It's a dessert Quickfire, but despite not being pastry chefs (who knew?), everyone does a fairly decent job. Cupcake Johnny Iuzzini judges Antonia the loser, for what looks like a proportional snafu, while Richard wins for his innovative banana scallops and guacamole. A night of relaxation at a Second City improv show turns into the Elimination challenge, with audience members shouting out a color, and emotion and an ingredient. Yellow Love Vanilla, meet Orange Turned-On Asparagus. Oh, that’s Purple Depressed Bacon crying in the corner.
Wait, it gets funnier. The teams of two self-select, but they draw for course and "inspiration." Spike finally gets to make his butternut squash soup, after "improvising" his menu with Andrew, who gets stuck with the hand milling when the machines disappear -- improv! Jen and Stephanie decide to turn their asparagus into a sexy ménage a trois (since Zoi's there with them), while Lisa and Stephanie refuse to touch Magenta Drunken (that most emotional of emotions) Polish Sausage and instead go with sea bass, because that's smart. Tom shows up mid-cook with the news that, despite the fancy dining table in the kitchen, dinner will be served at the Chez Chef, which means cooking will be completed on one six-burner stove.
In the end, presentation helps seal the deal -- if you're a dude. Dale and Richard win with a ginormous Green Perplexed Tofu steak marinated in rendered beef fat (it was pretty impressive). Spike and Andrew's less adventurous soup, while lovely and delicious, can't compete.
Mark, Nikki and their pork manage to escape the judges. That leaves Antonia and Lisa, who served fish instead of drunken sausage, and drank a shot of tequila in front of the dinner guests without offering them any. Jen and Stephanie let bread and cheese get in the way of sexy asparagus, and Jen (bless her heart) kind of misfired on the whole phallic idea. Jen gets the boot. Hopefully now she's doing it to, instead of for, Zoi.
Morning. Yoga mat. Andrew's feeling that "the room got a lot uglier" since "Ryan pretty boy left" -- taking his good looks (depending upon your opinion) and oral diarrhea home to San Francisco. Antonia's feeling the intensity ratchet up, as all the remaining cheftestants have "all had really great training" and are solid competitors (with the possible exception of Nikki, although Antonia doesn't say that). She knows that "there is no room for error when it comes to execution" and that even the tiniest mistake could be grounds for dismissal. Jen's feeling redundant -- in case you didn't know, she's doing this all for Zoi, and she wants to kick some ass. She'll be doing it for Zoi with "blood, sweat, and tears" -- just use a dental dam, OK?
And they're off. A table piled high with a huge array of sweets awaits them at the Top Chef kitchen -- seriously, this thing is like heaven's dessert buffet, with cakes, tarts, cannoli, petit fours. Apparently Nikki sometimes orders multiple desserts when she goes out to eat -- is that really the most interesting tidbit they could cull to accompany the sweeping views of an altar to sugar? Padma, looking like a sexy schoolmarm in a rose-colored blouse and gray pencil skirt, introduces this week's guest judge -- Johnny Iuzzini, author and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef who's toiled under both Daniel Boulud and Jean Georges Vongerichten (his current employer). He's a little cutie, in a Jersey sort of way, and while I'm not a big baker (although I do like making cookies), I always enjoy his appearances on Martha Stewart.
Mark gets a bit mealy-mouthed, calling him "Johnny I-wah-zinni" and mentioning his status as a "pastry icon" in "the New York ree-elm." Mark knows that Johnny will tell you if your dessert sucks -- an observation as obvious as it is boring. Johnny will also tell you what's important about this week's challenge, so listen up: "Advance preparation and organization in a pastry kitchen is imperative. Every quantity has to be just right or else the end result could be disastrous." Which is why I'm not much of a baker -- I inevitably screw up at least one of the ingredients and all the effort turns out to be worthless.
Padma holds up a copy of the Top Chef Cookbook, a white canvas-jacketed book that "contains a lot of original recipes from the first three seasons." Describing dessert as "the Achilles heel of many a contestant," she throws down the gauntlet with a challenge to "make us a delicious dessert." Don't have a dessert recipe memorized? "Improvise."