As for the competition, based on the editing, I was certain that something good or bad would happen to Brooke and Thumb. They got a LOT of attention in confessionals and with Thumb’s many photos. Brooke looked a little tired and sad in her confessionals, and I thought it may have been her to depart. But instead, Thumb heard Padma knife him for the first time. It has been a very strange return for him. Stefan arguably dominated Season 5. He was rolling into the Finals that season and faced what seemed to be lesser competition in Carla and Hosea. He was cruising more than anyone in any season – perhaps Qui-Gon from last season was more dominant. Voltaggios had Kevin in their way. Blais had MM. Only Stefan losing to Hosea and Angelo losing Sbarro were upset in their seasons. And Hosea only won because he had Blais has his helper.
But Stefan 2.0 was inferior to Stefan 1.0. He was the anti-Coach. He was reverso Boston Rob. He was not equal to Blais. If anything, he was like Colby 3.0 in Survivor – he managed to get very far, but was a shell of his former self. Stefan of Season 5 would never have made chicken cordon bleu last week and he would not have made pork belly so hard that it sounded like they were chewing on actual lollipops.
And unlike Survivor’s returning player phenomenon – each time they do it, one either wins or makes the Finals – Top Chef’s first foray into mixing returning chefs and new ones has left us with four new chefs at the end. And a new chef hanging in at Last Chance Kitchen. The only chance the returning players have is the victor between CJ and Stefan this week on Save a Chef. Success? Maybe. Returning players don’t have to win, and perhaps a stronger set of returning chefs would have been more effective. But it certainly was entertaining.
Quickfire – Padma and Curtis Stone from Top Chef Masters gather the chefs in the ship’s kitchen and instruct them to make a Quickfire for 200 people featuring iceberg lettuce. Get it? Cruise ship. Iceberg. The Show is making a classic sinking ship that killed 2000 people joke. Whee! OTV didn’t get it. We found the only person in America who has not seen Titanic. All of them are underwhelmed by the task – except Thumb, who liked iceberg lettuce. You know what, I’m with you, Thumb. I think it gets a bad rap.
They struggle with the dynamic of the boat kitchen – the rocking of the ocean, the all-electric equipment, the unfamiliarity of the layout. Thumb is braising his like cabbage and manages to get into Lizzie’s space, prompting her to lash out. He accurately says that people are underestimating her because of her demeanor and her accent. Papa Smurf is using the lettuce as a base, and pickling the core. Lizzie believes the lettuce can be a great carrier for lots of flavors. She also thinks Stone is pretty cute. Yeah, I’ll admit it, she’s right.
Thumb – Braised Iceberg Lettuce, Pastrami, Fingerling Potato and Blue Cheese Sauce – Stone likes the flavor, some guest calls it ham. Sigh.
Papa Smurf – Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap with Pork Shrimp and Pickled Iceberg Hearts – Padma found lots of flavor and Stone questioned Papa Smurf’s choice of doing it as an amuse bouche.
Lizzie – Iceberg Salad with Crispy Bacon, Shallots and Anchovy Vinaigrette – Padma coaches Stone on Lizzie’s employment with Traci DesJardins, which gives Stone a chance to plug Top Chef Masters. He wonders if she would serve it in a restaurant.
OTV – Iceberg Roll with Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Bacon Jam and Blue Cheese – Two words. Bacon. Jam. I rest my case. OTV calls it his take on a wedge salad. Stone says OTV walks like a chef. M’kay.
Brooke – Iceberg Wrap with Bacon, Scallop, Caramelized Onion and Crispy Quinoa – Padma thinks it is too big.
Stone gives them the rundown:
• Thumb had a good approach and taste
• OTV was safe, but did a great job and elevated a classic.
• Papa Smurf was creative and had a nice sweet/sour combo and stellar pickling.
• Brooke made the scallop perfectly and had nice quinoa
• Lizzie made a tasty bite. Well done.
But, like an immortal, there can only be one. Papa Smurf wins the challenge and earns an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. And what is the Elimination Challenge, you ask? Well, Stone and Padma interrupt the chefs’ Q’sine outing because OF COURSE THEY WERE GOING TO INTERRUPT IT! Has no one ever seen this show before? The chefs will be preparing Q’Sine’s food the next night and each must “turn a classic on its head.” They must make surf and turf. Papa Smurf’s prize is to have first crack at his two proteins. The rest of the chefs cannot use what he is using. This challenge has been done before and can be interesting. Papa Smurf chooses to not make it interesting by inexplicably taking lobster and beef tenderloin. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll have steak and lobster any time of the day, any day. And I am sure Papa can cook the hell out of that dish – but is that really turning the classic on its head? It screams safety. He was better off choosing some of the bizarre ideas the other chefs tried to get him to take – ostrich, bear, alligator.