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'Top Chef: New Orleans' Recap - Episode 2

Rebuilding New Orleans

Courtesy of Bravo

We start up the second episode of Top Chef: New Orleans right where we left off last week, with Ramon's elimination. Patty is still crying and seems pretty shaken because Ramon was a good chef and Stephanie (who was the first person to be knifed on Top Chef: Seattle), is like, "Are you crying? There's no crying in baseball!" or rather, cable-television reality cooking competitions.  



Padma walks in and tells everyone that she knows they're tired, but she's here to give them their first "quickfire" which is to cook gumbo for Leah Chase of Dooky Chase's. The cheftestants are supposed to make the gumbo so that it reflects who they are.

Since gumbo is a stew that takes time to come together and often tastes better the next day, they're given a lot more time to prepare than usual. They get to cook at the house for the night and also have 15 minutes in the Top Chef kitchens to finish their dish the next day.

For Michael and Justin, the New Orleans boys, the pressure is on. Michael seems pretty confident and cocky in his gumbo-making abilities, which probably means that he'll crash and burn, while Justin just puts his head down and goes to work without all the posturing.

Carrie says she wants to use elements from her background (Iowa) and her husband's (Trinidad) to make her gumbo. Marriage gumbo. That's sweet. My marriage gumbo would be similar because I'm from Ohio and people from the coasts sometimes think that Iowa and Ohio are the same thing. And we both grow a lot of corn.

There's some confusion on how to make a roux, to which I want to call shenanigans. If you are going to be on a show called Top Chef: NEW ORLEANS, would you not study up on the local cuisine? Would you not learn all about what a "roux" is and practice them over and over again? The holy trinity? Red beans and rice on Mondays? Come on, people.

Jason is going with his Polish roots and making a gumbo with beets and potatoes, and Justin (of La Petite Grocery) is going the traditional route, which he says is a gamble. He really wants to win this whole thing for New Orleans. He sounds like a pretty down to earth and humble guy, and I'm definitely rooting for him to succeed.

Michael decides that he hates his gumbo so he throws it away and starts over at 1:30 a.m. Poor guy. I'm sure it would be a total mind-game to be from New Orleans and be on a TV show like this and have to make gumbo in front of the whole country. No pressure.

The next day, they are introduced to Leah Chase. She looks amazing in her bright pink chef's coat and says she's so happy to see so many beautiful people, and is especially happy to see so many women. I just wish there could have been a woman from New Orleans represented, I feel like there was a huge ball that dropped on that one.

As the gumbos are being served, I notice that a lot of people made them Asian-inspired, which seems totally strange to me, but I'm sure was wonderful. Shirley had a Chinese-Mexican-Italian gumbo, which is about as "melting pot" as you can get.

Aaron serves his Asian gumbo with whole prawns on top and Padma casually asks him if she should put the whole head in her mouth (zing!. He looks totally stunned and speechless, so Leah is like, here, just let me show you. Like a boss. 



Justin introduces his gumbo and it looks absolutely killer. It's a pork rib gumbo with okra, shrimp and a deviled egg on top. The camera focuses on Michael for a second and he looks a little deflated. His 1 am drunken chicken gumbo didn't look nearly as good.

In the end, Leah's least favorite dishes were Jason's, Patty's and Michael's. Jason is not thrilled. Actually he says it's bullshit because he knows it tasted good, to which I say, your argument is invalid! Because, Leah Chase! 



For her top three, she loved Aaron's dish with the whole prawns, Carrie's Iowa-Trinidad gumbo because it reminded her of "gumbo z'herbs," and Shirley's three-continent gumbo. Carrie wins the challenge and I find myself rooting for her as a fellow Midwestern girl. And so far, Carrie has won everything. 


Elimination Challenge

The next guest is another female legend from New Orleans: Susan Spicer of Bayona and Mondo. She helps to explain what the cheftestants will be doing for the elimination challenge: make lunch in a food truck for Habitat for Humanity. This is interesting because food trucks have been battling with the city to be able to operate legally.

The cheftestants will be divided into four groups, each with their own truck, and will serve the people who are helping to rebuild houses that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Susan Spicer says that her house was under 6 feet of water for about three weeks and that it was amazing to see so many volunteers come down and help rebuild. Leah Chase says she lost everything and people told her to quit because she was 83 years old but she couldn't quit. She said,"The Pope quit! But I had to keep going." Love her.

Padma puts all of them into groups based on where they happen to be standing at the time. After they claim their food truck they start forming their menus and concept. There's a taco truck (and Brian was pretty stoked to have the Mexican with him on the taco truck), a Mediterranean truck, a surfer truck and a Southern truck.

The Mediterranean truck consists of three girls and one guy, and the guy (Louis) says he loves working with women because "they have a different sense of how they approach things," which is just another way of saying "I'm such a stud for working with these pretty girls." And the girls are like, "We're basing our entire menu off of Louis' dreamy smile." They are clearly having a lot of fun teasing him and he does have a great smile, but this is the first I've ever heard of Louis. I think he's been totally invisible up to this point. Let's hope they let him talk more and don't treat him as just another pretty face. We already have Jason for that.

At night before the food truck challenge commences, Michael fixes up a crawfish boil back at the Top Chef pad. He's got some face to save from his sad gumbo earlier in the day. Jason laments that he'll probably be at the front of the truck chatting people up because of their surfer concept and it seems to me that they've based their entire menu off of Jason's look. It's weird.


Food Truck Challenge

The judges sample the Mexican truck first and Carlos is out front and center serving everyone and generally being cool and awesome. Padma asks who made the empanadas and Carrie does a little wave. You can tell the judges still make her very nervous, but her empanadas look absolutely amazing. She rolled the dough for them out herself with a cold wine bottle. They also loved Carlo's tacos and Brian's ceviche with pomegranates.

At the surfer truck, Jason's salmon rolls are getting mushy. I'm not sure why he thought salmon rolls were the best idea for a hot day in the Louisiana sun. They also serve coconut ceviche, grilled shrimp and tuna sliders. The judges don't seem to hate everything but they're not too enthusiastic about it either.

The Southern truck makes what looks like a pretty interesting green gazpacho with green tomatoes, green grapes, green apples and pickled shrimp. Yum. They also have a lobster and crab fritter, jerk chicken sandwich and Michael made ricotta with "burnt honey," stone fruit and toasted coconut.

And finally the Mediterranean truck serves chilled watermelon, falafel, tuna burger and grilled lamb salad. Everything seems good. I mean, how could you screw up chilled watermelon? 


Judges Table

The judges do their deliberation like last week, where the teams can watch what they're saying. The Mediterranean team and the mexican team get kudos while the Southern team and surfer team had some problems.



The mexican truck ends up being the winner and the judges are blown away by Carrie's empanadas and her handmade dough. She wins again.

The surfer team is on the bottom and the judges ask if they know why they're there. Brett says he's surprised because he heard the other teams ran out of food and they still had plenty to serve to people. Tom looks at him like he's the stupidest person alive. He's like, you fool! They ran out of food because people kept going back for seconds!

Nicolas' dish had crunchy peas on top and the watermelon was lost. He looks devastated. Brett served room-temp coconut ceviche and Gail was totally offended that he served piping hot tostones along with it. Jason rushed making his dish so he could schmooze with people up front. Patty served tuna sliders with awful tomatoes. Tom does not like the tomatoes one bit. I'm convinced it's going to be Patty that gets knifed.

After a deliberation it's decided that Jason is the one to be sent packing. He does not take this well and you get a sense that he's not really used to not getting his way. His friend Nicholas seems pretty shaken by it because he figured they'd be together til the end. Farewell to the bromance.

All in all, I think they made the right decision as it seemed like Jason wasn't really there to cook, but to be on TV and flirt with everyone and everything, including inanimate objects. However, I don't think Patty has long on this show. She's been in the bottom for pretty much everything and doesn't seem to know what she's doing. Who knows, maybe she'll surprise us.

Next week: An elimination quickfire, Commander's Palace and Paul Prudhomme! 

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