Before we get started, a real moment with the chefs. Sheldon sharpens his knives every day. Stefan applies wrinkle cream every day. Discuss.
Anyway, Padma welcomes the chefs to a Quickfire Challenge with Master Bladesmith Bob Kramer. He makes custom knives that sell for $500 an inch. So yeah, you’re not picking up any of these at Williams Sonoma anytime soon. To prove they’re worth the money, Kramer demonstrates that he can cut an inch-thick knife with a single thwack. Holy crap. These would be great murder weapons for the discerning serial killer.
Once the sharp, shiny objects are put away, Padma explains the ridiculously complex challenge. There will be three elimination rounds with three teams of three. For the first round, the chefs will have to sharpen dull knives. The fastest two teams move on. Next, the teams have to tourne fifty potatoes. In the third round, the winning team splits up and each chef competes individually. The chefs must then each break down and french a rack of two rabbits. The first chef to finish the rabbits gets immunity and a Bob Kramer blade. I really think it takes Padma longer to explain the challenge than for us to see it.
Oh, and anyone who nicks themselves will be disqualified. Talk about adding insult to injury.
The sharpening begins! The Green team of Stefan, Lizzie and Brooke finishes first, and Kramer tests their blades — to win, each knife must slice through paper. Stefan’s knife cuts paper. Lizzie’s knife cuts paper. Brooke’s knife, too dull. Oh, Brooke!
Dallas John of the Red Team declares he’s ready to be tested. Kristen, his teammate, can’t believe it — her knife is too dull to pass the test, so what the heck is he thinking? Kristen’s pissed. But wait! Josie’s knife cuts paper, Kristen’s knife cuts paper — and Dallas John’s knife cuts paper, but not cleanly, so Kramer tells him to keep working. Instant karma! Dallas John hustles, passes the test, and voila, Red Team is the first to qualify for the second round.
Brooke is still playing with her stupid knife.
The Blue Team’s Sheldon, Micah and Snidely Josh try next. They all pass — and thus, Blue Team moves forward, and Green Team is out. Stefan is pissed. He wants a $4,000 knife! And, um, immunity, of course.
The two teams move onto potatoes. They’re neck and neck until Josie knicks herself and is disqualified. Dallas John and Kristen can carry on, but they have to take on Josie’s work load as well. You can guess how that goes.
Yes, Blue Team wins. It’s down to Sheldon, Micah and Snidely Josh. Snidely Josh says it’s exactly like breaking down a cat. Oh, YUCK. He’s got to be joking, right?
Micah wins. Good for him. Sheldon has knife envy, and Snidely Josh is looking for kittens to eat in the back alley.
Moving on. Elimination Challenge! The chefs must reinterpret a dish chosen for them from a memorable moment on a previous season. The winning dish will inspire a Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer, so they have to make it healthy, too. Does it also have to taste like soggy shoe leather and wet books? I’ve eaten those Cafe Steamers, and I am not impressed. Anyway, they will be cooking for super fans as well as the judges. The winner gets $15,000. Whoot! Oh, and they get to watch video of these momentous moments on Kindle Fires. Plug, plug, plug.
Interestingly enough, some of these “memorable” moments are not memorable for being focused on good food — stolen pea puree, Carla Hall getting all excited about chicken pot pie, Beverly and Heather fighting over their shared steak dish in season nine that was a huge flop with the chefs. I guess the challenge is, as usual, finding the good within the bad or the subpar.
Time for the chefs to snap up groceries and share their thoughts. Dallas John reveals that he not only hired Anthony Bourdain and introduced him to Eric Ripert, he’s Jimmy Sears in “Kitchen Confidential.” Holy bananas, people. I know Dallas John is barely containing his jerkiest self while the cameras are running, but he does have a fascinating background. I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, but I’m interested in hearing his story from a safe distance.
Snidely Josh is making pork AGAIN. He’s either insane or obsessed or both. Josie reveals that she teaches people how to lose weight and eat healthy back home. Huh. No comment.
Our judges are Wolfgang Puck and former “Top Chef Masters” contestants Wylie Dufresne of WD-50, Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, Chris Cosentino of Incanto. Oh, and Tom Colicchio.
Dallas John is making risotto and hopes to ride out the curse. Oh, Dallas John, you should have tried to put a different twist on risotto. This never, ever ends well.
Josie (food from Season 1)
Herb-roasted chicken with parsnip puree & steamed root vegetables
Stefan (food from Season 2)
Roasted red pepper soup with bacon & grilled mimolette cheese sandwich
Dallas John (food from Season 3)
Umami risotto with chicken, salmon roe, burdock root & carrot emulsion
Wylie thinks Josie roasted her chicken nicely, though the skin could have had more crunch. Jonathan thinks it’s fine but not exciting. Chris thinks Stefan’s grilled cheese sandwich is extremely rich, but Wylie thinks it’s greasy. Wolfgang likes the soup, though. Padma doesn’t like the risotto. Wylie thinks the rice is undercooked. Wolfgang thinks some is overcooked and some is undercooked. Tom thinks it’s not a good risotto.
Sheldon (food from Season 4)
Beef carpaccio with poi aioli, mizuna & mushroom salad & silken tofu foam
Lizzie (food from Season 5)
Seared scallops with roasted fennel, garlic puree, orange & olive salad
Snidely Josh (food from Season 6)
Soy-glazed pork tenderloin with smoked cashew puree & heirloom peaches
Wolfgang thinks Snidely Josh cooked the pork really well. Chris thinks Sheldon’s meat looks like a runny mess. Wylie likes the candied salmon Sheldon used, but thought the tofu had no flavor. Wolfgang thought Lizzie’s scallops had gone bad. Jonathan very wisely says she should have tossed the scallops, served the salad and admitted the scallops were bad. Tom doesn’t think the scallops are cooked well, either.
Brooke (food from Season 7)
Smoked salmon, forbidden black rice with English pea & parsnip puree
Kristen (food from Season 8)
Poached chicken breast, carrot puree with garlic & tofu emulsion
Micah (food from Season 9)
Five-spiced duck breast with miso polenta & pickled cherries
Tom likes the duck breast and the cherries. Jonathan thinks miso and polenta is a bad idea. Wolfgang thinks he should have used corn instead. Tom thinks Kristen did a great job with the chicken pot pie, and Jonathan thinks it’s unexpected and pretty cool. But Chris didn’t get the sauce everyone else did. Oh, no! Kristen! Padma thinks the salmon is very healthy but doesn’t seem excited about it. Tom thinks it’s very nicely cooked.
Padma calls back Dallas John, Snidely Josh, Kristen, Lizzie and Brooke. They served the best and worst dishes. Snidely Josh, Brooke and Kristen were the top three, but the winner is… Kristen. Whoot! She’s kicking ass in this competition. I’d love to eat her deconstructed chicken pot pie, but seriously, not as a Cafe Steamer. Blech.
As soon as the judges start critiquing, Dallas John blames his pots. Snidely Josh argues that he was able to find a perfect risotto pot. Dallas John politely suggests Snidely Josh wants him out, which is probably true. Tom tells Lizzie he was shocked she served the scallops, as it was out of character for her. I wish she’d gone with just the salad, poor dear.
But who’s going home? That will be determined after… a final cook-off! Dallas John and Lizzie must open up a Kindle Fire (plug, plug) to discover that they must make a healthy version of C.J.’s pickle burger.
Dallas John is pissed. He shouldn’t have to cook again! He had a bad pot, but Lizzie served bad food! Lizzie is relieved to get a chance to cook again.
Lizzie asks Dallas John to share the pickles, as they’re kind of necessary for each dish, and Dallas John gallantly agrees. He’s not a dick! He shares stuff! But then, Dallas John takes all of the dill. Lizzie is pissed! He can’t believe it! He shared the pickles, so what’s her problem?
Lamb burger with fried egg & spicy pickle, tomato & pomegranate salad
Wolfgang thinks the lamb could be moister. Chris thinks the salad is super flavorful.
Chicken burger with goat cheese ricotta & dill pickle roasted red pepper salad
Wolfgang thinks it has flavor and moistness. Chris thinks the salad is flavorful and refreshing. But he would have liked a wisp of salt.
Tom thinks both dishes are nice, and it will be a tough decision.
I don’t really want either of these chefs to go home. Yes, Dallas John is a jerk, but he’s an interesting jerk. Lizzie is sweet and fun and impossible not to like. They’re both talented. They’re both much better chefs than, say, Josie. So, yeah, this sucks.
Chris chooses Lizzie. Wolfgang chooses Lizzie. Tom chooses Lizzie. Padma agrees. Dallas John must pack his knives.
The risotto curse strikes AGAIN! Dallas John isn’t bitter, but he thinks this is bull. So, yes, not bitter. He thinks he should be rewarded for not stealing the pickles from Lizzie. If he wanted to be a jerk, mind you, he would have thrown three plain burgers on plates and walked out with the jar of pickles. That would have been an automatic win! You know, I’m not sure they would have gone along with that, honestly. If Lizzie told the judges Dallas John physically withheld the pickles from her, I don’t think they would have given him the win. In any case, I’m glad he wasn’t a jerk, even if he was a whiner. It’s a small difference, but for him, it’s ending on a relatively high note.