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Emmys 2017
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Top Chef recap: Quest for the Hot Tang

The chefs cook with “flavornocity of the highest order” and learn the art of boucherie

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Top Chef

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

Hello there, food lovers. I’m filling in for your regularly flavorful recapper, Stephan Lee, this week; I hope I’ll prove as palatable. That’s it, those are the only food puns I have and they’re totally out of my system now. On to the good stuff: this episode’s theme was food that spans a wide realm of cultures and flavors, a.k.a. hot sauce makin’ and pig roastin’!

The contestants are busy recovering from their wins (Stephanie, in an unexpected twist) and losses (better luck remembering the chili threads next time, Patty) after their team challenge pot luck last week. Sara, who might want to borrow Rosie the Riveter’s can-do attitude in addition to her look, is convinced that she’s becoming a “gooch,” which she tells Shirley means “bad luck.” Sara, if you’re reading this: that is not what gooch means. Do not — I repeat — do not say that anymore.

After last week’s visit from Kermit Ruffins, the most charming charmer to ever charm, Top Chef: New Orleans had a pretty high personality quota to meet this week. Luckily, they had six-time Grammy winner Dr. John on deck, who is actually just a whole other species of human. Padma explains that Dr. John is there because he’s a New Orleans native and…no, that’s the only reason. When Padma asks him if he’s good, he responds, “I’m breathin’,” but it sounds like, “I’m breedin’,” which is a different kind of good entirely. This little exchange sets a precedent for Dr. John being awesome and Padma just pounding through to the finish line because she can’t understand a damn thing he says. It is delicious.

Cue the Quickfire Challenge: The contestants won’t be making a dish today, but a “complex sauce that’s common in the South but found all over the world.”  More importantly, it’s Dr. John’s favorite condiment: hot sauce. Everyone immediately starts sweating, except Dr. John, who starts speaking in tongues. He encourages the contestants, telling them he knows they’re “gonna do a hip maneuver.” Everything Dr. John says sounds like he might be giving you all the wisdom of the world or he might be threatening to kill you. But he’s a simple man. He just wants a hot sauce with a “hip tang to it,” “flavornocity of the highest order,” and, of course, some “tangnocity that mixes in.”

Brian thinks it sounds easy enough to create the perfect hot sauce and bottle it in 45 minutes, but that might be because Brian is the head saucier at his restaurant back home. Stephanie, on the other hand, has never made hot sauce before and is wandering around the kitchen with a bottle of Sriracha, which feels illegal. Many of the chefs immediately latch on to bringing their own cultures and backgrounds into their hot sauces. Carlos feels the pressure of making a great Mexican sauce, but goes a more unique route, infusing his habaneros with mango and passion fruit. Carrie plans to use a recipe that her Trinidadian mother-in-law taught here, while Shirley makes a Chinese-Mexican fusion.

NEXT: Hmm…could use a pinch more hip tang