Quickfire Challenge. The guest judge is Stephen Starr, owner of successful restaurants like Morimoto and Buddakan, and it's time for restaurant wars. The quickfire challenge is to do a tasting for Stephen, as if he's a potential investor. They have thirty minutes to create one dish to show off the concept for the restaurants they hope to open one day. The two winners will be the head of the two teams for Restaurant Wars. The bottom two are Jeff, who made salmon and an artichoke salad, which Starr felt was too pedestrian. Joining him is Fabio, who did a lunch concept with a Carpaccio, salad, and a filet mignon sandwich, and Starr didn't get the concept. The top two are Radhika, who made a globally influenced (mostly in terms of spices) pan-seared cod with corn, spinach and chorizo, and Leah, who had no idea what to do and no overall concept, but somehow threw together a tempura poussin with dashi, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.
Radhika ends up with Jamie, Carla, and Jeff. No one really wants to be in the front, so Radhika takes it on. Jamie seems to plan most of the menu, with Radhika's blessing. Their restaurant's name is Sahana (Sanskrit for strength) and the concept is "Old Spice Trade" (I don't know). Their menu is curried carrot soup, grilled scallop with chickpea cake, braised lamb shank, seared snapper, baklava, chocolate cake, and frozen yogurts. During prep, Jamie worries that the frozen lamb shanks won't thaw, and Carla is annoyed that Radhika is not even in the kitchen at all, and when she does venture back for a minute, won't make any decisions. The judges like most of the appetizers and dishes, although they aren't crazy about the snapper, since it's floating in some sort of tomato water. The desserts are a disaster; the cake is badly flavored and the frozen yogurt isn't frozen. The diners are not impressed with Radhika's hostessing skills, since she keeps disappearing into the kitchen for no apparent reason. In fact, the judges leave while she's in back doing nothing.
Leah gets Hosea, Fabio, and Stefan. Meanwhile, Leah's team goes with an Asian theme, but Leah struggles to avoid getting steamrollered by the Stefan/Fabio team. Fabio volunteers to do front of house and Stefan says he'll do the desserts but won't tell anyone what he has planned. And then late at night, Leah and Hosea smooch on the couch, which leads to some weirdness between them the next morning since they are both in relationships with other people. They settle on the name Sunset Lounge (which sounds like a bar you'd find adjacent to a truck stop, and is way too close to that Don Henley song). Their concept is Asian, and their menu is egg roll, sashimi two ways, short ribs, coconut curry bisque, seared cod, chocolate parfait, and panna cotta. Not quite sure how the desserts fit into the concept, but okay. Stefan will be expediting until the dessert orders start rolling in. Stefan has some troubles with his desserts but he tries to improvise, and Leah and Hosea both seem nervous and tense. Leah screws up filleting the fish. The first few dishes are passable, but not great. The short ribs get good marks, but the cod is raw in the middle, and the sauce with it is inedible. Bad times. Stefan's desserts get the highest marks for both meals.
At Judges' Table, the judges reveal that Sunset Lounge won mostly due to Fabio's service and Stefan's desserts. The diners preferred their food by a small margin. Leah is told that if their team had lost, she would have gone home. Stefan is named the winner. When the Sahana team is brought out, Radhika explains who did what. Carla gets all cuckoo crazypants talking about how she put love into her dishes, even though she knew they sucked. Colicchio takes Radhika to task for not seeing there was a problem with dessert and just telling Carla to change things, as well as her poor front-of-house performance. He also thinks Radhika just seems beat down and tired, and she is told to pack her knives and go.
How have I never noticed before this that Jeff winks at the camera in the opening credits and the editors put in a little "ting!" sound effect? That is awesome.
Morning. Hosea's reading a book on the balcony (and how refreshing to see someone on a reality show reading a book for pleasure), and Stefan comes out and asks if he's almost done. Hosea says he's almost halfway done, just like the competition! I would think that was scripted, but it seemed pretty genuine. Carla interviews that it seems more like psychological warfare than a cooking competition at this point, and gives the example of Ariane, who got thrown under the bus by Hosea and Leah at Judges' Table. I get what Carla is saying but A) Ariane could have stood up for herself more and B) I'm not sure what everyone expected Hosea and Leah to do. Carla's the only one who will flat out tell the judges, "I screwed up!" and while that may be noble, it's also not the smartest move strategically. I don't think the judges were fooled - they just determined that Ariane was ultimately responsible for her own food, and should have refused to cook the lamb if she didn't know how to prepare it properly. Radhika also thinks that Leah and Hosea were responsible.
Back out on the balcony, Hosea says that when he gets home, the first thing he will do is see his girlfriend. Hey, here comes Leah! That conversation quickly ends. Leah interviews that she feels bad this morning about what happened with Ariane. Fabio and Jeff magically appear on the balcony and Fabio says that Ariane "got the big shit stick." Leah coolly says that Ariane didn't stick up for herself and then interviews that this is a competition and people will be leaving, and you have to learn to move on. I never would have predicted that they would be setting Leah up as the season's villain. Or co-villain with Stefan.
Quickfire Challenge. The cheftestants enter the kitchen to find Padma with the guest judge, Stephen Starr, a very successful restaurant owner. Hosea explains that Starr owns a lot of Asian restaurants but is mainly know for his success in the biz. Padma announces with a great deal of enthusiasm (especially for her) that Starr's presence means that it's time for RESTAURANT WARS! The cheftestants clap and smile, because they've been waiting for this. Starr reminds them that success comes from not just the food, but also the décor, the service, and the ambience. For the Quickfire, they will create one dish to showcase their prospective restaurant concept. Starr will pick his two favorites. The winners don't get immunity, but they will be the owners of the two restaurants for the Elimination Challenge. Padma tells them that they have thirty minutes and can use whatever they can access in the kitchen, and sends them on their way.