Quickfire Challenge judged by Paul Bartolotta, famed Italian chef, is to take a classic TV dinner and give it a gourmet makeover as inspired by an iconic television show. The top two are Kevin's Sopranos-inspired meatballs, and Bryan's M.A.S.H.-inspired meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Kevin wins, and doesn't get immunity, but does get promised that his meal will be included in the new line of Top Chef frozen foods.
Elimination Challenge: Take over Tom Colicchio's restaurant, CraftSteak. The twist is that one of the judges is Natalie Portman, and she's a vegetarian, so they can't use any meat. Jen has to change her game plan multiple times, first because everyone else is using morels and she doesn't want to, and then she flips Eli for who can use eggplant, and he wins. Mike I. struggles when an equipment malfunction means that his leeks don't cook properly, and Robin inexplicably decides to make a dish she's never made before, despite the fact that she's probably the most experienced with vegetarian food. She also runs out of time and doesn't put garbanzo beans on three of her plates. So here are the dishes they served:
Robin: stuffed squash blossom, beet carpaccio, fresh garbanzo beans, and chermoula. The judges think it looks pretty but is overly salty.
Eli: confit of eggplant, lentils, garlic puree, and radish salad. The judges like it, but some of the herbs he used in his radish salad (like lavender?) are overpowering.
Michael V.: asparagus salad, Japanese tomato sashimi, and banana polenta. The judges are confused and delighted by the dish, which is exactly what Michael was hoping.
Jen: charred baby eggplant, braised fennel, tomatoes and verjus nage. Jen adds the sauce at the table, and her hands are shaking so badly that the sauce goes all over, and the judges worry that the dish isn't substantial enough.
Mike I.: whole roasted leeks with onion jus, baby carrot puree, and fingerling potatoes. The judges notice that that leeks are undercooked and they think perhaps the execution didn't match with the idea.
Bryan: artichoke barigoule, confit of shallot, wild asparagus, and fennel puree. Somehow this dish inspires a lot of off-color dick jokes at the table, which is hilarious, but probably not what Bryan was thinking.
Kevin: duo of mushrooms, smoked kale, candied garlic, and turnip purée. His dish looks like a pile of brown crap to me, but the judges love how hearty it is, and they don't miss the meat or grain.
The top three are Kevin, Eli (!), and Michael V. and the winner is Kevin for being both inventive and flavorful. Wow, I really thought they were going to go with Michael V. Kevin is proud that he's shown he can cook something besides pork. Michael V. has sour grapes because he thinks that the dish was too simple.
The bottom three are Mike I., Robin, and Jen (again!). Mike's undercooked leeks and lack of protein sunk his dish. Robin's dish was scattered and not cohesive. Jen's lack of confidence and insubstantial dish hurt her. Ultimately, Mike is told to pack his knives and go. I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't make me a little happy to see him go before Robin, even though I kind of hate to see Robin stay another week.
Unlike last week's episode, which opened with happy Jen and Laurine hanging out by the pool, everyone seems pretty melancholy and sleepy in this week's episode opening. Michael V. is honing his knives (metaphor?) as Kevin looks on blearily. Jen is getting dressed and lamenting her poor performance in Restaurant Wars. She realizes that she needs to let it go and just start doing better. She's kind of getting the Jamie edit this season: promising start that falls apart emotionally after a while. That was Jamie, right? It's all a blur at this point. Robin interviews that she's happy with how Restaurant Wars went, and even though everyone hates her and no one wants her there, she's holding her own. Or at least, she's not screwing up as badly as the others. If she would win another challenge at this point, then I might start to be impressed.
The cheftestants hit the kitchen to find out about this week's Quickfire Challenge from Padma and Paul Bartalotta, a famed Italian chef. And the challenge is sponsored by TV Guide, who have chosen "seven iconic shows." The cheftestants will draw knives and they must create a classic TV dinner inspired by their designated show in sixty minutes. After knives are drawn, the cheftestants race for the fridge to battle over proteins.
Robin grew up as a hippie eating health food, so she doesn't know from TV dinners. Okay, but you've seen them? Like in a store? Or heard of them? Because you live in the world? Plus, I thought she turned to healthy foods after her cancer diagnosis. Whatever. She got Sesame Street and I don't know how her dish relates to that show. Michael V. had a traditional mom who put dinner on the table every night (me too!) but later moved in with his dad, so there were a lot of frozen dinners at that point. Interesting that both boys became chefs when their father was obviously not a culinary role model. He got Cheers, so he plans to make a version of traditional bar food.
Jen got The Flintstones, and she wanted to make some type of meat with a big bone in it, but there wasn't anything like that in the fridge, so she settled for chicken (?). She says that her favorite Flintstone is Pebbles, because she's got cute hair and a cute boyfriend, although she also thinks that Bam Bam drags Pebbles around by her hair? Which I don't really remember happening in that cartoon. Then again, I haven't watched it in multiple decades.