Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants will be taking over Colicchio's restaurant, Craftsteak. They'll be serving four judges and seven guests. Robin is worried, because she hasn't cooked a lot of steak in the past, and some of the others have worked in steakhouses. She hopes competence is enough to get through. Um. Do you want to tell her or should I?
As the cheftestants prepare to head to the restaurant, Jen is looking ROUGH this morning. Robin keeps talking to her while they get ready and Jen doesn't even have Laurine to deflect some of the attention. She looks seriously annoyed. Jen once again interviews that she needs to focus on her food and cooking and get her shit together. As she has said like every week for the past three or so.
The guys are discussing how they are going to cook their steaks, and the benefits of sous vide, etc. They also talk about who's going to cook beef, lamb, or pork. In other words, they're all prepping to cook massive amounts of meat, since it is, after all, a steakhouse.
The cheftestants arrive at the kitchen and run to the walk-ins (which sounds like a song lyric, doesn't it? Run to the walk-in?) to check out what meat is available. There are just racks upon racks of all different cuts and types. Jen finds the lobster and they start searching for crab too. Everything they're looking for, they find, and more.
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.
Robin starts going crazy in the produce walk-in. She grabs a few of like every vegetable in there and is all fired up about the fresh garbanzo beans, which she's never seen before. She muttering and cackling to herself the whole time like a crazy person. And she decides to make something she's never made before, so maybe she is a crazy person.
Mike I. is bragging that he can cook anything and he doesn't care. And also his mom was a vegan. So there! Why does every person on this show always have some experience with the type of cuisine being cooked, but no one has ever watched a television show, apparently? Bunch of communists.
Eli jokes that vegetarians are lower human beings, but in reality, he feels bad for them because they don't always get good food. He plans to use eggplant as his meat replacement. There's an original idea.
Michael V. says that he cooks artistically and looks at what ingredients he has to work with before making decisions. He started out with asparagus and thought about what he could serve with it. Then he remembered a chef he used to work with who mixed banana and polenta. Keep in mind, this combination was not Michael's original idea; he stole it from somewhere else. That's totally part of cooking, but maybe he shouldn't take total credit for it if it goes over well.
Mike I. is trying to boil his leeks, but he realizes that even though he put the pot on the heat a while ago, it's not boiling yet. Rather than try to figure it out, he just lets it go for a while longer, and then when it's still not boiling, he investigates further. Finally, he realizes that his pot is wobbly, so it wasn't getting direct heat, and thus took longer to heat up. Instead of changing his game plan to account for the lost time, he decides to just stick with it because "gold medals are lost in the last six minutes of the competition when people change their minds." He made that up. That's not a saying. And not true.