Quickfire Challenge: The guest judges are Telly, Cookie Monster, and Elmo from Sesame Street and the challenge is to make the best cookie possible. I mean, it's kind of a joke to have Muppets judging, but there's no immunity involved, so who cares? It's funny and probably a good tension breaker for the cheftestants. Blais ends up in the bottom because he made ice cream instead of a cookie, and Angelo's cookies were too dry. The top two are Dale, who didn't make a cookie so much as he poured a bunch of junk food in a bowl and formed it into cookie shape, and Antonia, who made super chocolate cookies that tasted good but looked, as Elmo noted, "like cow chips." And the winner is Dale! He knows how to make that stoner food.
Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants head to Target and will have three hours in the middle of the night to raid the store and gather what they need to make a dish for a hundred employees. They don't even get to use their own knives. But the winner gets $25,000. Presumably provided by Target. Angelo and Mike help each other out a lot, and Carla spends a ton of time getting her table linens and doesn't leave herself much time to cook. Judges are Padma, Tom, Bourdain, Chef Ming Tsai, and Target's home designer Thomas O'Brien. Hey, I have some of his bed linens. Thanks, dude! I love that duvet cover. Anyway, here are the dishes:
Blais: pork tenderloin with green chilies, apples, braised pork ribs and corn pancakes. The judges agree that it looks terrible but it tastes good.
Dale: rib-eye grilled cheese sandwich and spicy tomato soup. Bourdain jokes that Dale is really good at stoner food and should maybe get a urine test.
Carla: curry apple soup with tomato ginger jam and cucumber apple slaw. The judges are disappointed that there's no protein, and Carla stressed about that but ran out of time.
Antonia: Parmesan eggs on garlic crostini with almond, tomato and apple salad. The judges are impressed that she made a hundred eggs, and it turned out well.
Mike: spicy coconut soup with mushrooms, scallions and lime. Padma really hates it, but she's sour because Mike claimed it was fresh coconut milk and it's not. The others don't hate it as much, but no one seems to love it.
Tiffany: jambalaya with chicken, sausage and shrimp with a summer salad. The judges think it's okay, but not that special.
Angelo: baked potato soup with bacon, sour cream, potato skins, scallions and cheddar cheese. The judges find it too heavy and way too salty.
The top three are Dale, Antonia, and Blais, and the winner is Dale, for making a grilled cheese sandwich with an iron, bless his heart.
The bottom three are Angelo, Carla and Tiffany. I can't believe Mike isn't in there, since Padma found his food inedible. But Carla's food didn't have enough dimension, Angelo's soup was way too salty and rich, and Tiffany used a premade spice mix that she applied too aggressively. And then they send Angelo home. Wow. I didn't see that coming, although Colicchio did say that he found the dish to be inedible, and it was the only one he could say that about. Clearly, everyone thought it was going to be Tiffany, especially Mike. But Angelo was just so uneven emotionally, and it affected his food.
It's time for the Fabio post mortem. Blais loves Fabio, and reminds us that he (Blais) runs a burger restaurant and would have been happy to help Fabio out with the challenge, but apparently Fabio didn't ask. And Carla feels like she won because it was all about peasant food, which is what she does. She even brings up the possibility that a woman could win the title of Top Chef All Star. That would be awesome, if only to blow the minds of the male competitors who don't think a woman can do it. Of course if it does happen, they will have an excuse about why it was bogus. But we will know, readers. We will know.
Back in the fake bar, everyone is drinking tea except for Dale, who might be drinking a Manhattan? It's red, anyway. I do not understand this fake bar. They toast to being the final seven in the competition. Dale realizes that he almost got eliminated, but he vows to keep going until he's the winner. He goes on a rant against parents who tell their kids that winning doesn't matter and everyone's a winner. Okay, Dale. You're a tough guy. We get it. Relax.
The cheftestants arrive in the kitchen for the Quickfire. Padma welcomes them and starts reciting the opening lines from Sesame Street, and then three Muppets pop up and join her: Telly, Elmo, and Cookie Monster. The cheftestants are delighted. And who wouldn't be? I mean, sure, this is supposed to be a serious cooking competition, but you can't help but be charmed by those three. Antonia and Blais both have kids that watch/watched Sesame Street, so they know these characters very well.
Padma starts to introduce the challenge but she can't even get two seconds in without Cookie Monster yelling out "COOKIE COOKIE WHERE COOKIE!" If you haven't yet, check out this video of Padma rehearsing this introduction and getting seriously annoyed with the Muppets. Also, she is terrible at talking to the Muppets without acting like she thinks they might have some sort of disability. I worry about her child. Anyway, Padma finally gets to tell them that the challenge is to make the best cookie possible in forty-five minutes. Elmo asks for a cookie with zucchini or carrots, because he's a little suck-up. Cookie Monster is like, "Yuck. Just make it yummy. Maybe chocolate chippies." I am so right there. I think Dale and Cookie Monster would get along well. He makes stoner food and Cookie Monster acts like a stoner most of the time. Oh yeah, the winner gets $5,000.
Mike admits that he's never made a cookie from scratch. Never? Like not even as a kid? What kind of childhood did he have? I don't know that I know the proportions off the top of my head. Are they allowed to look at the recipes on the package? Probably not. Time starts and everyone runs around in a cooking flurry. Cookie Monster is surprised to see Tiffany weighing her ingredients, and he describes his cooking philosophy (which mirrors my own): "Me just throw stuff in bowl and mix and hope for best."
Tiffany is making a shortbread cookie. Blais is, of course, using liquid nitrogen and he tells Elmo that he's using zucchini. They have a cute scene together. Blais looks like a Muppet. Angelo, like Mike, hasn't really made cookies on his own before. What kind of life are these people living? Do they not eat cookies or only buy them from bakeries or what? That's just sad. The Muppets see Mike knock an orange on the floor and start heckling him, which is awesome. Muppets should always heckle Mike in every challenge. Dale laughs that Mike is someone who eats a lot of cookies, so it's surprising that he's never made them. Oh, SNAPPLE.
Carla explains that she makes cookies all the time as a caterer, and she first made cookies when she was in Girl Scouts. Dale is making a cookie out of potato chips. See? Stoner food. The Muppets start heckling him, and Dale interviews that he knows he's not allowed to curse at them, which sucks. Antonia thinks that Dale is "a cookie cheater" for making a no-bake cookie, since he's just throwing ingredients together and calling it a cookie. Blais is freezing something. Who knows what the hell is going on over there? Cookie Monster is eating the tablecloth. Antonia's chocolate cookies look terrible. They're very flat. There are many reasons that can happen -- old baking powder, ingredients too warm, etc. She explains that they taste great, even if they don't look great. I would wreck one of those cookies, for sure. Everyone plates their cookies and time is up.