Each week we'll watch Aragona chef Carrie Mashaney represent in the show's New Orleans season.
Previously on Top Chef: Cockiness! Gators! Dashi-fueled shame!
Padma ushers the chefs into their first quickfire—putting their own cultural spin on Louisiana’s beloved gumbo. Everyone get to work on dubious-sounding concoctions: Polish gumbo. Chinese-Mexican-Italian gumbo. Hot and sour Asian-style gumbo. New England chowder-inspired gumbo. What could go wrong? Plantain gumbo, that’s what.
Carrie’s dish, melding her Iowa roots and her (attractive) husband’s Trinidadian background into a gumbo, also has great trainwreck potential. Her mother-in-law taught her a lot about cooking, and Carrie just wants to do her proud. We are treated to a photo of Carrie, her husband, and her mother-in-law, lined up in a pose that is only appropriate when all parties are wearing Christmas sweaters. Which, sadly, they are not. Carrie, I bet you can rock a good Christmas sweater.
The next morning Carrie warms up her Iowan-Trinidadian gumbo and it starts turning a peculiar shade of swamp moss. But she maintains she’s happy about the flavors.
The quickfire judge is Leah Chase, a fixture in New Orleans for the better part of six decades. She’s also pretty much the cutest nonagenarian ever, sporting a hot pink chef coat and an ability to keep up with Padma’s weirdly suggestive banter about putting things in her mouth.
They don’t say much about Carrie’s gumbo, which is served with a buttery corn crumble. Because, Iowa. But when it comes time to name the favorites, Leah Chase anoints it as one she enjoyed. Hells yes! She then declares Carrie the winner, saying her version “reminds me of a gumbo I do every Holy Thursday.”
Double hells yes—our girl just won the show’s first quickfire...and immunity. “A small-town girl from Iowa winning a gumbo challenge is kind of a cool thing,” Carrie tells the camera. C’mon, Bravo—make with the Seattle already.
Next up, chef Susan Spicer arrives to judge the elimination challenge. Padma arbitrarily breaks chefs into groups of four based on where they’re standing (“From Carrie to Carlos” would be an excellent sequel to the epic 2003 film “From Justin to Kelly”), and each team must put on a food truck to feed Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
Carrie’s yellow team consists of Aaron (the deep-voiced Chicagoan), Carlos (the other Chicagoan and also possessor of a Michelin star), affable Asian hipster Brian, and some guy named Travis who is apparently on this show? Their food truck concept is—wait for it—a taco truck.
Everyone heads to Whole Foods where Carrie is gearing up to make empanadas. When she discovers the store has no rolling pins, she rushes to the wine department and demands the largest wine bottle possible. This seemed like a sensible plan to me even before she explained that she plans to use it to roll out her empanada dough.
Carrie tells the camera her dough obsession was born from making cinnamon rolls with her mom. And oh my god, the chubby-cheeked Li'l Carrie picture that flashes on the screen is amazing. Is it just me, or are we getting about 50 times more personal photos of Carrie than any other chef? Is this a good sign? A bad sign? Bravo, I can’t handle your twisted psychological games.
The next day Padma and Susan Spicer swing by Carrie’s truck, where she is busy rolling empanadas with her wine bottle. Making pastry on a hot food truck is just the sort of disaster Top Chef specializes in, but Carrie smartly made sure her wine bottle was chilled. Padma is impressed by their crisp flakiness. Tom and Gail visit too, but we don’t get their reaction. Just a visual of Tom in shorts and a straw hat.
Back in the stew room, the built-in TV is tuned in to in-depth CSPAN coverage of the government shutdown Tom, Gail, Padma, and Susan Spicer comparing notes. Carrie’s team appears to be a favorite. And, yep, Padma summons them to declare them the winners.
“We were all so impressed that the dough was made on the truck,” Susan Spicer says to Carrie. She immediately throws credit to Aaron for the filling.
“I just have two words,” says Tom. “More, please.” That’s not a very Tom Colicchio thing to say. As long as he doesn’t start saying “yummy” or “nomnomnom,” we’re cool.
Susan announces the winner, “One clear standout that showed a really keen grasp of technique and was really appropriate for this challenge.” Why yes, that would be Carrie. Carrie for the win! Literally.
The winner: Carrie!!!! “All that love I put into that dough definitely paid off,” she tells the camera. Her background in pastry probably didn’t hurt, either.
The loser: Cocky, hair-tossing chef Jason Cichonski is given the boot for serving diners a taste of him prancing around in front of the truck instead of making his hand rolls to order. If you know what I mean.
Line of the night: “I'm just looking for the biggest wine bottle you have." Carrie draws upon the expertise of The Whole Foods wine specialist.
Next, on Top Chef: Commander’s Palace! Paul Prudhomme! And okra gets tossed around with abandon.
- Number of Seattle mentions: 0. Number of Iowa mentions: 4. Apparently the Iowa tourism board is a shadowy force to be reckoned with.
- I had promised myself we were done talking about Carrie’s hair, but she has kind of a Something About Mary situation going on in her interview snippets. I kid, I kid.
- Bravo, stop messing around with all the cheesy toolbags that make up your reality TV lineup and give Leah Chase a TV show immediately.
- The last chef to win both the elimination and the quickfire was Brooke in the Seattle season's Chihuly garden challenge with Chris Pratt and Anna Faris.
- Of course Bravo made a video of Carrie's wine bottle rolling prowess. And of course it's titled "This is How Carrie Rolls."