We're going back to college! Wait...I didn't go to a real college! Oh well. The cheftestants can experience it.
Brief review in the Stew Room; Nina's sad Travis is gone. Brian says as long as you don't make a big boner mistake, you're not going home. But with only 8 now, winning immunity is going to be that more important.
They arrive back the next morning at the Top Chef Kitchen, and Padma is there with Questlove, musician and restaurateur. Their Quickfire Challenge starts out with a NOLA drum line parading through the kitchen, with a rack of poultry drumsticks. They have 30 minutes to prepare a dish using any of the drumsticks available - first come, first serve. The winner gets immunity.
They rush to get their choices; Shirley takes a header, but Nicholas helps her up instead of grabbing his protein...which Shirley promptly takes (duck) leaving Nicholas with quail. Meanwhile, Carlos dumps half of his protein on the floor and leaves it there, to which Nicholas gives a disgusted look.
Crazy preparation, including Carlos hacking away at the bone of his goose leg to try and make it more presentable on the plate - he doesn't succeed in hacking off the excess bone.
Carrie - Squab Legs Marinated in Thyme, Juniper & Cocoa Powder with Fig Mostarda
Brian - Chicken Soup, Chicken Skin Crackling with Parsley & Thai Basil
Shirley - Crispy Duck Leg with Szechuan Chili Salt & Mint
Nina - Jerk Guinea Hen Charred with Juniper Berries & Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Stephanie - Fried & Grilled Turkey Leg with Sriracha & Sour Cream Buttermilk Dressing
Nicholas - Twice-Fried Quail Legs with Sesame Sauce Rolled in Gomaiso (Bravotv.com recipe name banner said "Twice Fried Quail Eggs..." Ummm....NO.)
Justin - Chicken Drumettes with Smoked Aioli, Herb Salad & Sorghum Vinaigrette
Carlos - Fried Goose Leg with Cranberries & Apple Salad (Oops - Padma got a bit of bone in her bite!)
Least Favorite - Nicholas, Justin, Carlos
Most Favorite - Carrie, Nina, Brian
The winner? Carrie! (And Nina looks bothered by not winning)
For the Elimination Challenge they're headed to LSU Freshman Orientation. They will take over the dining hall on campus and 500 freshman will need to be fed. They can use all the ingredients and equipment that the dining hall staff uses every day. Carrie's relieved she has immunity for this challenge! Padma tells them that the winner will get a Toyota RAV 4. And tonight they'll stay in the dorms. They are to head home and pack an overnight bag and then head to the school.
While packing, Nina asks Carrie what she studied - first, it was French & German, but she didn't like it, so then went to culinary school....from which she dropped out. Meanwhile, Brian's excited to head back to school - he was a tennis star at UCLA.
In the car, Brian relates a drunk college story where his arm went through a window and he needed 110 stitches. Shirley said she just wants to take a nap, but Brian just goes on and on...and she now realizes how people feel when she talks a lot! LOL
Two freshman meet them to take them on a tour of the campus, introducing them to the live tiger on campus and bring them to their dorm rooms. Stephanie says memories of living in a dorm is coming back to her - small and stale rooms. Carrie doesn't know how to make the bed - her husband takes care of that. Shirley makes it, Carrie climbs into bed, and Shirley kisses her on the forehead and wishes her a good night and tells her don't let the bugs bite!
The next morning, they're up and at 'em and into the campus kitchen. Nicholas suggests they need to check out the stations and form a game plan and see what's available to them. They divvy out the stations, and then the ingredients. Justin notes that once someone calls out an ingredient, it pretty much means no one else can use it.
Then the discussion/mini argument of Carlos requiring his dish (fish) to be done on the plancha (big flat-top grill that Shirley had already claimed) starts up. Shirley says that Carlos' true personality starts to show...he's only out for himself.
Nicholas "marks" his oven so he knows it's available to him throughout the service. Shirley is now over at the pizza oven instead of the flat top grill, and she's stressed and pissed off.
Tom arrives to check on their status. Nina is having problems making a corn puree, as they only have a cocktail blender instead of an industrial blender. She's worried about how coarse the puree is. Justin notes that he thinks several of the dishes are going to get slammed, as he doesn't expect the college kids to be pumped up about some of the dishes.
The cheftestants end up getting their own lunch lady servers. And the students arrive and they begin serving. Nina is scrambling trying to get her fried chicken done. Carrie's cold broccoli salad station is empty - she said "It's not my fault the college students are stupid and don't want to eat their broccoli!" Brian has a long line waiting for his shrimp cakes.
Out of the blue, Carlos says "I need to cook my fish" to Nicholas, who is using his oven to warm his service plates. So Carlos has to cook his fish on the plancha the entire way through - which puts him behind in service.
Stephanie decides to put her grilled cheese sandwiches *in* the bowl of tomato soup. (She had noted before she didn't have the cheese she was hoping for - the cottage, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses are not typical grilled cheese sandwiches, but she would make do.)
The judges arrive - Gail, Padma, Tom and Emeril.
SHIRLEY - Roast Beef with Potato Puree & Fire-Roasted Tomato Relish
NINA - Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Sweet Corn Puree & Pickled Onions
BRIAN - Shrimp Cake & Spinach with Chipotle Aioli
NICHOLAS - Roasted Pork, Parmesan Grits and Bacon Brown Sugar Gravy (DAMN that sounds good!)
Brian's shrimp cake sounds like it's going over well. Shirley's roast beef and tomato relish gets raves. Tom had asked Nina how many times she had fried the chicken; only once. Tom said "Ohhh, I would have gone with twice fried!" Nina said "Well, you try it, Chef!" So once Tom and Emeril try it, Emeril notes "I see what you meant about frying the chicken." Tom said "The breading is falling off." And people didn't like the corn puree - not a lot of flavor. Nicholas' pork could have been seasoned more, but the bacon relish was good.
CARRIE - Marinated Broccoli Salad with Herbed Yogurt Sauce & Pita Bread
JUSTIN - Marinated Gulf Shrimp, Cauliflower, Asparagus & Garlic Puree (Justin's food server has a beaming smile - love it!)
Justin's shrimp dish didn't have a lot of seasoning. Gail wondered to Padma if Carrie copped out because she had immunity. Padma was glad she gave them vegetables, but Gail expected more from a chef at this point in the competition.
STEPHANIE - Spicy Tomato Soup with Pimento Cheese Sandwich
CARLOS - Seared Tilapia with Chile Ancho & Mexican Coleslaw
Carlos doesn't have anything ready for the judges; Tom calls out "Come on, we're hungry!" Carlos tells Tom and Emeril that Nicholas "stole his oven" to heat his plates and apologizes. Nina hears this and is shocked that Carlos told the judges that Nick was "stealing stuff". "That's SO f**ked up!"
After they get their dishes from Carlos, Tom said to Emeril "With a line of people, you need to serve food fast!' Carlos's dish was well received, however. And Tom liked Stephanie's soup, but both he and diners didn't like the sandwich in the soup, as it fell apart when you picked it up.
Tom shows up at Nina's station when she's making more corn puree in the back. Tom says to her food server "So they're getting half the dish; that is NOT good!" Tom and Emeril go ask Nicholas about Carlos saying he stole his oven. Nicholas tells them "That's not true!" and in the confessional, he said "Really! That's interesting! I've been cooking with that oven all day, so how did I manage to steal that from Carlos? I like to cook with a lot of integrity, and if you want to question that integrity you'd better do so to my face!"
In the Stew Room, Nina said it was the toughest service. Stephanie is worried about being on the bottom, and does a bit of ad placement asking for the rest of the Terlato wine to be poured into her glass and said that it has become a safety blanket in the Stew Room. (She calls it the Kill Room.)
Nicholas said "Apparently I stole Carlos' oven" and publicly calls out Carlos for what he said to Tom and Emeril. Carlos said "I really needed an oven!" and Nina said "You should have said something!" Carlos claims he did, but it was the *timing* of the request that is the issue. Carlos said "I didn't say it in a mean way!" In the confessional, Nicholas said it was petty and that there's no reason to even say that to a judge. Nicholas tells Carlos "I roasted my meat in that oven; I turned the oven down, I put the plates in the oven to warm, and then you came over asking to use the oven, and I said no, I'm using it. And then I'm being told by a judge that you said I stole your oven. So for me, you're sandbagging me." Carlos said he would never do that on purpose and he feels bad.
The TV comes on. Brian's croquette was good, and Shirley's roast beef was enjoyed by Emeril...and he said he liked the way she used the wood oven - you know, the one she was forced to use when Carlos said he needed the plancha to cook all of his fish! Carlos's dish was late to be served, but the food was good. Stephanie's soup was good, but the grilled cheese in the soup was wrong. Justin's dish was bland, and Nina's fried chicken breading fell off, and she ran out of the corn puree. As for Carrie's vegetable dish, Tom said if she didn't have immunity, she'd probably be in the bottom. And she says she is very grateful that she had immunity.
Padma comes in and asks to see Shirley, Brian and Carlos. Nicholas quietly says "Dammit!" And as Carlos walks out of the Stew Room, he turns around with a grin on his face, almost like a "nyeah, nyeah, nyeah" look. Wow.
They are the top three dishes. Padma asks Carlos how it went for him today, and he said "It was really smooth." Umm, what? They liked his dish, but didn't like that it took 15 minutes to get a plate of his food. Brian's station was popular; Emeril said that the spinach made it, and Tom noted that most of the students he talked to said that was their favorite dish. Shirley said the only station that no one wanted to be on was the pizza oven (notice how SHE didn't throw Carlos under the bus?). Tom said it was smart that she didn't just view it as a pizza oven. Her dish was perfectly cooked and well seasoned, and her wood oven-roasted tomato relish was perfect.
Emeril announces the winner - and it's Shirley!
The judges want to see Stephanie, Nina and Justin. They are the least favorite dishes. Tom notes to Nina that the challenge included serving consistent dishes, so even though she was making more of it, her server was putting out dishes without corn puree. Gail said it was the weakest part of the dish. Tom said the students who didn't get the corn actually got a better dish, as the chicken wasn't put on the watery corn puree.
Stephanie's dish should have dialed back the cottage cheese in the quantity. Gail said it doesn't melt the way that other cheeses do. Justin says "With all respect to the other chefs, I could have probably knocked out an easy shrimp roll or something and probably crushed it, but I tried to cook the food I usually cook." Gail said "Did you go to college, Justin?" And he didn't. Gail replied "If you had spent 4 years in a college cafeteria, you would have known." Justin said "I was being way too..." and Padma said "Cheffy?" Yup. That was it. They leave while Judges deliberate.
Tom notes Nina's consistency was not good. Emeril said his corn puree wasn't bad, but Gail's was. Tom said "her corn puree was 49 shades of gray - one more shade and it was a novel!" Padma said Justin's dish was bland. Gail said "Justin was *very* consistent - consistently flavorless!" Stephanie's soup was good, but her grilled cheese was a mess. The cottage and feta cheeses just don't melt, and putting it in the soup made it a soggy mess.
Back in the Stew Room, Nina raises a glass to herself saying it was a pleasure working with them, but Nicholas said no one knows who's going home yet.
Back in the Stew Room - Tom reviews; Padma decrees. And it's Justin who is asked to PYKAG. He notes in confessional that it shows he's stubborn; he was unwilling to compromise on ingredients, and it failed him. But he's going to turn elimination into lemonade and run the table in LCK, and rejoin the TC kitchen in the finale and say "What's up, mo-fos? I'm back!"
Previews - it seems to be all about fish. Stephanie is in trouble with her plating, Carlos thinks Nicholas is only thinking about himself when Nicholas won't lend him a sharp sushi-grade knife....might that be a case of pot, meet kettle?
* * * PROGRAMMING NOTE! * * * -- There is no new Top Chef on Wed., 12/25/13 or Wed., 1/1/14.