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

Just look at that smile! Photo courtesy of Bravotv.com

Previously, on Top Chef: Terrible service! Giant egos! No more head scarves!

Last night, in real time, right here in Seattle, Carrie Mashaney was likely in the kitchen at Aragona, Jason Stratton’s new restaurant that debuted—with her as chef—on Monday. Last night in the Land of the Cheftestants, though, Carrie competed against the remaining eight for that shiny Top Chef prize. I’m happy to confirm that she’s as adorable and talented in person as she is on TV (which you, too, can find out by grabbing a seat at the kitchen-facing bar).

The quickfire opens with Hubert Keller and his sexy French accent. “It’s time for a cup of joe, Top Chef style,” says Padma, which immediately makes this coffee junkie super excited. Then, she launches into a nonsensical marketing spiel about Dunkin Donuts’ coffee, and I suddenly remember what it is I’m watching.

A coffee challenge? This is a slam-dunk for our Seattle gal! Only sadly, no. Though her coffee crepe doesn’t quite work out, Carrie’s coffee custard with candied coffee beans and cocoa nibs (they better be Theo) pleases Keller, Shirley is ultimately named the winner of both immunity and $10,000 for her use of coffee and garlic together. She says she’s going to buy an air conditioner. 

The elimination challenge:  Actor (from a few movies you may have seen) and New Orleans native Anthony Mackie is in the kitchen, welcomed “home” by Padma. He talks about how he and his family always go eat at Dooky Chase—some jokes write themselves.

The challenge is to make a dish that reminds the chefs of home, which automatically sends everyone over the edge missing their parents/kids/partners/whatever. It’s all pretty touching. Carrie says she’s going to make a dish her grandma used to make: creamed asparagus on toast with an egg. Her childhood apparently involved foraging for asparagus with her mom, which explains a lot. 

After the initial prep time, the chefs head home to find “Uncle Emeril,” as Shirley calls him, in the kitchen making his mom’s caldo verde soup. There are a lot of tears: from Brian about his dad’s tragic strokes, from Nick about how he’s missed most of his daughter’s first year. If Nina wasn't such a badass, she’d probably have cried after calling her granny.

The next day, it’s into the kitchen at Dooky Chase they go, fixing their meals for the Chase clan, plus Anthony, Hubert, Tom, Padma, and Emeril. The chefs present three at a time, and the general impression is that they knocked it out of the park. Carrie’s in the final trio, and they love her dish. 

At judges’ table, Tom says everything was “absolutely delicious,” and that the contestants did a great job cooking from the heart. Anthony’s only comment was about how much he loved Carrie’s dish. The screen goes dark after Padma says it's a “really tough decision,” which she frequently says but seems to legitimately mean this time.

The winner: Nick wins! Again! Stephanie and Carlos were also contenders, but Nick’s gnudi (haha, nudie) take home the prize. And then Anthony tells him that he’s the most stressed person he knows: “You almost gave me an aneurysm watching. Relax!” My thoughts exactly.

The loser: Travis’ biscuits were a travesty—“You live and die by the biscuit”—so he’s sent packing. Justin was so close to getting booted, but sadly we have to keep putting up with him another week. And Carrie continues to skate leisurely through the middle.

The line of the night: Brian, coming off two quickfire wins in a row, tries to make coffee risotto. “Gotta put your balls out there, let ‘em swing,” he says. Indeed. 

Minutiae:

  • Doesn’t Nick’s charming bedhead in the first few moments of the show look just like Carrie’s signature pompadour? I kind of love them both.
  • The only time I’ve ever enjoyed Justin: his response to the question about what three foods he couldn’t live without was champagne, caviar, and tacos. We're soulmates! 
  • Can we talk about how ridiculous it is to discuss Hubert Keller and Dunkin Donuts in the same conversation? 

Next week: Looks like they’re cooking on a college campus, and Carrie made broccoli? Oh no… could this be her undoing? 

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