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'Top Chef: New Orleans' Recap - Episode 14

The cheftestants try to impress the students at Café Reconcile.

Roy Choi, Padma Lakshmi and Jon Favreau

Photos courtesy of Bravo

One thing I learned about this episode is that America sure doesn't like Nick. Brian clearly made the worst dish, but more than 70 percent of the people who voted in the Bravo poll said that Nick should go home. Ouch.

So here we are, only five chefs left at the beginning of the episode and for the Quickfire Challenge, it's all about making poor boys (aka po’ boys, as they say on the show) with Roy Choi, the trailblazer for America's food truck movement. He and Padma give the cheftestants French bread and tell them to represent themselves via poor boy in 20 minutes, which isn't exactly a lot of time.

Brian goes with his Korean roots, Nick goes with his New England upbringing, Nina represents St. Lucia, Shirley does Chinese with catfish, and Carlos tackles Mexican food with his Al Pastor poor boy. Roy Choi actually says to Carlos that he knows all about Al Pastor from being in Los Angeles and Carlos is all like, “Oh yeah? I learned it from being Mexican.”

When asked about his favorites, Roy Choi pretty much says everyone sucked big time and that he is really disappointed. Nick's shrimp was too salty, Brian's flavors were not bold enough, Nina's ingredients were lost, Shirley's vision was too pedestrian and he definitely preferred the L.A. Al Pastor and not Carlos'. Shirley ends up with the win for sucking the least.

Afterwards, the "Top Chef" gang introduces Jon Favreau, actor and director, who is coming out with a movie about a burned-out chef who discovers inspiration about life, love, and the whole karmic enchilada by ditching restaurants and taking a food truck cross country. And I will say that I loved Jon Favreau's movies Swingers, Elf and Iron Man, so I will totally go see this movie. Both challenges this week seem to be inspired by Jon Favreau's film, which happens to be "food trucks" and "inspiration" and also happens to be coming soon to a theater near you!

Later, the chefs are brought out to a Drago's food truck that is parked off of Decatur Street in the French Quarter. This is the fire engine truck that we all see at the festivals, usually with the longest line, and for good reason, I might add. They serve up chargrilled oysters for the chefs and introduce the elimination challenge, which is to cook something that represents that pivotal moment in a chef's life when they come into their own.

It's basically a challenge that tells the chefs to please cook your very best food and to show us who you are as a chef. The chefs will also be cooking at Café Reconcile, which is a place with a kitchen and dining area in Central City where at-risk young people can learn the skills to be successful in the hospitality industry here in New Orleans. 

While preparing for service, Nick has a temper tantrum about Carlos moving his pots off the stove, or maybe using one of the pots? I don't know, and it doesn't look like Carlos knows either because he just kind of stands there while Nick yells at him. And I don't know many other Michelin star chefs who would be nice enough to just be like, "Okay, whatever dude. Those are your pots, uh-huh."

For their inspirational dinner, three chefs do an amazing job and the other two crash and burn. Shirley wows everyone with her Red Snapper and Tofu with Crustacean broth, Carlos impresses with his pork belly dish and Nina serves up a perfect plate of pasta.

Brian and Nick, on the other hand, don't do so well. Brian makes one of the most serious mistakes ever by serving boneless/skinless chicken breast, which is a favorite cut of meat of for dieters and novices everywhere, but not respectable professional chefs. I actually can't believe he was that stupid to serve up chicken breasts to Tom Colicchio. Has he ever met Tom Colicchio? Anyways, the poor guy seems so confident that his dish is amazing while Emeril discovers a raw potato in his "twice-cooked" potatoes. Tom jokes that maybe he should have cooked them three times. If only he would have served chicken thighs instead, he'd probably be in the top four.

Nick then serves up seared tuna with many preparations of carrots with a dusting of fennel pollen and I don't even know what to make of that, and neither did the Café Reconcile students. There's a great shot of several of them standing around a plate of it looking very confused. A girl says something like, "Well, it ain't nasty.” By far the funniest moment of the episode.

Nick isn't exactly thrilled with his dish because he burned the quinoa that was supposed to go with it to add some texture. He seems to work best when he allows himself to chill out and focus, but the past few weeks he's really been freaking out at times.

In the end, Shirley wins with her amazing crustacean broth with Carlos coming in at a close second for his pork belly and Brian gets knifed for serving the lamest cut of meat ever (for a chef).

Next week: Last episode in New Orleans before the finale. I'm praying for a Shirley/Nina/Carlos top three. 


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