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.

In this week’s quickfire, the chefs were asked to prepare a dish highlighting local tomatoes while cooking for legend John Besh outdoors in New Orleans. Nina, because she’s a straight up baller, decided to make chilled soup despite the fact that it was a steamy 90s something outside, and miraculously, her crazy scheme actually worked like a charm. She was able to keep it just cold enough and took home the crown, narrowly edging out Carlos and Louis who also put forth very good offerings.

For the quickfire challenge, the contestants were separated into appetizer, entrée and dessert groups. Each was given ninety minutes to prepare a dish with only local ingredients, highlighting Philadelphia cream cheese. On paper, it was a bit of a problem because the restrictions cut out using butter, but many of the chefs were able to rise to the challenge, specifically Nina, Justin and Nicholas who landed in the top thanks to crispy zucchini blossoms, roasted duck breast and funnel cake respectively. After much deliberation, Nina wound up completing the episode sweep and was awarded the victory.

As for the bottom of the pack, the chefs singled out for their failure were Travis, Bene and Sara. The judges had a real problem with Travis because his meat was undercooked and his vegetables a) didn’t taste very good and b) were cut strangely. Bene found himself getting torn a new one because he decided to put a covering over his vegetables to make sure they got done, which gave them an aggressive steamed taste that was apparently reminiscent of cafeteria food. And lastly Sara spent way too much time stuffing her lamb and didn’t leave herself with enough of a window to actually cook, leaving her meat closer to blue than pink. After far less deliberation, the judges decided to send Bene home.

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, seven 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 week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.

The Favorites
#1) Nina Compton (38): Don’t mind Nina. She’s just quietly emerging as the single best chef in the entire competition. This week, she swept both of the challenges, and from the outside looking in, it seemed like she did so by a fair margin too. Plus, it’s obvious the other chefs are very intimidated by her, which should operate as quite a feather in her cap.

#2) Shirley Chung (36): The desserts this week, sans Nicholas, were not particularly appealing, probably thanks to the fact that there was no butter available in the challenge. Shirley’s dessert was a bit overdone, but it didn’t land her in the bottom, either. Hopefully, she’ll be in better form next week and will be able to walk away from pastry and toward something she’s actually good at.

#3) Justin Devillier (34): Justin’s roasted duck breast may have been a bit light on the cream cheese, but it was executed flawlessly. Unlike many of his competitors, he seems to realize that the most important factor here is creating something that tastes good. Simplicity done right is always, always in season.

#4) Carlos Gaytan (31): Now, this is the Carlos we were all expecting at the beginning of the season thanks to his Michelin star. He really seems to have calmed down over the past few weeks and is now very comfortable with the time restrictions and other random specifics Top Chef requires.

#4) Carrie Mashaney (31): Throughout the season, Carrie has been a solid contender, but this week she didn’t present her best side, creating a dish that was described as “soupy” and had some weird vegetables thrown in. Luckily, she wasn’t in the bottom three, so she only dropped a wee bit in these rankings. Hopefully, next week she’ll be able to create something that is a lot more appealing to the eye and to the judges’ bellies.

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