Each week we'll watch Aragona chef Carrie Mashaney represent in the show's New Orleans season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Carrie wins! Carrie wins again!
This week Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin stops by to judge a brilliant quickfire. Chefs draw knives to be assigned a food trend that she thinks is totally overdone. The challenge: Cook a dish featuring that shark-jumping ingredient that will convince her otherwise.
Memo to chefs across America hoping to impress Dana Cowin in the future: She is sick of bacon, kale, eggs, and smoke. (C'mon, no pork belly? And I guess you can't really make a dish out of a communal table.) Oh, and this is an elimination quickfire. NBD.
Carrie draws eggs. She wisely avoids the captain obvious runny-yolk route. Hers are soft boiled, mixed with chili flakes and lemon zest, and served on green beans. “It’s a little bit like egg salad on green beans,” Dana Cowin observes. Looks pretty paleo, too.
Shirley takes the win for her congee topped with a shirred egg. Dang, after last week I was kind of hoping Carrie would just win every challenge from here on out. It would make these recaps way more exciting. Was that an unrealistic expectation?
Aaron’s supersalty fried kale sends him packing.
Next up, everyone dines at legendary New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace. As everyone drinks wine and ogles the James Beard awards lining the walls, executive chef Tory McPhail tells the group that they must cook the very same dishes served tonight, perfectly replicating the taste and presentation. Everyone quickly puts down their wine glasses.
Carrie tells the camera, “I have a hard time making things that I create taste the same over and over; to taste a dish and have to recreate it seems impossible.” But after tasting through shrimp and tasso henican, speckled black trout, and veal chop tchoupitoulas, Carrie’s table ends up responsible for recreating dessert—a strawberry trio consisting of a biscuit, a beignet, and a strawberry blood and sand cocktail. Will our heroine's pastry past keep her from falling in the gaping hole that usually consumes Top Chef contestants forced to make dessert?
We don’t see much of Carrie during the hourlong prep time. The camera is too busy focusing on Patty screaming about peppers and Nina and Michael having a stress-fueled okra fight.
Meanwhile the judges assemble in the dining room. Emeril's time as executive chef here is what launched his career, and he's joined by his fellow former Commander's Palace chef Paul Prudhomme. On the first course, The esteemed group slogs through some seriously bland and underseasoned plates.
When the veal chops are served, proprietress Ti Martin tells Emeril, “I think you invented this dish to sell a whole bunch of red wine.” Emeril does not disagree. Bam.
Finally, here comes the dessert. And this has to be the first instance in the show’s history where the judges declare it the strongest course. Yeah, Carrie!
Back in the stew room, the built-in TV fires up live coverage of the New Jersey special senate election the judges lamenting some glaring mistakes in basic cooking techniques and "major failures in veal cookery." They reiterate their praise for the desserts and summon two of the dessert chefs, Justin from New Orleans and Stephanie from the first episode of the Seattle season, plus Nina St. Lucia, who cooked shrimp. This time around we'll have to settle for Carrie merely doing a really good job, I guess.
The winner: Justin; I mean, I would hope a New Orleans chef would know his way around a beignet and a biscuit.
The loser: While Louis, oddly, made the uber bland spice rub for all the chefs making skillet-seared trout, Bret is banished for poor time management and the overall trainwreck he made of Emeril's famed veal chop.
Line of the night: Dana Cowin declares herself a “whipped cream whore." Uh, Dana, don't you know that suggestive sound bytes are kind of Padma's thing?
Next, on Top Chef: The chefs go shrimpin’! Padma says double entendres!
- We didn’t see much of Carrie tonight (and no more childhood photos). Thus far her appearances have been entirely the result of her talent and not the sort of okra-throwing tantrums and bleep-filled tirades that generally guarantee screen time.
- Tom declares, “They’re so paranoid about getting it right that they’re getting it wrong,”of the less-than-impressive Commander’s Palace recreations. Isn’t that kind of the thesis statement of every Top Chef challenge ever?
- Shilling alert. One commercial break featured Brooke and Josh from the Seattle season painfully shilling for something called the Top Chef Home Challenge. This was followed by another commercial featuring Carla Hall’s disembodied head, and Kristen Kish stumping for Chase Visa cards.
- I love how everything hot Aussie chef Janine says is edited to sound like a line from an adult film, from her breathing an ecstatic “Yes! Yes!” when her pork comes out fully cooked to crying out, “Behind! Behind!” as she walks back and forth on the line.
- Speaking of hot Aussie Janine, I bet if Carrie raided her wardrobe and paraded around in shorty jorts, we’d see more of her on screen.
- The New Orleans Times-Picayune did some great breakdowns of local traditions and references in Treme episodes, and it looks like they're offering some nice context for Top Chef New Orleans episodes, too.