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Leah Chase Made Everyone Starstruck on Top Chef

The second episode of Top Chef: New Orleans, "Rebuilding New Orleans," aired last night, and NOLA.com's Dave Walker was on-hand to write up an extensive recap that focused primarily on the episode's special guest: Leah Chase, New Orleans' grande dame of Creole cuisine. Chase showed up to host Padma Lakshmi at Dooky Chase's, and to co-judge the first Quickfire contest of the season?a "make-it-your-own" gumbo cook-off.

It might have seemed like local chefs Michael Sichel and Justin Devillier would have a pretty significant advantage, but all the gumbo offerings were, in Lakshmi's estimation, pretty underwhelming, something she attributed to how starstruck all the chefs were in Chase's presence:

"[The chefs] all were so stymied by her that I think it distracted them from their cooking. A few of them were really good but I expected them to be better. We asked them to cook right in their wheelhouse. We asked them to make their own gumbo. The night before I had made my gumbo for them. They had tasted my gumbo at their house. I told them all of the stories about my ingredients and why (I used them). I was surprised that more of them didn't do better, but I think that had to do with them being distracted by this very charismatic presence.

I don't usually get star-struck that much, but there are a couple of people I've met who are compelling like that. One is Muhammad Ali. Another is Mother Theresa."

Though it's probably not at all relevant (wink, wink), Leah Chase would make a pretty good Top Chef saboteur because absolutely nobody would suspect her.

· The local angles in episode 2, 'Rebuilding New Orleans' [NOLA.com]
· All Top Chef Coverage [-ENOLA-]

Susan Spicer, Leah Chase, and Padma Lakshmi. [Photo: Bravo]

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