Quickfire Challenge. Guest judge is Scott Conant, chef at Scarpetta. To promote the Superbowl, the chefs have to pick a square that earns them two ingredients, but it's a blind choice. Turns out they all have to work with oats (product placement alert!) and their ingredient. Jamie gets fruit, Leah gets seafood, Fabio gets vegetables, Stefan gets dairy, Hosea gets meat, Carla gets nuts and grains, and Jeff gets poultry. They have forty-five minutes to create a dish with oats and their ingredient. The losers are: Leah, who made an oatmeal-crusted fish, but her fish was overcooked; Fabio, who made oat-crusted eggplant that was too oatmeally; and Jeff, who did an oatmeal-crusted chicken that was too heavy and his presentation was monochromatic. The top two are Carla, with a pecan and oat-crusted tofu with a lentil salad and Jamie, with a coconut and oatmeal-crusted shrimp with nectarines and avocado crème fraiche. The winner is Stefan, with a banana mousse with oats and two oat-almond petit fours, making him a five-time challenge winner. He doesn't get immunity, but he does get an advantage in the next challenge.
Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants are given jerseys and then introduced to their opponents -- former cheftestants S4 Andrew, S2 Josie, S1 Andrea, S4 Spike, S3 Camille, S4 Nikki, and S1 Miguel. They will have twenty minutes to create a regional dish based on an NFL team, and will be cooking in front of an audience of culinary students. The ingredients have been pre-chosen based on the city, so there's no shopping to be done.
They have two hours to test out their ingredients and cooking styles, and can do some prep, but they're not allowed to pre-cook anything. Only raw ingredients can be brought to the competition. On the day of, we learn that after the competitors cook head-to-head, the judges will award seven points to one chef, and the fan tasters will award three points to one chef. Anyone from the home team (current season's cheftestants) that loses will be eligible for elimination. The team with the highest cumulative score wins.
New York Giants: Leah vs. Nikki. Leah earns seven points with a seared strip steak and Nikki earns three points with chicken livers.
Seattle Seahawks: Hosea vs. Miguel. Hosea wins all ten points with a crispy salmon roll.
New Orleans Saints: Carla vs. Andrew. Carla wins the first unanimous judges' decision with her crawfish gumbo for seven points, but Andrew takes three points with his crawfish crudo.
Dallas Cowboys: Stefan vs. Andrea. The judges are split, so the fans get to make the decision and they vote for Andrea's Tex-Mex chili and she gets the full ten points. Stefan gets knocked down a few pegs, for sure. ["Especially since he picked to go against Andrea thinking she'd be easy to beat. Love it." -- Angel]
San Francisco 49ers: Jamie vs. Camille. The judges are split again, but the fans choose Jamie this time for her crab cioppino, and she earns all ten points.
Miami Dolphins: Jeff vs. Josie. They both make a rock shrimp ceviche, and the judges and the fans like it better, so Josie gets all ten points.
Green Bay Packers: Fabio vs. Spike. The score is 34 to 26, so Spike has to get all ten points for his team to win. Spike wins the seven points from the judges but Fabio gets the three points from the fans, so the current season's cheftestants win.
Carla, Hosea, Leah, and Jamie are called back in as winners, since they won their head-to-head competitions. The judges have nice things to say about each of their dishes, but Carla wins, and gets two tickets to the Super Bowl. ["And her eyes literally pop out of her head." -- AC] Fabio, Stefan, and Jeff are sent in as the losers. Fabio makes excuses for why his meat was overcooked. Stefan didn't use the strong flavors that Texas deserved. Jeff gets kind of snobby and can't understand why they liked Josie's dish better, when his was so much more difficult to make. The judges don't agree that his dish was more difficult, and Jeff is eliminated. Jeff's inability to keep it simple is his downfall.
The producers managed to slip at least three product placements into the first five seconds of footage, so applause there, guys. Look, I get that networks have to make money; frankly, the more money Bravo makes, the more secure my gig is, so it's in my self-interest to hope they do well. That said, there's product placement that doesn't interfere with the program but still puts the product in a good light, and then there's product placement that makes the show feel like an infomercial. And we're about to see some of the latter. Carla makes some oatmeal (spoiler alert!) as she muses to the camera that she dodged a bullet in the last challenge, and she hasn't really shown off her classical training, since she's been making desserts in almost every challenge.
I bet you've been wondering what's going on with the Leah/Hosea relationship. No? You weren't wondering? Too bad, because it's time for an update. Leah interviews that she and Hosea kissed, and she regrets it, and she's trying to move forward and focus on her cooking. Happily, that's about the last mention of it this week. Over breakfast, Hosea, Leah, Fabio, and Stefan discuss who got the shitstick at Judges' Table. I only mention this because there's a callback later in the episode. Hosea interviews that Stefan is winning a lot of challenges, and Hosea kind of wants to see Stefan taken down a peg, especially since the number of cheftestants is dwindling. And this is a zero-sum game -- Hosea has to hope someone else falls down on the job so that he can step over his or her corpse and rise to the top, especially since the majority of the people left in the competition are at least competent and mostly talented. Or at least have shown they have the ability to win challenges.
Quickfire Challenge. The cheftestants enter the kitchen and find Padma with Scott Conant, who just earned a three-star review from the New York Times for his restaurant Scarpetta. The part that cracks me up is that Padma only holds up two fingers when she says three stars. I wonder how many takes they did before they were like, "Whatever, no one will notice. She kind of stuck her thumb out so we'll count it." Padma explains that, in honor of the Super Bowl, the cheftestants will be completing a challenge based on a grid, like your office pool. Which, by the way, won me zero dollars, so I'm bitter. Anyway, the chefs will pick a square blindly, and then Padma will reveal what ingredient and food group intersect at their chosen square.