Quickfire Challenge: The cheftestants take a ferry to Ellis Island and they have to create a dish using only what they can find in the ship's snack bar. As you might imagine, the ingredient choices are very limited, and it's mostly processed and in a bag or a can. The judge is Dan Barber, Mr. Eat Locally, and he chooses Carla, who made an orange salad, which was very basic. Blais is all sour because he thought her dish was too simple.
Elimination Challenge: Create a dish based on your ancestry. And the show hires a professional genealogist to help them with that, and also brings in family members to help out, so everyone has a good cry about that. And also Mike and Antonia find out they might be distantly related and this causes them to become BFF. Here are the dishes:
Mike: potato gnocchi with braised pork shank ragu and burrata cheese. Everyone compliments the gnocchi. During judging, Mike cries because it's the first time he's cooked Italian food professionally, and it makes him remember his grandmother, who taught him how to cook. It almost makes me like him. Almost.
Antonia: braised veal, rapini leaf with fava bean risotto. Colicchio says it was packed with flavor. Antonia's mom is super cute.
Tiffany: braised short rib with mustard greens, stewed okra, and oxtail marmalade. Colicchio, who historically didn't like okra, enjoyed this dish. Tiffany's mom looks exactly like her, or she looks exactly like her mom.
Blais: short ribs, potatoes, fried bone marrow, corn puree, and pickled glasswort (sea beans). Colicchio says it was all right, and Blais's wife kind of panics, but he meant that all of it was right, so she relaxes. Blais grills his wife about whether or not he's going to be safe.
Carla: braised pork shoulder, fried grits, corn and sweet potato hash and cheddar biscuits. The judges like that she passed the biscuits around, family-style, and point out how well the pork is cooked.
The judges love all of the food and talk about how difficult it's going to be to send someone home. Antonia wins the challenge and wins a car, and a spot in the finals in the Bahamas. Mike is also safe, and maybe he should consider cooking Italian food more often. And then Padma does the meanest thing when she tells Blais to pack his knives…to go to the Bahamas. Blais seriously almost threw up all over his shoes, he was so nervous. So that leaves Tiffany and Carla, and then Padma announces that they're both going to the Bahamas. Which I kind of suspected might happen when the judges kept talking about how awesome all of the food was, and one of the family members even suggested that. And oh, you guys. The final episodes look pretty amaze-balls. This has been a great season.
We enter the scene right after Dale's elimination. Blais says that he wanted to say a lot more to Dale when he left, but he was taken by surprise and didn't get to. Blais interviews that he wanted to go to the end with Dale, and this is the only elimination he's sad about. Well, other than his own, if that happens, I would guess. He might be sad about that. Blais tells Tiffany that she's invincible, which is kind of a shitty thing to say, because he's basically saying, "You can churn out any old crap and the judges won't send you home, even when you deserve it." I would like Blais better with about ten percent less cockiness. Otherwise, he's turning into Bobby Flay with liquid nitrogen.
Hey, there totally is a bartender at the weird bar the cheftestants go to for their post-mortem. Given the carry out cups, I kind of thought it was an empty bar that they just sit at and drink the coffee they bought down the street. Then again, they are the only people in the bar, so maybe it's just in their building, and no one else lives there yet? But who hired the bartender? So confusing. Anyway, Antonia takes a break from the fake bar to call her daughter. Antonia's a single mom. She misses her daughter. I was sure this was Antonia's death knell. They all toast and Blais says that now is when it gets tough. Mike echoes my thoughts: "It hasn't been tough?" Seriously. It's been tough. Ask Dale. Or Angelo. But this is the last elimination before the finals, so it's very, very important. VERY IMPORTANT!
The next morning, the cheftestants are waiting around to find out what the challenge will be this week. Blais just hopes that it's fewer than fifty plates, and then says that Antonia "has a good nose for these things" and asks her opinion on what the challenge will be. Antonia wonders if Padma might be coming to their place, and Tiffany agrees that she was thinking the same thing. And then like a second later, Padma walks in the door and everyone FREAKS OUT. That was pretty awesome. I mean, I'm sure there' s a logical explanation other than Antonia is a psychic, but the timing was great. Padma tells them to get ready and meet her on the roof. Antonia interviews that they'll probably have to base jump off the roof and cook an egg on the way down. Hey, don't give the producers any ideas.
Up on the roof, Padma congratulates them for making it so far. Then she tells them that their Quickfire Challenge will take place on the ferry to Ellis Island. Mike tells the dummies in the audience (who can relate to him) that Ellis Island was the seat of immigration into the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. That's all the detail they get for now, and they head off to the ferry.
They walk into the ferry and find their knives and a note from Padma. The note says that they are supposed to make a dish using whatever ingredients they can find in the snack bar, and the time limit is however long it takes their ferry to get to Ellis Island. Their ingredient choices are pretty much what you would expect in a snack bar: packaged baked goods, nachos, hot dogs, bags of chips, and suchlike. A lot of processed foods and very few fresh ingredients, and not a lot of means for cooking them. Once the ship's horn blows, time starts, and they all start running and scrambling for ingredients. They don't know how much time they have, and there's no kitchen equipment really.
Tiffany decides to make some sort of nachos, which seems like a bit of a cop out since the place sells nachos, unless she's doing something really creative. Antonia is making a grilled cheese sandwich on a hot dog roller grill, using ingredients scavenged from other sandwiches. Blais is making hot dogs using an MRE kit that he just happened to have in his knife bag, which instantly boils water. While that's a neat trick, there is a hot dog grill RIGHT THERE. I mean, wouldn't you rather have a grilled hot dog than a boiled one?
Carla thinks everyone else is making junk food, so she's going a different way and making an orange salad with rosemary infused juice. I'm not sure where she's getting the rosemary from. Maybe some chips that were rosemary flavored? I think that's it. Antonia tries to give everyone an idea of how far they are from Ellis Island, but turns out that she has no clue. Mike is making a soup with pork rinds and hot dog buns, which sounds gross and like something you would only eat on a dare. And even then, it would have to be a really good dare. Mike says there are chunks of soggy bread in it. Well, sign me up. Carla thinks that Blais has just made "a hot dog with a lot of stuff on it." Antonia finally figures out where they are, and where they are is: close. Tiffany realizes that making just nachos is lame, so she's making popcorn too. Well, don't strain yourself, girl. This is a lame challenge but they are making lame food as well. Mike finishes on time but realizes how terrible his dish is, and says he wouldn't serve it to his cat. Well, if your cat is anything like mine, it wouldn't eat it anyway. My cats barely deign to eat the actual cat food that I give them most of the time. They only want food they can't have, like chocolate ice cream. One time, I was sitting on the couch holding a cookie, and gesturing with the cookie in my hand, and one of my cats sailed through the air and grabbed the cookie in her mouth midair. I almost had to let her eat it because it was so impressive. But I didn't. Cool story, Kim.
The horn blows to end the challenge and Padma and guest judge Dan Barber walk onto the ferry for judging. Dan Barber, you may recall, owns Blue Hill and is known for cooking local, fresh ingredients. So, perfect judge for this mega-processed food. Barber was also Blais's sous chef during the finale of his season. That seems like he might need to recuse himself, no? I guess not. I kind of get the feeling that the producers don't give a crap about this challenge -- no one gets immunity, and it feels like they just concocted it to fit into the time they had getting everyone to the next Elimination Challenge.
Blais made what he calls a play on a banh mi sandwich, which is a hot dog and beef jerky sandwich with jalapeno, pork rinds, lettuce, and apple. It's edible. I don't know that it would be my first choice out of the dishes offered up in this challenge, but at least he tried. It looks sort of broiled and I don't know how he accomplished that. Tiffany made nachos with cheese, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno, banana pepper, and sour cream. Padma points out that Tiffany basically made something off the snack bar menu. Tiffany says with the extra time, she made popcorn with candied mangos and pineapple. So again, she took something off the menu, ripped open a bag of dried fruit, and dumped it in. Those are pretty lame. She's lucky no one gives a shit about this challenge.