The competition is heating up as only nine chefs remained heading into last night’s episode. This is the time of the season when we finally start to get to know these chefs on a first-name basis, and front-runners emerge. This season, though, it’s still just about anyone’s game.
"Master Bladesmith" Bob Kramer (one of only 120 in the country) joined Padma to introduce the Quickfire challenge, which he did by slicing through two ropes in one fell swoop. These were some sharp knives.
Challenged to work in groups of three, the chefs had to run the knife skills gauntlet: sharpen knives enough to cut paper, tourne 50 potatoes, and French racks of rabbit. Josie cut herself during the potato round, disqualifying herself (and causing her team to lose by two potatoes), and for the final leg Micah beat out Sheldon and Josh with his rabbit-Frenching skills. He won immunity and one of Kramer's coveted knives (which sell for $500 per inch, apparently).
For the Elimination challenge, the chefs were given two and a half hours to create healthier versions of infamous dishes from previous seasons, and the winning dish would serve as inspiration for a Healthy Choice frozen dinner. This was a rare meta moment for the show, when we had a chance to revisit some of the craziest moments in the show’s history. Brought in to judge were an A-list team of Colicchio, Chris Cosentino, Wolfgang Puck, and Jonathan Waxman.
Here were the dishes (by order of season represented):
Josie: Roasted chicken with parsnip purée and steamed root vegetables
Stefan: Roasted red pepper soup with bacon and grilled Mimolette cheese sandwich
John: Umami risotto with chicken, salmon roe, burdock root, and carrot emulsion
Sheldon: Beef carpaccio with poi aioli and mizuna and mushroom salad with silken tofu foam
Lizzie: Seared scallops with roasted fennel, garlic purée, and orange and olive salad
Josh: Soy-glazed pork tenderloin with smoked cashew purée, Thai basil, and heirloom peaches
Brooke: Smoked salmon and forbidden black rice with English pea and parsnip purée
Kristen: Poached chicken breast and carrot purée with garlic and tofu emulsion (a play on chicken potpie)
Micah: Five-spiced duck breast with miso polenta and pickled cherries
On the top:
Brooke: The salmon was cooked "perfectly," according to Puck.
Kristen: "It reminded me of chicken pot pie from my grandmother," said Cosentino, and Colicchio thought it "had homey flavors, without the homey presentation."
Josh: "A very nicely balanced dish," according to Cosentino, and the pork was cooked perfectly.
Kristen took the win with her take on Carla Hall’s chicken potpie, $15,000, and the inspiration for a new frozen dinner.
On the bottom:
John: The rice was improperly cooked (both raw and mushy), and he claimed that equipment was an issue.
Lizzie: Her scallops were cooked unevenly and had started to go bad, and were just generally off-putting.
Padma gave John and Lizzie one last chance to redeem themselves, however, by way of a cook-off. The challenge: Make a healthier version of CJ’s terrible burger from earlier in the season. They were given 45 minutes to make one more dish for their Top Chef lives.
John: Harissa lamb burger on naan bread with fried egg, spicy pickle, tomato, and pomegranate salad
Lizzie: Chicken burger with goat cheese, ricotta and dill pickle roasted red pepper salad
Colicchio "couldn’t find a whole lot to criticize" on either dish, but Lizzie’s hamburger was moister and more flavorful. In the end, John ended up getting the ax.