Quickfire Challenge: Michael Chiarello welcomes the cheftestants to Napa Valley. Their challenge is to cook a dish that features grapes, but they have to cook it in 30 minutes on a moving train, and the prize is a Prius. Michael wins with a stuffed grape leaf topped with a grape branch that he used as a skewer to serve a grape and scallop kebab. Chiarello is impressed with the "story" he told, although it seems like the story was just, "GRAPES!" But he won the car.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs have to cook from 100% local ingredients and cater the Rutherford Hill Winery's annual Crush Party for 150 people. They have to create two dishes: one vegetarian, and one using a local protein, and they'll have five hours to cook. And here's what they made:
Kevin: His protein dish was grass-fed brisket with pumpkin polenta and marinated root vegetables, and his vegetarian dish was roasted beets and carrots with carrot top purée and San Andreas cheese. The judges think that his vegetarian dish is perfect, but while the polenta is good, the brisket is a bit ropy and tinny.
Jen: Her protein dish was grilled duck breast (but she ended up not grilling it because the coals weren't hot enough), braised duck legs, squash purée and foie gras vinaigrette, and her vegetarian dish was Chèvre mousse with honey mushrooms, braised radishes and basil. The judges thought she made the best use of the seasonal ingredients, and her ingredients went together well.
Bryan: His protein dish was fig-glazed short ribs, celeriac purée, wax beans and wild arugula and his vegetarian dish was goat cheese ravioli, delicata squash purée and bronze fennel. The judges like the textures but think some of his food is underseasoned.
Michael: His protein dish was turnip soup with foie gras terrine, poached pear and glazed turnip, and his vegetarian dish was vegetable pistou, heirloom tomato coulis, 63-degree egg and fennel. They think the egg is a little overwhelming (and slightly undercooked) and worry that the foie gras flavor kind of disappears in the protein dish.
When the dust settles, Bryan is declared the winner and he seems more stunned than anyone. And then Jennifer is told to pack her knives and go, and it seems like it's because she accidentally let the fire go out. Then again, it was probably the toughest final four ever, and Jennifer should hold her head up. And the producers are happy because they have the sibling rivalry for the finals, plus the Kevin's Simple Food versus Michael's Complicated Food rivalry. Can't wait to see how it all turns out!
The four remaining cheftestants, having had some time off, now travel to Napa Valley for their final two Elimination Challenges. Jen arrives first, at a train station that looks like something out of a postcard, with autumn leaves and everything. Jen has let her hair go wavy, and it looks much better and less brittle. She interviews that being in the top four means nothing, because she just wants to win.
Next to arrive is Michael, rolling a suitcase and carrying an umbrella. He interviews that he wants to be the top chef, and he doesn't care whose feelings he hurts to get there. He and Jen greet one another, and Jen asks if he's talked to his brother. Michael admits that they've talked a little trash back and forth, and Jen chuckles that she's not surprised.
Kevin is next up, and oh dear. He's grown his hair out and it's not a good look. He was much cuter with the short hair. He just doesn't have enough hair to make longer hair work. Anyway, he interviews that he's always vowed to make it to the finale, and he thinks he has the ability to make it to the finale. He greets the others and joins them on a bench. Jen notices that he still has his beard and Kevin says with awe that there's a Facebook page devoted to people who support his beard.
The final remaining cheftestant, Bryan, arrives in the rain. He interviews that he wants to win for his son, because after six weeks away, greeting his son in the airport coming home was awesome, and he doesn't want to spend more time away.
Their extremely slow-motion train arrives and Bryan jokes that they'd better not push him in front of it. Kevin laughs that Padma will probably get out wearing a conductor's hat. Instead, Padma gets out wearing a white sweater dress and sporting some brand new bangs and her brand new baby bump. She welcomes the cheftestants and introduces Michael Chiarello, my nemesis from Top Chef Masters. He's a great choice for a Napa Valley challenge, though.
Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish that features Napa Valley's signature crop, the grape. They will have a full pantry and thirty minutes to cook... while traveling via train. Kevin is worried, because he gets motion sick very easily. Padma announces that it's the last high stakes Quickfire, so the winner will get a Prius. Now that's a prize worth playing for. None of this signed cookbook bullshit.