Mike is really interested in beating Angelo, since he would be the obvious favorite to win in a challenge where he's cooking French Vietnamese food. Mike dismisses Tiffany's dish as something that should only take a few minutes to prepare.
Antonia has decided that even though her restaurant's food was crazy and whimsical, she's determined to take a simple dish like peas and carrots, and then just add some elements to make it fit the challenge. Sounds like a solid plan. A really good dish will always take you to the next round, even if it doesn't exactly fit the challenge's parameters. It might not win the whole thing, but this early on, just put out good food.
Carla is very mindful of how she went outside of her comfort zone during the finale of her season, and it didn't work out. So she's a little wary of trying to cook crazy Wylie Dufresne style food. Meanwhile, Stephen is having trouble with the Vitaprep and Blais worries that Stephen isn't going to make it. Tre knows that his strength is in Texas food like steak, so he's chosen to make swordfish, since it's the most steak-like fish. Tre also has a great laugh. I hope he stays in a while, just so he can laugh in interviews.
The judges arrive at Marea first. Colicchio, Padma, and Bourdain are joined by the restaurant's owner, Michael White and Kate Krader, the editor of Food and Wine. The chef explained that his food comes from the Northern Italian tradition, so we're going to see a lot of seafood as opposed to what many think of as Italian food: pasta, tomato sauces, and the like. Tre presents his dish first: grilled swordfish, braised artichoke, mushroom panna cotta, basil oil. Spike serves seared branzino with caponata and spicy prosciutto vinaigrette. Blais offers up crudo of Spanish mackerel, braised veal shank, fennel mostarda. And Stephen has Coho salmon, black Mission figs, broccoli rapini, and fennel pollen.
The judges like the crispy skin on Spike's fish, but they think his caponata (a type of eggplant salad) is too loose. I guess they mean that they want it to be thicker and more cohesive; the way it was plated, it kind of looked like he just threw some olives and capers and eggplant on the plate under his fish. Bourdain points out that if he had called it something else, it would have been more acceptable. He should have said it was deconstructed; the judges love that shit. Blais gets high marks for the flavors in his dish, and Chef White thinks the preparation fits in with how his restaurant prepares food, a good sign. At first, the judges seem to like Stephen's salmon, but as they taste it, they realize that the pollen is overwhelming. Bourdain comments that it "tastes like a head shop." So I'm guessing it has a strong incense or sandalwood or patchouli kind of smell. And finally, they like the simplicity of Tre's dish, and his panna cotta gets high marks.