Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish with the contents of a mystery box. The cheftestants start with one box, and then more mystery boxes arrive as they continue cooking, and the ingredients must be incorporated. The first box contains rockfish, fava beans and an unlabeled can of hominy. The next box arrives containing squid and black garlic. The third box arrives, and it contains ramps and passion fruit. The fourth box has jicama. In the end, judge Wylie Dufresne decides that Alex and Amanda had the least successful dishes. The tops are Tiffany and Kevin, and the ultimate winner is Tiffany, who gets $10,000.
Elimination Challenge: Cook at the CIA and create a new identity for a classic dish. In addition to Tom, Padma, Ripert and Wylie, they are joined by a bunch of CIA people, including director Leon Panetta. And then Panetta is passed a note in the middle of dinner and has to leave, which is the all-time pimp move. Here's what they did:
Angelo had Beef Wellington, and he made tartlets topped with slivers of beef. He talked about making it look like a mini-pizza, but I don't see it. The big scandal was that he used premade puff pastry instead of making his own. The judges take note.
Kelly had kung pao shrimp, and made spicy shrimp broth with rice and Szechuan shrimp tempura. Tom likes the flavors, and the CIA people like it as well.
Tiffany had a gyro, and she made roasted leg of lamb with smoky eggplant, tomatoes, and pickled onions. Eric Ripert thinks it's elegant.
Kevin had Cobb salad, and he made romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, Roquefort, avocado, cucumber and turkey. So he basically just took all the ingredients and served them kind of separately. It's sort of deconstructed, I guess?
Amanda had French onion soup, and she made consommé with oxtail marmalade, caramelized onions and shaved gruyere. It seems a bit obvious, and while they like the idea of the marmalade, the execution is far too sweet.
Alex had veal Parmesan, and he made veal and Parmigiano cheese tortelloni with tomato sauce and tempura cheese. Everyone immediately discovers that the meat is really tough. Ripert remarks that there should have been less disguise and a better dish.
Ed had chicken cordon bleu, and he made roasted chicken breast, ham and cheese croquette, and a spring onion soubise. The judges like the flavors but don't think it's disguised well enough.
The top three are Tiffany, Kelly and Ed, and the winner is Tiffany for making a tasty dish while still disguising the original dish. Tiffany wins a trip to Paris, and is excited to have her honeymoon.
The bottom three are Alex, Amanda and Angelo. The judges tell Amanda that she didn't disguise her dish enough and her marmalade was too sweet. Angelo knows he didn't do his best work, and he's ashamed that he bought puff pastry. And Tom just destroys Alex's dish, saying that every part of it was terrible. So finally, Alex is sent home. Whew!
It's morning time! Wakey, wakey, eggs and bac-y! Kevin is still holding a grudge over Alex not putting up a dish in the last challenge, probably because he doesn't think it was Kenny's turn to go home. Well, if that were the case, maybe Kenny should have cooked something that didn't suck. Just a thought. Alex, meanwhile, doesn't really get why Kevin went off on him in the Stew Room, and chooses to believe that Kevin was just frustrated about losing the challenge and losing a teammate. Which was part of it, and probably the most emotionally healthy way for Alex to look at it, but also not really the reason. As Kevin explains, he thinks Alex needs to step it up and prove that he deserves to be there. Which should kind of be the criteria every week, right? And part of the problem is the poorly designed challenges this season, which have eliminated some more talented people while letting some less-talented people slide by. Unless the editing is particularly egregious this season, and people like Alex and Amanda are actually the most talented. HA HA HA.
Angelo says that he's exhausted by Restaurant Wars. Amanda is apparently so exhausted that she can't even hold her cup of coffee, since she just spilled it all over the place. She sucks.
The cheftestants walk into the kitchen and find Wylie Dufresne there with Padma. Is this going to be another egg challenge? Or molecular gastronomy? Ed interviews that he sees a lot of black boxes with question marks on them around the kitchen and has no idea what might be under there. I'm going to guess...food? Just a theory. Padma explains that the Quickfire Challenge is to cook a dish using a mystery ingredient common to all contestants. As they cook, more mystery boxes will arrive with more mystery ingredients.
In an interview, Angelo stresses the importance of keeping your vision for your dish open to incorporate the new ingredients. Wylie commiserates that mystery boxes are tough all around, and adding in new ingredients on the fly is particularly diabolical. Tiffany admits in an interview that she doesn't like the idea of this challenge, because she doesn't like surprises, and she is feeling anxious. Padma adds in that it's a High Stakes Quickfire, so the winner gets ten large. Angelo's interest is piqued because his fiancée lives in Russia and he wants to bring her to the US. So a lot of money will help grease the skids? Is that what he's essentially saying? And is his fiancée a mail-order bride? It's just weird that we've heard nothing about this fiancée before, particularly when he was drooling over Tamesha. Oh, Angelo. You just get sketchier and sketchier.
The cheftestants get to open the first box, and inside they find, a fish, some fava beans, and an unlabeled can. Not everyone has a can opener, so people are trying to seek one out. Tiffany claims she doesn't have one when Alex asks, but then she totally has one. She finds hominy inside the can. I would be so out of this challenge already. I could deal with the fish and the beans but the hominy would have me stumped. I would probably just make a soup and throw shit in there and totally lose. Not that I wouldn't lose every challenge on this show, but I would lose this one especially hard. Ed explains that the trouble with this challenge is that you might set off in one direction and then get a new ingredient that doesn't fit in with your original concept. Alex's solution to this struggle is to just cook each ingredient separately (and "in an interesting way" -- like blindfolded?) and then compose the dish at the end. I see where he's going but it also seems like he will end up with a plate that looks like it was put together at Old Country Buffet or something.
Kevin notices that Angelo seems frazzled. He interviews that he can't decide whether his dish should be hot or cold, and he doesn't have a vision. Angelo being frazzled seems to equal Angelo wiping down his cutting board every five seconds in lieu of actually cooking anything. Amanda notes that a guy dressed like the Agents in The Matrix has just entered the kitchen with another mystery box and she's freaked out since she hasn't even developed a concept for her dish. Kevin is first to arrive at the box, and he finds squid and black garlic. Kelly isn't familiar with black garlic, so she tastes it and finds it both smoky and sweet. She's worried about muddling the flavors of her dish. Alex still isn't quite sure what he's making. I don't think he's alone in that.
Another agent arrives with another mystery box. This one contains ramps and passionfruit. Well, they are not making this easy. This reminds me of a game a childhood friend and I used to play where we would mix up something from some combination of whatever my mom had in the fridge and/or pantry and then dare one another to drink it. Surprisingly, we never puked. Tiffany is really unsure about the ramp situation, to the point where she doesn't even know which part of the ramp to use. I thought ramps were one of those trendy foodie ingredients of last year? Meanwhile, Angelo is still freaking out, scooping the insides out of the passionfruit and talking to himself. He still hasn't decided whether his dish should be hot or cold, with about fifteen minutes left.