By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey
8:27 AM EST, December 20, 2012
As we join the chefs post-Eliza, there's a quiet reflectiveness in the stew room.
The cheftestants all agree she had a "great personality" and was "sweet and funny." Josh is swearing off pork, claiming he "doesn't have any underwear left" after two failed porcine dishes.
Danyele recounts Tom's advice to her to not be so nervous, and she nervously announces her determination to do so. Danyele is growing on me. I want to see her get a win.
The next morning, Padma is joined by Season 4 Winner Stephanie Izard. She is the only woman to win Top Chef. "So far." she adds. Ya hear that, ladies?
For this week's quickfire, the chefs can cook anything they want, using any ingredient they want. The hitch is that the entire pantry -- every single ingredient -- is wrapped in Reynolds wrap aluminum foil. The chefs can unwrap any ingredient they want, but once it's unwrapped, they must use it in their dish.
Additionally, they are only allowed to use the foil as their cooking vessel. No pans, pots, or prep dishes. This is a pretty ridiculous roundabout way to get a product placement in, but I must admit I cackled at the goofy novelty of it.
They have 30 minutes. The gang heads to the pantry. "What's my protein, goat balls?" Stefan asks as he unwraps what he's grabbed out of the fridge. "Salmon," he announces, somewhat disappointedly.
John is horrified to find he has grabbed a pineapple, which he thought was "a pot of herbs." Out of all the food items in the world that one might be able to identify by shape, don't you think pineapple would be one of them? Again, maybe John should keep his glasses on his face and off his forehead.
Kristen is going to make a sponge cake -- which Danyele describes as "pretty ballsy" since they have no pans to work with. For a second I think that Bart is accessorizing with the Reynolds wrap by making a really festive hat, but he's in fact using his head as a mold to create a saucepan. He admits this challenge is a lot of fun.
Stephanie and Padma taste all the dishes. It's remarkable what the chefs were able to do with no cooking vessels. Only Micah's seems to have clearly failed; his lamb is way undercooked.
Stephanie's least favorite dishes are Brook's raw oniony roasted yams, Micah's still bleating lamb chop, and Josh's uninspired roasted chicken.
The top three picks are Danyele's (yay!) cannellini bean stew, Kristen's almond sponge cake, and Sheldon's smoky scallops. The Reynolds Wrap crown goes to Kristen, who has immunity for the elimination challenge.
For that, the team will head to Remlinger Farms Berry Festival, where they will be cooking with assorted berries in head-to-head challenges. This means that two chefs will prepare dishes with the same ingredient, and each battle will have its own winner and loser.
Since Kristen has immunity she won't have a challenger, but she'll still have a chance to win. The five chefs who placed highest in the Quickfire get to pick their opponents.
Sheldon picks Micah, so he can push himself to win against the "young gun" (also maybe because Micah hasn't won a single challenge?)
Danyele picks Josh, so they can have a Texas-Oklahoma battle (also maybe because he's been in the bottom three challenges in a row?)
Stefan selects John, as they are the oldest two competitors.
Josie takes Lizzie, and in her interview Lizzie warns the she should not be underestimated.
This leaves Bart to pair up with Brooke, who is quick to point out being the last person picked is actually a huge compliment. No one wants to battle her because she kicked so much ass last week.
The berry festival's 150 guests will help decide the winner, who will get $10,000. The chefs lift up their cloches to find out what berry they will cook with. I am deeply disappointed no one gets snozberries.
Shopping gets underway. Stefan wants to make a gooseberry tuna sashimi, but Sheldon has snatched up all the fresh tuna at the fish counter. He heads over to the frozen section. John is horrified: "This is 'Top Chef,' who uses frozen fish?"
Back at the apartment, John and Stefan spar half-heartedly over frozen fish-gate, holding up L-signs to their respective foreheads. Splayed out on the couch, Stefan claims he will win as he snuggles up against Kristen's hip. Oh, Kristen. Sweet, young Kristen. You will regret this on-camera flirtation later in life, I assure you.
The next morning, the crew heads to Remlinger Farm and sprints to a gazebo, which will serve as their kitchen. Danyele seems to be coming out of her shell a bit, as she loses patience and barks at the team to make room so she can have a workspace.
Bart asks for a blender and spies one near John. John claims he's using it. He says this as he's bent over unpacking something. "No, you're not," Bart points out, and goes for the blender. John shrieks at him and Bart stomps off, F-bombs dropping left and right. "Do I hear blending? No."
Josh starts his blender as John and Danyele work nearby and the lid flies off, spraying them all with steaming white hot pain. Quote of episode, as Danyele lifts a tray of crostini over Josh, smirking: "Over your head, d---head."
Kristen, who is unopposed, explains why she wants to win: With $10,000 she could travel to Korea. She was given up by her birth mother there when she was four months old, and was then adopted by a U.S. family. She wants to see where she came from. You can't not root for her after seeing her baby and family photos.
Tom sidles up to the gazebo to check in on everyone. He seems less interested in learning about the dishes and more in encouraging the smack talking. It takes John less than 5 seconds to call out Stefan on his frozen tuna.
"And here comes that bus, and he just got thrown underneath it!," Tom laughs.
John claims he's not upset that the tuna was frozen, but that it was not sustainable. So that's an issue, but the 57,000 yards of aluminum foil that was wasted in the Quickfire didn't ruffle your feathers? "Whiny little b----," Stefan mutters. Agreed.
Micah shares that his daughters are named Sage and Saffron, as he wanted to name them something culinary, but that Cayenne and Cinnamon sounded like stripper names. He sure dodged that bullet. I think?
As the Berry Festival-goers approach, Josie's sushi rolls are not rolled. She's going to have to roll to order. The judges join the festival (props to Gail for her strawberry-colored ensemble) and commence tasting each berry concoction.
When they arrive at Josie's tent, she starts babbling and filling the silence as she tries to actually prepare her dish. The judges wait. Her goofy chatter leaves Stephanie wondering, "Is she high?" "Uh, yeah." Tom responds. They continue to listen to her describe the dish as she finally gets some food plated.
Padma loves Lizzies raspberry pork dish, as does Stephanie. Josie's doesn't highlight the raspberry enough, and Tom seems truly angry when he comments that, for her, "putting on a show is more important than making good food." He's also questioning her decision to pair a spring roll with mayonnaise. The festival guests voice their annoyance at having to wait for Josie's food, and those that do aren't thrilled.
They love Stefan's crudo, but it needs more gooseberry (frozen tuna be damned!). John's gazpacho falls flat, the chorizo overpowers his dish which one guest likens to "cheeseburger soup." And not in a good way.
As service winds down, John and Stefan's playful sparring is growing a bit more barbed. John won't let a single guest go by without pointing out to them that they're eating frozen salmon. Stefan says that John's soup is so bad that "I wouldn't flush my poop with it."
Coming back to the stew room, things go south quick. The John and Stefan show continues to the point of Stefan standing up and requesting that John fellate him, in a much less polite way. It's really getting gross and I am altogether tired of watching both of them. It's not funny or amusing, just a chore to watch.
Thankfully, Padma walks in to call back John, Josie, Micah, Bart, and Danyele. The guests voted them as the losers of each battle, and the judges agreed with each match-up.
Micah is criticized for his unevenly cooked biscuit, Josie for her silly showmanship and heavy summer roll. Gail loved Bart's soup but the salmon he included didn't need to be there.
Danyele admits she could hear people crunching into her overly crusted croustade. You can see how frustrated Tom is with her performance as he tells her how much her concept wowed him but how the execution was only "eh."
John's gazpacho was ruined by the grainy, minced chorizo. He tells the judges he's "not making excuses, but the kitchen was a little crazy." Tom throws him an incredulous look, since he did actually just make an excuse.
Padma asks for the top five to come back to Judge's Table. Stephanie announces the winning dish, which she says they wouldn't want to change a thing about: Kristen, for her matcha goat milk custard with olive oil macerated tayberries. Hooray! Double win, $10,000, and a trip to your homeland. What a sweet ending.
On to the sour side of things: For her chicken pine nut terrine with blueberry mostarda, Danyele is asked to pack her knives and go. I am so disappointed, she seemed like she had just gotten her sea legs and she's such a cutie patootie.
Josh seems the most saddened by her loss. In a surprising sweet moment, he hugs her tight and whispers, "You be good." she responds, "Kick their asses." We’ll miss you, red.
Immediately thereafter, Stefan and Josie (with full wine glasses in hand) start getting into it, over what I'm not entirely sure, as the entire conversation is bleeped out. Holy cow, this ego sword fighting is getting old, and we have 10 chefs left to go. Ugh.
Next week: The gang cooks up a meal for the Rat City Roller Girls. And yes, there's Padma on roller skates. I could not be more excited.
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