Each week we'll watch Aragona chef Carrie Mashaney represent in the show's New Orleans season.

Guest judge Dr. John, minus the Electric Mayhem band. Photo via Bravo.

Previously, on Top Chef: Musical chef stations! Caffeine-free tiramisu! Carrie’s team wins!

Taking over these recaps in Allecia’s absence sounded like a great time, until I remembered that I couldn’t care less about any of the remaining 11 chefs—with the exception of Carrie, who I’m supporting with the fervor of a million Macklemore fans.

And yet we march on. For the quickfire challenge, the chefs are given 45 minutes to make and bottle their own hot sauce—just hot sauce, no proteins, much to Nina’s chagrin. The guest judge is New Orleans musician Dr. John, who is the living embodiment of the Muppets’ Dr. Teeth. He says he’ll be judging the sauces on something he calls “hip tang,” presumably a sixth taste beyond umami that only he has the palate to detect. Padma looks hilariously confused. Carrie looks earnest as ever.

Carrie’s Carribean pepper sauce from Trinidad—a recipe, she says, is from her mother-in-law—is criticized for being too hot, and she ends up in the bottom. Brian scores his second immunity win in a row.

The elimination challenge:  “It’s time to pig out,” says Padma, obviously meaning that the chefs have to work together to break down a 300-pound hog and then serve it up boucherie style to the judges, which include locals Tony Rodriguez and Donald Link. Between them, they have to use the entire pig and serve 250 people.

The actual butchering gets pretty ugly, but not as ugly as Sara bossing the boys around without, you know, actually putting a cleaver through a pig head. Carrie manages to look adorable while sniffing Shirley’s pig kidney.

When the animal’s broken down, the chefs get to retreat to their home, where the guest judges have thrown a boucherie—essentially a community pig roast—of their own. Carrie says the food is “so like nothing I have ever seen in my life,” though I’m guessing she’s been to a Cochon 555 or two. 

At Bayou Barn the next day, Carrie gets more screen time as she talks about all the cookery available—China boxes, stand-up smokers, rotisserie grills—that she’s never used before. This obviously doesn’t bode well, but she’s charming and there’s been so much Louis on camera talking about how amazing his popcorn dish is going to be that he’s probably going home. Then again, Travis says he’s making ramen with STORE-BOUGHT NOODLES, which we all know is the kiss of death.

Justin, predictably, gets all Little Red Hen about building the fire for his pork breast tacos himself and not wanting others to use it. Nina, predictably, tells him off, and focuses on her braised pig head ragu.

And despite the carefully edited arguments, flagrant self-aggrandizement, and crushing doubt, the chefs put out what Tom calls some of the best food he’s eaten in all 11 seasons.

Carrie apparently gets swallowed by the alligator lurking nearby, because there’s no talk, neither good nor bad, of her crispy trotters with snap peas and spring onions. Maybe her ability to skate through the middle will make her the Hosea of Season 11? Oh wait, nobody liked Hosea.

The winner: Carlos wins! He, Nina, and Shirley are all praised for authentic, porky dishes that tasted of home, though Carlos’ pozole and fried chorizo tacos make him the winner of the taco throwdown. Tom even says he wants the recipe for the pozole. Suck it, Justin.

The loser: Louis is told to pack his knives and go, for making a slow-grilled pork leg with popcorn that the judges said had too many components.

The line of the night: “Hindsight’s a bitch.” Stephanie is truly the show’s queen of the one-liner.

Minutiae: 

  • There was a hot sauce challenge without a single mention of sriracha? Seriously?
  • Is it just me, or is Hugh Acheson looking better than ever this season? It’s probably just me.
  • How many colored kerchiefs does Sara own? And how does she wake up in full makeup?
  • The very best part of the episode was when Padma asks Dr. John how he’s feeling and he utters, straight-faced, “I’m breathing.” Just barely, brother. Just barely.

Next week: Restaurant Wars! 

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