Colicchio's blue chef's coat finally strides into the kitchen for a Holiday Sniff and Sneer (It caaaame up-o-on a sniff and sneer, that glo-o-rious ti-ime of food! With ju-dges b-e-ending near their plates to hone their snar-arks of rude!) Colicchio does the usual: he checks in with the cheftestants, he expresses skepticism, and he leaves. He learns three things of note: that Stephen's staying away from wine pairings, that Marcel is steering clear of molecular gastronomy, and that Tre is trying to be "a lot leaner" by staying away from carbs (is that why he was drinking milk earlier?).
The cheftestants serve their first course, and Padma introduces the judges: Colicchio, Gail, Ted, Principal Portale, Ripert, Alan Wong (so cute!), Elizabeth Falkner, and Norm Van Aken. Next, the cheftestants describe their first courses. Marcel explains he's serving them a roasted monkfish with prosciutto peperonata (it's a cooked condiment of pepper, onion, tomato, and garlic, which Bravo thinks is spelled "peppernata." Again, get a friggin' copy of Food Lover's Companion, freakshows!), parsley root (tastes like a celery and carrot hybrid), and a parsley puree. Tiffani points out her bacon-roasted apples with Brussels sprouts, grapes, and a chicken-cider jus. Okay, that's just the nth power of yum. Josie's duo of duck is a crispy duck leg with sour cherry and fig chutney, and the breast. Stephen explains that his crispy celery root gnocchi is served with a truffle-asparagus jus with Parmigiano-Reggiano. CJ's clever take on a traditional prime rib is a beef carpaccio salad with roasted and marinated beets, endive, radicchio, and horseradish cream. Tre's seared diver scallops are accompanied by wilted chard, butternut squash puree, and pomegranate brown butter. WANT! Sandee made a wild mushroom soup, and in each Chinese soupspoon, there's a bacon-hazelnut puree, a mushroom puree, and egg. The egg looks hard-cooked and chopped, but the bacon-hazelnut puree doesn't look as moist as a puree, and instead just looks crumbled or chopped. So, do the diners only get that minute amount of the accompaniments in one bite, or are they supposed to sprinkle it in the soup themselves and stir it around? It seems fussier than it needs to be. Betty's cherry-duck baklava looks like a chocolate-drizzled dessert. Not a good start. The baklava is served over chanterelles sautéed in duck fat and drizzled with a port-onion reduction. Oh, my god -- thank god we're getting rid of two of these people soon! I can't handle the mass listing of dishes.