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Top Chef NOLA - Ep. #14 - 01/15/14 (Spoilers)

LindaWhit | Jan 15, 201408:40 PM

Po' Boys! They're on the menu tonight.

The five remaining chefs are in the Stew Room. Shirley is crying; Nicholas doesn't feel good, but he said it's a competition, and he's cooking to win.

The next morning, they head back to the TC kitchen. They arrive, and Chef Roy Choi (king of the food trucks) is there with Padma. Padma says that just as L.A. is known for their tacos, NOLA is known for Po' Boys. They are to create their own unique and personalized gourmet Po' Boy. They have 20 minutes, and the winner will get immunity.

As a chef, Shirley's always done fine dining; she's never made sandwiches. She wants to showcase her technique, but at the same time, the po' boy has to show who she is. She's going Chinese, Carlos is going with a Mexican al pastor, Nicholas is going New Englandish with shrimp, Brian's going with a lobster Korean theme, and Nina's going with a Caribbean theme.

Nicholas - Fried Shrimp Po' Boy with Mayo, Sriracha, Fennel & Pancetta. Roy asks about the shrimp seasoning, and Nicholas tells him what the seasoning was.

Shirley - Sauteed Catfish Po' Boy with Mirin, Ginger, Garlic Glaze & Cabbage Slaw. Padma notes the catfish isn't overdone. Meanwhile, Roy is breaking apart Shirley's po' boy and investigating the ingredients, but doesn't say much.

Nina - Fried Mahi Po' Boy with Mojo Aioli & Pickled Onions. Again, Roy opens the sandwich and digging into individual ingredients after asking Nina if there was any crunch in the sandwich (the pickled onions were her crunch).

Brian - Asian-inspired Lobster Po' Boy, Gochujang Aioli & Yuzu with Pickled Napa Cabbage. Roy asks why gochujang, and Brian says his background is Korean.

Carlos - Al Pastor Po' Boy with Guajillo Chilies, Pineapple, Onions & Roasted Garlic. Roy said he's very particular about al pastor; it's not from L.A. Carlos doesn't know what he means: "He's telling me he's from L.A. Well, that's great - I'm from Mexico!"

Roy tells them all that they all sort of missed the boat on their po' boys. He said they "had a cook's dream with a po' boy bread in New Orleans, and you had a chance to tell their story, and you f*cked this sh*t up." He said if they were in his kitchen, this would be when they would go into the walk-in and they would start straight-talking. He said they were thinking too much as chefs; they need to start finding their soul in their food.

He tells Carlos there was a lot of flavor lacking in his al pastor. Nicholas's po' boy was too salty, and didn't have a balance of mayonnaise throughout the sandwich. Brian's po' boy didn't taste of the gochujang; Brian thought it was balanced, but he guesses that Roy wanted the gochujang in his face.

Shirley's pickled veggies were great, the little hints of black vinegar were fun, and the catfish was cooked perfectly, but it didn't represent her as a Chinese woman - it was a little pedestrian. As for Nina, he said the sandwich didn't pop for him. The ingredients were good, but everything fell to the middle, when he should have been dancing.

Padma said that some of what they did was good, but when sandwiched between two pillows of bread, it got a little bit lost.

After all of that, Roy said the winner was Shirley. She was able to show a balance of flavor and a little surprise in her sandwich. She gets immunity - so she's in the Top 4. Roy said he hates to come off negative, but he wants them to take his words and let them kick them in their ass so they can find their flavors.

Padma asks them to welcome Jon Favreau. He's recently added chef to his resume. He teases them and tells them they'll have to cook their dishes from anything they can find in dumpsters in the French Quarter. He tells them about the movie he's working on - "Chef", where the main character has lost his voice and is cooking food he no longer connects with, so he opens a food truck and travel across the country with his son. And that's where he finds his passion and rediscovers his culinary voice.

Roy explains he found his voice by losing everything he had, and opening his first food truck, he re-found his voice. Shirley can identify with Roy , as the last year hasn't been as passionate for her as it should has been.

Padma tells them to create a dish representing a turning point in their career that led them to discover their culinary voice. They'll serve their dishes at Cafe Reconcile, a local charity that teaches at-risk youth culinary skills to get a job in the future.

They'll have 2-1/2 hours to cook at the Cafe. Jon Favreau tells them that he's still doing research for his movie, so invites them to join him, Emeril and Gail Simmons at NOLA food trucks. They head out that evening to try various food trucks' dishes. Jon asks if anyone had found their voice, and Brian explains his low point where he got burnt out. Spending 24 hours in a men's correctional facility after a DUI woke him up, and he was reinspired by working with Ricardo Zarate.

Gail said for the first half of their careers, they're executing someone else's work, so that moment where you're allowed to create something that comes from you, it's a pivotal moment.

Emeril asks Shirley what her moment was - she explains it was at the beginning of this show when Emeril introduced them to the shrimpers. She said she was hoping being on the show would help her find her voice, and she has. She doesn't want to be a shadow chef; she wants to be Shirley Chung.

That night, back at the house, they put a paper towel drawing of Roy Choi up on the dartboard (which Roy said he thought they might do back during the QF challenge!) and they take turns tossing darts at the picture.

The next morning, they run into Whole Foods to get their ingredients. Nina notes that Scott Conant was her inspiration, teaching her that sometimes simple is the best way. Nicholas seems to be going with 4 or 5 different preparations of carrot. He said it's an original dish he thought of in his restaurant, highlighting one flavor - his transition from classical to contemporary cuisine. Nina notes in the confessional that Nicholas's downfall is that he over-thinks things and puts too much on the plate, and he has a short fuse. That could be trouble in the kitchen.

Carlos said he's making a braised pork belly with chipotle-tamarind glaze, something he created in his restaurant that was very popular, so it proves he can cook.

They head to Cafe Reconcile to prep and cook. Nicholas immediate sets up his pots on the stove; Carlos asks if "these are your pans", and Nicholas said yes, those are my pans, don't touch them. Carlos said "Can I put one of them over here?" (Nicholas had taken 3 front burners, and Carlos was asking if he could move *one* pot to a back burner).

Nicholas said "You can do whatever you want, just don't touch them." So Carlos moves one pan based on the "you can do whatever you want" , and he moves one of Nicholas's pans. Nicholas said "I SAID don't move my f*cking pots! If some one moves my pots again, we're going to have a problem!" and moves them back. So Carlos moves a pressure cooker to the back burner. Way to totally contradict yourself, Nicholas!

Nicholas is pissed that Carlos moved his pots when he claims he told him not to do so. Carlos said in the confessional that it doesn't hurt his feelings; he's there to cook. Nina is having problems with the pasta as it's too hot in the kitchen, so it's sticking or the pasta is breaking. So she changes her dish from a filled pasta to a fettuccine, as it's easier to work with in the heat.

Tom Colicchio and Jon Favreau come in to see how the chefs are doing. Tom asks Shirley about her dish, and she's portioning out snapper. Tom asks "do you want to leave the fish out in the hot kitchen? Oh, you have immunity, what do you care?" Shirley said "I don't look at immunity as having immunity at all!"

After Tom and Jon leave, Nicholas notes he has to break down tuna, juice carrots, reduce carrots, make a carrot top puree, make a carrot oil, make a quinoa (which he ends up burning, because he said either he didn't turn the heat down on the oven or someone turned it up. The camera shot after he puts the quinoa in the oven shows the oven at 500 degrees - so guess what Nicholas, you didn't turn the heat down!) With no quinoa he has no texture on his dish.

The guests and judges arrive, and Emeril discusses how he got involved with Cafe Reconcile. Almost 2000 students have graduated from the program, and several of them work at Emeril's restaurants.

SHIRLEY - Seared Snapper with Crustacean Broth, Silken Tofu & Napa Cabbage (with Fennel & Leek). Tom said it's really delicious, and Emeril said the fish was perfectly cooked. The kids in the program, who are the servers today, are trying the dish in the kitchen. One of them says "My Grandma's fish is the best - but this fish is better!" Another says "Your mama don't make it like this!"

NINA - Fettuccine with Charred Calamari, Pine Nut Gremolata & Crab Meat. Jon Favreau said she got the calamari right; Tom said the calamari is right, the pasta is perfect; at this stage of the game, Tom says, "this is how they should be cooking. Seasoned right, cooked right, flavorful, this is it."

BRIAN - Chicken Anticucho with Twice Cooked Potatoes & Feta Walnut Pesto. Padma asks if it's chicken breast; Gail said yes. Padma said his dish is interesting; Gail notes it's heavy, it's intense, it tastes good, but it's muddled. Emeril said "It tastes good, but it's chicken breast!" Tom said it's so boring - Emeril even got a undercooked potato, despite them being twice-cooked.

CARLOS - Braised Pork Belly with Sweet Potato Puree & Chipotle Tamarind Glaze. Emeril liked the addition of the the citrus segment, and you can taste every flavor in his dish, and Tom notes everything as a purpose. A server in the kitchen ask "What is this?" and another says "Pork belly. This is great!"

NICHOLAS - Yellowfin Tuna, Several Preparations of Carrot & Fennel Pollen Dust (preparations include carrot top puree, fresh carrot top, carrot top oil, carrot in saffron reduction, shaved fresh carrot). He notes he wanted to do some crispy quinoa, but it didn't work out. After Nicholas walks away, Jon Favreau asks "And this was inspired by the comedy of Carrot Top?" LOL Padma said the sauces are great, the dish is very sophisticated. Emeril and Tom both think the dish is very underseasoned. Tom is disappointed about the slices of plain raw carrot - how about braising or glazing them? He also said the texture from the quinoa would have added a lot. In the kitchen, after tasting the dish, a server says "I mean, it's not nasty or anything; it's just gooey."

They're back in the Stew Room, and Padma comes in asking to see all of them. ::::Whooshing camera shots:::: Emeril tells them they inspired the students, not just with their cooking skills but the way they worked in the kitchen.

Padma asked Nina how she felt about her dish; she explained that the kitchen was too hot to create her filled pasta, so she switched to the fettuccine, and feels it worked out well. Tom tells her the pasta was perfect, Jon said she slow-played Tom and him in the kitchen, lowering their expectations, but when the dish came out, they were pleased. Emeril said the lemon flavor was a good balance.

For Brian's dish, Gail tells him her vision of anticucho is super clean; she felt his dish was heavy. Emeril notes the raw potato, and Tom asks why a boneless/skinless chicken breast? Brian said he didn't know what type of kitchen they were going into. Tom stopped him - he said if you don't know what type of kitchen you're going to be cooking in, buy the whole chicken with bones and skin, then you can take the bones and skin off. He said the chicken had absolutely no flavor.

Tom tells Shirley that if this is her voice, he likes the sound of it. Gail said she kept going back to the broth, it was breathtaking. Emeril said the fish and skin were perfect. Jon Favreau said the only negative was that they were all tipping their bowls to get every last bit of broth.

Carlos said this was one of his few signature dishes, so he was ready. Gail said "You were waiting to pounce with this one!" Tom said everything had a purpose, everything made sense. Emeril said he's eaten a lot of sweet potatoes; these were really good.

Padma asks if Nicholas' day had gone as he wanted it to have gone, and Nicholas said it didn't. He explains about the quinoa mishap, and Padma asks what he thought happened, and he didn't know. Tom said it has to be frustrating; he's there, he's one of five, but he keeps having these mishaps. Gail said he the sauce and oil were great, but the fish was disconnected. If there had been that other element, it would have tied it together. Emeril was looking for texture. Tom said the dish would have been better without the fish - just a nice burst of carrot. (Personal note: I'm thinking if there was no protein at ALL? Tom would have ripped Nicholas a new one for serving a dish made of carrots.)

As the cheftestants walk away, Emeril notes quietly to Tom "Nicholas was pissed off." Back in the Stew Room, Brian said "It's obviously Nicholas or me." Nicholas replies "If you [Brian] goes home, I would be unbelievably surprised."

The judges discuss - Shirley's dish seems to be the top dish for Tom, Emeril and Gail, but Padma and Jon both think Carlos' dish was equally great. Jon was impressed with Nina's improvisation style of her pasta dish. Gail said there was nothing superfluous on that plate. Brian's b/s chicken breast just grates on Tom, and Emeril's raw potato was a detractor. Nicholas's day in the kitchen seems to have been the most difficult. Tom said you're down to five people, and you just throw something in the oven and forget about it? And Padma notes "It's not like he was cooking the tuna for a long time!"

Jon Favreau announces that Shirley is the winner! Tom tells Carlos that his dish and Nina's pasta dish was just a little bit behind Shirley's, and they're all safe. The judges discuss Brian and Nicholas's dishes. The online vote shows Nicholas as the one to go home by 80% to Brian's 20%.

Padma tells Brian to PYKAG. Wow - REALLY? I really thought Nicholas was going home! As they leave, Tom notes that Nicholas looked surprised; and Jon said he'll be interested to see what Nicholas brings, as he realizes he got a second chance.

So Brian heads over to LCK, where in the preview, Tom gives him crap for using b/s chicken breast during the LCK competition. Brian notes "I had a brain fart!"

Previews for next week show Emeril saying "the winning dish will be featured in all of Emeril's NOLA restaurants."

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