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Top Chef: New Orleans – Ep 7 – …And All That Jazz…And Bad Voiceovers

This week, our Top Chef friends finally decided to bring jazz music into the mix for a season set in New Orleans. That’s like having Top Chef: Nashville and wheeling in Trisha Yearwood midway through the season. Oh well. Both challenges had a musical theme – and one had a complex, fun theme but was inherently unfair, while the other was pretty simple but kind of boring in the end.

Mixed in to cooking and music was a bizarre sideshow as Nick required a visit from the Top Chef Medical Staff. It seems the Philly chef contracted strep throat and is actually forced to skip the Quickfire Challenge. That’s something that I cannot remember ever taking place before – fans, please let me know if a chef has had to skip a Quickfire before. What was odd about this was the Padma voice over that came with the revelation that he was not at the kitchen. She didn’t say this at the time – because it is really obvious that the audio is different. I mean, they might as well have just had a computerized voice say it. Or hire Gilbert Gottfried to read it because it was that obvious she recorded it later on. It said that Nick needed to be ready to go for the Elimination Challenge the next day or he’d be forced to forfeit his slot in the competition. It’s just so odd to me that something so simple of production value would be so badly done.

For the very fun, but strange Quickfire Challenge – famous New Orleans jazz musician/chef Kermit Ruffins comes in to judge. If you did not watch this episode and are relying on the pitter patter of my laptop keyboard, then just close your eyes and imagine what you immediately think of when one says the words, “New Orleans jazz musician.” And that’s Kermit.

The challenge is a fun one – as it makes a nice play on the improvisational nature of jazz music. The chefs play musical chairs. They walk around a huge table that has workstations set up all around the table. The workstations are eclectic – with various proteins, veggies, tools and cooking devices set up. When Kermit stops playing, you set up and start cooking. However, at three other points in the challenge Kermit will re-start playing. And the musical chairs begin all over again. This means you will likely wind up at another person’s dish. And the final stage is essentially just completing the existing work and plating.

I liked the creativity and it was certainly a challenge that appeared to be lots of fun to compete in. However, I feel that having someone win immunity based on where they randomly wound up in the final stage – while failing to reward those who essentially prepared the dish – was rather unfair. Perhaps not have immunity on this challenge and give a cash prize to the chefs who worked on the winning dish. But, alas, that was not to be. In fact, I was wondering, do you take a chance and sabotage the early rounds, knowing that the odds are vastly against your fate winding up in front of whatever horrible mess you left. Nobody did this, but I wonder how many really thought about it.

Chung starts off with bacon, tofu and a microwave, so that gives you a sense of the randomness of the workstations. Sara gets duck and mussels, Justin gets quail and flounder, Boo Boo (BB from now on) starts a French-style dish. After the first shuffle, Cap winds up at BB’s station, BB gets Sara’s and so on and so forth. Huskey is the first to consider not doing much in the early rounds as he just sautés veggies at Cmar’s frog leg station.

Amazingly, the second shuffle puts all of the chefs back at t heir first station! Cmar and Justin are puzzled by what the other chefs did to their dish, while BB is very pleased with Cap’s contribution. At the last stage, only ten minutes are left. Louis has Cmar’s frogs, Justin gets Chung’s microwave and tosses the horrible couscous paste he inherited. Carlos has BB’s and finds it too salty, so he adds cucumbers. Huskey gets Sara’s and is basically just adding sauce and plating it.

Justin, with Chung, Vega, Chung – Tofu.
Cap, with Carlos, Carrie, Carlos – Steak.
Sara, with Carrie, Justin, Carrie – Trout.
Huskey, with Sara, BB, Sara – Duck.
Vega, with Louis, Cmar, Louis – Pork Chops.
BB, with Cap, Sara, Cap – Liver.
Cmar, with Huskey, Carlos, Huskey – Chicken and clams.
Carlos, with BB, Cap, BB – Redfish.
Chung, with Vega, Louis, Vega – Shrimp.
Louis, with Cmar, Huskey, Cmar – Frog Legs.

On the bottom, Louis’ frogs and their lack of spice, along with Justin’s microwaved tofu. Stunning, with that one, of course. On the top, Carlos with BB’s crispy fish, Huskey with Sara’s really great dish, and Vega with Louis’ juicy pork (shut up, you guys). Interestingly, BB had her hand in two of the three winners. She is absolutely the clear-cut front-runner this season. No doubt. Huskey wins the immunity, but I think Sara and BB should have gotten something as well.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are put into teams and have to create a pot luck menu for Kermit and his jazz musician buddies at a jazz club. Vega has never heard of potluck meals. I am certain that will NOT be foreshadowing of the outcome in any possible way whatsoever. We also get a second horrible voiceover about Nick.

The teams are:
Chung, Louis, and Sara
Carrie, BB, Cmar and Carlos – now that’s a powerhouse foursome.
Vega, Huskey, Cap and Nick

The get to eat at Kermit’s before heading out to ship for the challenge. Nick is on the phone with Cap to put in his input. Sara can’t fund broccolini, Louis thinks veggies are…zzzzzzzz….snrk….oh, crap, I fell asleep. Boy, was this shopping and prep section more boring than ever this week? I mean, just thinking about how Louis’ veggies could be the most….zzzzzzz…..

Crap, it’s morning already. Boy, am I late.

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