‘Top Chef: New Orleans’ review: Are Shirley Chung, Nina Compton in finale?

What's next? -The “Top Chef: New Orleans” final two is official … and it may have not been the two that you were expecting most of the season.

But, we warned you about this in some of our preview articles. The time away between filming the main portion of the season and the finale is significant, since it gives you an opportunity to really work on what some of your biggest mistakes were and try to readjust where you are. For Nicholas Elmi, we really feel as though he was helped significantly by this break more than others. Why? He was given more consistent feedback when it comes to his mistakes, and that gave him something defined to work on over his time away. He relaxed, realized that he needed to cook more bold cuisine, and really went in here with a nothing to lose philosophy. That showed in his food.

Almost the moment that we started to see Nicholas actually smiling, we felt like he was primed to go very far. As a matter of fact, it felt like he and Nina Compton were locks to advance before the judges even got the food. These two had the lead during the cooking process, whereas Louis Maldonado and Shirley Chung each were shown struggling with a component or two. Thanks to the rain and the wind in Maui, it made some parts of the process even more difficult,

Having two chefs go home at this stage was especially hard. For Louis, it had to be brutal to win eight straight battles on “Last Chance Kitchen” to go home here. He may have felt that pressure, and he may have also been hindered more by the condition than others. While the other chefs have been cooking all over New Orleans, he was more confined to a single kitchen on the web series. With all this being said, he was our favorite chef of the entire season and we’ll miss him in the finale.

As for Shirley, she was screwed almost by the break. Had she been able to actually continue the competition immediately after New Orleans, she would probably be in the finale over Nicholas. He just had time to catch up with her when it comes to momentum.

On paper, we’ll be honest here in saying that Nicholas vs. Nina seems like a one-sided affair. The latter has been the undisputed favorite almost all season long. On the flip side, there have been some occasions in the past (see season 7) where the underdog was able to emerge as the winner. Don’t rule him out completely yet, at least so long as he can stay in his little zen mindset where he doesn’t freak out over every little thing.

In the end, a great episode to set up the finale. There was beautiful scenery, great challenges that show off the Hawaiian islands (Nick also won the cliffhanger), and a surprising elimination to set up the final round. Grade: A-.

What did you think about Wednesday’s episode? Be sure to share your thoughts below, and also visit the link here if you want to see some more news related to the show. We’ll size up the finalists later this weekend, so be on the lookout for that.

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Photo: Bravo

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