Landing in the bottom was Patty, whose chilled watermelon tomato soup with jalapeno was a bit of a mess. Besh didn't see any imagination in Stephanie's creole tomato steaks in vinaigrette with olive oil, which were no better than the tomato-basil-mozzarella skewers you take to a potluck when you totally don't have time to make something people actually want to eat. (You've all been there). Travis failed to impress with a rare steak with some tomato next to it; Besh said he didn't "elevate" the tomato, and Padma took issue with the near-raw meat under the beating sun.
As for the top dishes, Louis finally stood out with his tomato seed bouillion with marinated tomato and shaved zucchini. Carlos, who's emerging lately as a real contender, won the judges over with his gorgeous-looking poached tomatoes with a marinated, raw flower. But once again, Nina pulled ahead of everyone else with a watermelon soup that was colder and bolder than Patty's.
On to the Elimination Challenge, which was sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which seemed odd because it so explicitly had nothing to do with New Orleans. The chefs all had to sneak the cream cheese into each dish.
Just the thought of this challenge had me reaching for the Lactaid. All these challenges centering on a single ingredient remind me of the "theme" days that the office cafeteria here at EW has from time to time. Sometimes the theme will be "Strawberry Festival," which means every dish in the hot line has little bits of strawberry in it: chicken breasts with little bits of strawberry; asparagus with little bits of strawberry; dirty rice... with little bits of strawberry. What can you do with so much cream cheese? Expect a ton of cream-based sauces and a gassy Tom massaging his chest.
The chefs climbed all over each other in a cramped kitchen stocked with limited ingredients to put together a giant meal for the judges, John Besh, and a bunch of Besh's associates. Patty started the appetizers off with a snapper crudo with cream cheese vinaigrette and a ginger-carrot sauce. Matt Regan of the Lüke restaurant said there wasn't enough sauce, but Gail liked the floral note to the carrots. Brian highlighted local garden veggies with his summer squash tagliatelle with poached oysters. The judges liked the oysters but didn't think a po' boy was quite inventive enough. Carlos impressed Besh with his poached beets with pickled carrots and peaches, and so did Nina with her crispy zucchini blossoms stuffed with eggplant. Sara, who's been having a tough time lately, made island spiced lamb chops with nearly raw meat.
NEXT: Who knew vegetables could be such a disaster?