Top Chef recap: Captain Vietnam

A self-proclaimed Vietnamese "expert" fails the Vietnamese food challenge
Ep. 04 | Aired Oct 23, 2013

DON'T GO UP AGAINST EDDIE HUANG We don't doubt that Travis has been to Southeast Asia many times to sample the flavors, but does that really make him "Captain Vietnam"?

David Moir/Bravo

The Green Team — consisting of Travis, Janine, Sarah, Stephanie, and Bene — had lots of chefs who had an interest in Asian food, but Travis, to the team's detriment, took the lead, suggesting that Janine and Bene work on a tomato-based sauce. Sarah challenged Travis on his knowledge of Vietnamese food, including the use of romaine lettuce. (I consulted a Vietnamese friend on some of these points. Romaine lettuce: Often used in Vietnamese American restaurants, but not exactly authentic. Tomato sauce: Fresh tomatoes, tomato soups, and tomato fried rice are found in Vietnamese cooking, but hell no to anything resembling marinara). #TeamSarah, except that it looked like it was her fault that the lemongrass was left behind. Oops.

When Eddie came around the kitchen, Travis offered up the info that his team didn't know where the lemongrass was. Sarah wished he could keep his mouth shut so Eddie wouldn't even know about the missing lemongrass in the first place. Travis did a poor job explaining away the mistake, saying the lemongrass was "lost in translation." I don't blame Eddie for being hard on Travis after that — in part because the joke was racially based. Eddie got Travis to admit that he was "not fully an expert" on the cuisine, but later, Travis said, "Eddie's Taiwanese-Chinese. He only knows a little bit of what he knows. Sorry, Eddie, you're kind of a douchebag." Wow, if only he had the nerve to say that directly to Eddie's face. If you've read Eddie Huang's excellent book Fresh Off the Boat, you'd know he wouldn't take that comment lightly. This is the point where I stopped cutting Travis any slack.

Janine didn't feel confident about her shrimp marinara. She made the fatal error of dipping the shrimp in hot oil one last time before plating. Justin was about to tell her it was a bad idea, but he got all Machiavellian, misquoting Napoleon (close enough): "Brilliance is winning but also not telling your opponent when they're losing." He also neglected to share his bounty of lemongrass with the Green Team. Dastardly, yet cunning.

NEXT: What's worse, Hooters-grade shrimp or inedible rice?

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