‘Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen’: It’s a ‘Kentucky showdown’ as Eric battles Nini, but both struggle to learn Italian

“Today is a ‘Top Chef: Kentucky’ showdown,” said Tom Colicchio at the start of this week’s “Last Chance Kitchen.” Eric Adjepong and Nini Nguyen went head-to-head for a chance at redemption, and coincidentally both All-Stars previously competed on the show just last year during season 16. “Only familiar faces right now in ‘Last Chance Kitchen,’ but you have no choice but to fight,” said Nguyen. Watch what happened above.

Nguyen was eliminated from the main competition last week in “Get Your Phil” and survived a grueling triple threat match in “LCK” against Lisa Fernandes and Karen Akunowicz to keep her hopes alive. Adjepong was eliminated this week in “Pitch Perfect,” when his idea for a Middle Passage restaurant inspired by the trans-Atlantic slave trade disappointed the judges with its poorly executed meals. Because Adjepong failed to execute his own restaurant concept, the challenge for “LCK” was to execute a concept from Colicchio: “coastal Italian seafood.” Game on!

Except neither Adjepong nor Nguyen knew jack squat about cooking coastal Italian seafood. Colicchio himself was baffled when he checked in with the chefs as they were cooking. Rhubarb with Adjepong’s clams, mussels and cod dish? And what the heck is this aioli Nguyen is making for her sea bream dish? The good news for both chefs was that neither was any more at ease with the concept — equals in ignorance when it comes to Italian food.

The good news was that, unlike in last week’s “LCK,” Nguyen didn’t start a single kitchen fire this time around. Progress! That turned out to be a good sign because when Colicchio tasted both dishes, even though he liked the acidic kick of Adjepong’s meal, he chose Nguyen as the winner of the challenge, which means she moves on to next week’s “LCK,” while Adjepong has to pack his knives and go for good.

Swelling with confidence, Nguyen proclaimed, “Move over NeNe Leakes, there’s a new Nini on Bravo!”

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