Quickfire Challenge: Guest judge Gavin Kaysen (who represented the United States in the Bocuse d'Or, which is like the cooking Olympics) challenges them to create a version of Gavin's competition dish, where they have to do a protein inside a protein inside a protein (like a turducken, for example) in ninety minutes. The winner is Jennifer, who made a seafood version with calamari, salmon, and scallops, along with a side rice noodle salad. When Padma tasted it, she even told Jen, "Welcome back."
Elimination Challenge: Each cheftestant will create "a regal presentation platter" with one protein and two garnishes. The garnishes can't just be some parsley or a schmear of a puree – they must be intricate and show off technique, as they would be in the real Bocuse d'Or. They get four hours to cook, and Jen gets an extra 30 minutes due to her Quickfire win, and they have to use either lamb or salmon as their protein. They'll be cooking for 12 judges, including Thomas Keller.
Here's what they made:
Kevin: Lamb loin poached in caramelized lamb fat and olive oil, with garnishes of sherry-glazed pickled Swiss chard stems, and baked asparagus with sunchoke cream and buttered toast. Kevin decided to cook the lamb sous vide and required advice from Bryan, since he doesn't normally use that technique. He also decided to go simple with his presentation, even though they were told that elaborate presentation was part of the competition, and the judges noticed.
Michael: Cauliflower and chickpea cake, sous vide salmon with crab and zucchini, tzatziki stuffed with salmon belly tartar, and a champagne-tomato ganache. He claims his direction was Mediterranean, but the judges found some of the flavors didn't match the theme, and the execution wasn't quite there.
Bryan: Parley-crusted loin of lamb, crepinette made with lamb shank and finished with a caponata, and orzo pasta stewed with sheep's milk cheese. The judges thought the presentation was beautiful and the concept was great, but the execution was lacking, since his lamb was undercooked.
Eli: Lamb sausage crusted with pistachios and wrapped around different parts of the lamb, carved tableside, with garnishes of ras el hanout and carrot puree with yogurt foam, and a tomato and piquillo pepper marmalade with caper berry on top of a brioche crouton, served with an arugula and tarragon coulis. All of the judges feel that the lamb is carved and cooked poorly, which is unforgiveable, especially since there were big chunks of uncooked fat in the sausage. Yuck.
Jen: Lightly poached salmon topped with caviar and enoki mushrooms, shrimp flan topped with cold salad of snap peas, chervil and truffles, and celery root cut into squares with shiitake mushrooms. Some of the judges get undercooked salmon, but they all like the flavors of the dishes. Some feel that the overall concept is messy, but others think it was the most interesting and beautiful platter of the evening.
The judges decide that the winner is Kevin, because he executed perfectly, even if his concept was a little more simple than they would have liked. He wins $30,000 and the chance to compete to represent the United States in the Bocuse d'Or. Plus, you know, he gets to move on in the competition. And then Eli is told to pack his knives and go, so the Fab Four is the Final Four, as everyone who watched any part of this season predicted. I do have to say that any of them could win, especially since Jen seems to be making a comeback.
Everyone gets dressed in the morning to prepare for that day's challenges. Bryan puts on a silver studded belt that seems very un-Bryan. I would imagine him to be more of the brown or black plain leather kind of dude. He interviews that he is worried about his restaurant back home, and whether it's going to succeed, but he has to put that aside. Kevin puts on a necklace that looks like rosary beads. What is with everyone wearing fancy accessories this week? Kevin interviews that he misses his wife. Eli interviews that Richard Blais is his mentor, and they've been friends a long time, so now Eli wants to win the competition for both of them. Jen interviews that she started off strong but has really sucked lately (no shit, Sherlock). Mike doesn't get a little interview. Maybe the editors are as sick of his horseshit as some viewers seem to be.
The cheftestants enter the kitchen and find Padma standing there with Gavin Kaysen. Padma gives a little speech about how far they all have came, and then introduces Kaysen, who represented the U.S. in the world's most difficult cooking competition, the Bocuse d'Or. Kaysen explains a dish he famously made when he competed, which was a ballotine made of crawfish, inside of foie gras, inside of chicken liver, inside of chicken. So if you've heard of turducken, it's the same concept, but using different and interesting proteins. Kaysen explains that it took him four months to figure out how to make the dish, and Padma says that of course, the cheftestants will have far less time. Their Quickfire will be to create a version of Gavin's dish in ninety minutes, with a protein inside a protein inside a protein. Padma adds that they no longer give out immunity, but the winner will get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.
The cheftestants immediately hop to. Bryan thinks the people who have made a ballotine before will have an advantage, though of course we don't know who has made one and who has not. Presumably those with formal culinary training have. Michael has decided to follow what he thinks is the spirit of the law and not the letter, and make a terrine, which is sort of a loaf of forced-meat. So I'm guessing the proteins are spread throughout instead of wrapped around one another? Kevin is dubious about Mike's approach. Kevin and Eli are best buddies apparently, since they knew one another before coming there, and they both like to cook homestyle food. Jen falls into that category of people who've never made a ballotine before, but she plans to stick to seafood, since she knows that well. Michael interviews that Jen has sucked lately, and he thinks she's on the way out. I mean, he uses more words, but that's basically what he says. God, he's arrogant. I mean, he's kind of right with the first part about Jen sucking, but hopefully not so much with the second part, about her not being able to pull it together. With minutes left, everyone runs around and schmears purees on a plate and finally plates their food.
Padma and Kaysen arrive for judging and Eli is up first with his bacon-crusted breakfast sausage with a six-minute egg center. That sounds decent but I have a problem with the egg-to-sausage ratio. Too much sausage. And the whole dish kind of looks like a kiwi fruit. Michael made "poultry terrine" chicken with turkey and bacon mousseline. So he used three proteins, but none of them seem to be inside the other as directed. Jen made calamari steak, scallops, salmon, shiitake, and shiso with rice noodle salad. She's kind of the only one who did a side dish. Kaysen asks why she used seafood and Jen says that she thinks seafood is her strong point. Padma smiles at her and says, "Welcome back." Awesome. So glad Jen is back, since I've been rooting for her since like week two.
Bryan made a rack of lamb and Merguez sausage wrapped in caul fat. That sounds really gross. It kind of looks gross too, since there is a number of different purees and coulis on the plate. Kevin made a cornmeal-fried filet of catfish with scallop and shrimp, because he's all about keeping it real in the dirty South. It kind of looks like a square fishstick. Bryan points out that Kevin keeps it simple but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe Bryan should tell that to his snooty brother.
Time for judging! Kaysen thinks Kevin's catfish was a little overcooked and dried out, though Kevin disagrees in an interview. He says that Bryan's dish was cooked well and pulled off well for the time limitations. He liked the concept of Eli's dish, and was surprised at how well-executed Jennifer's was since the calamari could have been tough. Kaysen doesn't think Michael followed the rules, so he's out, and of course, Michael disputes that in an interview and also says that if he had made a ballotine, it would have been better than anything stupid Kaysen could have made. Does he have any idea how his interviews come off or what? Anyway, the winner is Jennifer, and hopefully it will give her the confidence boost that she needs to make it through the finals.
Elimination Challenge: The cheftestants will compete in a mini-Bocuse d'Or where each cheftestant will create "a regal presentation platter" with one protein and two garnishes. The garnishes can't just be some parsley or a schmear of a puree -- they must be intricate and show off technique, as they would in the real Bocuse d'Or. Kevin interviews that he thinks the judges are expecting to be wowed. Eli interviews that he's not used to the "elaborate decadence" that the judges will be expecting, so he's a little worried. They get four hours to cook, and Jen gets an extra thirty minutes due to her Quickfire win, and they have to use either lamb or salmon as their protein. They'll be cooking for twelve judges, including Thomas Keller, which is a HUGE deal. Padma reminds them that every element of their platters must be perfect, so you know, no pressure.
Shopping time! Didn't you miss this segment last week? No? Me neither. Kevin stares at produce as he interviews that he has no idea what he's going to do with his dish other than use lamb and be seasonal. Jen goes over budget and has to dig through her bags to put some stuff back, and she also announces that she has no clue what to make.
The cheftestants return home and start planning their meals, except for Michael, who goes to bed while still wearing his chef's jacket. Whuh? Is it because the cameras are around and he doesn't want to be the Jeff of this season, who complained about constantly being shown topless? Maybe shopping and bitching about the challenges really takes a lot out of him. Anyway, the other four decide (totally spontaneously!) to watch the DVD of the Bocuse d'Or that they were given. They must have rolled a TV in just for this, because it's located in the most awkward position possible, so that anyone sitting on the couch has to twist around and look over his or her shoulder to see it. Jen interviews that it was intimidating to watch, and we see that each country has a cheering section with flags and whatnot, like a soccer game. After they finish, Kevin says that he thinks he needs to use sous vide for his lamb, which he's never done before. Bryan helps him out and tells him how to cook it, and in an interview, says that he didn't want to be a prick about it, because being a chef is about sharing information, even in competition. He adds that his brother might not have done the same thing. YOU THINK? I can't imagine Michael being a prick. Except for every minute of every day.
The next day, the cheftestants head to the kitchen. As they start prepping, Colicchio strolls into the kitchen with Thomas Keller, and the cheftestants are all really intimidated and awed. Keller advises them to try to avoid being intimidated, and just put their heads down and work. Colicchio assures them that the judges are confident they can handle it, and BREAK! That's the whole pep talk? That was worthwhile.
This is going to shock you, but Michael is confident that he can rock this challenge, because he's done culinary competitions before. That's like me saying I think I can do a triathlon because I swam in my neighbor's pool once. Shut up, dick. Jen has a more realistic reaction; she finds it nerve-racking to cook for Thomas Keller, although she's grateful for the opportunity to show off her talents. Bryan is doing a braise, which normally takes ten hours, and trying to get it done in the four-hour time limit. Kevin is trying out the sous vide, and everyone who watched Carla crash and burn last season by trying out a technique she hadn't used before gets really nervous. Michael, of course, has to snark in an interview that Kevin doesn't cook elaborate food, and it's the type of thing Michael cooks on his day off, with one hand tied behind his back, blindfolded. You'd think Michael would notice that Kevin has been ki