Top Chef Episode 14 Recap: Po’ Boys For Roy Choi

Nickgate? Elmigeddon? The Great Immunity Debate? Call it what you will, the cheftestants put the whole ugly thing to bed during a single K-Cup’s worth of DUNKIN’ DONUTS coffee, then moved straight onto the Quickfire, announced by so-hot-right-now-best-selling chef, Roy Choi. Mr. Choi, dressed in his L.A. best, gives a quick diatribe about cooking with soul and how awesome he is and then tells the cheftestants to make a po’ boy that exemplifies each ones’ personality.

With 20 minutes to do so, Choi can’t expect fireworks. Furthermore, po’ boys kind of suck butt in general (too much bread), so the chefs are already at a disadvantage. But since they have no choice but to follow the orders of their rotating gameshow masters, they sandwich on. Some are excited, some are confused, and all of them thoroughly disappoint Roy, who says they all missed the boat. Carlos made al pastor that had no flavor. Duh. If you ever look up al pastor recipes, preparing and cooking the chile and pineapple-flavored pork dish normally takes a day or two. Even for a Mexican that’s as Mexican as Carlos, it is mathematically impossible to develop days of flavor in less than 20 minutes. He took the criticism personally, and later threw darts at a cartoon Choi (since when does the Top Chef house have a dart board?). Nick’s fried shrimp po’ boy looked delicious, but it had too much salt and not enough mayo. Stoner Brian didn’t have enough gochujang. Nina’s sandwich didn’t pop. And Shirley’s was merely pedestrian. If we’re going on these sandwiches to judge the remaining cheftestants’ personalities, they’re all boring and restrained, except for Nicholas, who’s salty. The best of the worst was Shirley, who wins immunity.

Guest-judging this week’s elimination is that great culinary mind Jon Favreau, who will single-handedly ruin the food truck trend when his movie based on food trucks is released later this year (or whenever). Since the movie is about losing one’s self and the subsequent rediscovery, each chef must create a dish that represents a turning point in their career. For our hometown hero, this means carrots 1,000,000 ways and screaming about moving pots. Unfortunately, there was an oven temp issue that begat a textural issue, and the elegant dish that also included yellowfin tuna was not well received. He shares the bottom with stoner Brian, whose use of boneless, skinless chicken breast was nails on a chalkboard to Tom and the rest of the judges.

On the winning side, Nina, Carlos, and Shirley made good use of their career turning points. Nina, who called an agnolotti audible and opted for fettucine, cooked her fresh pasta perfectly. Carlos made a glazed pork belly with sweet potato puree that the judges loved. And annoying-as-shit Shirley made a seared snapper with a crustacean broth that the judges couldn’t stop drinking. She emerges once again as the dark horse, and takes home the double win.

As for the loser, I think a lot of us thought this could be Dr. Elmi’s swan song, but even the lack of quinoa on his dish wasn’t as bad as Huskey’s choice of boring protein and muddled flavors. It’s off to Last Chance Kitchen for him, while Nicholas continues to battle his inner (ulcer) and outer (Carlos) demons.

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