Top Chef’s New Orleans season lurches to a close this week as we re-connect with the chefs next week in Hawaii for the two-part Finale. It’s funny, I took notes during this episode. Then, of course, my insane life got in the way, and as I sit down to write this column I realize the episode left absolutely no impression on me whatsoever. I watched it. I was entertained. Good food was cooked. An elimination made. But nothing actually jumps out at me as a point to bounce a column off of – the episode was just kinda there.
The Nick as a villain angle? Meh. I killed that last week. Chung as the underdog and frontrunner – a hard combo to achieve? Well, I guess. BB as one of the best chefs in recent years who hasn’t really done anything on screen to be remembered for? I mean, she’s good. Really good. She’s rarely been on the bottom in any challenge this season. Even this week when she made a rare error, it didn’t cost her a thing. Carlos? What has he done this season other than annoy Nick and cook Mexican food regardless of the challenge?
I could focus on Padma’s hotness. That’s a great fallback position. I could comment on how cold the Quickfire room must have been because its effect on Gail was noticeable. That was fun for me at least – perhaps not for Gail. Tom and Emeril? They’re always great. Tom is amazing on this show – and Emeril seems to have found his role finally. He’s essentially become the Paula Abdul of this show. How? He’s become Uncle Emeril. The chefs look at him as their ally. He’s become the Good Cop. It’s a role that suits him. Just the way Puck embraces being hard on the chefs – Bourdain too. Emeril seems to relish being Uncle Emeril.
We even got a “kick it up a notch” from him this week.
The challenges were solid – a two-part Quickfire where they indulge Gail’s love for amuse bouche. One bite on a cocktail fork. And a second part where Tom’s love of veggies are exposed. And where Tom reminds us of the amazing challenge from a few seasons ago where we watched him cook a Quickfire meal in 8 ½ minutes. The Elimination is a variation on an old Top Chef theme – how did the host city inspire you? A solid theme challenge – but one that didn’t produce a lot of interest this time. Carlos cooked Mexican food. Of course. BB made her rare error – and in fact, the dish didn’t even need the element she forgot to add. Nick made an overly complicated dish and barely survived the week. And Chung continued her hero’s journey through the bayou by continuing to find her voice and cease being a Shadow Chef.
So we head to Maui next week for the Finale – and something I have hated before on the show. They are doing a double elimination heading into the final showdown. Ugh. I don’t like double eliminations at this stage in the game. Early on, when there are about 200 chefs in the game, that’s fine. But in the Final Four? It feels unfair. It may not be unfair, but it feels that way to me. Just do a Final Three for the title at this point instead of taking down two next week. That feels better to me. In fact, I would like a moratorium on double eliminations until they start choosing to not eliminate a chef because of a nitpick. Using Cmar’s elimination as an example – why cut someone who did well when you don’t have to? Keep her and tell the chefs that two go in the next Elim. If it happens again? Take out three the next time. Just adjust on the fly.
So, we have a Final Three – and a fourth to join them soon. I would say Chung is the frontrunner right now – but we have the Finale dynamic about to come into play. Perhaps if they played it immediately – meaning no weeks/months long delay between New Orleans and Hawaii – which is what they normally do, then her momentum would mean something. However, the fatigue that could be dragging down the others will be gone. The rust will be there – another reason a double elimination stinks – and I think all of the success Chung has had to get her here factors in very little.
I would put BB as the likely winner – with Chung a close second. I think Nick’s tendency to get in his own head is going to hurt him badly in the Finale. I don’t think Carlos has the skills the others have – and he’d have to branch out from Mexican food to get there. Louis is the interesting one – if he beat Carlos in the final LCK to get back, that’s amazing. But the winning streak to get him there would potentially have given him Chung-like momentum. But he loses that as well. But lets see if Carlos’ mahi mahi (Mexican style, of course) or Louis’ yellowfin tuna gets them in the game.
I guess we’ll find out shortly – perhaps Kish and Steph will have another woman in the Top Chef Ladies Room soon during winners’ get-togethers. I am sure they happen all the time too.