They draw knives to pair up: Lindsay and Anita, Sarah and Floyd, Paul and Takashi. It’s a 40-minute, semi-blind, tag-team challenge, during which time each cheftestant and Master must tag each other out of the kitchen every 10 minutes. Winner gets $20,000.
The Masters begin prepping and getting started while the cheftestants wait in another room behind closed doors. Anita starts a trio of scallops, Floyd works on a curry and Takashi busts out the geoduck clam. They tag each other in and out, and the cheftestants are the ones who finish the last 10 minutes. Here’s what they served:
Lindsay and Anita: Scallop two ways — bok choy and chili; and fried roe with sausage and water chestnut.
Sarah and Floyd: Pan-seared cod with coconut curry, crab salad, clementine and amaranth.
Paul and Takashi: Giant clam sashimi with yuzu dashi, fried white fish, scallions and chili.
White Padma and Emeril complimented all three dishes, Lindsay’s sauce is deemed overpowering, Paul’s dish has too much heat and Sarah’s dish needed more acid. Who wins 20,000 big ones via a really janky voiceover from Padma? Sarah!
For the Elimination Challenge, Padma tells the chefs they’ll be throwing a “fire and ice cocktail party,” for which each of them is responsible for one dish and one cocktail. The dish must contain both a hot and cold element. Padma starts her sentence on camera about who they’re cooking for, but it devolves into what is possibly the worst voiceover transition in the history of television. I couldn’t even focus on what she was saying. And this show has won an Emmy? Seriously? Wow.
The winner of the challenge wins a trip to Costa Rica. They shop at Whole Foods and head back to the hotel for the night. The next day, they hit the kitchen and start working on their dishes. Tom swings by to check on their progress and to toss a little doubt into their saute pans. All the chefs chat animatedly with one another, taste each another’s food and seem to be having a good time. As much as I like that they like each other, I liked the smack-talk of “Top Chef All-Stars” better.
The guests arrive (two douchey guys high-five each other), and the judges — Tom, Emeril, Gail, Padma and Gail and Padma’s fur collars — stand at a cocktail table. Here’s what they ate and drank:
Paul: King crab with lobster broth and lemon snow; a “Pan Am” cocktail of kaffir lime, palm sugar, Thai chilies (shocker, not) and rum
Sarah: Five greens filled pasta with garlic, chili and spiced sformato; an “Agrumi” cocktail of gin, kumquats and mango (gross)
Lindsay: Halibut with fiery celery root and tomato snow; an “Encendido” cocktail of vodka, tomato and horseradish (gimme)
The judges have both negative and positive things to say about all the dishes, so it’s hard to tell what they love and what they loathe. The camera tosses to a few Vancouver-based chefs for quick soundbite-y comments, and they all seemed to have positive things to say. Padma calls all three cheftestants to Judges’ Table.
They tell Paul that his dish, conceptually, was great but could’ve used a little more heat. Tom questions his use of arugula and calls it an afterthought. The judges tell Sarah that her pasta was excellent, noting her dish was brave and out of her comfort zone, but that the mousse was a little too frozen. Emeril loves her cocktail. Emeril tells Lindsay that her fish was cooked perfectly, and Tom tells her that her dish and cocktail was the best pair of the night. Tom thought her remoulade overpowered the fish, though.
The chefs head back to the Stew Trailer (where it is snowing!!!! outside, and I am filled with jealous rage) while the judges deliberate. They don’t offer any criticism that engenders any real debate and discussion about the quality of the food.
So, who’s going home, and who’s headed into the final-final-finals?
Lindsay is headed home, and Paul moves on with Sarah into the final two! Despite his arugula faux pas, Paul is declared the winner of the challenge and snags the Costa Rica vacay.
Up Next Week: Former cheftestants return as sous chefs, and Sarah and Paul’s significant others join the diners for the final “Top Chef” meal. And we get a soundbite of Tom saying his annual schtick: “I think this is the best food we’ve ever been served in a ‘Top Chef’ finale.” Whatevs.