Colicchio shows up to introduce the challenge. He says that he and Padma have a special guest in town, and the cheftestants will be cooking for her tonight, and in walks...Natalie Portman. I just realized that her Star Wars character's name is Padme and she's friends with Padma. That means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it just occurred to me and I thought I would mention it. Eli makes a joke about how Natalie's most important role was Star Wars and whatever. He's a geek. Natalie explains that she loves food and loves to be adventurous with flavors and cuisines, but she's a vegetarian. The cheftestants' faces drop, since they were all planning what awesome meat they were going to prepare. Only Robin is happy, because she has a lot of experience cooking this type of food, because she is a dirty hippy. But seriously, they all act like their dog just died. I'm not a vegetarian (girl, please) but I have friends who are, and I always feel bad for them when we go out to eat and they end up eating either just a salad or maybe some pasta. Or a veggie burger. Or French fries as an entrée.
The cheftestants all run to the produce area, which is jam-packed with every kind of produce you could imagine. Kevin wants the kale while Mike I. is looking for leeks. Jen claims the morels, until she finds out that both Kevin and Robin are using them too, so she moves on. Then Jen decides on eggplant, but Eli also wants eggplant, so they flip a dehydrated orange chip and Eli wins. So now Jen has to figure out something else. She settles on baby eggplants, but I'm worried about her dish since she's already had to make so many compromises. She should have just used morels and made a better dish than anyone else. Mike I. claims that his restaurant has over twenty vegetarian dishes on the menu, so he's not worried.
Kevin explains what we meat-eaters are too dumb to understand; that it's tough for a chef to make vegetarian food as satisfying as non-vegetarian food, because meat makes people feel satiated. I would argue that protein does that just as effectively, and you don't need meat to get protein, but I don't want to ruin the storyline that Kevin's got going here. Kevin explains that he and his wife go vegetarian every Lent, so he knows all about it, and he wants to make a satisfying dish that won't make you miss meat.