Kevin Gillespie had won six challenges on “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.” — three quickfires, three elimination challenges — before his elimination in “Restaurant Wars.” He threw himself on his sword as the executive chef of the losing team, but that doesn’t mean he’s done fighting. He showed up in “Last Chance Kitchen” to face off against Nini Nguyen. Watch their battle above.
“This is going to be a tough one,” said Nguyen when she saw who she was up against. “If you’ve ever seen Kevin cook, he is a machine.” She wasn’t backing down, though. “I’m here to win,” she insisted. Then the two chefs heard the challenge from Tom Colicchio: because Gillespie was eliminated for his chaotic tribute to his grandmother’s home cooking, he and Nguyen would “go back to a memory of a dish you loved as a kid and reimagine it to reflect the chef you are today.”
What came to mind for Gillespie was the memory of family camping trips where they cooked freshly caught trout from the river. Nguyen decided to combine her Vietnamese heritage with her knowledge of New Orleans cuisine for a chicken dish with ginger and pickled cabbage — her twist would be to fry the chicken instead of braising it as it would usually be prepared in this recipe.
The result: Colicchio praised both meals, but also pointed out flaws: Nguyen should’ve stuck with braising instead of frying, and her ingredients were all mashed together in the bowl she served it in. And Gillespie let his creamed corn sit for too long, leaving them a little cold. But ultimately the dish Colicchio thought was a little more successful was … Kevin’s! That means he’s still alive in “Last Chance Kitchen,” and Colicchio let him know he’s “got one more battle before finals begin.”
Alas, Nguyen is gone but not forgotten after her walk down memory lane. “I feel a little sad because I would really love to win,” she said in her exit interview, “but that’s not the case. Kevin still has a few people to knock out too before he can get back in, and it’s anyone’s game. Today it wasn’t mine. But I didn’t burn anything, so to me that’s kind of a win.”
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