Image credit: David Moir/Bravo
CHEFS GONE WILD Will cook for beads.
Tom and Padma entered the contestants' living quarters slinging beads, and nobody even had to expose their areolas. The beads either read "alligator" or "turtle," which were the proteins they had to use for the first Elimination Challenge. (No Quickfire!) The chefs would be cooking for 150 people in a swamp cookout, and the guests would adorn their favorite chefs with Mardi Gras beads. I'd argue that the challenge was overly weighted in Janine's favor. (I'd say the same about Jason, the conventionally best-looking male, but I trust that the guests could sense his douchiness a mile away).
Tom visited the chefs as the prepped their food stations and arrived just in time to witness Jason bleeding into his food. But Jason bounced back from that moment of mortification by finishing his dish "fast as f---," saying, "I thought this was supposed to be f---ing hard. I'm going to go pick some strawberries." Is Jason just a cocky bastard, as Stephanie seemed to think, or is he the next Hung? (Wait, what's the difference?) Only time will tell.
The judges shipped into the swamp on a barge named the Swamp Queen, which Tom joked was Padma's nickname. It's funny, I thought of the exact same joke the moment I saw the Swamp Queen moniker. Great minds!
By and large, the judges and the locals favored the female chefs, which bodes well for the possibility of an unprecedented two female winners in a row. Everybody enjoyed Carrie's poached frog legs with oyster emulsion and cold zucchini salad. Emeril noted that the New Orleans locals were pleasantly surprised to get cold frog legs, although cold frog's legs sound a bit too seventh grade science project to me. They also loved rockabilly Sarah's "unapologetically spicy" General Tso's-style deep-fried alligator with smoked chilis, sweet-and-sour sauce, pickled veggies, and pea shoots. The spice from her dish caused Padbot to short-circuit and exclaim, "Holy s---, it's hot!"
But the win went to Nina, who reminded us many times that she had the pride of Saint Lucia on her shoulders. Knowing that turtle meat could get a bit tough, she decided to break the meat down into tender balls and doused them in curry served with chayote slaw and chutney with raisins. The guests weighed Nina down with beads, and the judges proclaimed her Queen of the Swamp. (We know that title really belongs to Mama Odie, but Nina can borrow it for now).
On the uglier side of the spectrum were Patty, Aaron, and Ramon. Before facing the judges, Muay Thai boxer Ramon counted his very few Mardi Gras beads as if they were prayer beads. He ended up having to pack his knives because the dashi from his braised turtle dish was watered down after he added ice to it. Honestly, who adds ice to the dashi? (I've never cooked dashi but it sounds like the wrong thing to do.)
Aaron, who landed in the bottom for his overly al dente pasta, had presented a decent dish but paled in comparison to the other chefs. Patty squeaked by with her poorly tenderized Cajun-style alligator. Curtis noted that none of the bottom dishes were all that bad, but the competition had been fierce.
What did you think of the Big Easy premiere? Has the location livened up the show? Do you feel optimistic about this crop of chefs?
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