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Top Chef: New Orleans – Ep 2 – Tyler Florence May Be Calling His Lawyer

Having just watched the Great Food Truck Race – mainly because they came to my town and my son and I bought food from the eventual winner – this episode became interesting. Food trucks – once considered one of the lowest forms of dining out – have become a bit of a phenomenon. Here in the DC area, they are everywhere. And they are delicious, providing a wide array of cuisine and treat options. Tyler Florence’s show on the Food Network pits teams competing for their own food truck – and was a hoot to watch and take part in – even if their stop in my town was edited out of the Finale.

Top Chef’s challenge this week was to cook out of a food truck for some of the Habitat for Humanity volunteers who are still rebuilding New Orleans from the horrors of Hurricane Katrina. There was a lot of screen time dedicated to Katrina, including Tom in shorts walking by some gutted houses. To me, there isn’t enough TV time dedicated to the disaster. It’s been over eight years and the city is still not back to normal. That’s a national tragedy and one we, as a people, do not take ownership. That said, I can’t recap all of the moments shown on the show. Let’s put it out there – New Orleans is still suffering. Katrina was as much of a shameful moment for our nation as we have seen in decades. The volunteers are doing phenomenal work. And it would be amazing if our leaders would understand that disasters of this magnitude need years of attention, not weeks.

Ok, that’s my Katrina stuff.

The best part about this episode was not the copyright infringement against Tyler Florence, but the unexpected downfall of the arrogant. In the first episode, Pink made it clear that he thought he was all that and more. He had the looks and the talent and was going to blow this competition apart. And he wore pink pants. This week, during the Quickfire, he got snippy in his confessional about the 80+ year old judge, the Queen of Creole, Leah Chase who did not care for his dish. Note to chefs – yes, you are confident in your talent, but let’s not be disrespectful to the culinary giants and legends that you encounter along the way. If the lead singer of Train was on and criticized your gumbo – then feel free in mouthing off.

Later, Pink was teamed up with his Philly buddy Nick, last week’s almost eliminated Vega and Bret – who looks to me like every sleezy accountant/cheating husband to ever appear in an 80s movie. They chose a surf theme for their food truck. Because of all the surfing in Katrina-stricken New Orleans. They nominated Pink to be the face of the truck and to interact with the customers and take orders. Why? Because he’s Pretty in Pink. Sorry, I had to get in the pink jokes, and get this party started. In order to fully maximize his massive charm offensive on the Habitat workers, Pink pre-rolled his salmon rolls. Very often on Top Chef, those pre-prepared meals are a bad idea. That was the case here – it fell apart, it got soggy. It was just a mess.

Now, personally, I expected Vega’s second consecutive poor showing to earn her the boot. Her comments to Tom during Judges Table about the dish not being anything special was a massive red flag. Contestants should never say that about meals they prepare on this show. Heck, they shouldn’t say that in their restaurants. However, those salmon rolls must have been really badly made because Pink was sent packing and over to LCK to do battle with Ramon, and likely a couple of more contestants as they get eliminated.

Meanwhile, as the ego and rolls of Pink got knifed by the Judges, Carrie was on a roll of her own. But for her, this one was a winning roll. She served up a risky gumbo to the Creole Queen when she combined her Iowa roots with her husband’s Trinidad roots and it resulted in a pea green gumbo. To hers, and our, surprise, Creole Queen loved it and Carrie earned herself some immunity.

She didn’t knead it. See what I did there? She chose to make dough for the empanadas for her truck – a bold and risky thing to do in a food truck – but with immunity, chefs are free to make such moves. The judges flipped over the empanadas – and it came down to her light and flaky crust, or Slurping Turtle’s delicious filling. The crust did it – and Carrie pulled the double victory for the week. And somehow I think Masters Champ Doug’s dog charity got more money. Not sure how that happened.

Quickfire – Cooking for the Queen of Creole and the Queen of Top Chef, the chefs have to make gumbo. But because it takes so long to do it right, they get to leave the Stew Room and go home to start crock potting it. They cram in the kitchen and in whatever outlets they can find and start cooking. The theme of the gumbo is for them to be inspired by their own heritage. Slurping Turtle isn’t actually sure how to make gumbo – amazingly this doesn’t hurt him much, as he is going with an Asian-Italian combo. Carrie’s Iowa roots have her cutting corn. Pink is going Polish with beets and potatoes. Or as it is known everywhere else…borscht. Justin is doing traditional dark gumbo. Michael has dumped his first batch and started over in the middle of the night.

Michael Chicken and a six-pack of beer.

Chung A Chinese/Mexican combo.

Booth Asian, thanks to the Asian influence in Australia. Makes sense.

Slurping Turtle Gigantic prawns and Padma double entendres.

Justin N.O. theme.

Vega Puerto Rican gumbo with plantains.

Bret A New England vs. Miami battle. As a Dolphins fan, I know which one will win.

Carrie Iowa/Trinidad and an interesting look.

Carlos He went with chipotle and bone marrow. Good for him the Queen of Creole said the marrow reminded her of dear ole mom.

Pink An ugly Polish dish.

Nina Yucca and plantains. Hello, St. Lucia.

Louis – Who? He went with Moroccan. Yum.

Sara She went with a Shanghai approach.

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