Top Chef New Orleans Recap: Episode 2
By David Mumpower
October 16, 2013
Previously on Top Chef, a massive influx of new contestants attempted to follow in the footsteps of Paul Qui and Kristen Kish to become the new champion. Seventeen outsiders invaded New Orleans, while a pair of home grown chefs personally selected by Padma Lakshmi all accepted the challenge. Most of the chefs presented exceptional dishes for the judges. A woman named Nina Compton whose father ruled an entire country proved to be the best.
Meanwhile, three participants failed on a grand scale. Any of Aaron Cuschieri, Patty Vega or Ramon Bojorquez could have been eliminated for their mistakes. In fact, I half-expected at least two of them to be asked to pack their knives and go since the show is heaving with would-be Top Chefs at the moment. Eventually, Ramon became the first player removed from the competition although he was kindly informed that this season will include Last Chance Kitchen once again.
The most fortunate person was Patty Vega, who cried tears of shame throughout the episode. Her elimination seemed certain right up until Ramon’s name was called. The primary question as we head into this week’s episode is whether her terrible start was simply a bad night or if she is in waaaaaay over her head. If it’s the latter, she will not last another round because she was just that awful during the first challenge.
In the wake of the elimination, semi-returning player Stephanie Cmar describes the waiting room as “doomsday”. She also notes that she does not cry like a pansy, which is a statement she will be held to for the rest of the season. If I see any tears, she’s Boston Pansy the rest of the way.
Only moments later, Padma enters the stew area to inform the players that their next challenge is already starting. This Quickfire will require the participants to craft a delicious gumbo to satisfy the locals of New Orleans. The meal’s ingredients should reflect the heritage of each player. Creole legend Leah Chase is also announced as the judge of the challenge. Ergo, the flavor had better be authentic because they’re cooking for the queen of gumbo.
The one bit of good news for the chefs is that they have more time than normal for their dish. They can start as soon as they return home. Once they reach the Top Chef kitchen, they will have 15 minutes to finalize their meal. Effectively, all of the players will do their kicking this evening then warm their dishes tomorrow. Sleep will be at a premium, so there should be a lot of irritability by the close of business tomorrow. That’s a delicious drama cocktail for a house (too) full of relative strangers.
Understandably, the New Orleans chefs feel like they have an advantage once the rules are announced. Justin Devillier, who seems like the more talented of the two local residents, demonstrates cool confidence throughout the evening. Michael Sichel, who seems like the more adversarial, does so well that he dumps his first batch of gumbo in the garbage. He then adds that he is a cancer survivor since his youth, so I presume that his edgy personality was forged in the fire of radiation.