Blais loves that his sous chefs are working together to improve his dishes, and he's taking their suggestions because he trusts them. Meanwhile, Mike is answering questions and giving orders. Blais can't decide whether or not to serve his amuse bouche, and Spike gives him a hand. If you wondered whether or not Spike will be wearing a fedora, he is. Because that's who he is.
The judges are split into two groups. Each group will go to a restaurant, and then swap places. So the first group goes to Richard's restaurant, which is called Tongue & Cheek. I don't know if he mistakenly meant to call it tongue-in-cheek and got it wrong, or it's supposed to be a play on words. It bothers me that it's never addressed.
Blais comes out to meet the first group of judges. We have Padma, Lydia Bastianich, Hubert Keller, Alfred Portale (owner of big restaurant group), and Bill Terlata (owner of wine sponsor). Blais tells them that the concept of the restaurant incorporates whimsy, and that is exemplified by his amuse bouche: raw oyster with crème fraiche pearls and salsa verde. The judges think it's creamy, delicious, and sophisticated. Spike totally stands nearby and listens in, and Blais interviews that he's counting on Spike to get feedback from the dining room. Ooh, Spyke. Clever.
Blais presents his first course: raw hamachi with fried veal sweetbreads, garlic mayonnaise, and pickled celery. The judges like the different elements, which they feel work together well. The cheftestants that didn't have to work are there to eat, and they just make "mmmmm" noises. Spike reports that the judges licked their plates, and were very happy with the dish.
Meanwhile, the other group of judges arrives at Restaurant Iz. Mike greets them and meets the judges: Art Smith, Curtis Stone, Gail, and Tom. I know people go both ways on Curtis Stone (who may also go both ways for all I know), but I like him. He's personable and easy on the eyes, but seems to know food. Anyway, they taste Mike's first course: spiced beets with mozzarella, truffle, and chocolate vinaigrette. The chocolate sounds weird, but Tom says that it's subtle and Gail mentioned in her blog that it wasn't sweet, but more of a cocoa flavor. Curtis thinks it's a composed dish. The second course takes a long time to come out, presumably because the fish isn't done yet. They don't really explain what the hold-up is other than Mike touching something in the kitchen and saying that it's still cold. Finally, the judges are served the second course: halibut with kumquat marmalade, cauliflower puree, and pancetta crumbs. This is a perfect example of Mike's transformation as a chef; when have we ever seen him use kumquat or cook a fish dish like this? He studied up, for sure. The judges note that the fish is cooked perfectly and Tom says that he doesn't think he's ever had fish cooked this well on the show, ever. Curtis says that the dish made him forget the wait. The other cheftestants also have nothing but praise for him, but you guys, we have to take a minute to talk about Jen's hair. I can't tell if it's a terrible haircut or bad extensions but she looks like a crazy person. What happened to Jen Carroll? I'm worried about her.