I don’t know if it’s the challenges, the contestants, or Padma’s questionable wardrobe choices, but I am starting to tire of this season of TC. Sure, there are a couple of chefs to root for, but the rest of them are definitely wearing on my patience. And holy hell, we’re on our way to episode 8, and there are STILL NINE OF THEM IN THE GAME. I am hoping there’s a mass casualty situation in our near future.
Anywho, the opening scenes at the mansion focus on Ash never having been to culinary school and Mike V. missing his two (adorable) daughters. Ruh-roh, Shaggy. Too much exposition makes a cheftestant an eliminated boy. We also learn in the beginning moments that Jen is sicky-poo, but she claims that she doesn’t want sympathy and that she’s cooked sick many a time. I’m not a germaphobe by any means, but ew.
The quickfire challenge is announced by Padma (wearing a truly terrible green jersey-knit strapless pantsuit) and guest judge Tyler Florence. The chefs have to play the slot machine to get three key words (one describing a mood, one describing a flavor, and one describing a cuisine), and they will have 45 minutes to create a dish that exemplifies those three words. Some of the combinations are really strange, but the chefs scurry about trying to make magic. There’s not too much drama during prep; Eli takes all of the mushrooms, so the numerous chefs who drew umami are pissed at him. Mike I. worries about making Asian food, as does Kevin. Ashley wonders, as do I, what to do with blue, cheesy, and Middle Eastern.
The bottom three are Robin (who tried to pass off curry as Middle Eastern, in front of Padma Lakshmi–doink), Eli (who managed to kill the umami in his mushrooms by drowning them in acid), and Jen (who claimed that putting roe on scallops was adventurous, with which Chef Florence disagreed). The top three are Mike I., Kevin, and Mike V., whose dishes all incorporated their respective words and had great balance of flavor. The winner is Kevin, with his Vietnamese-inspired char-grilled pork and daikon and herb salad. WOOT! Kevin has a choice between immunity and the $15,000 chip. He takes the money, stating that he’s not worried about immunity. From some chefs, that would seem arrogant, but it seems confident and respectable when it comes from Kevin.
Instead of learning about their elimination challenge right away, the chefs are told to head home. Ruh-roh, Shaggy. This clearly means that the elimination challenge will involve cooking at their mansion. Sure enough, when they get to the house, it has been stocked a la the Top Chef kitchen, and there are flower arrangements and extra appliances everywhere. Padma arrives with four other chefs (including guest judge Florence) and tells them that they will be cooking a family-style dinner party. Each famous chef has a bag full of ingredients, and the contestants will draw knives to pair up and determine which chef’s bag they will be using. Mike I. opines about not wanting to work with Robin, so clearly he ends up paired with Robin. He is both livid and angry about this. What range of emotion!
The chefs stampede back into the house to claim their territory. Ashley and Eli stake a pretty good spot, and they decide to make spot prawns, gnocchi, and some sort of beet sauce. Mike V. and Ash set up shop in the dining room with a bunch of electric planchas and woks, and they decide (read: Mike decides) to do a fennel ravioli and a pancetta-wrapped halibut. Kevin and Jen have Kobe in their bag, so Kevin works on cooking that while Jen makes a tomato chutney sauce of some kind. Mike I. is freaking out about all of the Asian ingredients, and he basically ignores and patronizes Robin while he figures out what to do with the dish (despite the fact that Robin loves Asian flavors and cooks with them all the time). I have no idea what Bryan and Laurine are doing, as they are basically non-entities for most of the show.
After Tom walks through, things start to get mildly interesting. Mike V. and Ash have tripped the circuits, causing the plancha to go cold in the middle of cooking the fish. No bueno. They go into the kitchen and Ashley lets them use the stovetop, but those temperature changes cannot be good for the halibut. Speaking of Ashley, she tastes the gnocchi and finds it to be much saltier than it was when she put Eli in charge of it. There’s also some question about whether the prawns are cooked properly.
Dinnertime! The judges taste Ashley and Eli’s “Grilled Spot Prawns with Red Beet Sauce, Creme Fraiche Gnocchi and Kale,” and they hone in on its saltiness and unpleasurable texture. One of the judges makes it sound like a human rights violation that the prawns were undercooked. Folks seem to like Mike I. and Robin’s “Marinated Mushroom and Pickled Pear Roll, Seared Tuna and Scallop, Truffle Ponzu.” When it comes to halibut, Bryan and Laurine’s “Halibut and Sherry-Chorizo Vinagrette Yellow Corn Cake and Avocado Mousse” is the judges’ favorite, and they like the way the chorizo plays off the other flavors. Everyone loves Kevin and Jen’s “Kobe Beef with Tomato-Cardomon Broth, Petit Bok Choy and Asian Pear,” saying that it is really balanced. Unfortunately, Mike V. and Ash’s “Pancetta Wrapped Halibut with Egg Yolk Ravioli, Fennel and Asparagus” was overcooked, and there seems to be some issue with the choice of placing the ravioli on top of the fish.
The judges’ favorites are Kevin/Jen and Bryan/Laurine. The winner ends up being Jen, and she takes home a $10,000 Macy’s gift certificate for her troubles. She adorably quips that Kevin will probably get a new suit out of the deal, because he had a little something to do with their win. See, she seems like she’s all business, but I just KNOW that Jen is a fiesty little thing and that she and I would be besties.
The bottom teams are Ashley/Eli and Mike V./Ash. Ashley gets called out about serving gnocchi for an outdoor dinner, about the saltiness of the dish, and about the improper cooking of the prawns. She quietly fesses up to just about everything, which annoys me because I feel like Eli should have discussed his role in things a little bit more. At first they were painting him as the snarky, funny guy, but now he’s coming off like more of a weasel. As for Mike V. and Ash, it becomes quickly clear that Mike V. was the driving force of the dish and that Ash was the #2 guy. It also becomes clear that Ash is enamored (at least in a chefly way) with Mike V., as he launches into a love-fest and compares his own role in the challenge to “cleaning paintbrushes for Picasso.” Tom snarks about how maybe Ash has gone as far as possible in the competition, and Tyler Florence admonishes Mike V. for using the electricity as an excuse.
At the end of the day, it was Ashley’s turn to pack her knives and go. She was pretty emotional about it, but I give her a lot of credit for avoiding the typical exit line of, “This isn’t going to change how I cook my food,” instead opting for the more humble and truthful, “I still have a lot to learn about food and cooking.” Thanks for the classy exit, Ashley.
What did everyone think about the episode?