The Wife:

For this episode’s Quickfire, the cheftestants participated in my favorite all challenges: the palate testing competition. In the past, we’ve seen versions of this where chefs must identify ingredients blindfolded, or blindfolded using only their senses of touch and smell (but not taste!). Gordon Ramsay likes to make his dumbass chef wannabes do this over on Hell’s Kitchen, too, usually to much less impressive results. Tonight, Padma made the chefs draw knives from the almighty knifeblock and be paired up with another contestant. The pairs would then have a sauce taste-off, head-to-head, and whoever could correctly name the most ingredients would advance to the next round.

Round 1: Shrimp and Lobster Bouilliabasse
Hosea vs. Daniel: Hosea says he can name four ingredients and Daniel calls his bluff. Hosea wins.
Jamie vs. Stefan: Stefan, who has a giant crush on Lez Jamie, says he can name five ingredients. He does and wins.
Jeff vs. Ariane: Jeff says he can name three ingredients and, Ariane, knowing that she can’t tell if a dessert is too sweet concedes. Jeff wins.
Fabio vs. Radhika: Radhika says she can name three ingredients and does. Radhika wins.
Carla vs. Melissa: Carla says she can name four ingredients. Melissa, having no personality other than not knowing how spicy thing actually are, concedes. Carla wins.
Leah vs. Eugene: Eugene tries to name ingredients but fails on the first try. Leah wins.

Winning chefs advance to Round 2: Thai Green Curry
Ariane vs. Hosea: Hosea says he can name seven ingredients. This is an easy win for him because Ariane doesn’t seem like the kind of gal who has ever had Thai Green Curry. Hosea wins.
Leah vs. Stefan: Stefan, Leah’s least favorite person, says he can name eight ingredients. Just to get it over with, Leah does not challenge him. Stefan wins.
Carla vs. Radhika: Radhika thinks she can name seven ingredients, but fails to do so. Carla wins.

Winning chefs advance to Round 3: Mexican Mole, where they will all taste and identify ingredients one by one in round. The last chef standing wins. Carla is out immediately and Stefan falters, too, giving the win to Hosea, who earns immunity for the Elimination Challenge.

For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants are divided up by the almighty knifeblock according to the designations Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. Ariane, being married, immediately knows it’s a wedding theme. (Really, Ariane? Because I’m pretty sure everyone, married or not, has heard “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and knows it pertains to weddings. Except for maybe Fabio and Stefan. They’re not American, so we can’t expect them to know our ridiculous idioms*.) Padma announces that the teams will cater a four-course meal for the 40 guests at Gail Simmon’s bridal shower, many of whom are her colleagues from Food & Wine Magazine.

Ooooh, yay! Gail Simmons throws the best televised parties!

Ooooh, yay! Gail Simmons throws the best televised parties!

The Old Team, comprised of Jeff, Hosea and Stefan, decide to play on the idea of heirlooms and the Old World by creating three small tomato-based dishes for the first course of the meal. Stefan decides to prepare an heirloom tomato terrine wrapped in eggplant (French). Hosea prepares a beef and tomato carpaccio (Italian) topped with Jeff’s tomato sorbet. Someone also made a gazpacho (Spanish), but I do not remember whom. Maybe Jeff? Jeff likes to blend stuff.

The New Team, comprised of Eugene, Daniel and Carla, decided that the best way to incorporate newness into their second-course dish would be to create a surf-and-turf cooked sushi dish. From the sound of that, you had to know that these guys were doomed. They honestly think surf-and-turf and sushi are new concepts. Surf-and-turf has been a culinary staple since the 1970s and sushi as posh is very late 90s. Carla scoffed when Daniel suggested pickling, asking how that was at all new, which proved to me that Carla actually knows nothing about food trends. Pickling was so the hot thing this summer – and not just traditional pickling. Pickled fruits, pickled vegetables. Freakin’ every foodie I know was into pickling when this episode was being filmed. Carla, do you not read Food & Wine? Do you not watch Food Network? Do you not subscribe to Chow? Clearly not, because if you did, you would have known that pickling is totally hot right now. So, with pickling nixed, this team officially traveled back in time and busted out a surf and turf sushi roll prepared by Eugene, a frisee salad served in a wonton prepared by Carla and a peach-miso barbeque sauce and yuzu sorbet.

The Borrowed Team, comprised of Jamie, Radhika and Dr. Lisa Cuddy, decided to borrow their third-course dish from Radhika’s Indian roots (despite her numerous protestations that she doesn’t want the judges to see her as “that chick who can only cook Indian food). Ariane prepared an Eastern spiced lamb in a yogurt marinade, to be topped with Radhika’s cucumber raita. Jamie prepared a carrot puree with her secret ingredient: vadoran. (I do not know what that is, but if it goes well with carrots, I need to find it because I really want to make a carrot soup sometime soon.) Someone also prepared some wilted kale for this dish.

And then there’s the Blue Team of Fabio, Leah and Child of the Corn Melissa. Quickly, the team realizes that, to quote darling Fabio, “there’s no freakin’ blue food.” Instead, the team decides to work fish into their fourth-course dish, evoking the deep blue sea. They prepare a Chilean sea bass crusted in blue corn, served over a roasted corn puree with Swiss chard. Leah is delighted to be on this team, because she would rather be on Satan’s team than Stefan’s.

Checking in on the contestants during their prep time, Tom Colicchio pops by to check on their progress. He finds the Blue team’s dish to be a little boring, and believes that the New Team’s dish will either be spectacular or horrible. At home that night, Eugene starts to rethink the New Team’s dish a little bit. Instead of doing a surf-n-turf sushi, why don’t we give them both choices and rice patties and tell them to make their own? Brilliant! Only this is the worst idea ever and everyone else in the house knows it. Stefan declares that “women don’t wanna make their own food.” I don’t think he meant it quite the way it came out, but the point here is really that at a catered event, no one wants to make their own food. This would only work in a buffet setting, and even then the concept would be a little dodgy. What baffles me is that, upon seeing the venue and the elegant long table that Gail’s guests were to be seated at, Eugene didn’t rethink his concept and decide that it was simply inappropriate and unmanageable for the setting. Gail’s bridal shower was not a backyard BBQ where self-assembly of food is part of the fun. It was a formal catered lunch at a posh hotel. No one wants to assemble their own food at a posh hotel.

Eugene, even Fabio knows youre making a big-a mistake.

Eugene, even Fabio knows you're making a big-a mistake.

At service time, Tom expos again, claiming that he wasn’t allowed at the girls’ party. Fabio is once again honored to have Tom preside over service, comparing him to the Pope. (Don’t let Gordon Ramsay hear you say that. He might be very angry.) In Tom’s stead, Gail’s Editor-in-Chief Dana Corwin fills in as a third judge at the bridal shower table. Team Old serves up their first course tomato palooza, which I must admit that I wanted to eat more than any other dish served tonight. Tomatoes, I think, are the most perfect food on earth. I love them. And seeing them turned into a terrine, a sorbet, gazpacho and a carpaccio? I want to go to there and put them in my mouth. Gail’s favorite part of the dish was Jeff’s sorbet, an item that wouldn’t have made it on the plate if bossy Stefan had his way. (Oh yeah, the editors want you to know that Stefan is a control freak.)

And then the New Team presented the bridal shower guests with their clusterfuck plate of newness that isn’t actually new at all. Eugene neglected to tell the guests how to eat their confusing plate of beef and shrimp and slightly-salvaged rice cakes. And Daniel had no idea what the hell he was serving, calling the yuzu sorbet a granita. Just as a vinaigrette is not an emulsion, a sorbet is not a granita. (I can make a granita in my freezer with fruit juice, water, sugar and a spoon. A sorbet takes a little more finesse than that.) Ultimately, no one at the table likes the dish. The plate is too confusing and too crowded, especially with all those little mushrooms that Daniel happily started plating at the bottom of Carla’s perfectly bland salad.

The Borrowed Team served up their third-course to rave reviews. Jamie and Ariane were worried about fulfilling their service on time because the lamb came up just a touch too rare when their ten minutes for plating came up. All of the other cheftestants assured them that they would help plate if Ariane wanted to take two more minutes in the oven. They did, and still managed to finish their plates on time, creating the best looking dish of the night, with the carrot puree and kale on the bottom, the lamb shank rising up in the center, topped with a dab of raita. If there was an award for most beautiful dish, these ladies would surely get it. Of course, they also got the best reviewed dish of the whole bridal shower, making both Dana Corwin and Gail Simmons very happy.

All these years Ive been petting lambs when I should have been shoving them in my mouth.

All these years I've been petting lambs when I should have been shoving them in my mouth.

Then the Blue Team followed up that perfection with their bland blue fish dish. They made a very good presentation choice, though, in having Fabio describe the food. The suave Italian congratulated Gail on her nuptials, and told every guest that she looked beautiful and then proceeded to make his dish sound a billion times more interesting than it actually was. Tom congratulated all of the chefs on an error-free service and making Gail’s bridal shower very special for her.

At Judges’ Table, Old Team and Borrowed Team are summoned and told that they were the favorite dishes of the night. They praised Jeff’s sorbet, and every component of the Borrowed dish. Unfortunately, they could only pick one winner, so rather than award the team leader and conceptualizer of the Borrowed dish (Jamie), Dana Corwin chose to award the person who cooked the most flavorful component of either dish: Dr. Lisa Cuddy, for her perfectly cooked lamb. Ariane seemed shocked at the win, expecting the credit to go to Jamie. If there’s one thing Ariane does well, its cookin’ meat, apparently. Padma awarded her a new set of Calphalon stainless steel cookware and some appliances from the Calphalon kitchen electrics collection.

Radhika then told the losing teams to head to Judges’ Table, where the Blue Team is scolded for delivering a fine-tasting dish that lacked in texture, and the New Team is told that their dish was a disaster in both concept and execution. (Tom, however, thought that the Blue Team’s dish actually gave him the blues.) I thought Eugene was surely a goner for his idiotic idea to serve surf-and-turf sushi and then make it exponentially worse by asking the guests to serve themselves, but big, dumb goomba Daniel saved Eugene by sticking to the mistaken notion that his dish was actually good, defending his strange mushroom placement and all. For being too stupid to not hate that dish, Daniel is told to pack his knives and go. Say “thank you,” Eugene. You owe that douchebag your life.

In fashion news, I recognize the pattern on Dana Corwin’s top, but I can’t figure out from where. Help? Also, Gail looked the prettiest we’ve seen her in a long time. Was her bridal shower dress DVF? Whatever it was, it was cute.

Also, Dana Corwin is like ANTM 11s Marjories long lost older sister, isnt she?

Also, Dana Corwin is like ANTM 11's Marjorie's long lost older sister, isn't she?

*Technically, that whole old, new, borrowed, blue rhyme comes to us from Victorian England, so it’s not just an American custom. I have to assume the Brits still say it, too. The rhyme is also much longer than we are familiar with, the next line being “and a sixpence in her shoe.” But no one knows that anymore and its pretty irrelevant considering the sixpence no longer exists. Secretly, I would have liked to see a course in this challenge inspired by shoes and sixpence, though.

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