Top Chef Power Rankings: Vietnamese Tomato Sauce

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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, much to the delight of Travis who found it necessary to tell viewers a) his boyfriend is Vietnamese, b) heís been to Vietnam a ton of times, c) heís an expert and d) he knows way more than the judges.

The specifics of the elimination challenge split the remaining players into three teams of five. Team one consisted of Nicholas (black pepper squid), Brian (spring rolls), Carlos (fish head soup), Louis (beef broth pho) and Michael (overall helper/ prep master). Team two was made up of Nina (raw beef salad), Shirley (bbq shrimp with Creole spice butter), Justin (beef pho), Carrie (lemon custard) and Patty (prep work/ bread). Finally, team three included Travis (grilled pork sausage lettuce wraps), Sara (oxtail rice wrap), Stephanie (macaroon), Janine (fresh gulf shrimp) and Bene (ginger Vietnamese tomato sauce).

Based on those team assignments (chosen by seating arrangements), can you guess who won? Obviously team number two, and it wasnít even close. The judges liked each of the dishes they presented, and with the exception of Brian from team one, they had problems with every single other dish the chefs put forward. All in all, it was an ass-whooping, and Shirley walked away with the victory thanks to her flavorful dish that was a great mix of authentic Vietnamese and local Creole.

As for the bottom of the pack, both teams easily could have been singled out and sent in front of the judges for a lecture, but as fate would have it, Travis and his reckless overconfidence were given that lucky assignment. He was torn a new one by Tom and company for recommending to his team weirdo dishes like ginger tomato sauce that were more outliers than the essence of Vietnamese cuisine. Luckily for him, however, that blunder didnít cost him as much as poor Janine who was given the heave-ho for frying her shrimp a second time in order to make sure they were hot.

The Top Chef Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Rawden and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Nineteen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, six were given for a last place vote. Five competitors have already been eliminated; therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this weekís voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.


The Favorites
#1) Shirley Chung (38): Shirely finds herself at the top of this weekís leaderboard because sheís not afraid to take calculated risks. Prior to this weekís challenge, she talked to some local Vietnamese shrimp workers who told her they always use butter when cooking the food. So, instead of making sure every single element of her dish was traditional, she took the spirit of the food and jazzed it up with New Orleans flavors, just like the locals do.

#2) Carrie Mashaney (36): This wasnít Carrieís best week. Her dessert was referred to as an afterthought by the judges, and even though it had some good flavor, it was still pretty much a cop-out, which someone of her talent should never do. That being said, her team was completely stacked with arguably the seasonís four best players; so, itís hard to fault her for taking a back seat to others who were more comfortable with the flavors.

#3) Justin Devillier (34): The judges were all over Justin for being able to make such a delicate pho in two hours. Apparently, thatís an extremely hard task, and while the producers never announce it, editing would lead us to believe he almost certainly finished in second place this week, which is another impressive result for one of the few very good men on this seasonís cast.

#4) Nina Compton (32): Nina didnít go super traditional with the way she cut her beef this week, but she still put together some nice flavors and found herself on the winning team. In other news, she also attacked Michael during her camera interview for supposedly be fake. Stay tuned for that brewing feud moving forward, as well as ideally, more great dishes from Nina.

#5) Brian Huskey (30): Brianís spring rolls went over very well. Itís impossible to know exactly how good they were, however, because his team wound up in the middle and he didnít get any lengthy feedback. Still, being the lone bright spot amidst a lot of failure isnít exactly a disaster this early in the competition. Look for him to really come into his own sometime during these next few weeks.
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