Top Chef Episode 13 Recap: WWNED (What Would Nick Elmi Do)

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Author’s Note: If last week was any indication, this whole recapping thing sometimes takes a village. And since none of you readers take the time to comment these days (or maybe nobody’s reading this?), I thought it would be a good idea to bring some feedback into the recap itself. To that end, I’ve enlisted the help of the Evster this week, a true American TV recapping hero, and the person responsible for making this the longest Top Chef recap in the history of Foobooz Top Chef Recaps.

Well, that sucked.


I’m not talking about my disappearance last week, although the Yeti hair did make it hard to sleep. This week’s episode was even harder to watch--even after half a bottle of wine and a generously poured Dad's Hat rye on the rocks (full disclosure: red wine and whiskey both tend to make me grumpy).

Everything starts out fine. Nick’s sporting his sweet striped hoodie and “come at me, Carlos” face during breakfast. There’s a nice shot of PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE. And our hometown hero’s got a 1 in 6 chance of taking home the hardware.

The “so far, so good” gets even better when guest judge Jacques Pepin and Padma tell the cheftestants that the Quickfire is all about technique. Without being too cocky (because cocky gets you cut), Nick alludes to the fact that the only thing standing between him and immunity is Shirley, who thankfully can’t find a family angle in this challenge because that shit’s annoying. Carlos, however, does manage to mention once again that he has no formal training and is therefore fucked.

Jacques demonstrates how to prepare his Dover sole with artichokes and asparagus, then tells the chefs they must “duplicate” it--in 25 minutes. Then the whole place gets pin-drop quiet as they go to work. The result, as expected, was that the non-French chefs sucked a fatty and Nick and Shirley are the top two, with Nick edging Shirley out ever so slightly and finally winning immunity.

Things are still good when Dominique Crenn and Julian Serrano roll up on the scene for the Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants draw knives to decide whether they’ll be cooking French food or Spanish food. Nick and Shirley are on team France, so the expectation is that they, with Stephanie in tow, will run away with this thing. (Note to self: manage your expectations.)

Madame Crenn tells the cheftestants to push the envelope, something they’re all willing to do. Julian, on the other hand, wants to keep things as traditional as possible, all the way down to the knife cuts. He’s kind of a dick and a micromanager and seems to think he’s in the competition, but Type A folks can’t help themselves sometimes.

You might think this exacting approach would sink Team Spain, but the cheftestants’ execution of its simplicity (and having Nina on the team) bests Team France. Oh yeah, and there was one other reason that Team France lost: Nick.

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This is where the dark clouds come a-rumbling. Because he had immunity, he took a risk. But with only three people on the team and the other two cooking great food, our hometown hero is presented with an ethical dilemma when Pepin suggests that he bow out of the competition for making chocolate-covered game hen with a side of corn pubes. Certainly not the best dish choice, but the whole point of having immunity is to push outside your comfort zone. Bias notwithstanding, the judges shouldn’t have put him on blast like that. If you disagree with me, perhaps the Evster can shed some light on the situation:

Look, I love Jacques Pépin. I love his accent, I love his knife skills, I love his ridiculously colorful and oversized bow tie. But when dude asked Nick if he should RESIGN because of his lousy dishes, I lost it.

Nick had immunity. IMMUNITY. That means that he was EXEMPT from any and all consequences. Who knows how he would've cooked with his fate in limbo? Who knows if he would've even chose to take on the dishes that he did? He might've gone the scallop route and wept his way to victory. But he didn't, BECAUSE HE HAD EARNED A MADE-UP THING CALLED IMMUNITY THAT ALLOWED HIM TO DO WHATEVER THE FREAK HE WANTED.

Think about it like this: a defensive lineman jumps offsides before the ball is snapped, the side judge throws a flag -- in clear sight of everyone -- and the quarterback recognizes that he has a free play. "OH BABY, FREE PLAY, I'M GOING TO LAUNCH THIS STUPID FOOTBALL AS FAR AS I POSSIBLY CAN. WEEEEE!!!" Seconds later, the ball is picked off by a strong safety who returns it (in spectacular fashion) 78 yards for a touchdown. Obviously, the play is going to be called back. The offensive players weren't even trying to tackle the dude after he picked off the pass anyway, but then the referee faces the crowd, turns on his microphone and announces, "Offsides, #92 on the defense, penalty declined by me, because quite frankly that was just a really lousy throw. It was so wobbly, and thrown into triple coverage. I mean who throws into triple coverage?! I'm guessing this quarterback has been taught from day 1 to not throw into triple coverage. Sorry everybody, but the touchdown for the defense stands. It just wouldn't be fair to the strong safety. He's a really nice guy. And let's be honest, he's had a pretty strong season thus far."

If Stephanie wanted to stay in the competition, she should've outcooked Shirley. That was the only person she was up against. Or she should've beat everyone else in the Quickfire -- WHICH NICHOLAS DID -- to ensure herself IMMUNITY. This is a stupid game with stupid rules that Nick was immune to last night because, back in the day, some French butthead taught him how to mush a piece of butter into a rose.”

In the end, Bravo proves that Top Chef is just as big a mindfuck as any other reality competition show. I agree that Nick made the right choice. It just sucks that they made him look bad for doing so. And I call bullshit on Stephanie saying she’d bow out if she was in his shoes. You’re 5 dishes away from $125,000 dollars. No fucking way are you gonna risk getting back on via the Last Chance Kitchen, especially since the only one left you could probably beat is Carlos. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Onward and upward.

All Top Chef Coverage [f8b8z]

  • Elena

    That was total bullshit that they put him on the spot like that. They’re NEVER done that to anyone before and he totally made the right decision. He won immunity. Suck it Stephanie.

  • foodiewannabe

    Even bigger bullshit since they didn’t call out Carrie for making f***ing BROCCOLI in the LSU challenge. Even though i didn’t like Justin, if they would consider taking away someone’s immunity for poor choices, it should have been hers.

  • Tim

    I agree it was totally unfair to put him in that position and completely obnoxious for the other two contestants to suggest they’d fall on their sword if they were in that position.

  • Dan

    I’m glad to read that most people are on Nick’s side. He absolutely earned immunity and there was really no decision to be made.

    • Jacque

      Nick Elmi is a pompous jackarse without the talent to back up the attitude. Loved it when everybody was hired back except him. “Most people are on Nick’s side” ? Ummm…no. Head out of the sand time. Laurel is a joke to those in the know

  • Mark

    I respect Pepin , but he was out of line. Disclaimer, my son is an aspiring chef about to graduate from the CIA, and he was an ex-tern at LBF under Nick. He was tough and got hard on him a few times, but pushed him through. I think it is all BS—why give immunity otherwise? Besides, they acted like this was bad food—-if you’ve ever eaten Elmi’s food, you know that he takes things out there, but it’s always quality. I’m really pissed that TC is stacking this show for drama and miking him the villain. Tough and demanding, yes, prick, no way. After he helped Stephanie with her crawfish ( my kid is seriously allergic too) and saving Shirley from a fall on the drumsticks dash, he is being screwed. Really sorry to see Stephanie go—–I’m hating on Carlos who seems to be teflon! Sorry for the rant. I know the outcome was months ago, but I really hate what they are doing here, which, in my opinion, is setting him up to keep some drama in the show.

  • ligel

    I think it was fair to ask and for Nick to decline to resign. At least it added a moment of real drama without trying to play up little arguments between the contestants. It was a little bit of CYA on the judges and producers part for a poorly thought out, consequences wise, challenge.

    • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/ Art from Foobooz

      I agree that it was a poorly thought out challenge. Why offer immunity before a team challenge. And as was pointed out, why did Stephanie and Shirley collaborate on a dish. They had to know they were competing directly against each other. Made it all very muddy in the end.

  • michele50

    Wow! Was so uncomfortable for Nick. They should never have put him on the spot like that – he won IMMUNITY! They’ve all cooked good and not so good dishes. Luck DOES play a part in this game and he had it in this episode. I don’t believe the girls that they would have given up their spot if they had immunity and the worst dish. Easy to say when you’re on the losing end. Almost makes me not want to tune in again.

  • Ctab

    Very uncomfortable and was bullshit of Pepin. Why have immunity if you suggest someone give it up? Why wasn’t Carrie asked to leave for broccoli? Nick was made to look bad when he did nothing wrong. He’s more of a gentleman than anyone there.

  • Philly chef

    He should have cooked the best damn dish he could of for his teammates. Those two chicks didn’t deserve to fall by the wayside so he could be loose and carefree with his immunity. Although you are cooking to win, the challenge was a team challenge. The goal of the week was to be the best team and win and winning the ‘best in show’ ( ie Nina this week) is just icing on the cake. He should wear that nest around his dick for a week as a cock ring of shame.

  • Liz

    He should have resigned. In the past, chefs have gained immunity and then WON the elimination challenge. Nick’s efforts were pitiful. And it’s not like he made one bad dish– he made two. To me, one bad dish balances out the Quickfire– he deserves immunity for that. But two dishes? Had only one dish been bad, they might’ve beaten Team Spain. You screw up twice, you deserve to go home– regardless of immunity.

  • Idia Legray

    I guess I am the naysayer in this group. Unfortunately, it showed another side of Nick — the competitive side rather than the decency side.
    He KNEW he was the offender and was only saved by immunity. The class thing to do would have been to step down and compete for Last Chance, which he would have likely won anyway, and return without hurting any feelings while showing an integrity that would have served him well in the future.
    I was routing for him to win but now I won’t mind very much if someone else takes the win.

    Having said that, I think the true problem lies with the judges themselves. They should have deemed the challenge a no–loser and no one should have gone home.

    • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/ Art from Foobooz

      It’s a competition. In order to win you need a competitive side. He competed hard to win the Quickfire. The reward for that was immunity. He played within the rules. To ask him to change the rules was unfair.

    • comeonpeople

      I agree. No loser and then send two people home next week to make it work out numbers wise.

  • JS

    This is on Shirley and Stephanie, knowing Nick had immunity they should have stepped up, taken ownership and not have allowed him to lead their team’s dishes/plating/concepts when it was their asses on the line, esp. Shirley given her classical french training. Stephanie knew it was their asses on the line and even said she wasn’t feeling the nest – right there she should have stepped up and told Nick not to plate it. The fact that the teams dishes were based off guidance of the mentors (Dominque for team french who pushed for the sweet corn nest) is another reason I’m OK with Nick not stepping down – no way in hell that “nest”is getting plated if not for her guidance. Also agree with the previous poster to offer immunity prior to a team challenge was poorly thought out and bullshit to make Nick out to be a dick.

    • xxdiscoxxheaven

      I agree. Steph and Shirley should have pushed harder because they were on the line. However, Nick is the one who went with this avant garde idea by their French team leader. However, I wouldn’t have bowed out either. I really didn’t think Stephanie would win the whole thing. It really is just a battle between Shirley and Nina in my opinion. I personally can’t wait for Carlos to go home.

  • FfT

    I liked Stephanie and was disappointed with the outcome. I didn’t want to see either her or Shirley leave and hoped that the judges would have declared that there was no loser, but understand that in the past when they have done that, it has been for flawless dishes and both Stephanie and Shirley made mistakes.
    It’s total bullshit that both Stephanie and Shirley said they’d resign in Nick’s position because that is an outright lie. He did win the immunity fair and square. However, I do feel that the question had to be asked to Nick because as chefs, they are supposed to stand by their food, good or bad and Nick didn’t do that. Especially considering how he basically told Stephanie to shit up when she raised concerns about his dish.
    I think Nick should have stepped down for the simple fact that he made a huge fuss about how he cooks and represents himself in the kitchen with integrity when Carlos threw him under the bus for that oven during the cafeteria challenge. Well if you’re a chef, you live and die by your food. If he had resigned from the competition, that would have shown integrity, IMHO. Instead, he just looks like a gamesman, which is perfectly acceptable, but makes him look like a dick when juxtaposed to his commentary about the integrity he has in the game. When Nick plays a game, it’s ok. When Carlos played the game, he lacked integrity and Nick mocked his poor knife skills and lack of formal training.

  • comeonpeople

    I agree that it was all fair. Nick had immunity. It is a stupid game sometimes, not who is the best chef.
    Remember Whistler – chopping food out of ice blocks? Shooting and skiing? Come on!

  • Jacques

    Nick Elmi is a pompous jackarse without the talent to back up the attitude. Loved it when everybody was hired back except him. “Most people are on Nick’s side” ? Ummm…no. Head out of the sand time. Laurel is a joke to those in the know.

  • Jacques

    Nick Elmi is a pompous jerk without the talent to back up the attitude. Loved it when everybody was hired back except him. “Most people are on Nick’s side” ? Ummm…no. Head out of the sand time. Laurel is a joke to those in the know.

  • cosmic93

    Nick didn’t need this to look bad, anyway. He is utterly ignorant of any cuisine other than his own (as proven by Carlos’ tamale), perpetually rude to his competitors in general, and not even competent to check the temperature on his own oven (the footage clearly shows it was at 500 when he put the Quinoa in). But of course he has to try to make everything look like someone else’s fault. He is unable to absorb any lessons from the judges (he still doesn’t know what a salt shaker looks like) and it took him this long to realize that he keeps having the worst dish because he does too much.

    So even with Pepin being out of line – it’s clear that Nick is someone I would want to steer well away from, if I were a chef, or a Philly-area diner.