So they're back in the Stew Room talking about taking a risk vs. making something you can execute on the level of being a Top Chef. Melissa admits in the Confessional that she knows she hasn't been able to show what she is capable of.
When Mei said “It's on. Now there's four”, George says “We have a little Asian, a lesbian Asian, a gay black dude, and a white straight guy!” Gregory said “Is this part of a joke?” and Mei said “You can't get more diverse than that!”
The next day, they walk into the Top Chef Kitchen, and Padma greets them with the guest judge, Ashley Christiansen, chef/owner of Poole's Diner. Padma tells them there is no Quickfire Challenge, because there's a lot of work ahead. The next challenge is an Elimination Challenge – they'll go to Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury, MA. They'll dredge for oysters, dig for their own clams, and forage for seaweed. They will each be responsible for two dishes – an appetizer and an entree.
They will have help – family members walk in. Melissa's mother (Alice), Gregory's sister (Jessica), George's father (Tony), and Mei's brother (Harly) will be their sous chefs. Padma says “Mei! You look queasy!” Mei said “I'll do all the work!” They will have 24 hours to shop and cook together. They'll stay overnight in Gloucester. The chefs will NOT be able to touch their appetizer dishes – they will be executed by their sous chefs. Padma also removes the fear of being eliminated – but she says they expect to see creativity in both dishes. They must also show their leadership skills in the kitchen – because the winner of this challenge will go directly into the final round in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. That's HUGE!
They are driven to Island Creek Oyster Farm, they're going to go out on the water to gather up what they can. Skip Bennett shows them how to dredge for oysters. Harly ends up breaking the crank handle that would pull up the dredge, so they have to haul it up by hand. Then they head over to a house on the oyster flats, and “shop” for more seafood – littleneck clams, lobsters, surf clams, sea beans.
They go to the Whole Foods in Duxbury to start shopping. Mei's brother, Harly, is working very slow trying to find things, but they finally get everything and get out of there. Off to a gorgeous beach house on the ocean in Gloucester, and the chefs start to make dinner together for their family members. Gregory said to Melissa's mother, Alice “So, Melissa started cooking when she was very young?” Alice responds “Oh yes. No Sesame Street! Always cooking shows! Senior year of high school, she said 'I want to go to CIA!' I said 'Oh – you want to be James Bond?' And she said 'No Mom – Culinary Institute of America!” Alice said even to this day, Melissa's father won't go to any of Melissa's restaurants or involve himself in her life. Melissa said her Mom was her backbone, and she supported her throughout her life.
George said “My Dad wanted me to go to college first, and after that, I wanted to get into fine dining.” Mr. Tony said “Cooking at the diner, it's nothing special. But with high tech cooking like that [waving his hand at what George was doing]...” But George says in the confessional that after his Dad retired and sold the diner, he invested in George's restaurant. It shows that Greek parents will do anything for their children.
Harly said about Mei that she's always been bossy. Gregory asks Mei if her parents didn't want her to be a chef, and she said no. Mei says in the confessional that Melissa and Mei have the same upbringing. But both of her parents are like Melissa's dad, but being a chef is doing something that she wants to do. She'd like her parents' approval, but she doesn't need it.
The next morning, George asks his father if he's ready to get cooking. Mr. Tony replies “I don't really have a choice. As long as we get it done, that's all that matters.” Mr. Tony said to the rest of the group “I feel like I'm in a nightmare right now!” George said if his father knew what he would have had to do, he never would have come on the show. LOL
They all head to The Lobster Pool Restaurant in Rockport. Mei gets everything out and wants to show Harly how to make the sauce. Mei tells him to “work clean, work straight.” But he seems to be working very slowly and she needs him to move.
Gregory and Jessica come into the kitchen to start their prep. Gregory says it's frustrating not being able to touch one of his dishes, but as an Executive Chef, he's used to explain himself and having someone create his vision for a dish.
Next into the kitchen is George and Tony. George is concerned that his father is going to not take the direction he needs to give. And Melissa and Alice then come in, and Melissa is hoping that her Mom will stay focused and pay attention to the prep list she gave her.
Tom Colicchio comes into the kitchen and gets introduced to the family members. Tom said to Mei “Do you realize that your brother is burning his mushrooms?” Mei says nothing but reaches over and takes the fry pan and removes it from the stovetop. Tom said “What's wrong with you, Harly? Are you trying to blow it for your sister?” as he laughs.
Tom heads over to Gregory and Jessica's station. Tom asks how psyched Jessica would be if she makes the appetizer that gets her brother into the finale, and she replies “Oh, he would owe me forever!” Tom then goes over to speak with George and Tony. Tom says “Even though Tony's working for you, I'd guess that Tony would still say George is helping Tony.” Tony, meanwhile, is saying nothing.
They finish their prep, and Mei notes that Harley is working faster and is doing a good job. The judges arrive – Padma, Tom, Richard Blais, Ashley Christiansen, Adam Evans (EC at The Optimist), Chef Kerry Heffernan, and Rick Moonen (chef/owner CM Seafood).
HARLY (Appetizer) – Oyster with Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette & Radish – Rick Moonen asks him if he shucked the oysters, and he says yes – his first time. Rick says good job! Ashley asks if he could take them through what he did with the oyster. Harly said “Umm...I had to grate a lot of stuff!” Everyone liked the dish.
MEI (Entree) – Surf Clam & Lobster with Tomato-Coconut Broth – Kerry said the surf clam was amazingly delicate – he asks if it's raw, and Mei said it was. Tom said the balance was perfect. Ashley said the broth was incredible and well seasoned. Padma asks what it was like working with her brother, and she said she just tried to get him to work more quickly. Tom asks Harly if he has a new-found respect for what Mei does, and he definitely does.
Gregory and Jessica are up next. He is helping her plate her dish, and wasn't paying attention to his halibut for the entree. Rut-roh! When he goes to check the oven, he pulls the halibut out as the oven is hotter than he had expected.
JESSICA (Appetizer) – Tomato-Watermelon Soup with Pickled Cucumber & Shrimp – Richard loves the flavor of the shrimp, and he said the soup had enough savoryness to it that it worked. Kerry said that Gregory did a good job with instructing Jessica on how to make the soup – it hit every note. When Padma asked Jessica what it was like cooking alongside her brother, she said it was good – the family is used to stepping back and letting Gregory do his thing in the kitchen, but Tom said he thought her days of letting Gregory do everything were over.
GREGORY (Entree) – Halibut with Oysters, Mussels & Dashi – Kerry asked Gregory if he was happy with the way the halibut came out; Gregory replied he would have had the oven at a lower temp. Tom said that every dish Gregory has given them in the past has been clean and bright; this dish wasn't.
George and Mr. Tony are up next. George was worried about Tony taking orders from him, but he did pretty well.
TONY (Appetizer) – Grilled Oysters with Razor Clams & Cucumber – Rick Moonen said the oysters were perfect texture, but he would have liked some brine.
GEORGE (Entree) – Butter-Poached Lobster with Vadouvan Spice and Roasted Sunchokes – Tom sahe he loves the lobster dish, but when you have such a lovely dish, you do not need the microgreens. Kerry said the Vadouvan couli for the lobster is delicious – he wanted more!
Finally, Melissa and Alice are up next. Melissa said her mother is kicking butt and making her time line, and ends up helping Melissa at the very end.
ALICE (Appetizer) – Egg Custard with Shiitake Mushrooms, Clams, & Lobster – when Padma asks how it was working with her daughter, Alice replies with a big sigh and a smile – she said “It was a Mother-Daughter Day – I'll never forget it!” Tom loves the custard, and Rick liked the smokiness from the dish – he guesses bonito flakes, and Melissa confirms. Kerry said the custard was silky and delicate.
MELISSA (Entree) – Butter-Poached Lobster with Onion Soubise & Pea Puree (also includes fava beans, asparagus, ferns, and caramelized sunchoke) – Ashley said it's the most perfectly cooked lobster she's ever had. Tom agrees that the lobster is perfectly cooked, but the vegetables are the absolute star, and Padma agrees.
In the Lobster Pool Stew Room, Alice gives credit to the chefs, saying “I don't know how you do this!” Harly notes standing in front of the judges is hard.
The judges deliberate – Tom said that Gregory's sister did a better job on her dish than he did on his halibut. Adam Evans said it says a lot about a chef when he can teach someone how to prepare a dish when he can't touch it, but it doesn't negate the fact he should have been more attentive to his own dish.
Padma thinks Mei did a great job – Rick Moonen thought the clams blew everyone's mind, and the element of surprise elevated it to another level. Ashley said she would crave just the broth.
Kerry thought George nailed the Vadouvan lobster, and the sunchoke puree was superb. When Tom asked “OK, George's poached lobster or Mei's lobster?”, Padma said “Mei's lobster. George's entree was glorious, but when you start picking it apart, which you have to do when there's only four chefs...”
Adam said Melissa's lobster was perfectly cooked. Rick Moonen said she handled the crustacean perfectly. Richard said her menu had a lot of harmony, and you could see the story between Melissa and her mother. Melissa also took great risk, per Kerry, having her mother make a custard. That's ballsy!
Padma goes to get the chefs and their family members. Padma said the dishes that really stood out – Mei and Melissa served the favorites dishes. Tom said he wishes that they could have both be in the finale, as the dishes were that good, but that's not the way it works. The one chef who is automatically in the finale in Mexico is MELISSA. Wow – she pulled it out at the end, after so many poor showings. The first and only Elimination Challenge she's won. Tom said the combination of both the appetizer and entree together – the dishes were flawless. I do have to say, both Mei's and Melissa's dishes DID look great, and I would have loved to have tried both of their dishes.
Padma tells them all that they'll see them at the next Elimination Challenge. In the voice over, Padma notes that the last Last Chance Kitchen is on Bravo, and the last two chefs standing face off in a head-to-head cookoff. At stake is a spot in the (LCK) finale in Mexico.
***NOTE*** -- the LCK finale is what was noted on the LCK video I just watched – so it sounds like there is yet another LCK with whoever doesn't win in the next round.)
In the previews, Padma says there are only two tickets left for Mexico – so it's between Mei, George, and Gregory to duke it out.
The next two episodes of Top Chef will NOT be at 10:00 p.m. EST. The ads for Colicchio's & Ramsay's new show "Best New Restaurant" have been shown as debuting at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 1/21.
Top Chef will be on at 9:00 p.m. EST for both 1/21 ("For the last Quickfire challenge in Beantown, the chefs must cook an innovative bean dish. Wylie Dufresne. In the Elimination Challenge, the winner will take home a guaranteed spot in the Finals in Mexico. As the chefs push their culinary boundaries, one will be be left to fight for redemption in “Last Chance Kitchen.” )
AND 1/29 will also be at 9:00 p.m. ("The three finalists head to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where they watch “Last Chance Kitchen” and learn which eliminated chef will rejoin the competition. The chefs' creativity is put to the test when they are challenged to create a dish inspired by a local artist’s work. The chef that doesn't translate the artist’s vision will have to say “adiós” to the title of Top Chef.")