Quickfire Challenge, judged by Mark Peel, is to create an "out of this world" dish using potatoes. Preeti mistakenly uses Ashley's pot of boiling water and Ashley flips out, since she is trying to boil gnocchi and lost about 15 minutes. Eli, Ron and Jesse get dinged for their dishes, mostly due to either poor seasoning or a bad combination of ingredients. Jennifer, Ash and Ashley are the top three, so I guess Preeti's mistake didn't totally screw Ashley over. Jennifer wins, though. Mike I. thinks she won due to favoritism, which is a totally bullshit argument since the guest judge picks the Quickfire winner. What an asshole.
Elimination Challenge: Create a meal for 300 airmen at Nellis Air Force Base. They all have to work together as a team, so they split up into teams of two, with Jen running the kitchen since she has immunity, and the culinary theme of American food. Jesse and Ron get stuck together as the last two picked, and don't seem happy about it, since both of them have been at the bottom of some challenges. With four hours to cook, the chefs arrive at the base and find out that most of their available ingredients are canned goods and dry products, and the cooking equipment is not exactly top-of-the-line.
The biggest conflict while cooking is that there just aren't enough cooking vessels, even though Jen seems to be organizing and coordinating everything really well. Ron and Jesse, in particular, are concerned that they won't get the cooking time that they need. Jen also awesomely shuts down all extraneous conversations and tells Hector to stop talking and start cooking. I might have a crush on her.
Here are the dishes that each pairing made:
Mike and Mike: Greek salad with cucumbers, chickpeas, olives and olive oil-poached shrimp AND braised pork belly with soy-mustard sauce and peanuts
Preeti and Laurine: Pasta salad with broccoli, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts
Jesse and Ron: New England clam chowder with roasted corn
Hector and Robin: Three-bean chili with roasted chicken
Eli and Kevin: Georgia-style braised pork shoulder and potato salad
Bryan and Mattin: Roasted beef strip loin with mushroom demi-glace and cauliflower gratin
Ash and Ashley: Chocolate bread pudding with peanut butter sauce
The top pairs are Eli and Kevin with their barbecue, and Mike and Mike with their two dishes. Once the judges find out that the two Mikes basically went their separate ways and did separate dishes, it’s easy for them to award the win to Mike V., who was responsible for the braised pork belly dish.
Kind of awesomely, the judges call back Mike I. with the other losers, Preeti and Laurine. Mike I. is stunned, not realizing that admitting he had zero to do with the winning dish and instead turning out his lame Greek salad might mean he could go home. Colicchio tries to get Preeti and Laurine to admit which one of them decided on pasta salad, but they either won't or can't. And then I don't know what happened to piss everyone off, but the judges are VERY prickly and bitchy, so I don't know what got edited out unless Mike I. just started yelling at everyone. They might have been frustrated by Preeti and Laurine's refusal to incriminate each other over the lame pasta salad. Anyway, the judges decide that since Laurine was actually embarrassed by her lame dish and Preeti didn't see the problem, that Preeti should pack her knives and go.
Morning in the Vegas Mansion. Ashley and Jen lie in bed and write notes in little notepads. Thinking up recipes? Journal entries? Letters home? Jen interviews that she's pissed that the women lost the wedding challenge. Meanwhile, Mike I, Eli, and Michael V. sit outside as Mike I. regrets the amount of gel he put in his hair this morning. Okay, he doesn't say it, but he should. Instead, he talks about how they have two challenges down and fourteen more to go, and it's only going to get tougher from here. Invisible Laurine interviews that she's intimidated by some of the other cheftestants because she graduated from culinary school long ago and she refused to give up her life in order to "be a rock star chef."
Jesse, Preeti, Laurine, and Ash hang out together outside and discuss how their room (the women of the group that is) is getting lonely since both who have been eliminated thus far were their roommates. I think I would move out. They also think that Eve was the nicest person there, even nicer than Ash. He totally agrees, and they joke that Ash is kind of a dick. Jesse interviews that she's been in the bottom for nearly every challenge so far, and she knows she's better than that, but she has to prove it to the judges. At some later point, everyone puts on their chef's coats and heads to the M Resort to begin the next challenge.
Quickfire Challenge. The cheftestants enter the kitchen and find Padma, Mark Peel (who I now know from Top Chef Masters), and a mountain of all different varieties of potatoes. For those who didn't watch Masters, Mark Peel is a California chef who began his career as "vegetable boy" to Wolfgang Puck. I don't really want to think about what that means. Anyway, inspired by that task, the cheftestants have forty-five minutes to create an "out-of-this-world" potato dish. Jesse interviews that they have access to every kind of potato you could ever want. Padma calls time and they all rush over to the potato mountain (anyone hearing Neil Young in your head: "Born to live on potato mountain..."?).
Jen wants to do a potato sauce but forty-five minutes might not be long enough to cook potatoes. She grabs mussels and is concerned about the seasoning. Ron accents that he is like Bob Marley with music, and he wants his food to represent peace and love. Hopefully, it also represents yum and wow. Ash is going to make sweet potato ice cream, which makes sense I guess, but I like my ice cream traditional. One of the Voltaggio brothers is using some sort of blow torch. Jesse interviews that she thought of sweet potato soup, and she wants to make it spicy. Mike I. is cutting the potato into rice-sized pieces and cooking it like risotto and he lectures all of us that risotto is a style of cooking, and has nothing to do with rice. Shut up, dick. I know now why Mike is on this show instead of something where he might win his own cooking show -- he's an asshole and no one would watch his show. There are ways to teach people without being a jerk.
Preeti is making potatoes with asparagus because she likes the color combination. What about the flavor combination? Kevin offers to let her use his boiling water to blanch her asparagus since he's done with it. Preeti explains that she ran over to cut her asparagus, and apparently while she was doing that, Ashley put a pot of water on next to Kevin's. So of course, Preeti dumps her asparagus into Ashley's water. Ashley notices and is fairly even-keeled about it, considering, but basically tells Preeti to get her green vegetables out so Ashley can cook her gnocchi. Preeti overcompensates, and dumps out the vegetable water and starts a new pot to boil, which was dumb to do without asking Ashley first -- she may have been fine using the asparagus water since the vegetables were probably only in there for a few minutes and it could be the difference between Ashley finishing or not finishing her dish.
So then I don't know what the fuck happens but Ashley runs over to the sink and dumps out a pot of water (the one Preeti put on for her?) and maybe gets a smaller pot, thinking it will boil faster? I don't know. But she is cursing up a storm. I mean, it was an honest mistake, but I would be pretty pissed, because if she can't cook her gnocchi, she doesn't really have a dish. I thought her reaction was about right. She certainly didn't overreact, really. Jen interviews that Ashley was even nicer than she would have been, so there you go.
Ash is trying to get the ice cream maker to work, and he's running out of time. He actually calls the ice cream maker a "mother flower" which cracks me up. Jesse is worried that her soup is too spicy and not balanced, but she doesn't appear to do anything to change it. I don't know if she didn't have time or what, but I would think she could have added some cream or some broth or something to water it down a bit more, although that would have affected texture, I guess.
Time's up! Ash is up first with his chilled sweet potato custard with toasted pecans. It looks pretty soupy. Mark Peel likes the texture. Bryan made sunchoke & Yukon gold vichyssoise with applewood smoked caviar. Mark appreciates that it's not gluey. Preeti made saffron poached Russian banana fingerlings with asparagus and tomatoes. It's a very colorful plate, I'll give her that. Michael V. made a confit tuna and potato sandwich. Mark thinks it's a bit underdone but the flavor balance is great. Jen made potatoes three ways: steamed mussels, Yukon gold and blue potatoes with lemongrass potato sauce. Padma says it's very nice.
Deep breath! There are still a lot of contestants! Robin (who, if not for winning that chip in the first episode would be almost as invisible as Invisible Laurine so far) made purple and fingerling potatoes, white yams with pancetta, frisee and fried egg. That seems like a lot going on. Hector made steamed sweet potato with fish sauce and lime, and it kind of looks like an orange toasted marshmallow. He added purple potatoes and ham, which looks like a purple sponge, and then smashed fingerlings with yeast, yellow chile, slow-cooked eggs, and cream. I think he would have been better off focusing on one great dish for a Quickfire. That's a bit much.
Invisible Laurine made a vegetarian potato burger with a portabella mushroom bun and fingerling chips. Mark loves the chips. Mattin made poached cod with blue, Yukon, and sweet potato purees. I'm so over the purees, and this really looks like a bunch of baby food. If this showed up on my table at a restaurant, I don't think I'd want to eat it. Kevin made bacon-braised yam with potato sauce, asparagus, mushroom, and cauliflower. He has a detailed explanation of why he chose the vegetables he chose, so a lot of thought went into it. Mike I. made a potato risotto with king crab and mascarpone. Mark thinks it's a little salty but Padma likes the idea. Ashley made potato gnocchi with Hen of the Woods mushrooms and ricotta. After all that drama, I guess Ashley's dish got cooked in time. She made the ricotta cheese herself. Ashley's hair is either super sweaty or super greasy and it's really grossing me out and making me never want to eat her food.
Eli went Southern and made a yam puree with pistachios, whipped bliss, and bourbon maple syrup. Even though Eli used shelled pistachios, Padma still gets a shell in her bite, and Eli knows that probably killed him. Ron made sweet potato crusted yellowtail with fennel and leek stew. Mark likes the side dish a lot. Jesse made a sweet potato soup with ginger, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. Mark likes the texture and color, but it's really spicy. I just figured out who Jessie totally reminds me of, and no one but me is going to get this reference -- she is totally Katie from the second season of The Mole, right down to her mannerisms.
The cheftestants gather and Mark explains that since he competed in Masters, he understands how difficult it is to work against the clock. Mark's least favo