Wylie Dufresne, molecular gastronomist extraordinaire and sporter of the deconstructed fauxhawk (one step ahead of you, Richard), shows up to judge the Quickfire, which pits the cheftestants against ten ingredients: salt, pepper, sugar, olive oil and canola oil, and five more that they must choose at the local Green City farmer's market. You'd think they'd be taken somewhere good, but judging by how disappointed everyone seems, it's more like the tented version of a crappy corner shop. After accidentally tossing his salad, Mark wisely decides to resort to butter, which makes everything better.
Spike's disappointing meat (as in what he bought at the market), Erik's underwhelming lamb, and Richard's oily chicken make it to Wylie's bottom, while Andrew -- oh, Andrew -- gets disqualified for not listening. Mark pulls it out at the end, winning immunity for his buttery steak with turnips, mushrooms and peaches.
Elimination knife-drawing separates the group into five teams of three -- each named for an animal: vulture, bear, lion, penguin, and gorilla. Sadly, these aren't the meats to be cooked -- the challenge is to cater a staff party at the Lincoln Park Zoo with finger foods inspired by what each animals eats. That, Padma, is truly high concept.
After $500 at Whole Foods, the teams spend three hours in the kitchen before they have to take their animal tasting menu to the zoo and set up catering stations and sell their dishes to 200 guests -- and four judges. Gail's back this week, along with Padma, Colicchio and Dufresne.
Both birds fare well -- Andrew takes ultimate honors as leader of the Penguins. The Bears and the Gorillas end up in the losing half -- the former for a collaborative mushroom experiment gone wrong, and the latter for a watery crab salad (so, gorillas eat crabs?) and some badly-done blinis. Ultimately, Valerie goes packing, but not before getting upset at Antonia for throwing her under the bus, even though it ‘s clear Antonia had nothing to do with the fact that Valerie's blinis sucked.
There's nothing more than innocent croc-swapping from the lesbian couple, but boy is there a whole lot of gay.
As the sun rises in Chicago, yawning and stretching begins, while Stephanie and Valerie enjoy some female bonding time over a yoga mat and a fitness ball. There's not much yoga going on, but we do get close-ups of Stephanie's intense looking workout (and reach, and reach) -- she helps set the tone by confiding that she was singing "Eye of the Tiger" on the way into the challenge. Relishing her post-win high, Stephanie keeps reminding herself that "just because you won the first challenge, doesn't mean that you're going to win all the challenges." Uh, thanks, Einstein. Way to set expectations. Valerie, with a rounded, girly voice that I don't enjoy and that I didn't notice last week (and who reminds me a little of Rachel Dratch, who I do enjoy), digs Stephanie and her Rocky vibe. They used to work together at a restaurant, says Valerie, and she hopes that "they'll get to compete together" in an upcoming challenge.
Spike good-naturedly ribs Mark, who found the previous challenge "humbling" and expresses faith in his abilities for today's Quickfire. In their bedroom, Jen and Zoi do an odd croc-switching mating ritual dance, as Zoi explains that, upon finding themselves both on the show, they decided to "look at it as, like, a job." Jennifer says that she's "keeping a little distance," so perhaps we are to understand that we're watching a pale substitute for sex. They keep using "could" and "maybe" when they discuss competing against one another, like they're not quite ready to acknowledge that it's going to happen. I'd be freaking out if I was put in a situation like that with a partner -- I can't imagine it going anywhere pleasant.
The Quickfire begins at Chicago's outdoor Green City Market. Ryan's psyched, because after last week's debacle, he wants to show he can "cook simple and cook clean," which pretty much sums up the challenge. Padma commands a "delicious entrée with ingredients from this market." Five ingredients, to be exact. Well, kind of more than five, because they can use salt, pepper, sugar, salt, and oil, but each cheftestant must choose only five ingredients from the market or from the Top Chef pantry. The winner gets immunity this time, and they have 30 minutes to shop.
Everyone takes off running (Richard barely misses a little kid), which they soon discover is really not the best way to savor what lovely things a farmer's market has to offer. Spike goes with the flow, chilling to the sound stylings of an acoustic guitarist before ambling off to find his fare. It's kind of cavalier, but I like his nonchalant attitude toward the Quickfire. Richard decides to go for some eucalyptus in order to "be as different as I can." I'll be curious to see how he uses it -- it's wonderfully fragrant, but I'm sure it could easily overwhelm just about anything. ["Yeah, Chicken Vapo-Rub sounds like a good idea, but man, it's really not." -- Joe R]