Padma, in a strapless, loose but belted red dress, leads the otherwise black-and-white clad judges into the ornate, gilt-heavy dining room, where they peruse the menu and make small talk. Richard, confident that he's "the only one who's a craftsman and an artist," thinks he's the best chef there, and wants to prove that he's not delusional. Lisa and Stephanie both want to be the first female Top Chef. Padma and the guests want to drink wine. And Padma wants to know what it was like to work as sous chef for the last three competitors.
Ripert finds it "extremely relaxing," perhaps because he can do this sort of thing with his eyes closed and both hands tied behind his back, although he claims it is because he could focus on just the task at hand. It made Barber "anxious," while April found it humbling to have to ask Lisa repeatedly what she wanted, but appreciated Lisa's assertiveness. In addition to the three sous chefs and the four regular judges (Padma, Colicchio, Ted and Gail), the party includes two other diners: Chef Alfredo Ayala, the chef and owner of Delirio and, according to Padma, "one of Puerto Rico's most celebrated fine dining chefs" (albeit one who apparently doesn't appreciate the merits of a web page, which makes some sense since he looks about 97), as well as Tim Zagat, who needs no introduction, but would probably enjoy one cobbled together from pithy quotes.
Prior to service, each chef is given the opportunity to discuss his or her menu -- Richard begins, claiming that writing the menu can be as important as the food itself (and as the camera pans over the menu, we see that, as opposed to describing the courses like Lisa and Stephanie, he's given his dishes cutesy names like "Which Came First" and "Be the Bacon"). Whatever. Personal journey, local ingredients, blah blah blah. Lisa's working with a progression of Vietnamese and Thai flavors, putting her special spin on items one might find in a typical restaurant -- she wants to "shock you guys" and show herself through her food. "Simple and clean" Stephanie mentions that she likes to use fruit in her cooking, and to combine two proteins on one plate, and that she hopes "to hit every flavor point in your mouth."