Last week, Nicholas once again survived the chopping block, and now his smug mug is back to see if he can possibly skate by one more time.
Shirley reminded Nicholas that he could be an asshole, but that he still had a "big f---ing heart." Among the remaining chefs, Carlos was the odd man out. Nicholas, Shirley, and Nina didn't think of him as a big threat, mostly because he primarily cooks Mexican food. It never bothered me when contestants on Top Chef consistently went back to their primary genre of food -- I think you're allowed to cook mostly Asian, Mexican, Italian, or whatever else because there's so much diversity within each of those categories. And Carlos has made non-Mexican dishes more times than Nicholas has made overly complicated dishes, so there's no real room to call Carlos out on his lack of range.
Tom and Gail were already waiting for the chefs as they entered the kitchen for this two-part Quickfire challenge. In Round One, the chefs had 20 minutes to fit just one bite of food on a single cocktail fork for Gail to judge. As everyone scrambled for ingredients, Nicholas once against accused someone -- this time Shirley -- of cranking up the temperature on his oven. Maybe there really is a kitchen imp running around burning only Nicholas' baked goods, but the more likely scenario is that Nicholas is just a bit absent-minded, especially when he's trying to jam 47 ingredients into one dish. Luckily, Shirley refused to be bullied and called Nicholas a dick.
Nina came up with a shrimp escabeche with potato aioli and pickled shallots. Gail thought that the shrimp flavor really came through, but it was a little greasy. Shirley crafted an elaborate Tataki-style flank steak with black pepper cherry and crispy onions. It was funny watching her arrange all the ingredients on the prongs with a pair of forceps -- Shirley likened it to Jenga, but clearly it's way more like Operation. Gail loved the meat, but wished it was a bit lighter. Tom thought there was a little bit too much soy.
For once, the men prevailed. Carlos moved on to the next round with his beautiful grilled mango with shrimp and chili glaze, and Nicholas joined him with his beef deckle with aged balsamic and purple potato chips.
NEXT: Will Nicholas make it to the finale?