Top Chef recap: Surf and Derf

The chefs make lunch for Katrina aid workers; a big personality leaves the show early
Ep. 02 | Aired Oct 9, 2013

LEAH CHASE does not care if you look like a surfer. Just make a good gumbo.

David Moir/Bravo

The most delicious dish served on last night's episode was most certainly served cold. And I'm not talking about ceviche. Oh, how the self-proclaimed-mighty have fallen.

But more on that later. The first Quickfire Challenge of the season was all about one of the most beloved dishes in Louisiana: gumbo. As Michael the New Orleans kind-of-local reminded us repeatedly, he knows gumbo. I mean, he currently lives in New Orleans, like, right now. Aaron, on the other hand, seemed confused as to what gumbo is.

Padma announced that it would be the longest Quickfire Challenge in Top Chef history -- as Jason said, it should be called a "long fire." Because gumbo takes a while to cook and often tastes better the next day, the chefs would start the gumbo that night in the Top Chef house and finish it the next day. Most importantly, though, veteran chef Leah Chase, who once smiled next to George W. Bush, would be on hand to judge. The cheftestants treated her reverentially, and by all appearances she deserved it. She's like the Maya Angelou of cooking. That woman knows who she is.

The chefs piled into their impressively capacious kitchen and clashed crock pots all night long. Michael hated his gumbo and dumped his in the garbage at 1:30 a.m. He looked as if he were in trouble, but of course he remained confident. "Nailed it," he said. Carrie was concerned that her pea green gumbo had turned into an ugly, sludgy mess.

The next day, Leah Chase declared, "When I see all these young beautiful chefs, that makes me happy. When I see all those women, that makes me happier.” As the chefs stepped forward and offered their gumbos to Leah like sacrificial offerings, what was notable was how many Asian-influenced dishes there were. Leah threw some shade at her three least favorite dishes: Jason's, the Polish-inspired gumbo with beets; Michael, who's last-minute drunken chicken was a misstep; and Patty, whose Puerto Rican-inspired mofongo gumbo had too many styles mixed up in one dish. Jason dismissed Leah's opinion, saying, "I know it tasted good."

As for the top dishes, Leah liked Aaron's Asian-style hot-and-sour gumbo with prawns and sushi rice. I loved when Leah schooled Padma on how to eat the heads. She also loved Shirley's braised pork belly gumbo that combined Chinese, Mexican, and Italian cuisines. But the win went to Carrie for her pea-green Trinidadian gumbo with coconut, mango, and corn crumble.

NEXT: Don't talk to me like I'm a sous chef...even if I am one

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