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

First up was the Orange Team. The judges didn't like Nicholas' under-seasoned black pepper squid with cabbage and peanuts at all; Emeril wanted more fish sauce to wake it up. Best of the lot was Brian's gulf shrimp and pork belly spring roll, which Tom said was the only thing that saved the team. Everyone thought Carlos' fish head soup needed more acid; Tom thought it tasted like a dessert. And Louis, who hasn't had a single shining moment to date, failed the Vietnamese food experts as well as the judges with his pho, which was "weak in the flavor department." After the Orange Team's presentation, Tom still had a craving for Vietnamese, because this wasn't doing it.

Luckily, the Red Team satisfied that craving. Justin's pho was "light years ahead of Louis'," according to Eddie. Tom didn't like the texture of Nina and Carrie's raw beef salad — the beef should have been shaved — but the flavors saved it. Shirley won the challenge, though, with her Vietnamese BBQ shrimp with creole spice butter. Unlike some of the other chefs, Shirley managed to stay true to Vietnamese cuisine while adding some of her own elements and some NOLA spice to her dish. Oh, and Patty just kind of sous-chefed for everyone else.

Now for the arrogant but losing Green Team. Travis' grilled pork sausage with lettuce wraps and pineapple shrimp paste split the judges. Gail thought the shrimp sauce just smacked you in the face, but Padma said, "I was happy to be smacked in the face by something." Nice try, Padma. Stephanie and Sarah made a dim sum duo that confused the judges with its texture, but the biggest fail of the night was Janine and Bene's shrimp dish, which was conceived by Travis. Not only was Janine's shrimp terrible, but the rice was downright unfit to be served. Stephanie's macaroon with Vietnamese coffee was totally blah, but compared to everything else from this team, it was practically an edible orgasm.

There was a case to eliminate any of the members of the Green Team except for Stephanie. I personally thought Travis deserved to be sent home since his vision inspired each of the failing dishes — and he kept insisting that the roomful of Vietnamese experts "didn't get" his food... after all, he's been to Central Vietnam THREE TIMES — but ultimately, it came down to Bene for the crappy rice and Janine for the "twice-fried" shrimp. Janine ended up getting eliminated, which I thought was the wrong decision. It's sad that there are still so many non-starters sticking around, like Louis, Bene, and Patty. At least Janine, and even the insufferable Jason, showed promise in the early episodes. What have Bene, Louis, or Patty done yet? I mean, Louis stuck cold watermelon on some sticks two episodes ago, but still.

Am I being too hard on Travis, or did he deserve to go? Was Janine the right choice to leave? Did anyone else think the judges seemed to hate the Orange Team's food more than the Green Team's?

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