Finally in Manhattan, the final five Quickfire at Le Cirque where they have to recreate one of their iconic dishes, potato-wrapped sea bass. Hung and Casey pull it off, Hung better than Casey, which is why he wins it. And is proud of it. Proud, proud, proud! If he were an Anthony Trollope character, he'd be Bishop Proudie. Brian and Dale did okay, but unfortunately, Sara undercooked her sea bass to a raw degree, a talent she perfects with chicken during the Elimination Challenge.
Speaking of sending people home, the cheftestants are required to make a dish that incorporates the simple chicken, onion, and potato, and once again, Hung manages to come out on top with Casey a very close second. If only she hadn't decided to call her two-hour braised chicken "coq au vin," she might have had a fighting chance with the deans of the French Culinary Institute -- and with Colicchio, who becomes obsessed with this point of semantics to an annoying degree, but his harping on it (and Casey's responses) do enlighten viewers as to exactly what the dish's qualifications are. It smelled kind of like a "the producers want us to give a lesson on terminology" moment, but anyway, amazingly, Brian's neon green plate of crazy impresses the judges, so he's also Aspen-safe. Sara is called to carpet for her underdone chicken, Dale for complicating his dish to a degree that made him forget his special honey sauce. In the end, Sara is sent back to Jamaica to pursue her cheese-farm dreams, and the final four are Hung, Casey, Brian, and Dale. Meanwhile, Dale announces that he's a "big gay chef." Thankfully, he's still our Big Gay Chef.
The five cheftestants are finally in New York. Like Prince Akeem, they are very happy to be here. Dale tells us that what drives him most is his uniqueness: he explains, "I'm a big gay chef and I'm gonna outcook your ass." That's an improvement over Dave's motto: "I'm a big gay chef and I'm gonna outcry your ass." The cheftestants stop at food cart, and after ordering her chicken, Casey delicately bats away at the smoke coming off the grill. She tells us she's been on a roll because she's managed to be at the top of most of the recent QFs, as well as winning Elimination Challenges. The Brians, for their part, are very happy to be in New York for "the fragrance." Maybe his next dish should focus on smelling like New York. Meanwhile, the Brians have treated themselves to a kicky new hat. It's tweed and floppy and I suspect they bought it off the same guy who sold Ilan all his imitation bling. I also suspect it was all O'Brian's doing.
The cheftestants arrive at Le Cirque for their QF and meet Sirio Maccioni, Le Cirque's "legendary" owner. I'll believe that only if I hear Barney say it. With a slight bow, Maccioni bids them "good evening." Now I sort of want him to go, "One! Two! Three! Four! Five! FIVE cheftestants -- mwah-ha-ha-ha!" with appropriate lightening flashes and bats flying on strings. Everyone is served one of Le Cirque's classic dishes: potato-wrapped sea bass on a bed of leeks and oyster mushrooms. Hung favors us with his opinion of the dish: "The dish -- you tasted every ingredient: the creaminess of the leeks, the bass, and the sauce...it all worked." I'm sure Le Cirque will be very happy to hear that, Hung. It is explained to us that Le Cirque has had this dish on their menu for twenty years and it is not served to the rabble, only to VIPs. Padma tells the cheftestants that they will have twenty-five minutes to recreate the dish in Le Cirque's kitchens. Dale reacts to us, "Over twenty years, that dish has been refined. Okay, twenty years? Now, you have twenty minutes!"
The cheftestants are shown to the kitchens, where many line chefs appear to be glaring at them. Or, at least, directed to glare at them. Jason Kellert, Executive Sous Chef of Le Cirque, has been deputized to explain their stations and mise en place to them. The three necessary potatoes are there (unpeeled) and the leeks have been trimmed. The sea bass is in a Tupperware tub, and there's a bottle of oil and other necessary seasonings. I wonder if the leeks have been washed as well. Getting the sand out from under all those layers can be a bitch. In addition to the mise en place, the cheftestants are allowed to use anything in the kitchen. Kellert asks if they have any questions. "Yes, I do," Hung says immediately. The cook sort of looks at him as one would a bug. Showing off a bit, Hung asks what number on the slicer (deli, I assume) they use to slice the potatoes. Kellert explains that actually, Hung, they will all be using mandolines, not big-ass slicers. Yuck. With the mandolines, there's a far greater chance that they will screw up the potato slices. Using a big deli slicer is easier because the blade is doing all the work, not your hand. Dale asks about blanching the leeks and learns they are blanched before being cooked. Sara asks if the potatoes are steamed before being wrapped around the fish. Nope, the potato is raw. Wow -- we learned so much about restaurant technique in that one short segment. Those moments on this show are rare and fleeting, so you gotta gobble them up when you can.