It's a good thing the winner didn't get a feature in Gourmet magazine, right? Quickfire Challenge judged by Tyler Florence and sponsored by cookstr.com: Create a dish inspired by three keywords chosen at random in 30 minutes. The bottom three are Robin with a curry hash, Eli with a mushroom ceviche, and Jennifer (!) with caviar-topped scallops. The top three are Mike I. with a raw mushroom salad, Kevin with a Vietnamese salad, and Michael V. with a yuzu curd dessert. And the winner is… Kevin! Who admitted that he's pretty much never cooked Asian food before, so bully for him. For his prize, he gets to choose between immunity or $15,000, and he takes the money.
Elimination Challenge: Work in pairs to create a family-style dish for an at-home dinner party for a group of chefs and the judges. The dinner will be served in the Top Chef house. There's limited space and limited appliances, which leads to some issues with circuit breakers for the team of Mike V. and Ash, which then leads to a dish that has undercooked pancetta surrounding overcooked halibut. It's also interesting to see which teams create a true collaboration (Jen and Kevin) and which ones have one chef taking the lead and the other following (Mike V. and Ash, Mike I. and Robin). The dishes served are:
Eli and Ashley: grilled spot prawns with red beet crème fraiche sauce, gnocchi, and kale.
Robin and Mike I.: marinated mushroom and pickled Asian pear roll with seared tuna and scallop.
Laurine and Bryan: halibut with sherry-chorizo vinaigrette, yellow corn cake, and avocado mousse.
Kevin and Jen: BBQ Kobe beef with cardamom, tomato, and ginger broth.
Michael V. and Ash: pancetta-wrapped halibut with egg yolk ravioli, asparagus, and fennel salad.
The top teams are Laurine and Bryan, and Jen and Kevin. While all get praise, the judges decide that Jen and Kevin's dish was the best, and the sauce was the greatest part of that dish. Since Jen made the sauce, she is the winner, and she also gets a $10,000 gift card from Macy's.
The bottom teams are Michael V. and Ash, and Eli and Ashley. The judges uncover that Michael V. did all the work and Ash acted as a sous chef. They have lots of criticism of Ashley's uncooked prawns and Eli's cooking of Ashley's overly salted gnocchi as well. In the end, the judges decide that Ashley had a hand in two bad dishes, and she gets sent packing.
It's morning in the house, and Eli and Michael V. are making breakfast for everyone. It doesn't look like anything too fancy: bacon, fried eggs, some other unidentified food. But it's still a nice gesture. Ash interviews that he sometimes feels inadequate because he didn't go to culinary school, but some of the other chefs, like Michael V., don't act like typical culinary school grads anyway. And also Ash wants to prove that you don't need culinary school to succeed. Based on his performances so far, which have included many trips to the bottom two, he's not doing so well with that. I don't think it's necessarily a factor of going to culinary school or not, but it may be that people who are really serious about becoming chefs tend to go to culinary school?
Michael V. explains that he has two daughters, 5 and 9, and he needs to do well in the competition or else he will feel like his time away from them was wasted time. Whoa. I would never have pegged him as a dad. He's only 30; he had those kids pretty young. In other tales of epic struggle, Jen is not feeling well this morning. Hungover? Just tired out? She explains that she's worked sick many times and she just wants to make it through the Quickfire. I hope she's hungover and not the type of sick that is contagious, because I definitely wouldn't want to eat her food if she's coughing germs all over it. Jen tells Ashley that she's about to throw up. I'm still voting hangover.
Quickfire Challenge. The chefs arrive in the kitchen, and are greeted by Padma and Tyler Florence. What the fuck is Padma wearing? It's a silky green jumpsuit that looks like it was left over from Cher's Vegas show. But it's not something you would wear, you know, if you weren't on stage. Which I guess she is, in a sense, but not really. The cheftestants do their typical interview love-fest on Tyler Florence, although you can kind of tell that they don't REALLY respect him, because he's a TV chef. I mean, he's not Hubert Keller or something. Plus, he endorses a chain restaurant and he's achieved mainstream success. HERETIC! Burn him! I honestly don't care one way or the other, and I've never eaten his food, so who knows? But I do find the food snobbery that surrounds this show kind of hilarious because it is, you know, on television.
Anyway, the Quickfire is sponsored by a cooking website that didn't pay me to promote them so I'm not going to, but basically, you can search for recipes by keyword. And because they're in Vegas, they're going to use a slot machine to assign each cheftestant three keywords. And it's a high stakes Quickfire, but we don't know the stakes yet. So hopefully, it's not elimination because that would be a mean last-minute announcement.