Quickfire Challenge. Food God Eric Ripert is the guest judge, and the cheftestants are nervous. The challenge is a three-round fish-filleting tournament. In round one, they have five minutes to clean and butterfly two sardines (yes, the tiny ones) to make them look like the one Ripert prepared. Leah and Fabio do well and Jamie and Carla butcher it, in a bad way, so they're eliminated. In Round Two, they have to fillet an arctic char. Leah flips out and gives up halfway through, and Fabio leaves a bunch of meat in the head when he chops it off, so they're eliminated. The final round is peeling and filleting a freshwater eel, which is still mostly alive. It's not quite dead yet. They have to nail the eel's head to the cutting board to keep it still. That's how not dead it is. Hosea puts in a valiant effort, considering he's never worked with eel before, and Stefan has been working with eel since he was a child (which sounds dirty), so he wins.
Elimination Challenge. After a special meal of six entrees prepared by Eric Ripert's kitchen, the cheftestants are told that they will each need to recreate one of the dishes. They'll have two hours to prep and practice, with critique from Ripert, and then have fifteen minutes to prepare the dish for the judges. Stefan gets to choose, due to his Quickfire victory, and he chooses lobster. The others have to pick knives to get assigned a dish. The judges will get a side-by-side comparison between the cheftestant's dish and Ripert's version.
Fabio cooks red snapper crusted with sourdough bread, and the judges agree that the imitation is close. Leah cooks baked mahi-mahi with miso and matsutake mushroom sauce. The judges feel that Leah's lacks flavor. Stefan cooks baked lobster with asparagus with hollandaise sauce. The judges agree that the only small difference is that Stefan's sauce is a little thicker. Carla runs low on time, so with the help of her fellow cheftestants, she prepares oil-poached escolar with potato crisps in a red-wine béarnaise sauce. The judges admire the degree of difficulty in the dish, and think Carla did an admirable job. Hosea prepares za-atar spiced monkfish with black garlic. The judges agree that his sauce is close, but his fish's spice is too heavy and it's slightly overcooked. Jamie cooks sautéed black bass and braised celery with Serrano ham peppercorn sauce. Throughout the competition, Jamie has been ragging on the concept of braised celery, so of course she screws it up. The celery ends up way over salted and inedible, though the fish is fine.
At Judges' Table, Eric Ripert tells Fabio, Carla, and Stefan that it was a tough call, but Stefan is the winner. And Stefan gets a copy of Ripert's book. More excitingly, he gets to follow Ripert in his restaurant and attend the Food and Wine festival with him. Now that's a prize. Leah, Jamie, and Hosea are sent out to face the music. Hosea admits that he didn't let the fish rest enough before cutting. Leah couldn't figure out Ripert's sauce, and admits it, and is also forced to defend giving up in the Quickfire. Jamie knows that her celery was over salted, but when she realized it, it was too late to fix it. Colicchio seems to push hard for Leah to go, but ultimately Jamie is told to pack her knives and go. I don't know if it was editing or if that's how it really went down, but Colicchio basically called Leah an idiot and yet she stayed. Boo.
Cheftestants preparing food in their apartment's kitchen, as per usual in the episode opening. Stefan muses in an interview that Jeff was eliminated, and Stefan learned that he never wants to be in the bottom three again, and he feels lucky that he got to stay. Humble Stefan! Whoda thunk it?
Uh oh. Fabio is calling home to talk to his wife. This is a bad omen for his future on the show. He talks to his wife about how his restaurant is doing, and teases her over whether or not she's being honest. He wonders if perhaps the restaurant is "burned down to ground and [she's] opened up a hamburger shack in West Hollywood."He interviews that he needs to win this competition for his wife. I thought he needed to win for his ailing mother? Who's next? His great-uncle? His second cousin twice removed?
How are the other cheftestants doing? Hosea promises that, as the last American male chef in the competition, he'll take the Euros down. Carla finally got her first win, and she thinks she's being underestimated. I'd agree with that - I certainly haven't seen her name on anyone's list of probable winners or even finalists. But that could be because she's screwed up a lot (although not as badly as the others who were eliminated) and is mostly known for making an awesome pastry crust. There's no word from Leah or Jamie, so interpret that as you will.
Quickfire Challenge. Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin is the guest judge this week. The cheftestants are visibly awed and nervous to cook for him, especially since he's known for his French technique and his ability to cook fish. He's also kind of cute, and not in an untouchable master chef way. He seems approachable. I think it's because he's very smiley. Padma announces that the challenge will test their precision and technique; they'll be competing in a three-round fish flleting tournament. I would fail. I have tried to clean a fish exactly once, and not only was I grossed out, but it was a disaster. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, can clean a fish in like two seconds, but I would cast doubts on his precision.
First round. The cheftestants are given two whole sardines, plus a third one that Ripert has already fileted as a guide. Yes, sardines. Like those tiny little fish that come in a can, though these are probably fresh. Hosea interviews that the hardest thing about working with such a small fish is that the bones are tiny, and if your knife slips even a little, you've cut through the meat and ruined the whole fish. And did I mention that they only have five minutes? Yeah. Now this is a challenge. I hope no one cuts their finger off, like that poor dude in the first episode. Anyway, Hosea says that his hands are shaking, and then interviews that he's the seafood guy so people are expecting him to do really well in this challenge. Stefan thinks this is a tough one as well, and Leah knows that she's screwed up with fish before, so she's trying to redeem herself. HIGH STAKES! Hey, they have to do something to ratchet up the tension because watching people cut a tiny fish open is not all that exciting. Carla's hand is shaking as well and, on her second fish, Leah just starts swearing and says that she should go home right now. I agree! Let's do it! I would like to port my proposed Survivor rule to this show, which is that if you say that you want to quit, you are immediately removed from the show. Because it's annoying. Leah practically tosses her last fish onto the plate as Padma calls time.