By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey
4:38 AM PDT, August 30, 2012
Curtis introduces the Quickfire with the absolute worst two words any high schooler has ever used to start an essay: "Throughout history," (insert my inner English major gouging out her eyes here).
The challenge? Make a sexy dish using ingredients known for their aphrodisiac qualities. Guest judge is burlesque star Dita Von Teese. The chefs go gaga, even the ones that don't like girls. The six remaining chefs have 30 minutes to create something mouth watering and toe curling.
Within seconds, there are two triumphant crashes as two blenders fall to the floor and shatter. Funny how they didn't flash the brand name of the busted blenders while they were being shattered.
Art Smith announces had a prophetic dream the night before that this Quickfire would be about chocolate so he is working on "floating islands" which are meringue blobs that look like "big breasts" as he describes them (clearly not a man who sees very many breasts) sitting atop chocolate syrup.
Lorena is very excited about this challenge and informs us the creaminess of avocados makes her feel sexy. And it's a healthy fat, to boot! Kerry is working with seared tuna and fennel salad in coy way.
Takashi pairs sea urchin and raw oysters and says that "sweet and slimy" is very sexy to him. Amen, brother. Chris is combining foie gras with figs and roses. Apparently California's foie gras ban has yet to spread to Nevada. Patricia is focusing on actually finishing the challenge, since she failed to plate last time. Time runs out, and Art literally tosses the last ingredients onto his plates, a la Ferris Bueller with the baseball and the stereo.
Dita saunters in and Curtis can barely make eye contact. There's practically a mark in the floor from him circling his foot nervously. As she samples the dishes, we learn that Dita loves cilantro but isn't crazy about chocolate. She clearly loves Takashi's dish and describes it as cold, slippery, sexy and adventurous.
She likes the heat at the end of Patricia's dish and likens it to "a soft caress followed by a quick smack." Curtis' cheeks flush a deeper crimson. Dita loves Kerry's dish for its lightness as she doesn't like to eat anything too heavy before going to, um, work.
Dita comes back to meet the chefs and announce the winner. Takashi takes the prize with his oyster dish, which Dita says "felt really good going down my throat." Takashi has now made 20K for the American Red Cross and is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
For the elimination challenge, the chefs will be visiting Chef Saipin Chutima's Lotus of Siam and testing their skill at Thai cuisine. Everyone looks excited, save Kerry and Lorena. Patricia fesses up that she lived in Thailand for two years. Ringer! The challenge is to create a Thai restaurant in two days. Quote #1 of the ep, Art's reaction to this news: "God, two days. Lord God Mother Joseph Jesus. And Buddha."
The chefs arrive at Lotus of Siam, which despite being a legendary Thai restaurant, looks for all the world like it's sandwiched in a strip mall. I am half expecting a TBCY to be next door. But let us not judge books by their covers or restaurants by their locales. As Chef Chutima brings out the dishes Lorena is clearly taking notes, asking questions about the seasoning and noting the flavors. Smart chica.
Impressed and sated, the gang heads into Whole Foods and Ranch 99 for shopping and prep. Each chef must make one dish but they also need to divvy up all the other restaurant duties of serving, hosting, and prepping.
It's kind of like "Restaurant Wars" on regular style Top Chef but with one team. Needless to say, you know this is gonna get ugly. Kerry and Chris, in separate stores, bark at each other on production-provided cell phones (you can clearly see the label maker labels numbering each one). No duck. No raw peanuts. No kaffir leaves. What are we, savages?
Back in the kitchen, Patricia takes over doling out responsibilities. She indicates that she doesn't see Art or Lorena as being "chefs who are in kitchens" and what's more points out that Chris, Takashi and herself are "very much hands-on." Mee-OW! She declares Lorena and Art front of house. Egos are clearly bruised, but the gang moves on.
We see Chris chopping small, hot chilis with no gloves and it practically makes my eyes water just watching him. Patricia complains to Lorena that she's taking up six of the twelve burners on the stove. The music crescendos. Wait for it!
Lorena asks where she should put them. Claws come out. "You're not my boss!" Art steps in to try to calm Lorena down. Lorena explains in her interview that she was offended "in the highest extreme" and that she needed to put Patricia "in her place." Chris tries to get a group high five going. It falls flat.
Service starts and Kerry is already confused as expeditor. Quote #2 of the ep: "That's not a real ticket. That’s a fake." Apparently being expeditor has made Kerry severely paranoid.
The critics are seated, joined by Chef Chutima and her daughter. James Oseland is seriously channeling Mister Rogers with his odd red cardigan ensemble. Maybe he's trying to overcompensate, modesty-wise, for last week's greasy bohunk debacle. Chris is intimidated by returning critic Alan Sytsma, editor of Grubstreet (who has an eerie resemblance to "True Blood's" Steve Newlin).
Lorena makes a Venezuelan-inspired tom ka gai, and Chris prepares a sirloin steak larb tartar which looks to die for. The critics love Chris' dish even though Chef Chutima laughs it off as "very American."
As is always the case with these challenges, everyone in the dining room has been waiting way too long for every dish. Takashi presents yellow curry with crispy noodles. Art's dish is a cashew crusted chicken breast which looks a sad wedding buffet plate. The critics and guests agree.
Kerry takes too long to prep his dish, causing Patricia to have to toss her duck and start over. Cue the tension-laden guitar riffs! She can't finish in time and sends out what she has. Not surprisingly, James sends back his duck because it’s too raw and asks for another. Even with the duck being refired, all the critics are making stinky poopoo faces. On the flipside, Chef Chutima says Kerry's pork and taro dish was the closest to authentic Thai cuisine of all the chefs' efforts.
Back in the kitchen, Patricia wastes no time vocalizing loudly that if she goes home it's Kerry's fault. "I had to wait for HIM."
Commercial note: Omar coming! And he's shilling Ciroc vodka with P Diddy!
Interstitial is a peacekeeping lovefest between Patricia and Kerry. He apologizes, she clearly still blames him but pats him on the back good naturedly.
Curtis calls back the whole gang for critics' table. James points out that while many of the dishes were really good, most of them lacked the authentic Thai flavors they were hoping for.
Our winner is announced first: Chris takes the 10K and immunity with his sirloin tartar. His charity is the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which he's won 26K for so far, which is fantastic.
Lorena, Patricia and Art had the least favorite dishes. It's interesting to note that they picked two top dishes and three bottom ones, so they can really drag out the critical blow by blow.
The dissection of least favorite dishes begins. Quote #3 of the ep, from James Oseland about Art's chicken: "I liked that you threw some Southern jazz hands on this Thai dish."
Alan Sytsma calls Patricia out on her undercooked duck and she gracefully dodges the question by saying "there were reasons, but I won't go into it." She is in tears and refuses to throw Kerry under the bus in front of the critics.
You can see her working to keep it clean, but then Curtis has to be that guy and stoke the flame and basically tells Patricia she needs to tell them if anything caused her to not cook her duck properly. Patricia looks pleadingly at Kerry. Then he nods, and speaks up and explains what happened. Patricia heaves a huge sigh. It's genuinely painful to watch this exchange.
All the Patricia/Kerry drama was for naught, as Curtis announces that Art is going home. (Note: My actual reaction: "NO!") Southern jazz hands couldn't win it. He is grateful, gracious, and sweet in his departure. Lorena is in tears, she's clearly made a friend for life.
Next week: Sugar Ray Leonard (who clearly hails from the Dick Clark school of never aging) shows up to lead the chefs in a ringside skill head to head face-off. Ding ding ding!
Tom ka gai: great soup, or the GREATEST soup? Let me know on Twitter @operatornumber9.
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