Carla serves her appetizer last. She explains that her spoon contains shiso soup with fresh blue crab and chayote Thai salsa. The judges and guests (including Branford Marsalis and the executive chef of Commander's Palace) all like the dish, and note that you can taste the crab, and the crab is cooked perfectly. So it looks like the appetizer round is kind of a wash, since they all did well.
Back in the kitchen, the cheftestants are preparing for the first course. Richard suggests to Hosea that they plate their food in the walk-in. Not sure if that is due to temperature or room, but Hosea is on board. The guests are seated and the cheftestants walk out to meet them. Padma introduces the guests (I'm not going to give their resumes, because I figure you can just Google it if you really care): Rocco, Hubert Keller, Branford Marsalis, Fabio, Susan Spicer, John Besh, Tory McPhail, Ti Martin. The judges are there as well: Gail, Toby (he's back!), Tom and Padma.
The first course is served. Stefan explains that his is a smoked salmon and halibut carpaccio with microgreen salad, citrus vinaigrette, and caviar, with a fennel salad underneath. It looks watery even from here. Carla made red fish over a saffron aioli, braised fennel, and a grilled clam on a croûton. Hosea explains that his is a trio of raw fish: tuna, hamachi, and black bass dressed with hot fennel oil to cook the fish a tiny bit, citrus, and fried tempura bits. Hosea's plate is really colorful but it looks kind of messy, like everything is just piled on there willy-nilly. He used fennel as well, so fennel is officially the trendy ingredient this season.
After sampling the food, the diners discuss their thoughts. Besh thought Carla's dish was special. Colicchio liked the idea of Carla's dish, but he doesn't get to finish his thought because Branford Marsalis starts talking some nonsense. Ti Martin goes on and on about a sense memory from France and no one cares, lady. She does say that she would definitely order Carla's dish again. They all agree that Hosea's dish looked very colorful, but was missing seasoning. Colicchio doesn't like Stefan's choice of fish, nor the fact that he froze it first. Keller liked Stefan's dish, though. Toby thought both Stefan and Hosea executed well, but their dishes were bland. So they weren't executed well, because they underseasoned. TOBY! Branford Marsalis notes that chefs talk about food like musicians talk about music. Yes, Branford. You should hear it when a group of recappers get together. Actually, you shouldn't, because we're probably talking shit about you. So the first round seems to go to Carla, although no one screwed up too badly.