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Top Chef Recap: Salutations and Swamp Dinners

Eater Chicago contributor Laura Heller contributed this story. Spoiler Alert: If you do not want to know what happened on last night's episode of Top Chef, stop reading now.

Top Chef Season 11 moves to New Orleans and offers not one, but two, Chicagoans—Slurping Turtle's Aaron Cuschieri and Carlos Gaytan, chef and owner of the Michelin-starred Mexique.

The chefs first meet in the New Orleans house they will share during the competition. Cuschieri and Gayton both get valuable screen time and viewers quickly learn a bit about each chef's background (punk rock drummer and Mexican immigrant). All 18 chefs are immediately thrown into an elimination challenge cooking for a private dinner club in a remote Louisiana swamp, using one of three local ingredients: turtle, alligator and frog.

Gayton made alligator rillete with fennel and pickled red onion relish. Cuschieri prepared duo of turtle: pickled eggplant with turtle confit and a turtle ragout of home made tagliatelle topped with parmesan and fried sage.

Both were among the judges least favorites.

Judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse and Curtis Stone thought Gayton's rillete suffered from soggy toast while Cuschieri's choice to serve pasta to a large crowd in a swamp was big risk that just didn't pay off.

Cuschieri's pasta landed him in the bottom three. But in the end, Ramon Bojorquez, sous chef at Nine-Ten in La Jolla, CA, was sent packing for his disastrous iced dashi. "How do you ice dashi? It's not a cocktail," asked Laggasse. "It's crazy talk," quipped Collichio.

Nina Compton from the West Indies island of St. Lucia and a Miami-based chef, won for her curried turtle meatball.

How will the Chicago chefs fare? Appearances are scant in the season's coming attraction clips, not a great sign. Slurping Turtle is hosting viewing parties, but how long will Cuschieri and Gayton remain among the cast?
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Slurping Turtle

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