Top Chef

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Beat This Meat

After the refreshingly direct (though hardly simple) Quickfire challenge, Padma, in a pair of extremely butt cupping gray pants, explains that Elimination will involve "something very precious to Rick". The five cheftestants will be entrusted with dinner service at Rick's "gorgeous new steak restaurant tomorrow night". Hey, says Rick, this place has gotten lots of awards, and people dig it, so "don't screw it up", because if you do, one of my wiseguys will introduce your kneecaps to his baseball bat, capiche? They must each prepare an appetizer and an entrée, using any ingredients they find in the kitchen at Tramonto's Steak and Seafood, and Spike will enjoy first pick of whichever protein he wants for his appetizer and his entrée. Awesome -- another nice, straightforward, individual challenge; I'm liking the challenges for this episode. Lisa thinks Spike's hard-won responsibility could lock one into a decision one might easily regret, although Spike doesn't strike me as a big fan of regret, despite the poor decisions he made when given a decision much like this one during the boxed lunch challenge. The restaurant is fully booked (of course) -- Padma tells them not to let Rick down, as he issues a final plea for mercy on behalf of himself and his customers.

It looks like the cheftestants got to take their meat back to Chez Chef, as Antonia, Lisa and Spike nosh on hunks of meat and Spike continues to compliment himself on his butchering abilities. Antonia surmises that perhaps the spirit of Spike's butcher grandfather is speaking through him, making Spike a meat whisperer of sorts. Spike agrees with her, all serious, as he voiceovers that he's intrigued by the possibility of a battle of the sexes in the final round, and that Stephanie represents, for him, the most formidable lady competitor. Although he waffles on whether Lisa or Antonia would be stronger, he wants Antonia to leave. Richard has something to prove to Rick, Padma, Colicchio, and anyone else with a pulse, and really wants to make the final four (worry not) because going home now would be just like being the first person sent home.

Tramonto's Steak and Seafood, all appetizing reds and dark woods, looks warm and inviting, if a bit generic. Antonia loves the "beautiful kitchen", but doesn't waste time gazing at the surroundings -- time's started, she says, so pick your proteins, Spike. He has five minutes to make his selections, and starts with the tomahawk chops, a comforting sign of his meaty prowess. He arrived with scallops on the brain, and seizes a bag of frozen scallops in the walk-in, to the surprise of the others -- as Richard says, "He's taking those fucking frozen scallops?" Lisa, also hoping for scallops, sees Spike's choice, thinks they look like crap anyway, and goes for shrimp with a palpable lack of enthusiasm. She'll follow with a New York strip. Antonia grabs an assortment of vegetables and other ingredients, as well as a rib eye, and Stephanie mumbles something to herself about mushrooms and greens as she goes to town with a vegetable peeler and tells the camera that they have three hours to conceive and prepare their dishes. She's doing a tenderloin, she tells Lisa, preceded by an appetizer of sweetbreads -- "the thymus glands of veal" -- there's definitely a psychological barrier to enter, but they are yummy. "Like a chicken McNugget", explains Stephanie.

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Top Chef

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