Ming Tsai and his choker join Padma for the Quickfire challenge -- a blind taste test in which each cheftestant must showcase their refined palate by selecting which of a pair of ingredients -- butter, caviar, crab, syrup, sake, soy sauce, etc. -- is of higher quality. With only six out of fifteen, Stephanie ends up at the bottom, while Antonia wins with a solid twelve. Ryan and Jen tie for second with eleven, and Zoi gets all pissed that she got beat by her girlfriend.
For elimination, four teams of three (based on the four elements -- earth, water, fire and air) will cook the first dish at a fundraiser dinner with for 80 guests and an unidentified assortment of celebrity chefs. On Team Fire, Dale and Lisa butt heads while Stephanie watches and worries; Mark joins Team Water with Richard and Andrew (working together again). On Team Earth, immune Antonia works with Zoi and Spike, which leaves Ryan, Jen, Nikki, and Water.
Team Fire extends its allotted fifteen-minute planning period, dramatically racing around Whole Foods before finally settling on spicy shrimp with a chili salad. Enhancing the feeling of déjà vu, Richard, acting as executive chef of Team Water, decides to cook salmon (sous vide) with faux caviar. Team Earth selects a beef Carpaccio with mushrooms, while Team Air goes with duck breast. None of which, except the shrimp, work out very well.
Lisa wins the challenge for doing something with bacon that Ming has never seen. Out of nowhere (or from the stipulated charity purchase made by Top Chef in exchange for inclusion in the event), Lisa also wins a five-day Italian getaway, which irks Dale since all she did was make bacon.
Richard falls flat for serving salmon with scales on it, and tools out during judging when he tries to pretend he didn't know they were there. Team Earth's dish was the least favorite of both the guests and the judges, however, and they get savaged for allowing someone with immunity to dictate the choices.
Though Colicchio wants to send both Spike and Zoi home, it's Zoi that goes packing for underseasoning her mushrooms, and all the pent-up lesbian drama fizzles out. So it was all about gay dignity in the end (a gay couple can be professional and competitive!). Oh, and all that yelling they promised last week? Doesn't even happen until after the loser has left the building.
As the morning routines commence (exercise, knife sharpening), Antonia's still focused on the night before, and feels that being in the bottom with Zoi "was just such shit." Zoi, ever the optimist (heh), believes that she deserves to be there, and wants to stay positive instead of stewing over what she too believes was an unwarranted trashing. In a way, thinks Zoi, that kind of criticism can be helpful, as it "lights a little fire under your ass."
Jen, ever the devoted girlfriend, comes to Zoi's defense, testifying to her "talent and skill" and admits that as a "fan," she gets bent out of shape when she feels like Zoi is being unreasonably attacked. Based on Zoi's performance to date, Jen must spend a lot of time being bent out of shape. It was a quick morning at the cheftestant house, and as the gang takes off for the kitchen, Ryan helpfully reminds us that two men and two women have been eliminated.
This week, Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger Restaurant, host of Simply Ming, and user of ceramic knives, brings his ugly choker to join Padma, eschewing blue for a black blouse with puffy sleeves, as guest judge. I think Ming's great -- I like the premise of his show, where he chooses one master ingredient and makes several dishes with it, and his food always looks great, although Ming himself is looking a tad bloated. As Lisa explains, "Ming is best known for his east meets west cuisine," and, as she loves his food, she's "all grins," which, if indeed that were the case, would be a nice contrast to her shit-smell mask (but, even all grins, Lisa looks like a sourpuss).
"Good taste" sums up this week's Quickfire, explains Padma, droning that "one of the most important weapons in a chef's arsenal is his palate," cleverly letting us know where the palate is by sleepily raising a finger toward her lips. Ming jumps in with this pearl of wisdom: "If you can't tell what tastes good, then you shouldn't be cooking." In order to ascertain how "truly sensitive" each cheftestant's palate is (and here Padma whips out a black blindfold, acting like it's something naughty and inspiring giggles all around), it's time for a BLIND TASTE TEST! "If I was standing on a couch I would be jumping up and down," says Antonia. OK, really, who measures their level of excitement by imagining being a batshit-crazy Tom Cruise on Oprah? I suppose it's a fairly exact expression of, uh, insane enthusiasm, but it's disarming that Tom represents her go-to place when something strikes her fancy.