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Top Chef Recap: The Non-Finale New Orleans Finale

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The New Orleans season finale is upon us, but not yet over. Since it was filmed a few months after the majority of the season, the first half of the finale brought all kinds of new looks for the final four: Carla straightened her hair, Fabio mohawked his, and Stefan (possessing a newfound patriotism, as seen from a sudden wealth of Suomi gear) put on a few lbs. Only Hosea looked the same, mostly because he spent his time stewing in his basement about how much he hates that other bald guy. Alongside Padma—errr, alongside her shoulder—Emeril presided over the festivities with admirable grace, and those wily producers even brought a lil' twist to the table. But enough talk; to the recap we go.

1) As soon as they meet at the airport, Stefan asks Hosea if he's learned to cook since leaving New York. The only thing more adorable than Stefan's constant needling of Hosea is how huffy and puffy Hosea gets after said needling. We don't, however, require any forced "rivalry" subplots though (next week's preview does not look promising in this department).

2) Quickfire: Surprise! The final foursome aren't even competing. In their stead, recent castoffs Leah, Jamie (!) and Jeff are tasked to make a crawfish dish, with the victor returning to the competition. Jeff wins (sad) and also gets a free cookbook (sadder), but the only way he can advance to the final-final is if he actually wins the elimination challenge.

3) Elimination: The challenge—cater a masquerade ball with at least one New Orleans dish—confuses Fabio, mostly because the masks remind him of old pornos.

4) And then comes the prep. Requisite excerpt from Max Silvestri's recap (which you should also read): "Stefan seems to have plenty of time for cigarette breaks, and everybody agrees he's getting a little full of himself. (Or a lot full, by the looks of it.) Tom's patience with Stefan's arrogance is wearing thin. Carla, I'm sure, sends lot of love vibes into her food, but she has a 100 oysters to shuck, and according to Tom should have spent her time sending steam vibes into them to open them up. Oh well."

5) Quote of the episode: "My a car is a piece a ... (thinking) ... (lips pursing) .... (thinking) ... (brow furrowing) ... poo-oop." —Fabio on how much he wants the car prize.

6) Was it just us, or did Jeff oddly mispronounce both paprika and chipotle?

7) Judgment: Gail thankfully reclaims her seat at the right hand of The Colicchio. Carla gets the win again (thanks to her "nutty flavors"), meaning Jeff receives the dubious honor of being eliminated twice. The elimination comes down to Team Europe, and after Tom scolds Stefan about his (incredibly-entertaining) attitude, Fabio gets chopped. But don't feel bad for the Italian Quote Machine; rumor has it that he's got a few projects in the works, including a new show.

8) Next week: Is Carla rolling or what? Maybe it was simply editing, but seemingly overnight, she went from the weakest of the final ten to the likely favorite going into the finale. We still think Stefan is hands down the best chef, but can Carla write the ending to her Cinderella story? Does Hosea have a shot? Your thoughts/predictions in the comments.
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