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Top Chef: New Orleans – Ep 11 – Sandbagging On Campus

This week the show sent the chefs back to college – Louisiana State University to be precise – to serve as the lunch ladies and lunch dudes for the school’s freshman orientation. As those young adults begin to learn things at college, we the viewers learned about the latest Top Chef rivalry which appears to be emerging. Nick vs. Carlos. And judging by the previews for next week! this is not a one and done clash.

My take on this first skirmish is that I fall on the side of Team Nick. As the eight chefs each found a workstation in the cafeteria, Nick claimed one of the ovens for his purposes. It seemed most of them were doing something similar. Nick was using this oven to keep his plates warm when Carlos announced that he needed an oven. He asked Nick and Nick refused him. He could have been accommodating, but he was not required to be. We are down to eight – it’s time to buckle down and win this thing. I have no problem with Nick saying no.

What I do have a problem with was Carlos telling Tom and Emeril that Nick took his oven. Not only is that not true but it planted a seed with the judges that Nick was not playing fair and gives Carlos an excuse if his dish failed. It is the Top Chef equivalent of a low blow in boxing or a chop block in football. Really uncalled for and not cool. Nick was understandably upset and confronted Carlos about it in the Stew Room. Carlos denied intention, and perhaps that is true, but it doesn’t change the fact that the damage was done.

I was surprised that we didn’t see Carlos explain to the judges that he misrepresented the oven incident. He was in the Top Three – Nick in he safe middle – it wouldn’t have hurt him at all to come clean. And at the time he had no idea if Nick was in the middle or bottom, so an explanation could have set things straight. Not only did he, in Nick’s words, sandbag his fellow chef, he didn’t make it right when he had the chance.

Top Chef has a very short list of “villains” – I wonder if Carlos is on his way to joining it.

The other interesting dynamic which emerged was one of the more timely moments of immunity that has been seen in a while. I believe that if not for her impressing Questlove with some squab drumsticks, then Carrie was going to be departing thanks to her truly awful idea of serving broccoli to college freshmen. I really don’t know what she was thinking. At least Justin had the excuse of never going to college – but even that is thin, as I am sure he has encountered teenagers before.

Both of them were confined by their choice to serve cold dishes, but there was a lot of wiggle room there. Carrie volunteered for the tough gig because of the immunity, but that was no reason to mail it in. A cold dish could be anything. There were no dietary restrictions and no concerns about healthy requirements. They could have made a horrible 1500 calorie Chili’s style taco salad. Not blanched broccoli or bland cold shrimp.

Carrie was very lucky. Next time she wins immunity I hope she remembers to be bold.

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