Each week we'll watch Aragona chef Carrie Mashaney represent in the show's New Orleans season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Overrated food trends! Commander's Palace copycats!
Finally, we’re getting in a little Top Chef groove. I know people’s names. At last, contestants are comfortable calling each other “bro” and talking mad smack about one another. (Witness Nina St. Lucia telling the camera that Michael from Galatoire's is “faker than Pamela Anderson’s breasts.”)
There’s no quickfire this week. Instead, Emeril and Eddie Huang are here to give a brief overview of Vietnamese cultural influences in New Orleans and judge the elimination challenge: Chefs must cook their version of a Vietnamese menu. It’s not entirely clear what recommends Eddie Huang to be the guest judge, except that he is of Chinese/Taiwanese heritage, sometimes appears on TV, gives good one-liners, and has a slammin' collection of loud shirts.
“This is my food,” says blond-haired, blue-eyed Travis. He apparently has extensive experience with the cuisine of Vietnam due to his penchant for dating Asian guys.
The chefs break into teams and pile on a party bus (it's oddly stocked with fruit) to visit a local Vietnamese bakery, a shrimping dock, and a noodle house.
Carrie is on a team with Nina St. Lucia, Justin, Patty, and Shirley. Shirley chatters and rattles and bounces around; Carrie takes notes on everyones ideas and pretends like her teammate isn’t a nutball. Justin is making pho, which seems like insanity to pull off in two hours.
Meanwhile, on his team, Travis blah blahs about how much he knows about Vietnamese food and quickly earns the name Captain Vietnam. He keeps bringing up a dish he had in central Vietnam, one made, oddly enough, with a tomato sauce. He also calls Eddie Huang a douchebag for not being properly impressed with his mad Vietnamese skillz.
Carrie tells the camera she doesn’t really cook this kind of food, but learned a lot on the tour. Does it count that the Aragona space used to be a Vietnamese restaurant?
Nina St. Lucia and Carrie form a talented alliance and plan to make a Vietnamese beef salad, but with a steak tartare spin. Carrie also puts together a lemon custard topped with caramelized banh mi.
Unfortunately the judges' table is not super kind to Carrie's creations. Eddie and Emeril don’t approve of the beef’s texture (they wanted the beef shaved; insert your own joke here), Tom says her custard is flavorful but feels like an afterthought. Eddie deems the presentation awful.
Back in the stew room, the built-in TV fires up the latest episode of Masterpiece the judges praising Carrie's teammates, namely Shirley’s barbecue shrimp and Justin’s audacious two-hour pho.
The winner: Carrie’s team! But specifically Shirley, who boldly made Vietnamese food that did not skimp on the butter.
The loser: Somehow the judges resist the urge to throttle Travis and send Hot Aussie Janine packing her knives for oddly cooked shrimp. At least she refrained from any stupid jokes about how she should have put them on the barbie rather than in the fryer. Farewell, Janine. You seem talented and likeable and much like your cutoffs, our time with you was way too short.
Line of the night: “It’s almost like you saw a UFO and told them to draw it.” Eddie Huang does not heed Travis’s claims that he had a tomato-based dish three times in central Vietnam—then made Janine and Bene cook it.
Runner-up line of the night: “It was in line with the tradition of kind of janky, wretched Asian desserts.” Eddie Huang damns Stephanie’s macaroon with faint praise.
Next, on Top Chef: Glee’s Lea Michele throws a Halloween party. Please, may the chefs all be forced to get aggressive bangs and perform some sort of a musical number.
- We went from tons of Carrie in the early eps to hardly any at all. But even when she's not at her best, she's still on the winning team.
- Eddie Huang has one hell of a shirt collection. Which was better, the one with the camouflage shoulder patches or the shirt that looks like a bunch of lobsters got loose in a J.Crew factory?
- Maybe it’s the uber-PC Seattleite in me, but describing a Vietnamese restaurant as “a room full of rice-eaters” sounds kinda racist, though I guess it’s factually correct.
- Okay, this was the first time I watched that painful Kristen Kish commercial for Chase credit cards. The one where she awkwardly promotes Canlis and Palace Kitchen. Oof. And I thought her Gap ads were cringey.
- Love the Bravo viewer poll that put Travis’s approval ratings somewhere between “GOP congressional caucus” and Josie from the Seattle season.