The final four arrive in New Orleans. Jamie, Leah, and Jeff return to compete in the Quickfire Challenge for a chance to get back into the competition. They have an hour to create a dish using crawfish. Good thing Carla's not in this competition, since she already did a crawfish dish. Guest judge is (who else?) Emeril Lagasse. Leah makes a crawfish soup. Soup? Not stew or gumbo? Jeff makes crawfish and grits. Jamie makes a corn cake with poached egg with crawfish and andouille cream sauce. Emeril announces that Jeff is the winner, and will be rejoining the competition for the next elimination challenge. Padma tells him that, in order to make it to the finale, he'll have to win the challenge.
The Elimination Challenge is to cater a Masquerade Ball for the Krewe of Orpheus. Each of them has to create two dishes and one cocktail, and one of them needs to be Creole style.
Hosea's menu: duck, andouille and chicken gumbo, pecan-crusted catfish, and a hurricane with Grand Marnier and rum.
Carla's menu: oyster stew, shrimp and andouille beignet, and non-alcoholic cranberry spritzer. She has to shuck a hundred oysters for her stew.
Stefan's menu: duck and rabbit gumbo with grits, apple beignet, and black cherry and rum cocktail.
Jeff's menu: fried oyster with handmade sausage (cooked to order), crawfish pot de crème, and cucumber mojito.
Fabio's menu: sausage and rabbit maque choux with grits, crawfish and crab stew with caserecci pasta, muffuletta bread, and bell pepper martini. Yes, that's four dishes.
While tasting, the judges don't really have any negative comments about any one's food, except that they mention Fabio's food wasn't spicy enough. At Judge's Table, they announce that two chefs will be eliminated. Jeff, Hosea, and Carla get all compliments. Fabio is told his food wasn't spicy enough. Stefan's cockiness doesn't impress the judges, and his food was good but not great, especially since his roux wasn't cooked long enough.
When the cheftestants return to find out the results, they all get praise for their cooking, and Emeril announces that Carla is the winner. In addition to going to the finals, she also gets a car ["If 'Survivor' curses apply here, that means she's not going to win the big prize." -- Angel]. So that means Jeff is going home, since he didn't win. Hosea moves on, leaving either Fabio or Stefan to be the second eliminated cheftestant. So finally Padma tells Fabio to pack his knives and go. Aw. Well, we had a good run. I'm really surprised that Stefan stayed though. The judges seem really sick of his attitude, especially when he's not cooking the kind of food that allows someone to pull that. Next week: the finals!
New Orleans street scenes: paddleboats, streetcars, the airport. The airport? I guess it's better than the levee. Anyway, Hosea rides down an escalator as we hear him voicing over that this is his first time in New Orleans, but he's been studying up on Cajun and Creole food. Fabio is at the baggage carousel, wearing a bright pink scarf, because he's Italian, and thus not afraid to express his feminine side? Oh, wait, that's because he's European. It's like that old Blair Magazine game, Gay or Eurotrash. Not that I think Fabio is trash. The scarf just reminded me of that website. Fabio has, however, acquired a mohawk, in true Top Chef tradition. He says that his restaurant is doing really well, and now he wants to win more than ever.
As Carla walks through the airport, there's a Dixieland Jazz band playing "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." Of course there is. Don't you expect that happens all the time in New Orleans? Like when you're in Dallas, they play "Deep in the Heart of Texas"? And everyone does the claps and sings the line together, like Pee Wee Herman? Maybe it's just me. Carla also has straightened her hair, which is a little disconcerting somehow. But she's still goofy old Carla, dancing through the airport and giggling about how proud she is to be there. She thinks Southern food will be right up her alley. I would have thought so in week two, but then she turned into classically trained chef, so who knows which Carla will show up this week? While Fabio and Carla acquired new hairstyles, Stefan acquired about twenty pounds. The camera pans over his new gut up to his bloated face. He's nearly unrecognizable. What happened? The final four greet each other outside the airport. Stefan interviews that he wants a Team Euro final, but he alone will win in the end.
The cheftestants ride to their first location. Carla interviews that she thinks New Orleans is a great spot for the finale because of the mishmash of cultural influences, and the great food that is produced as a result. Hosea says again that it's his first time there, and Stefan says he has a suitcase full of gumbo. That sounds messy. At first, I thought he said he had a suitcase full of gumballs, which would also be messy. It would be like when I was a senior and a kid brought in his collection of bouncy balls and let them loose in the senior hallway.
Hosea gives a promotional interview for the location of the Quickfire Challenge, which is at a historic plantation. The cheftestants arrive and find Emeril Lagasse hanging with Tom and Padma, and there are only three prep tables set up. My spellcheck wants me to change "Lagasse" to "Largesse", which would actually work in more ways than one. Carla wonders in an interview if someone is going to be eliminated right now, which would kind of suck. All that travel and preparation to go home? Anyway, spoiler: they don't do that. Stefan apparently forgot to check weather.com and isn't wearing a jacket, and he seems to be freezing. Carla has a kick ass raspberry short trench on and looks awesome. I forget that we usually only see these guys in chef's jackets or casual clothes at home, so it's nice to see something else.