Stephen, in particular, looks a little lost in the kitchen. It seems like every shot features him looking around frantically for a piece of equipment. He interviews that he has three dishes to prepare, so he's at a disadvantage. Plus, there's the fact that his cooking skills are not up to the level of the others. I mean, please. He might not go home first, but does he really think he's going to win this thing? I almost feel sorry for him.
Cooking, plating, tasting. Blais says that his new train of thought for this season is to "push all the way up until the end," so he plans to cook until the last second. Meanwhile, the other group is joining the judges at the table. They all look a little nervous. I read in Gail's blog that the atmosphere was a little weird because usually the judges don't fraternize with the cheftestants during the season, but they actually know these cheftestants fairly well due to post-season appearances and specials. So they're kind of colleagues, but then again, they will be judging them later, so they have to keep a professional distance. So it's awkward, is what I'm saying.
Elia is busy plating her fish, and you see her holding the fish in her fingers and placing it on the plate, so it's not like she didn't have the opportunity to check it out thoroughly. Keep that in mind for later. Blais is piping something into a tube. Stephen has two minutes left, and he's barely started plating. He has a sheet of something (seaweed, maybe?) on each plate and that's it. He looks like he doesn't even know where to start. Cut to fifteen seconds left and Stephen is still garnishing. Tiffani stops by to help, and tells him that his dishes have to be in the window when time's up, which Stephen apparently didn't know. She starts grabbing his dishes and putting them in the window for him. Aw. I like this kinder, gentler Tiffani who acts all sisterly with Stephen even though she probably could cook circles around him. Stephen sweats and just starts throwing stuff on his plates with seven seconds left. I don't know if they were perfect, but at least each dish had the three major components on it when it left the kitchen.
So time is up, and the way it's edited, it looks like Blais is still garnishing or futzing around somehow. I don't know how much of that actually happened after time was up, but we do see Tre muttering, "Come on, time's up dude." And then Tiffani comments to someone else, "Blais is over there foaming his dishes to order." And then it seems like someone says, "You have to be ready to GO," though we don't see who says it and so that could have been dropped in from any other conversation. I do think that Blais went over time; I just don't know whether or not he knew it, and how many other people noticed and were mad about it, and also what exactly he was doing after time was called. Not that it makes a huge difference; he missed the deadline, so something needs to be done, I guess.
The dishes are placed on the dining table, and Gail and Padma both comment on the fact that they remember some of these dishes from the first time around. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, a huge TV (that no one noticed previously?) comes on and the cheftestants can see and hear the others eating their food. The question is whether or not the diners know they are being observed. Tiffani thinks no. I think they've all been on television before, so they have to have at least suspected this, right? Padma tries Elia's dish and finds a big scale in it. Oops. Elia, meanwhile, is the only cheftestant who doesn't want to watch as her food is eaten. I get that, although I don't know if I would be able to resist. And she's going to find out what they thought eventually, either at Judges' Table or when she watches this episode (assuming she does).
The first dish up for discussion is by Blais: braised pork belly with bread and butter radishes, mirin, and cheddar. Looking at the plate, I'm trying to figure it all out. I see the pork and the radishes. I'm guessing the little tubes that look like fresh pasta are made of cheddar? And then the foam inside is the mirin, foamed? Casey likes the crunch on the pork belly, and Casey adds that it was the best of any dish she tasted. Richard soaks in the high praise.
Angelo served homemade ramen with sweet glazed pork belly and watermelon. Bourdain said it was one of his favorites. Mike I. thought it was solid and Jen calls it harmonious.
Dale T. served the previously derided butterscotch miso scallops with crispy long beans and spicy eggplant. Bourdain brings up the Marine Corps saying that you need to unfuck yourself, and proclaims that Dale unfucked this dish. Everyone laugh. He's a colorful guy, that Bourdain. But that has to feel good for Dale, to go from being the worst dish in the show's history to having it called unfucked. Although I guess the bar was pretty low, but then again, Bourdain hated the whole concept of the dish, so the fact that he even considered it edible is good.
Tiffany served a kind of boring pan-seared halibut, coconut curry, steamed rice balls, and pea tendrils. Steamed Rice Balls is the name of the all-Asian girl punk band I'm going to start. Carla thinks the fish is a little overcooked, and Jamie adds that the broth could have used a little sugar. I mean, so far no one is saying anything so horrible, which makes me think they knew they were being watched. I know when you get a group of recappers together, there's nothing we love more than to rip on horrible television or even horrible writing about television, so I would assume chefs love to rip on each other's food. Then again, the food is probably pretty top notch, so maybe there's nothing bad to say?