Survivor was not the first reality show, but when its debut season finale played to more than fifty million people, it launched an arms race between networks to green light as many new shows in the blooming genre as possible. It was like the Wild Wild West at first.
This is Top Chef Duels, in which former competitors and champions return to the Top Chef kitchen for one-on-one contests leading up to a 10-chef battle in the finale. Less people means less time dealing with petty personal drama, and more time on food. Oh, these meals!
This week’s episode began with a few lush shots of Hawaii. The chefs arrived and barely had time to settle before they were asked to go outside. Shirley, Nick, and Nina were convinced a challenge would commence, and they were right. First, though, Louis popped up as the winner or Last Chance Kitchen—a feat considering he was eliminated eight weeks ago.
It sucks to get eliminated at any point. That’s not a fun experience, but as Tom pointed out in this week’s episode, there are two potential eliminations that suck more than any others. 1) Getting eliminated immediately prior to the finale and 2) getting eliminated first.
Remember last week when the judges bizarrely decided to award immunity with only six players left in the competition? Well, they went to that same well again this week. Food truck legend Roy Choi showed up as a guest judge for the quickfire and asked the chefs to put their own spin on a po’ boy sandwich.
How long will there be immunity for? That’s always a serious wonder among the contestants on Top Chef. Sometimes the show puts the coveted get out of jail free card up for grabs when there are six contestants left, and sometimes Padma throws up the middle finger and says no more.
Pretty much all of the guest judges on Top Chef get at least a few nice comments and pieces of praise from the wide-eyed contestants, but very few of them routinely achieve as much adulation as John Besh. The New Orleans super chef is revered by pretty much everyone in the culinary world, and that almost universal respect was on full display when he walked into the kitchen to judge this week’s quickfire.
Did you know Questlove is a big time foodie? Apparently the beloved Roots drummer owns his own restaurant and always makes dining a major priority wherever he’s at, which considering he works as a professional musician is all over the world. For this week’s quickfire challenge, the big man showed up and asked the chefs to put a spin on one of his favorite proteins: the drumstick.
Restaurant Wars. It’s the one challenge every single incoming chef thinks about prior to the start of the season. Sometimes Tom and company do it with ten competitors left. Sometimes they do it with eight. Much to the delight of the ten people left in the game, the judges decided to make it ten this year, and without a quickfire, the players were thrown into the twenty-four hours of hell as soon as this week’s episode started.
Battling bad weather and a lack of equipment always leads to some bad dishes, but if you were to ask the players what wrinkles they like least, I’m confident they most despise any challenge that involves trading food. Throw them outside. Take away their knives. Do damn near whatever you want. Just let them finish their own dish.
In case if you needed a reminder as to how fundamentally weird New Orleans is, we got it this week thanks to Dr. John. The noted eccentric and beloved musician is most famous for one badass song, but he’s apparently also a well-known lover of hot sauce. As such, the quickfire required each of the contestants to put their own spin on the classic condiment.
People always point to restaurant wars as the toughest Top Chef challenge, but honestly, I don’t think there’s anything more difficult than the ones in which the contestants are asked to cook outside. Nature adds such a crazy element of chance and in theory, greatly limits the number of dishes, at least for those who aren’t Nina.
After a week with only an elimination challenge, Top Chef returned to its quickfire roots this episode with a little help from Padma and Gail’s mothers. Some production assistants wrapped every single item in the pantry in tin foil. The players were split into two different teams, and the mammas were set loose on a shopping spree to get their ingredients and materials.
Like any large city, New Orleans has more than its share of thriving ethnic communities, one of which is Vietnamese. The immigrants came en mass to help with the shrimping industry, and over the years, they actually began putting their own stamp on the local food. So, to celebrate that rich history, Top Chef producers decided to axe the quickfire and immediately challenge the contestants with making Vietnamese food this week
This week, Top Chef started with a bang. Jumping right in, Padma announced that the quickfire would be an elimination challenge. The tension in the room was palpable as contestants busted their bottoms to finish an excellent dish in a timely manner. Aaron unfortunately overseasoned his kale, causing it to be salty and “inedible.”