Top Chef - Season 11

Nicholas Elmi competes on "Top Chef." (Bravo / David Moir)

You can still cut the tension with a knife … which there are plenty of, because it’s "Top Chef."

We join the chefs recapping what went down last week with Nicholas’ immunity debacle. Some chefs are pissed and other get that this is a game and would have done the same thing. This is a game, after all.

Back in the "Top Chef" kitchen, the cheftestants are joined by Padma and Chef Roy Choi to announce this week’s QuickFire Challenge. Chef Roy (aka the King of food trucks) explains how he started the food-truck revolution in Los Angeles and how they become known for their tacos.  In NOLA, their street food of choice comes in the form of a good old Po’ Boy.

For this week’s challenge, the chefs have 20 minutes to create a unique and personalized Po’ Boy of their own. The winner will get immunity, which, as we learned last week, is now more important than ever for remaining on the show and for getting everyone mad at you.

After the quick 20 minutes are up, Padma and Roy visit each chef to see what they have come up with.  Nicholas makes a shrimp Po’ Boy with fennel and pancetta. Roy breaks apart Shirley’s Catfish Po’ Boy and is quiet when eating it.

Nina created a Caribbean-inspired Mahi Po’ Boy with Mojo aioli. Brian made a lobster version of the sandwich with Gochujang, a Korean condiment. Lastly, Carlos offers up an Al Pastor Po’ Boy, an adoption shawarma from Mexico.

So who did well and who did poorly? 

Well, according to Chef Roy, they all sucked!  Roy goes off, telling all the chefs that they completely missed the boat on this challenge. He sums his feeling up by letting them know: “ya’ll effed this sh*t up!” He says they were thinking too much like chefs, that they need to start finding their soul in their food. I’m sorry Chef Roy…this show is called "Top CHEF," no?  I would hope that they would think like chefs.

Anyway, after the verbal beat-down, Roy announces that Shirley was the winner and that she will get immunity and has made it to the Top 4!  Roy says that he hopes that his words will kick them all in the ass so that they can find their “flavor.”  He leaves, joking that they will probably be throwing darts at his picture later.

Next, Jon Favreau walks into the kitchen to announce this week’s Elimination Challenge. Jon says that for this week’s challenge, the chefs must create a dish using only ingredients found in dumpsters in the French Quarter. ::Complete Silence::  Just kidding! “I just wanted to lighten the mood!”

The actual challenge is to create a dish that represents a turning point in their career and has led them to discover their “culinary voice.” Chef Roy explains how he found his voice after losing everything and then opening his first food truck.  

Everyone heads out to grab dinner at a local food truck gathering and they chat about their pivotal moments. They range from Brian’s 24 hours in jail to Shirely’s experience at the shrimping boats on "Top Chef" with “Uncle Emeril.”  They end the night back at the house, throwing darts at a Chef Roy Choi drawing (on a paper towel) tacked to a dart board.

The following morning, it’s off to Whole Foods to gather their ingredients and get this challenge underway. They then head to Café Reconcile to prep and cook their dishes. Right off the bat, our good friend Nicholas is starting trouble. He sets up his pots on three front burners. Carlos asks if he can move one to a back burner.

"You can do whatever you want, just don't touch them." So Carlos moves one pan based on the "you can do whatever you want" premise. "I SAID don't move my effing pots!" Nicholas says. "If someone moves my pots again, we're going to have a problem!" Guess what Nick – you’re also going to have a problem after you forget to put the oven temp down and burn the crap out of your quinoa!

Shirley (who, remember, has immunity) creates a seared snapper with a crustacean broth. One of the servers notes: "My Grandma's fish is the best -- but this fish is better!" Brian makes chicken Anticucho with potatoes and pesto. Tom cannot handle the fact that Brian used boneless, skinless chicken breast in a dish at this level of competition.

Nina presents a fettuccine and charred calamari dish. Tom notes that it is seasoned and cooked just right. Carlos makes a braised pork belly with sweet potato puree. Emeril likes the fact that you could taste every flavor in the dish. Nicholas offers up yellowfin tuna and carrots prepared five ways (carrot top puree, fresh carrot top, carrot top oil, carrot in saffron reduction, shaved fresh carrot). I don’t remember Bugs Bunny being invited to this dinner….

At the Judge’s table, Tom, Padma and Emeril review the hits and misses on the day. Nina had to reinvent her dish when the kitchen was too hot, Brian and that whole chicken breast debacle, Carlos’ win on a signature dish and the quinoa incident.

In the end, Shirley wins the challenge! She didn’t need to use her immunity at all. I think she is the one to watch for the rest of the challenges. Shirley, Nina and Carlos are all safe this week and head back to the Stew Room. It’s down to Brian or Nicholas.

This choice is pretty much in the bag; the Bravo on-line votes show Nicholas leading this week with 80 percent, compared to Brian’s 20 percent. Please pack your knives and go, Brian.

Wait, what!?! Yep, Brian is sent off to Last Chance Kitchen. WTF. Nicholas, that’s two weeks in a row you got lucky! You'd better bring it next week!