Four chefs – Carla Hall, Hosea Rosenberg, Fabio Viviani and Stefan Richter – have successfully run the gauntlet of Top Chef 5 in New York City, and can officially say: they made it there.

Now that they tackled the Big Apple, it’s time to try the Big Easy, and the chefs head down to New Orleans to cook for the Top Chef judges and Emeril Lagasse. Of course, there has to be a twist, and this one brings back some familiar faces.

The chefs arrive in New Orleans, and Fabio has brought a new haircut. One of the other chefs gripes that he broke the streak of no mohawks on this season. But the actual trend on Top Chef is for fauxhawks, so I think he should get a pass.

The chefs head to Houma House, where several cooking stations are set up on the plantation grounds. But only three. Carla wonders if one of them is going home right away.

No, it’s actually something different. Padma Lakshmi introduces Emerial and Tom Colicchio, then announces that three chefs – Jeff McInnis, Jamie Lauren and Leah Cohen – will actually be competing in the Quickfire. The winner of that challenge will cook alongside the final four in the Elimination Challenge. And if that chef wins, he or she can head to the final three in place of Carla, Fabio, Stefan or Hosea.

The three chefs prepare their dishes, starring the popular Louisiana ingredient crawfish. While all three seem to do well, it’s Jeff who wins a spot in against the final four.

The chefs learn about their Elimination Challenge the next day at a large warehouse where parade floats are stored. They will each be serving two dishes and one cocktail to a masked ball with 100 people in attendance. At least one of their dishes will need to be influenced by Creole cuisine, the cuisine that combines the flavors of the French, Spanish and African cultures of New Orleans.

The chefs get to cooking in Emeril’s well-stocked kitchen. It’s well-stocked, but the oysters he has on offer are not shucked. Carla’s opted for an oyster dish, and although she just learned how to shuck an oyster within the past week, she sets about slowly working her way through 100 of them.

Hosea is also involved in some time-intensive cooking. He’s making gumbo, and so must go through the long process of developing the flavors of the roux.

Stefan is also making a gumbo, but he’s not quite investing the same amount of time or care, or at least that’s how it appears to the other chefs. He’s not developing his roux as deeply as Hosea, and he’s using a prepared andouille sausage and not making his own like Jeff.

Andouille sausage from scratch is just one of the several components Jeff is making. While complex dishes have sometime proved to be his downfall, this time he knows he really has to pull out all the stops since he must win to stay in the game.

Fabio is working with the flavors of Creole, but can’t help but bring his Italian influence to bear on the dishes.
At the event, most of the dishes go over well, but it seems clear that Carla and Jeff are the standouts. Hosea also gets warm reception for his authentic gumbo. Fabio’s food is tasty, but is missing the heat of Creole. Stefan’s grits impress the judges, and his gumbo is enjoyable, but it’s not as developed a flavor or color. His apple beignet is also not at the right temperature.

At judging, the judges ding Stefan not only for the flaws of his dish, but also for his cockiness. Fabio’s Italian elements had some success, but his overall flavors are off.

After additional deliberation, the winner is announced: it’s Carla. This win comes with something extra: a new car! Unfortunately for Jeff, it also means a second elimination.

Hosea is told he’s safe, so it’s down to Stefan and Fabio…and it’s the Italian representative of the Team Euro who’s going home.

We’ll be talking with him tomorrow, so head back here to see what he has to say about his time on Top Chef 5.

Carla: Oyster Stew, Shrimp and Andouille Beignet, Cranberry Spritzer

Fabio: Grits with Sausage and Rabbit, Crawfish and Crab Stew with Pasta, Bell Pepper Martini

Hosea: Duck, Andouille and Chicken Gumbo, Pecan Crusted Catfish, Hurricane with Grand Marnier

Stefan: Duck and Rabbit Gumbo with Grits, Apple Beignet, Black Cherry Rum Cocktail


– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist.  Check out what I’m cooking this week on!

(Image courtesy of BravoTV)


Staff Columnist, BuddyTV