Thursday, February 19, 2009

Top Chef - N'Orleans: Emeril is Engaging; Fabio Is Fabulous

Well, Fabio actually wasn't fabulous, but I like that headline.

The chefs arrive in New Orleans. Three out of the four were sporting new haircuts and do’s.

This is Hosea’s first time in New Orleans. He’s really excited. Oh good, he hasn’t started complaining yet. Fabio, with a Mohawk, is determined to win. Carla, with long straight hair, is psyched, although she considers herself the underdog. Stefan says it’ll be Fabio and himself as the final two.

Carla loves the different cultures of New Orleans. They arrive at Houmas House with Emeril, Padma and Tom.

The Quickfire: They are told that THEY won’t be competing; 3 other chefs will. The last three eliminated - Leah, Jamie and Jeff - come out.

Tom says these three were consistently near the top. Is that true of Leah? It sure didn’t seem that way. They’re giving the three of them a chance to get back in. Fabio is pissed off…A LOT.

Hosea: “So Leah is back. It’s a little interesting for me. A little awkward. A little weird.”

THIS whole thing is a little annoying. I thought we were rid of Leah. I’m happy to see Jamie and I did hate Jeff less when he left, but I’m not particularly thrilled to see him either.

The winner of the Quickfire will have chance to compete in the Elimination Challenge with the other 4 chefs.

They have an hour to create a dish with crawfish. Emeril will judge. Jeff thinks he deserves a second chance. AND, thank goodness, Jamie isn’t using scallops. Stefan remarks to the other 3 that Leah is a good chef. Really?

Leah, when asked, says, I made like a crawfish soup.” Gawd! Did you make crawfish soup? OR did you make something LIKE crawfish soup? THEN she says, I never worked with crawfish before. Are these people stupid? Someone should tell her to and just zip it and cook.

Crawfish Soup with Andouille Sausage

I guess she’s smart not to call it a gumbo in front of the Creole/Cajun master.
Emeril: You have a hint of Andouille in there?

Crawfish & Grits with Andouille & Beer

Emeril: “Have you worked with crawfish before?” “Yes sir.”

Corn Cake, Greens, Poached Egg with Tasso, Andouille & Crawfish Cream Sauce
Yum. I would eat that.
The judges say nothing, but they seem to be eating more enthusiastically than the others.

Before Emeril announces the winner, he says he thought all three dishes were winners. They go to commercial. Annoying. The winner is… JEFF. What the hay? BUT in order for Jeff to make it to the final, he has to WIN the Elimination Challenge, not just NOT lose.

Jeff gets a copy of Emeril’s new book as a prize and the 5 of them get to go to Emeril’s Delmonico’s for dinner. They’ll be staying at the Hotel Monteleone.

Meanwhile, we learn (again) that Fabio needs money to help his mom. Carla is thinking about her husband and stepson. Since Stefan was raised by wolves, there are no thoughts of home for him.

Hosea doesn’t mention the girlfriend he cheated on. WHAT is wrong with me? It’s not their fault they have all this extra stuff when we just want to see them cook. Hosea says again, “I can’t worry about Stefan.” So then STOP worrying about him!

Stefan remarks that this is not a butt-rubbing contest. Why do the non-English speakers have the foulest mouths?

They arrive at a big warehouse, Mardi Gras, world filled with Mardi Gas parade stuff. The Elimination Challenge is to create 2 dishes and 1 cocktail for a party of 100 people for the Krewe of Orpheus Masquerade Ball.

One of the dishes must be in the Creole style of cooking, which Emeril describes as the “city version of Louisiana cooking, influenced by the French Spanish and African-American cultures.” Hosea describes it as soul food.

If Jeff wins, TWO chefs will be eliminated. The winner will get a Toyota Venza. Fabio says his current car is “a piece of poop”.

For some reason, back at the hotel, Stefan is telling some story about Fabio dressing up as a woman for Halloween.

They’ll be cooking in Emeril’s kitchen at Delmonico, where they’ll have all kinds of great ingredients to work with.

Tom comes into the kitchen, while they’re cooking. He chats with Fabio and the others. Hosea is getting all worried. Tom leaves them with his usual heartwarming admonition, “Don’t disappoint us.”

Tom is impressed with Jeff. He isn’t sure what if what Fabio is making is Creole. He thinks that Carla should have steamed the oysters open instead of wrangling with them and that Stefan is too cocky and should be sweating it out a bit more.

Fabio takes out GORGEOUS bread.

They pack up and go to the New Orleans Museum of Art to set up. Carla is willing to take the chance of making an non-alcoholic beverage, because that’s just her, she says.

Padma comes in, in a gown, hiding behind a mask, and introduces the judges. Gail is back!!!! Good! Tom unmasks himself and takes a bow. Emeril looks like he’s taking his judging very seriously.

As they are preparing, Jeff asks Carla if she has some extra cream. Hosea needs a whisk. She’s still shucking oysters as the guests arrive.

Carla admires all the gowns. Fabio remarks that because everyone is wearing masks, it reminds him of old porno movies. REALLY?!!

Jeff’s Menu
Fried Oyster with Sausage & Arugula
Crawfish Pot de Crème
Cucumber Mojito

People seem to be enjoying his food. The judges like the cucumber Mojito. Emeril: “He is very refined cook.” He likes his "intelligent approach".

Stefan’s Menu
Duck, Rabbit & Sausage Gumbo with Grits
Apple Beignet with Pecan Brittle and a Whiskey Sauce
Black Cherry & Rum Cocktail

The judges like the grits. Tom says the roux should have been darker, but Emeril says the flavor is there.

Fabio is trying to win by making more than anyone else. I hope he doesn’t regret it.
Fabio’s Menu
Sausage & Rabbit Maque Choux with Grits
Crawfish & Crab stew with Caserecci Pasta
Muffuletta Bread
Trintini Cocktail with Red Bell Pepper with Rum

To tell you the truth, all the menus sound great, except for the bell pepper martini.

Emeril says it smells wonderful. Gail loves the flavor of the crawfish, Tom thinks something is missing from the Maque Choux. Emeril says the flavor is nice, but it’s missing the heat.

Carla’s Menu
Oyster Stew with Potato, Bacon & Scallions
Shrimp & Andouille Beignet with Creole Aioli
Non-Alcoholic Cranberry Spritzer

Gosh, I love her dishes. You know there is so much good food to eat in this world.
Emeril: “THIS is New Orleans inspired! I love the texture of the beignet. The batter is perfect.” Tom says, “If you like THAT, you’re going to love the stew.” Tom laughs as he says “It’s really well done.” Oh good, I’m happy for Carla.

Hosea’s menu
Duck, Andouille & Chicken Gumbo with a Cornbread Muffin
Pecan-crusted Catfish with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon & Tabasco Beurre Blanc
Hurricane with Grand Marnier & Rum

Emeril: “I love Hosea’s gumbo. For me, both dishes capture the spirit of New Orleans.”

I knew he would be a nice judge. I don’t mean that he’s necessarily a push-over, but he takes a positive point of view, at least until he get to judges table.

Well, it seems that Fabio could be on the bottom.

The party’s over. They get wreathed in beads…lots of beads. Stefan tells us that he tried Hosea’s gumbo and he says it was nasty and that it sucked.

Padma comes in, still in her gown, and asks to see all of them.

Jeff says he knows he had to be perfect. Gail says his was their favorite cocktail of the night. The judges continue to praise him and Fabio is looking worried. They were impressed that he made his own sausage. Jeff says, “This is the end. I wouldn’t win if I stole someone else’s sausage.” The camera pans to Stefan, who used what was there and didn’t make his own.

Next is Fabio. There are a few little criticisms, mostly that the food wasn't spicy enough. Padma says the drink smelled fantastic, but didn’t taste that good. Fabio is definitely not doing well tonight. Oy.

Emeril begins by saying to Stefan that he’s NEVER seen a gumbo over grits, BUT that his grits were very good. Emeril calls him Mr. Grits. Gail says the color and flavor of the gumbo weren’t as deep as she hoped it would be. Uh-OH, Emeril also says the beignet and the cocktail together were too sweet. Could it be that the 2 European front runners will be eliminated in one fell swoop? Tom asks Stefan if he thinks he was over-confident. Stefan gives a cocky answer.

Tom asks Carla a trick question about how she felt about her dishes. Carla starts to say the oyster stew was a little heavy on the bay, Emeril grunts Mnnnnn mm. (That means no.) Tom says there was NOTHING wrong with that stew. Emeril LOVES her cocktail. Gail LOVES the beignet. Fabio and Stefan are so gone.

Hosea starts whining about what went wrong. Gail loves the roux of his gumbo. Emeril is nice: “If I was blindfolded, I could be in any great restaurant in New Orleans.” I love HIM! Tom likes the fish. Gail and Emeril love his hot and spicy beurre blanc.

Carla’s oyster dish hit a home run, says Emeril. Tom says she showed a certain level of care. They repeat how they loved Hosea’s gumbo. The judges don’t care for Stefan’s laissez-faire attitude and various aspects of Fabio’s dishes. The two of them are gone.

But, WAIT! Maybe they’ll keep one, because they won’t declare Jeff the absolute winner. Oh, gosh, I don’t know. Tell me already.

Emeril announces the winner. He says the clear winner is Carla!!! She gets the keys to the car. She’s thrilled.

So Jeff is out. He thanks Emeril. Fabio looks fed up. Stefan looks stunned. Hosea is next. He did well and is excused.

Who will be eliminated? And it’s…Fabio!!! He’s gracious and tells Stefan if HE doesn’t win, he’ll kick his ass.

Fabio is disappointed, but he does say that behind him there were a lot of people and ahead only a few. “I didn’t come in this country to be average,” he explains.

Well, that certainly was a surprise. I wouldn’t have predicted Fabio going home and Hosea still being there. I’m glad Carla made it and I have a feeling that whether or not she wins, she’ll go on to some cool things.

Predictions? I still think Stefan has the upper hand, especially if he can get his massive ego under control.


DebCarol said...

It wasn't the food Fabio . . . it was the hot pink scarf that did you in. Seriously, I think alot of time was wasted with Leah, Jeff and Jamie "coming back". Once you're off the island, you are OFF. Last - how great was it that Gail was back and Toby was gone?

Jen said...

I was really happy to see Gail back too and I thought Emeril was an excellent judge. I've never liked his shows much at all, but I thought he did really well critiquing the food without being snarky aka Toby.

I am a little shocked that Hosea made it into the final 3 instead of Fabio since I think Fabio had a stronger season overall but I am so excited that Carla won the challenge and is moving on. I think if she's on top of her game she can give Stefan a run for the money.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

It's nice that when the pressure is on, they bring in a judge like Emeril who rarely ever says anything unkind.

Why do the non-English speakers have the foulest mouths? It’s because the dirty words are usually the first words we want to learn when we learn a new language. English has plenty of good dirty words too. I’ve heard it said the best way to learn a new language is in bed.

Anonymous said...

I was so happy to see Gail. Will she be in the final episode too? I hope so!

Carla has really grown on me, she's someone I'd like to have dinner with.

Sue said...

Hi DC,
As usual, I completely agree with you. Once they're gone, they should be gone.

And, yeah, Toby was no loss. Gail was particularly cogent in her comments on Creole/Cajun cuisine.

Hey Jen,
I with you about Hosea. I really don't like him or his cooking particularly. I think he's a crybaby. He's a good example of why I don't like them being judged ONLY on what they've cooked that one night. Because Ariane and Jamie had ONE misstep, they were eliminated. We could have had a Jamie, Ariane, Stefan and Fabio episode, if those first two had been given a break.

I DO like Carla, and she's been cooking up a storm in these later episodes.

Hey Rach,
Oohlala! That IS what they say. Now that I think of it, I know some pretty foul Italian that could make a sailor (or Fabio) blush.

It was great to have Gail back and I presume that she'll be judging in the finale.

Easily Manipulated said...

I agree about Carla - she has definitely grown on me. At the beginning of the season, I found her rather...annoying? But as she's stuck around, I've grown to like her much more.

I was very disappointed to see Fabio go, though. He's another one that I didn't think I'd like at the beginning of the season, but I really felt that he should've stuck around.

I would've loved to see Hosea get canned...Oddly enough, he was one of my favorites at the beginning and has slowly slid down the scale. I agree with Stefan's earlier statement that Hosea just doesn't have the cajones for this. He always seems whiney, and while he may have done well a few times, it seems to be all over the place. In my opinion, he's not very consistent.

I really hope that Carla pulls it out this week! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her!!! :-)

Sue said...

Hi E.M.,

Yeah, Carla could really come from behind and take the prize. Stefan could screw up again and Hosea could throw it all away with his whining. We'll see.

I agree that it was a real shame that Fabio didn't get to the finals. I certainly didn't see that one coming.