This week's contestants are Graham Elliott Bowles, Jonathan Waxman, Ludo Lefebvre, Mark Peel, Rick Moonen and Wylie Dufresne, all of whom competed last season.
Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish to pair with a Stolichnaya cocktail. The judges are Gayle and some of the Real Housewives of Orange County. The housewives are kind of idiots. I mean, it's like me judging a gourmet food competition, when my favorite foods are… not gourmet. They don't know much about food, and it shows. The chefs get frustrated watching it. Ultimately, Jonathan Waxman finishes early and still wins with his pork tenderloin and poblano stuffed shrimp with avocado butter.
Elimination Challenge: Create an upscale version of a traditional pub food dish to be served at Tom Bergin's Tavern. Ludo and Rick have a little drama where they really want to beat one another, and both want to make the same dish, but Rick wins out. Ludo is pissed, because Rick is known for his fish, and he thinks it's an unfair advantage. Ludo also has some drama with Graham. Basically, Ludo is a dick, which if I recall, was about how he acted last season in his episode. Here's what each chef gets and what they create:
Jonathan: shepherd's pie becomes lamb, mashed potatoes and parmesan cheese. Jonathan admits that he's not super-crazy and imaginative, and he tries to make good food. The critics think everything is delicious. He earns 18.5 stars and wins the whole thing, moving on to the Champions Round.
Rick: fish and chips becomes chicken fried sable, lemon confit tartar sauce, twice-fried potatoes and fennel slaw. The critics like the fish and salad, but the potatoes harden as they cool. He earns 16 stars and joins Jonathan in the Champions Round.
Wylie: bangers and mash becomes bangers, smoked mashed potatoes, onion jus and snow peas. It tastes good, and it looks like the original, so everyone likes it. He earns 14.5 stars.
Graham: steak and kidney pie becomes roasted beef tenderloin, chanterelle puree, puff pastry and bacon-kidney vinaigrette. The meat is well prepared and the chanterelle cream is delicious, according to the critics. He earns 13.5 stars.
Mark: toad in the hole becomes seafood sausage, onion sauce with lobster broth and mustard greens. Mark admits that the Yorkshire pudding component is a mess before he even serves it, but he hopes the other parts will overcome it. Everyone notices, though. He earns 9.5 stars (including only one star from the diners) because of his horrible Yorkshire pudding.
Ludo: Irish stew becomes beef tenderloin, potatoes confit, roasted peanuts with miso and Guinness caramel. Gayle says the vegetables were uncooked, and the dish doesn't go over well with the diners. He earns 11 stars.
So Rick and Jonathan move on to the Champions Round.
This week's contestants all competed on the show last season but didn't make it to the Champions' Round. So they've BACK! Like ROCKY! I wish they had shown them training for their second chance by chasing chickens in the frozen tundra. Except then they would kill the chickens and prepare them with a red wine reduction. I'll give you that one for free, producers. So the contestants are:
Rick Moonen, who might have won his round last season except he didn't finish his Quickfire on time, and thus earned no stars for that round. So he's determined to make sure the food gets out on time.
Wylie Dufresne, who swore a lot the first time around, and accidentally didn't give one of the judges the main element of his dish due to a plating mixup. He wants redemption.
Graham Elliot Bowles, who didn't really screw anything up on his first outing, but was just plain out beat by Suzanne Tracht, so he's got that going for him, which is nice. Graham and Wylie are friends but also frenemies, so they really want to beat each other.
Jonathan Waxman, who had a lot of respect from the other chefs on his first time out, but somehow that didn't translate to actual stars for his cooking. I hope he's had Lasik since last season, because he kept complaining about how he couldn't see anything.
Mark Peel got screwed over by a Quickfire that involved cooking eggs with one hand, since everyone agreed that his Elimination Challenge dish was great. But now he's back!
Ludo Lefebvre, who served placenta on a plate for his first round (not really but it looked like it) and tried to charm his way into the finals after taking too long to serve up his food. That obviously didn't work out for him. He complains that people called him Pepe le Pew after his season. They also called him Asshole, because he kind of was one.
Kelly Choi welcomes them all back and introduces the Quickfire Challenge. They walk into a room with a fully stocked bar, and Jonathan cracks that he's in his comfort zone. Maybe that explains the vision problems; he's always drunk! The challenge is to create a dish to be paired with an "exotic cocktail" made with the sponsoring company's vodka (they have to pay me if they want the advertising). An award-winning mixologist comes in and makes all the various cocktails for them, and they get to sample each. At 8:00 in the morning. And then they each choose a cocktail to base their dish around. The judges will be the Real Housewives of Orange County and Gael Greene. So, you know, experts on drinking.