Hubert says that he had an easy time deciding on making a salmon soufflé and a choucroute flan. He explains that growing up, there was only one three star Michelin restaurant near where he grew up, and he first tasted this dish there, and knew immediately that he wanted to learn how to make it. When he got older, he did an apprenticeship there and did actually learn how to make it, which was a big accomplishment. They even show a photo of a much-younger Hubert with dark hair and a giant fuzzy beard that seems like a no-no in the kitchen. I guess the rules were more lax back then. If you found a beard hair in your soufflé, it was part of the ambience.
With fifteen minutes left for the day's prep, the chefs run around and finish up. They banter about how there's no more playing it safe at this point. Rick interviews that any one of them could win this competition, because it's not like there's a clear frontrunner, and it will all come down to how good their dishes end up tomorrow. The chefs leave the kitchen for the night.
The next morning, the chefs return to the kitchen for their final two-and-a-half hours to prep. Michael sets down his knives and "jokes", "You guys are going down." They all chuckle and then Rick finds a note on his station that says, "I have one final surprise for you." The chefs are all nervous after all of the surprises in the previous challenge, and they worry that they're going to have to pack up their food and go finish cooking elsewhere or something similar. Instead, they watch a video where each of their sous-chefs from home has recorded a message wishing them good luck in the competition. And while that was nice, on first viewing, I was like, "Wow, that is super lame for the viewers." Because we don't know these sous-chefs, and it's not like it was their wives or partners or children or something, like on Survivor, so that we could get to witness a full-on weeping breakdown. I mean, the chefs are tickled and touched, and they all get a good laugh out of it, but for the home viewers, it's kind of filler, especially when this episode was already shortened to make room for a supersized Top Chef premiere.
But then the sous-chefs burst through the doors and walk into the kitchen, and it turns out they are there to assist their chefs with putting together their dishes. I was kind of wondering how they were going to cook four dishes for twelve people alone, even if they do have two days.
So now we get each chef's explanation of their third dishes. Michael is up first and we get to see a picture of him presumably around the time he opened his first restaurant, with curly Sun-In orange hair and all. After attending the Culinary Institute, Michael went to school in Florida, and opened his first restaurant in Miami. They cooked "progressive New American" food, with a multi-ethnic influence. His dish is a whole fried ginger marinated rouget (fish) served with mango salad. Michael notes that he hasn't made this in twenty-five years, but this dish is what sold the best, and it's what magazines wrote about and what won him awards.
Rick, on the other hand, opened Frontera Grill in 1987 in Chicago with his wife. He tried to remember what dish set his restaurant apart when they opened, and he decided to make conchita pibil, which is roast suckling pig. He'll serve it along with a sunchoke puree, crispy pig's feet and pickled red onion. Man, I haven't thought much about sunchokes since a few seasons ago on Top Chef when everyone used them every week. Rick's preparation plans include taking the pork and packing it into a pan to make "a thick cake out of it," and then he's going to cut squares of the "cake," and sear it and serve it with the pan juices. That sounds amazing.
Hubert shows off to Michael that he got some French truffles shipping in and they just arrived. He's thrilled to have them to work with. Michael is jealous, but Rick isn't that impressed, since he feels like shaving truffles over a dish is expensive but doesn't add that much to the dish. Ooh, meow! I kind of agree but it's unlike Bayless to be so catty. At least we know he's human.