Quickfire Challenge: The cheftestants go to Le Bernardin where they meet Justo Thomas, who's like the Jedi fish butcher. The cheftestants have to portion one cod and one fluke into as high-quality portions as they can in ten minutes. Fabio, Carla, Tiffany and Antonia end up on the bottom. It's particularly embarrassing for Tiffany, who is executive chef at a seafood restaurant. The top four are Blais, Mike, Dale and Marcel. They move on to the next round, where they have 45 minutes to make a dish using the discarded fish scraps, and the winner gets immunity. Dale wins immunity, though all of the dishes earn some praise from guest judge Bourdain.
Elimination Challenge: Restaurant Wars, guest judged by Ludo Lefebvre, one of my least favorite Masters contestants, because he is crazy. The twist this time is that it's a "pop-up" restaurant, meaning they aren't taking over an existing space. It's a one-night-only restaurant. Dale is one captain, due to his Quickfire win, and he chooses Marcel to be the other captain, so that they won't end up on the same team. The teams are Marcel, Angelo, Mike, Antonia and Tiffany versus Dale, Blais, Tre, Fabio and Carla. Weirdly, Carla is picked last. Dudes, she won the last challenge! And also, the diners get to vote on who is the winning team, so all those who say they cook for the diners and not the judges should be happy.
So Dale's team calls their restaurant Bodega. Fabio does front of house and Dale is the expediter. Here is their menu:
Appetizer by Dale: bag of potato chips with fried herbs and sea salt
1st course by Blais: raw tuna belly and fried chicken skin with chilies and lime. It's served in a can like tuna fish.
1st course by Dale: bacon, egg and cheese with homemade focaccia
2nd course by Blais: chicken-fried codfish and Brussels kraut
2nd course by Tre: pork shoulder, grits with cheddar cheese, Corona and lime sauce
Dessert course by Fabio: amaretto cake with candied lemon peel and cappuccino mousse
Dessert course by Carla: blueberry pie with dry milk ice cream
Marcel's restaurant is called Etch. Tiffany does front of house, which is not really her first choice. But she doesn't know how to run it, and the judges note that Fabio actually directs the servers while Tiffany just schmoozes. Antonia expedites, but there's a lot of bickering in the kitchen, mostly centered around Marcel. Here is the menu:
1st course by Tiffany: frisee and shaved asparagus salad with egg and chorizo
1st course by Angelo: crudo of fluke, grapes, pink peppercorns and lemon zest
2nd course by Marcel: roasted monkfish with kalamata olives, peperonata and parsley
2nd course by Mike: braised pork belly with octopus and cannellini beans
3rd course by Antonia: ricotta gnudi, braised oxtail ragout, arugula and lemon zest
3rd course by Mike and Angelo: slow-cooked lamb chop, cauliflower puree, turmeric, and honey
Dessert course by Marcel: duo of peaches (unripened peach and sweet peach with coconut foam and powder)
To the surprise of no one, Etch is the losing restaurant. The judges have critiques for all of the chefs, but it seems like Marcel takes the brunt of it. No one wants to throw Marcel under the bus, and they try to present a united front, but then Tiffany lets slip that her front of house suffered because the line was arguing, and then it ALLLLLL happens, where lots of fingers are pointed in varying directions, but mostly at Marcel.
Meanwhile, Team Bodega wins by a landslide. Blais earns praise from the judges and his teammates for elevating everyone else's food, and Fabio's front of house was top-notch. The winner is Blais. Finally, he wins one! And the praise of his teammates gives me a little confidence in his skills going forward. I was starting to wonder if it was like the Emperor's New Clothes.
And on the losing team, the judges decide to send Marcel home. Yay! But also, boo, because now who will I root against? I kind of like everyone who is left. Even weird old Angelo.
The morning after Jamie and Tiffani were eliminated (yay and boo respectively), Carla wakes up and is happy that she won the Elimination Challenge, but sad to see her friends leave. But she's also really proud to be one of the three remaining female chefs. This season did seem to be trending heavily female (in that it was about half and half until last week), and I was wondering when they were going to get around to mentioning it. Blais interviews that he's looking forward to an individual challenge, because in the group challenges, he's ended up on the bottom, and he doesn't want to be eliminated cooking anything but his own food. I think that's fair. I understand the need for group challenges, but I would be pissed if I got steamrolled or bullied into cooking something I didn't believe in, and then got eliminated. So since they showed Richard saying that, we'll definitely see an individual challenge this week, right? I might believe that if they hadn't made clear in the preview that it was Restaurant Wars.
There's a funny bit where Antonia says that neither Carla nor Tiffany would move into her room, because they don't want to become victims of the Black Hammer. It seems that Antonia is a bit of a bad luck charm, in that people who team up with her end up eliminated. This started in Antonia's original season and has continued in All-Stars. Will her streak continue this week?
The cheftestants report to Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert's famous restaurant. Anthony Bourdain greets them instead of Padma, and explains that, in his newest book, he profiled a dude named Justo Thomas, who works in the kitchen of Ripert's restaurant. He comes in every morning at seven, and by noon, he has butchered somewhere between 700 and 1000 pounds of fish. Holy crap. That's a lot of fish. That's half a ton of fish! One dude! In five hours! Also, he must reek when he leaves work. Wouldn't you hate to ride on the subway next to him? Bourdain explains that when Justo goes on vacation, it takes three people to do his job. That's job security, man. I hope he earns what three people would normally earn, too. If not, he could screen this episode to make his point.
The cheftestants head downstairs to meet the legendary fish butcher of Manhattan. Justo explains that his three tenets are saving fish, quality, and equal portions. Well, that's not a parallel construction. If I were grading Justo's essay, I would take points off. But then again, it doesn't seem that English is Justo's first language, so I might give him partial credit and just write a note in the margin. Anyway, Justo is a man of action, not words, so he shows off his skills. You can see when he discards the skin, head, and tail of the first fish, it's picked clean. And neat! Like you could stuff it with something and it would still look like a fish, not just like a mess of scales. The cheftestants are understandably impressed when Justo butchers two fish in eight minutes, and ends up with beautiful and equal portions, with none of the flesh wasted.