "Top Chef: Hawaii," the two remaining cheftestants cook their dream menu for esteemed chefs, judges and restaurateurs. There is no “Quickfire” this week so they delve right into the cooking but not before picking their sous chefs.

Nick gets to pick first because he won the last challenge. He picks our old pal Sexy Jason first, the guy who was kicked off in episode two and happens to be one of Nick's buddies from Philly. This will prove to be the best decision he has ever made in his life as Jason happens to know how to make the best noodle dish of all time apparently. Nick also picks Louis and Brian.

Nina then chooses Shirley, Travis and Stephanie, which sounds like a solid group and Janine, Carlos, and Sara are made to feel like the losers in gym class that no one wants on their team. Also, maybe several chefs either were not invited to Hawaii or had had enough of “Top Chef” and didn't feel like coming because neither of the New Orleans chefs (Justin and Michael) or even Carrie (who was knifed pretty late in the game) showed up to be a potential sous.

After a day of prepping, the judges take Nina and Nick out to dinner and surprise them with members of their family. Nick is visibly verklempt to see his wife and mother, and Nina is excited to see her husband and brother. They all seem like lovely people. Nick laments that he met his wife seven years ago and was smitten on their first date but was hesitant to go on a second date because he knew he'd marry her and was happy with his single life. HOW ROMANTIC.

The next day they get down to business. Here are the menus:

Nina's

Tuna and Escolar Tartar with Tomato Water and Jalapeno

Swordfish with Squash Puree, Braised Kale and Smoked Onion Jus

Breadfruit with Whipped Foie Gras Butter

Chocolate Zeppole with Macademia Nuts and Passion Fruit Anglaise

She also had two surprise courses but they ended up counting against her because the judges thought she should have just focused on making her required four courses perfect. Also, dessert on "Top Chef" has been the kiss of death for many a cheftestant throughout the seasons, so they should all know that if your dessert isn't the absolute BOMB of a last course, then they should absolutely do something else.

 

Nick's

Hamachi and Tuna with Green Apple Wasabi, Celery, and Maui-Meyer Lemon

Sweet Shrimp Bisque, Scallop, and Daikon Noodles with Thai Basil

Kombu Cured Duck Breast with Kabocha Squash, Hijiki, and Ginger

Caramalized White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Almond Cocoa Crumble and Tropical Fruit

 

Tom says that Nick's daikon noodle dish is the best of the whole season and it happens to be something that Sexy Jason is famous for back in Philly. Maybe he isn't just a pretty face after all, kids.

Everything goes pretty smoothly for service except for a few mishaps about what side of the customer to serve plates of fish on and Nick totally losing his shit in the kitchen yelling at the servers. The problem isn't that he was screaming at them because in reality this is what happens in restaurants on any given busy Friday or Saturday night: the "front of house" and "back of house" do battle. The problem is that the diners heard it. Diners are never to hear such things. It was tacky.

After much deliberation and claiming that this was the “CLOSEST! FINALE! EVER!” they finally make their choice. Nick.

And I spend the rest of the evening shaking my head. Whenever someone sends me a text message for the rest of the evening, my response is: "smh.”

Nina, why did you make that dessert? You would have won.

But hey, congrats to Nick. The Universe gave him the perfect amount of dumb luck on the days that he was off and inspired greatness on the days when he needed to get shit done.

What I could have done without:

- Gratuitous shot of Padma emerging from ocean in a bikini. Nope. Didn't need to see that.

- The airing of grievances or sad stories. That stuff makes me uncomfortable when all I really want to watch is stone cold competition. This is probably because I'm way too cynical and have a heart made of ice, but when people start getting super-sentimental, I have to flip channels for a second.

- Tom scoffing at pretty much everyone's opinion. Hugh thinks that Nick's service should have been taken into account? Tom: "Pshhhhh.” Emeril thinks Nick's duck was undercooked? Tom: "Yeah, whatever Emeril.” If Tom is going to be the one that picks in the end, why even employ the other judges?

And the thing is, you could say that gratuitous bikini shots, sad stories, and mean judges pretty much sums up what reality television is as a whole, and you'd be right. But "Top Chef” to me has always been a step above that. And now that things have gotten so formulaic this far into the series, I think it's starting to get phoned in and might be reaching the end of the road, for me anyways. I don't get the feeling that the main players, Tom and Padma, really want to be there anymore.

Shark, you've been jumped.

Having said that, "Top Chef" treated New Orleans superbly. Save for a few minor clichés, I thought the show represented the cuisine of our city quite well and I don't think I ever saw one shot of Bourbon Street. throughout the whole season. Well done, "Top Chef.” Well done.

I have enjoyed writing these recaps. Over and out.

 

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