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Padma's Picks Recap: Grand Dame Rivalry

Ep 1: Chefs Michael Sichel and Caesy Morvant compete in a Creole-inspired challenge.

By Monica A. Reyhani

Welcome and bienvenue to our first weekly recap of Padma's Picks. As I mentioned in our primer, sure, you can watch the whole series whenever you want, but I'll be digging in to one episode a week and would love for you to join. This week, we start at the very beginning -- Episode 1. 

How to Watch

Catch up on Top Chef on Peacock or the Bravo App.

If you haven't watched yet, watch HERE. I'll wait... 

Ready? OK.

Before we start the competition, Padma explains what she's doing: exploring New Orleans in search of Top Chef Season 11's final competitor -- a local New Orleans chef. But more importantly, Padma utters the words Padma's Picks, allowing us to hear exactly how Padma says her name, which I don't think she's ever done before on-air. Seriously, in nine seasons. Never. I mean, this is fascinating. I've been saying it incorrectly for years. YEARS! We're learning so much already, you guys!

Padma meets up with John Folse, introduced as "a leading authority on Cajun and Creole cuisine." John's first restaurant was Lafitte's Landing, which has been open for 35 years. So, yeah, Chef Folse is doing something right. The pair starts at the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and Chef Folse explains the basics of Cajun cooking, which is basically one pot wonders. He also explains what Creole means and that it comes from a word that means "a mixture of color or culture." So obviously, I'm all like, "Oh! Crayola!" Nope. To the Google I went, as Hugh Acheson taught me, and Crayola's origin has nothing to do with the word creole. We'll pretend that it does for now, though just because

Chef Folse claims he has two "grand dame" chefs to offer Padma to feast on -- just kidding, they'll just be competing for that final spot: Michael Sichel from Galatoire's and Casey Morvant from Arnaud's. Casey has a bandana so he means business. Michael would just look ridiculous with a bandana, but I'm confident he means business too. Not to self: ask Michael how he controls those curls in that New Orleans humidity!

Michael is a New York transplant, while Casey was born and raised in New Orleans. After a quick description of the chefs' restaurants and the "rivalry" tradition of New Orleans cuisine, the two chefs head to the kitchen to get cookin'.Michael describes his dish as a Creole sauce with an Italian twist, while Casey attempts a bouillabaisse. Casey makes the observation that he's reserved, while Michael is a little more energetic -- it will be interesting to see how much of their personalities come out in their dishes! Both chefs are using fresh Gulf seafood, however, which is exciting. You're in New Orleans! Use the product! Michel points out the differences between line-caught fish and farmed fish. He shows us the bloodline in the line-caught fish. Let's hope he doesn't show it to Padma and Chef Folse... in the finished dish.

"Butter makes the world go round," declares Casey. I like him.

Time to eat!

Michael presents Deep Fried Red Fish with Creole Sauce, Sauteed Spinach, and Calamari. Casey presents Braised Crab, Gulf Shrimp, and Black Drum with Bouillabaisse Sauce. Casey's fish has a bone. Minus one. 

They were both delicious, but ultimately Michel gets the invite to cook. His dish was not only technically perfect, but more visually appealing.

So, Michel moves on! Next week, chefs Justin Devilluier and Michael Doyle compete. Prep yourself by watching the episode HERE, and let me know what you thought of the first head-to-head challenge in the comments below.





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