Top Chef

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Kim: A | Grade It Now!
Best of the Best
ustard okay. I love ice cream. I don't ever want to combine them. Spike is making a fresh sausage.

Angelo and Tiffany are going to make a crab cake of some sort, and they discuss what seasonings to use. It goes quickly, probably both because they just finished working together recently, and are familiar with each other's strengths, and also because I think they each made crab cakes at least once last season. Season Five from New York has decided to do a trio of apple dishes, since there are three of them, and just work on individual dishes instead of collaborating. COP OUT. One ingredient in common isn't a cohesive dish, and they don't seem to spend a lot of time discussing how to make the three items work together other than, "Use apples." I get why it's easier to make individual dishes but being easier doesn't mean it's better.

Season Three are going Caribbean for their Miami roots. Dale L. claims that he always hears on the street that their season was the best. Who said that? What street? No one has ever said that their season was the best. Come on.

Marcel and Elia are making fish tacos with an apple wrapper. I'm not sure of the logistics of eating that dish (like how does the apple not break? Is it cooked? And then doesn't it get mushy?) but agree that fish tacos represent California well. Marcel can't believe the kitchen and all the equipment. Elia doesn't understand why everyone is freaking out. Maybe because they want to win?

Tiffani and Stephen have decided to make a cioppino, or seafood stew, to represent San Francisco. Tiffani worries that Stephen is "a little rusty." I think to be rusty, he would have had to possess cooking skills in the first place. I'm worried that he has no skills to rust. Tiffani can hopefully carry them, though.

Jen and Mike I. quickly realize that Vegas doesn't have its own food culture like the other cities, so they decide to go with Italian food to represent the old mobster scene. Like Frankie and Sammy and Dean-o, eh? Jen makes this weird face in her interviews, and I think it's because she's being kind of sarcastic when she says that everyone is intimidated by her and thinks her season is the best. Her season was the best. She doesn't have to be sarcastic. I don't know what was up with that weird facial expression/posture.

So Blais busts out the liquid nitrogen to make his ice cream, but he has some trouble with the equipment. Spike calls his "Professor Blais" and they cut to a shot of Blais wearing long rubber gloves and a welder's mask, messing with the nitrogen tanks, and it cracks me up. Padma tells them that they have five minutes.

Angelo is walking somewhere with their fish pieces. Where is he going? I don't know. Anyway, Stephen bumps him accidentally and Angelo drops the fish on the floor. Angelo quickly fillets another fish, poorly by his own admission, and slaps two pieces of fish on the plate. He realizes that it's better to have something kind of ugly but tasty on the plate than to serve up nothing. I really think he would have served the floor fish if the cameras hadn't been around. I would have. What? It's fine. Please. You eat a lot of dirt and don't even know it. As time runs out, all of the teams are taking it down to the wire. Yikes.

Tom and Padma eat in season order, so first to serve are Tiffani and Stephen, who made cioppino gazpacho with sourdough. Okay, they couldn't have made the bread in twenty-five minutes, so was it in the pantry? And did they do more than toast it? Stephen is sweating and Tiffani makes a face like, "Well, that happened."

Moving on, Marcel and Elia) made shrimp tacos with guacamole and an apple wrapper. Okay, so what I'm seeing in the photo is a very, very thing slice of green apple with a giant glop of guacamole on top and then two shrimp. How are you supposed to eat that exactly? You can't actually use the apple as a wrapper, because it will snap. And it's too big to stuff into your mouth whole. We don't get to see Tom and Padma take a bite, and Tom asks why they used an apple wrapper. Yeah, why? Marcel says because it's light and fresh, which is a dumb reason, and wants to know if Tom likes it. Tom looks at him like, "You seriously think I'm going to answer that?" and says they'll find out later. Mike I. interviews that Marcel hasn't matured at all, and he's still a brat. Agreed, Mike I. Hate you, but I agree.

Casey, Dale, and Tre represented Miami with pork tenderloin, avocado lime puree, tostones, and mango-habanero sauce. Not a lot to say about this one, other than Tre had a hard time getting the pork finished, but they don't mention if it was undercooked or what.

The Chicago Four (Blais, Spike, Antonia, and Dale T.) made pork and black pepper sausage with mustard ice cream, a take on the Chicago hot dog. Blais says that the mustard ice cream is supposed to represent the avant garde scene in Chicago. No one winces when they taste it, and they make the smart decision to serve it deconstructed, so there's no bun. Fabio is dubious, like me.

Carla, Fabio, and Jamie made a trio of apple, curried apple soup, pasta with bacon and caramelized apple, and ribeye with apple, walnut, and blue cheese slaw. Padma make the only comment: "Interesting flavors." Jamie and Carla make a face behind her back like, "What does THAT mean?" Carla interviews that "interesting" is the kiss of death.

Jen and Mike I made bucatini pasta with bacon lobster carbonara. Mike I made fresh pasta, so give him some props. They don't explain how it represents Vegas, at least not that we see.

Finally, Angelo and Tiffany made crab cake essence with rockfish, lemongrass, jalapeno, and Old Bay. Tiffany admits that she really wants immunity.

Time for Tom to announce the results. The bad news is that Marcel and Elia underseasoned the shrimp, and the apple didn't work as a wrapper because it was too thick. Told you! So Season Two is out. Tiffani and Stephen had good flavors, but used too much raw garlic and thus Season One is out. Season Five did the trio, and Tom felt that the three dishes weren't tied together. And he thought the soup (which Jamie made) was the only really good component. Jamie gloats a bit. And finally for losers, Season Seven used a little too much salt. Seriously, they didn't win because they used a little too much salt. That goes to show you the margin of error this season.

So now let's talk about the better dishes. Season Three had great flavors. Season Five was inventive and Tom loved the mustard ice cream. Tom has come a long way -- he used to kind of hate anything molecular on sight, and he's more open to it now. He's evolved. Good for him. And Season Six made great pasta with great flavors. So who won? The dish that represented its city well and had a ton of flavor was the Chicago dish by Season Five. Dale T. interviews that they have set the bar and now everyone else has to catch up. Mike I. claims that he's not impressed by a sausage with mustard. Says the guy who made spaghetti. Padma reminds them that all four of those teammates have immunity from elimination.

And then it's time to introduce the Elimination Challenge. A bunch of waiters come out with silver trays with lids and set one in front of each cheftestant. Padma tells them that she knows that none of them wants to be told, again, to pack their knives and go, but one of them will be the first eliminated after this challenge. She allows them to lift the lids, and they find a small pile of ingredients (different for each person), and a card with the name of a dish. They all seem to immediately recognize what that is, and most look fairly unhappy. Padma explains that these are the ingredients that sent them home the first time around. So the challenge is to remake the dish and make it successful this time. Tom adds that they can improve upon the dish, but they can't stray too far from the original dish. So for example, if the dish that originally sent them home was grilled chicken, they can't turn it into chicken soft tacos, I would imagine. So this is their shot at redemption, especially those w

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