The second group heads into the kitchen to prepare their dishes. Casey says that, after tasting the first set of dishes, she's nervous because the food was really good. Her biggest concern is making sure her pork belly isn't overcooked, since that's what got her eliminated the first time, and she wants to prove that she can cook this dish. Jen has no worries about her food. None! She thinks she might win! Which is a complete turnaround from how she was during her season, when she was doubt-plagued and negative. Let's see how that works out for her.
Jamie is freaking out over her dish. She says that she's never prepared fish that way. She's never pan-seared a fish? I mean, I'm no chef, but I've done that tons of times. In fact, it's my go-to method of preparing fish because it's pretty foolproof, especially if you have a thermometer handy. Anyway, she still hates her dish and she doesn't want to go home first, but Casey assures her that it tastes good. Mike also hates his dish. He's sprung a leek. Sorry. I had to say it.
The second group joins the judges at the dining table. Elia say that it's weird to sit with the judges after listening in on the tasting. The judges obviously knew that they were being observed, but if you had any doubts, Gail immediately asks how they felt listening in on the feedback. Fabio immediately confronts Bourdain on what he said and everyone feels really awkward, but from what we see, Bourdain doesn't respond. If you read his blog on the Bravo site, Bourdain admits that he was a little drunk when he made those comments, and may have been a little harsh, but he stands by his assertion that the dish had problems. Also, Fabio needs to learn to take criticism if he wants to stay on this show.
Back in the kitchen, everyone is plating and garnishing and they all manage to finish on time. Then they discover the television, but no one except Antonia seems all that surprised. Jamie even says, "Told ya!" So some of them definitely knew they were being watched. Anyway, the first dish up is Antonia's sausage with cilantro, pigeon pea puree, and roasted cherry blossoms. Blais and Tre both loved it, but Tiffany is perplexed, because she felt it was incomplete somehow, though she's not very specific.
Spike's pickled mushrooms, scallops, lime dressing with hearts of palm salad is up next. Bourdain says it was good, but it didn't need the scallops. Tiffani tells him that was the point, and Bourdain remembers the frozen scallop debacle, and calls Spike "the craftiest motherfucker who's ever been on this show." I still don't get what was so crafty about playing down the scallops when that's what got him eliminated, or how what he did was so different from what others did, but maybe I'll figure it out eventually.
Jamie served up pan-seared black bass, celery, green peppercorn and herb salad. She made it her own, according to Colicchio. Blais calls it excellent. Jamie is very relieved.
Tre thinks that Mike's melted leeks, carrot puree, and salt-crusted potatoes was a good revamp. Dude, did he make salt potatoes? I live in Syracuse, the capitol of salt potatoes. And if you've never had them, you really must. They're just small white potatoes cooked in really salty water, and then served in a pool of melted butter. I never knew they were a regional dish until I moved to Michigan, and people were like, "Salt potatoes? Never heard of them. Here, have a paczki." There was a recipe in Cook's Illustrated a few months ago (and the recipe is seriously "cook potatoes in salty water" -- you don't even peel or cut them) so I wonder if they're experiencing a moment. Go 'Cuse! Anyway, Tiffany says that the leeks melted in her mouth, and Blais thought it had finesse and elegance, as well as being visually stunning. Does anyone feel like some of the cheftestants are auditioning to be guest judges in the future? BLAIS.
Dale L. made curry poached lobster dumplings, chanterelle, corn, and bacon. Dale T. says that he couldn't get past the pasty dumpling, and Stephen agrees.
Carla served grilled strip steak, smashed potatoes, tarragon butter and red wine sauce. I would like that it my mouth right now. Tiffani compliments the flavors, but Angelo has to reveal that he got a bad piece of meat on his first bite, which kind of ruined it for him.
Gail is really happy to see that Casey's molasses-glazed pork belly, pickled peaches, and whipped crème fraiche is much-improved. And that's all anyone says about Casey.
Marcel made uni and caviar, Meyer lemon gelee, fennel cream and kalamata olive dust. It looks like a bowl of alien eyeballs. Tre says tasting it was like sucking on a vanilla bean, and Fabio thinks that Marcel has balls to put that dish out. Because it looks so weird? Or has strong flavors? No one really explains that statement. Marcel pretends like he's psyched that they thought it was ballsy, because he's super fake and annoying.
Jen made duck, squash, foie gras, apple cider vinaigrette, micro arugula. The duck isn't "there" according to Bourdain. And Tiffani adds that she was expecting to be blown away by Jen's food, but she wasn't, due to a few technical errors. Which were? These criticisms are really vague and unhelpful.
Padma excuses the cheftestants and they all pack up and go home. Later, they all file into the Stew Room. Casey and Jamie discuss how uncomfortable they felt judging the food. Fabio tries to justify his use of paper to Angelo, saying something about how the oil might spill and make the plate dirty, so the paper looks nicer. But couldn't he, you know, wipe the plate before service? Angelo looks pretty dubious too. The paper was just dumb and served no purpose, but if the food was better, I'm sure the judges would have overlooked the paper.
Blais says he hates the waiting and the anxiety, as others discuss how he went over time. Tiffany doesn't think he did it on purpose, and I notice that no one is discussing it with him. According to the blogs and the extra footage on Bravo's site, one of the other cheftestants ratted him out to the judges. Who was it? It had to be someone in his group, so that narrows it down to Angelo, Dale T., Tiffany, Tiffani, Tre, Stephen, Fabio, and Elia. It wasn't Angelo because he had to ask in the Stew Room what happened. Although given Angelo's trickery last season, maybe he was playing dumb. I doubt it was anyone from Blais's season so that eliminates Dale T. Stephen was so busy as time was running out that I doubt he noticed. I don't think Fabio would give a shit, and after Elia's run-in with being a tattletale in her season, I doubt she would do it. So that leaves Tiffany, Tiffani, or Tre. Tiffany also seemed to not know what happened in the stew room, and she says in an interview that she didn't think Blais did it on purpose. Tiffani and Tre both expressed annoyance that Blais didn't finish on time on camera, so maybe one of them? Who knows?
Padma comes in and asks to see Spike, Jamie, Blais, and Angelo. They head in to stand before the judges. Colicchio tells Blais right away that they called Blais out because they wanted to acknowledge that he made a great dish, but he went over time. Blais is confused, but Colicchio says that he saw the footage, and it's clear. The result is that Blais can't win. He also can't be eliminated, since he has immunity, and his dish was pretty awesome by all counts. Blais walks back into the Stew Room and explains what happened, saying that he's still pretty pissed. They show shots of Tre looking kind of relieved and/or happy, and Tiffani looking smug, so I still don't know who did it, but I feel like the editors are trying to tell us without telling us. Definitely one of those two.
Back at Judges' Table, Padma congratulates Jamie, Angelo, and Spike as the top three. Gail says that Jamie's fish was great, with crispy skin, and the celery was tasty. Colicchio asks her if she'll serve that dish now, and she answers honestly, "Absolutely not." Oh, how they laugh about that. Colicchio remembers that Angelo really fell in love with the idea of watermelon tea when he made his dish the first time around, and he learned that it overpowered the dish and eliminated it, which is a tough thing to do. It's like the writing edict to kill your babies; even if you have a great line, if it doesn't service the piece, you have to get rid of it, and it is really difficult. Bourdain tells Spike that he was amazing and smart to deal with a crappy main ingredient as he did. So who's the winner? The person who made something close to the original, but made it new and fresh and delicious. That person is Angelo. He's beaming. He seems a littl