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Top Chef NOLA Season Finale Part 1: Maui Wowie

Episode 15

Finale Part 2


I never understood why they move the finales  to another location.  Two years ago they moved Top Chef Texas to Vancouver and last year they moved to LA.  If you’re going to highlight a location all season long, it should make sense that you have the finale there, no? I love New Orleans and came to appreciate the cuisine there even more.  So then they move to Maui and we’re supposed to give a shit?

What’s in it for us?

TC Nola Padma beach*

Oh yeah.

Almost right away they showed the winner of Last Chance Kitchen. The finalists got to vote on the winning dish, but weren’t told who made what.  I thought it would be interesting as they could easily tell which was Carlos’.  So the question I posed was whether there be some gamesmanship going on – i.e. pick Carlos who was the known commodity even though he went far into the competition or pick the unknown, thinking it could be someone who was booted weeks ago.  We didn’t get to hear their thought process, but the winner of LCK turned out to be the guy who deserved it most – Louis.  He was unstoppable, having run the table with eight victories in a row.


Quickfire – Make a dish highlighting Spam

Normally I’d get pissed off that they are at the second to last challenge and they’re making as ghetto as Spam.  But it does fit in with the Hawaii theme as those guys eat a ton of the stuff.  And on a personal level, my immigrant ass grew up eating Spam for breakfast a few times a week.  Winner gets $10K.

Shirley – Deconstructed Spam musubi with spam-infused rice, nori, & cucumber slaw

Louis – Spam mousse with garlic, chives, scallions, snap peas, beech mushrooms & togarashi

Nicholas – Spam broth with pancetta, seaweed, dried shrimp, clam juice, & quail egg

Nina – Breadfruit & teriyaki spam croquette with sour orange & mango slaw

Winner – Nick

I thought for sure one would get booted after the Quickfire, so that means that two would get sent home at the Elimination Challenge.


Elimination Challenge

Create a dish using canoe crops, ingredients that were brought over on outriggers by the Polynesian settlers.  Only two chefs are moving on from this challenge to the finale.

Louis – Grilled opah with sweet potato & coconut sauce

Nina – Grilled opah with taro root & coconut puree

Nicholas – Opakapaka with jalapeno & crispy chicken skin

Shirley – Honey glazed pork with sweet potato & tumeric puree

Winner – Nicholas

Joining him in the finale – Nina

Gone – Louis, Shirley


Random Thoughts

– First off, “Maui Wowie” was a great name for the episode.  I was hoping it had to do with what I talked about in my infamous “dim sum” post.

– I think they played us the whole season with editing.  Throughout the competition we were made to think Nick was a major bumbler who underseasons everything.  Sure he was near the bottom a lot, but there were definitely a lot of instances where he showed his ability.  That’s the problem with watching cooking competitions on TV, you really can’t taste everything to see what was truly good or truly bad.

– For instance, the Quickfire.  Seeing the pictures and hearing the descriptions, I though Louis’ was innovative and looked delicious.  But that must have been one helluva soup that Nicholas made, because it didn’t sound that great.

– This time around, they didn’t mess with our heads with the editing.  Nina’s and Nicholas’ final dishes were clearly the best ones.

– Karma’s a bitch.  I had a feeling that posting that Padma picture again would mean that I’d get subjected to something like this.



I think they did a switcheroo on us.  Nina mentioned that it was something to see all these Polynesians in their traditional thong-things.  But, clearly, there was at least one honky on the boat. Can you spot him?

– Oh well, at least they gave me another Padma bikini shot –

TC NOLA Padma beach 2* 

– I know a lot of people are going to be really sad that Shirley is gone.  Reading a few message boards, it was clear her “aw shucks” attitude connected with people as it was really endearing and genuine.  I get that.  But cooking-wise she seemed like a one-note pony the whole time.

– Is there such thing as a one-note pony?

– Louis’ dish definitely didn’t deserve to win as it seemed a little pedestrian.  He made much better food in LCK.  Stuff where you look at it and hear the description and you want to lick the screen.

– Speaking of wanting to lick the screen, Sarah Silverman was looking hot on “Watch What Happens Live”

TC NOLA Silverman


– Based on the previews, it looks like the producers learned from the massive blunders in last year’s finale.  If you recall, that finale was a live competition where the two finalists went head-to-head Iron Chef-style over 5 courses.  There was a winner chosen after each course and the one to have the most wins out of five won the whole thing.  I found it frustrating because you didn’t know the guidelines for each course, how they picked their helpers, and what all of the other judges thought.  And then there was the doozy – it was really easy to figure out who won the whole thing.  Zero suspense.

– My prediction for next week – Nicholas is going to go apeshit at some point during the night.  I base that on past performance and a scene of him flipping out in the previews.

– Actually, I can envision a scenario where he wins outright and not based on Nina having a colossal breakdown.  Take away what the editors wanted us to think about Nicholas.  His food has had a lot of intricacy, tons of different elements, and displayed technique.  Nina was at her best was when she dug into her island roots or made pasta.  I don’t know if rustic island food and pasta are worthy of $125K.  That said, I still want her to win because I really can’t stand Nicholas.



About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

8 comments on “Top Chef NOLA Season Finale Part 1: Maui Wowie

  1. PinotNinja
    January 31, 2014

    I thought the exact same thing about LCK — the chefs would totally know what was Carlos’s food. But, I couldn’t figure out if they would purposefully choose him because they all knew they could beat him or if they would purposefully not choose him because it was clear from the last episode that they all cannot stand him. There was never any doubt in my mind that Louis would be the one who actually deserved to win LCK.

    I was one of the ones who was sad to see Shirley go, mainly because I just love the friendship between her and Nina. Watching the two of them battle it out would have been an absolute pleasure — they would have both brought it hard but, at the same time, would have been really excited for the other one to succeed. There would have been moments of fun and appreciation. With Nick, we’re getting moments of stress and disdain.

    • rachelocal
      February 7, 2014

      I agree, Pinot!! With everything you said. I was disappointed NOT to see Nina and Shirley have a cook-off.

  2. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Episode 15: Leaving New Orleans | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  3. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Season Finale Part 2: Finale | The Food and Wine Hedonist

    March 14, 2014

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  6. Pingback: Top Chef Boston Episode 14: Holy Escamoly | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on January 30, 2014 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , .
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