In the Stew Room, the cheftestants share a toast. Fabio tells them that, no matter what happens in judging, they all rule, and there is a general murmur of agreement. Padma shows up and asks to see Fabio, Stefan, and Carla. I enjoy how Padma pauses and acts like she's deciding on the spot who will be called in to up the suspense. Acting! Stefan gives Jamie a kiss (on the forehead? Hard to tell) before heading out, and the three remaining clearly know that they are the bottom three.
Padma tells Fabio, Stefan, and Carla that they are in the top three. She asks Stefan to talk about his dish first. He says that he knew what was in the dish when he first tasted it, and Colicchio asks if that means it was easy. Stefan clarifies that it was nice to cook food that he grew up with. Ripert and Colicchio agree that his flavor and presentation were both excellent, and the only drawback was that the sauce was a little on the thick side. Fabio says it was an honor to complete this challenge. The judges have mostly praise for him as well, saying that his flavors were good, but slightly different from Ripert's. Carla says that she loved this challenge. Ripert is curious, because the menu says that the sauce was a Bearnaise, but it was in fact a beurre rouge. Carla says that she let the sauce get cold, and she could see how much butter was in it (presumably because it congealed?). Toby found the dish "rich and powerful" and says that the dish could be called "Pablo Escolar." Man, that is one wedged-in punchline. Colicchio recognizes that it's daunting to recreate a master chef's dishes, and wishes they could skip choosing a winner, since they all did well. Ripert announces that the winner of this challenge is Stefan. Fabio looks happy for his friend but Carla looks a little peeved. And honestly, her dish was way harder, but Stefan came that much closer to the original, I guess. Ripert gives Stefan a copy of his book (of course), but what's much cooler is that he invites Stefan to shadow him in his three restaurants for a week, and then join Ripert at the Food and Wine festival in Pebble Beach. That's an amazing prize. Thank God they finally upped the ante a little bit. Stefan looks thrilled.
Back in the Stew Room, Fabio announces that Stefan won, and then Stefan sends the remaining three out to Judges' Table. Padma asks Hosea if he's surprised to be there, since he works in a seafood restaurant. Hosea says he is a bit, but he knew he was inexperienced with za'atar spice, and he had to give it his best shot. Ripert says that the sauce was good, but his fish was overcooked and the za'atar crust was too thick, which overwhelmed the dish. Colicchio brings up his favorite talking point, which is that monkfish needs to rest before it's sliced. Hosea says that he knew it didn't rest long enough, but he also couldn't go back and redo it afterwards. Colicchio is relieved that Hosea's issue was due to time instead of ignorance of proper technique.