Top Chef

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ho didn't think they should have been sent home in the first place. Of course, the competition is probably a lot tougher this time around. They have three hours that day and two hours the next in the Russian Tea Room. The judges will be Anthony Bourdain, the notoriously prickly and tough chef, and Gail Simmons, who must be exhausted with all her work lately. So time starts.

Everyone hops to, and Spike interviews that he can't believe that he has to prepare frozen scallops again. We flash back to his elimination, when he argued with Rick Tramonto about whether or not he should have used the frozen scallops, and blames Rick for having them in his freezer in the first place, like Spike was forced to use them at gunpoint. I kind of forgot how Spike went out like a bitch. I was never that impressed with Spike in the first place, and probably only a quarter as impressed as he was with himself. I'm interested to see how he does this season. I think he's a great marketer, and he knows what people want, but I don't know about his skills as a chef, at least compared to some of the others here. Anyway, Spike explains that he's going to use all of his tricks in his arsenal to mask the flavor of the scallops, since that was the component that led to his elimination.

Dale T. reminds us that he has to cook miso butterscotch scallops, and it sucks to be him, because the guest judge on the night he was originally eliminated was none other than Anthony Bourdain, who said that the butterscotch scallops was the worst dish in the history of the show. OUCH. Also, it does sound pretty disgusting. I'm not a huge butterscotch fan in the first place, but with scallops? No thank you. Dale wonders how he can save a dish where the concept was the problem in the first place, so he decides to start by making less butterscotch. Like maybe no butterscotch? I don't know if he would get away with that, but it would definitely improve the dish.

Fabio and Dale L. barter over lobsters, since there are a limited amount and they both need some. Fabio interviews that he has to make a pasta dish with crawfish and crab. The problem is that Fabio doesn't think there was anything wrong with his dish in the first place. Uh oh. That's a red flag. I just reread the recap where Fabio was eliminated, and it's never clear exactly why someone left for the most part, but it seemed like the judges felt like the flavor in his pasta was muddy, like it all blended together too much and didn't stand out. Although he made multiple dishes in that episode, and it wasn't like the pasta was singled out as the worst dish, so...

The cheftestants all start cooking and looking for specific ingredients. Stephen got eliminated during Wedding Wars (not Restaurant Wars, as I thought previously), so it was a team challenge, and he handled front of house and pretty much nothing else (except the wine, obviously). So he has to cook three dishes (why? Fabio didn't?) and none of them are really HIS dishes. Looking back at the recap (thanks, keckler), it seems that he did some of the work for his dishes, but the other cheftestants had to assemble, and he was really eliminated because the catering for the reception was a ton of work and Stephen bailed on them, not because the dish was the worst one. But also, it was four years ago, so who knows if he even remembers the dish. Tre interviews that Stephen is "a great front-of-the-house guy" and "a great dresser," but he hasn't worked his way up and done his time in the kitchen.

Elia has to make a red snapper that was steamed inside a ti leaf. I don't know what she is doing to that poor fish, but it is getting mangled. I just looked back at Elia's elimination and, dude, I totally forgot that she accused Marcel of cheating with zero evidence other than that he moved a pan of hers which had no effect on the outcome. God, that was an ugly season. So she has a history of making a fool of herself at Judges' Table. Anyway, it seems like the problem with her original dish was that it didn't incorporate Hawaiian flavors, which was the point of the challenge, but not that it wasn't a good dish. So I can kind of see where she's coming from in that it wasn't a terrible dish in the first place. She just didn't meet the requirements of the challenge that week. We see Elia cutting the ti leaves and placing a GIANT HUNK of fish on each one, which seems problematic, since she wont be able to tell if the fish is cooked well since it's gigantic. Fish is so difficult to cook well, I think.

Jamie asks for some help from Blais with the sous vide machine. She interviews that she had to recreate Eric Ripert's dish, black bass with braised celery, and she did it badly. She hated the dish then, and she still does, but it's what she's got. I still don't get braised celery. That sounds disgusting. Jamie complains to Casey that the celery doesn't taste like anything. Exactly. Although I guess that's her challenge.

Blais says that Angelo is impressing him with his ability to make fresh pasta. I don't think Angelo's season had aired when this was filmed? So no one knows anything about Angelo or Tiffany, presumably. Angelo explains to Tiffany that he's making Japanese ramen, and he interviews that he's working hard to make the textures and the flavors perfect.

Dale T. is having a blast in the kitchen, since he has immunity. He messes around with some liquid nitrogen, and also bakes corn muffins (which look terrible but probably taste great). He's laughing and joking around and having a great time. I hope he doesn't forget to also make a good dish. I know he can't be eliminated, but he doesn't want to embarrass himself.

Mike has to make braised leeks, a dish which didn't have a lot of natural depth of flavor, at least compared to dishes with pork belly or fish. So he has to figure out how to make it flavorful without those components. He plans to smoke the leeks, except he forgets about it until Tre mentions that he is considering smoking a part of his dish. That doesn't bode well. Jen, meanwhile, is determined to make her duck breast perfect, and especially making sure it's not overseasoned, since that was her original problem. She's trying to decide whether or not to sous vide the duck on site. I guess she decides not to, since we see a shot of her browning some meat in a pan. Although the meat in the pan doesn't look like breast meat, so maybe it's just a sauce or something. Anyway, Jen is confident that she's going to be on top in this challenge.

Carla reminds us that she was eliminated in the finals, and Casey was her sous chef. Casey encouraged her to sous vide the meat, which Carla had never done before, and it got her eliminated. Carla doesn't blame Casey, though, but she also doesn't intend to cook food any way but her own this time around. Smart idea.

Sort of confused as to why Marcel is plating his food already? Like not just one practice plate, but a bunch of plates are out and being finished. Maybe he's doing everything but the actual dish ahead of time, although that might be difficult to transport. I'll have to look more closely at the finished product and figure out what happened there. Antonia tells us that Spike is lucky to have immunity, so he's working hard to disguise the frozen scallops in his dish. Not sure what immunity has to do with that, but whatever. I would think he would do that regardless. Anyway, Antonia thinks he's sneaky. Everyone starts packing up to travel the next day, and time is up.

The next day, the cheftestants arrive at the Russian Tea Room, which has a really small kitchen. They will have two hours to prep before serving. Colicchio comes in while everyone is still finding their food and explains that, because the kitchen is so small, they'll be split into two groups for serving. The twist is that the non-serving group gets to eat the other group's food. Antonia expresses that this is a huge advantage, because then you know what you are up against. Also, the winner of this challenge gets ten grand, which is a nice touch.

Group One starts cooking while G

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