We're getting down to the wire. There are glaciers; there are sled dogs. There's a baby on the way! (Note - a lot of "stories" in this episode, so the recap is probably longer than usual.)
They start off back in the hotel; they go to have breakfast, and find a note from Padma saying "Head to the Eagle Crest for your next Quickfire. Dress warm!" They head up to the Eagle Crest Ski area, and a helicopter meets them on the road to meet Padma. Brooke is absolutely *terrified* to be in the helicopter; the pilot tells them all they have survival gear for 7 days; it'll just take them 15 minutes to get there, and Brooke will be fine. She climbs on board, but is crying. She asks the pilot to wait 15 minutes until the Xanax kicks in (pretty sure this is a nervous joke). She refuses to look out the window while they're flying and is clinging to Josh's arm very tightly. But when she does *finally* look out, she's overwhelmed with the beauty and seems to calm down a bit.
They get to climb onto the dog sleds to take them the rest of the way. NOW Brooke is laughing and having fun! Tom and Padma meet them on Norris Glacier at the base of Guardian Mountain. They're in a dogsled camp where training is going on for the Iditarod. They tell them that only two of them will move on to cook in the finale. The Quickfire is to create a dish in 30 minutes using whatever they find in the camp for their ingredients. This is the last Quickfire before the finale. They rush to the coolers and pantry and grab what they can and then head to the tiny tent kitchen to cook.
Both Sheldon and Brooke are using halibut for their proteins....and Josh is making breakfast. AGAIN. Sheldon and Josh are rushing back and forth to the coolers and pantry - Sheldon said he and Josh are the heavier set guys in the competition, and they call themselves Team Husky. But they're amongst the *real* Team Husky - the dogs.
Padma and Tom ask what the racers' typical diet is while they're training, and who eats more - the people or the dogs. Josh runs out of time to be able to fry his eggs, and has to scramble them....leaving the texture of his dish, ironically, to be like "mush".
BROOKE - Pan-Roasted Halibut, Panzanella Salad with Red Currant & Beet Vinaigrette - Tom liked the flavor, loved the crunchy bread; and a racing team member said she's really picky, but she really liked it.
JOSH - Cornmeal Cake with Canadian Bacon, Scrambled Eggs & Smoked Salmon - in her introduction, Padma said "let's move on to what looks to be breakfast...I'm going to guess that you made this, Josh!" Shocking, says Josh. :-) Tom asks if the eggs were "straight up scrambled" and when Josh said yes, Tom replies "Really? OK." The corncake was well received, and another racer said that's what they eat up there - hearty camp food.
SHELDON - Pan-Roasted Halibut with Tomato Sauce, Sesame Bok Choy & Pickled Radish - Tom liked the halibut, but thought the sauce was a bit too salty. But one of the racers really liked Sheldon's dish.
Tom reviews the three dishes, and announces Brooke as the winner. She's on a roll!
Padma tells them she has another surprise for the cheftestants, and they climb back into the helicopter to head down the mountain. Padma's driving the car to wherever they're going - Sheldon says in the confessional "I've never seen Padma drive; I think she's gets chauffeured around, so I hope she can actually get us home safely!" They head back to the hotel, and Emeril and Roy Choi, their guest judge, are there in the kitchen. Roy is the co-founder of Kogi and A-Frame in Los Angeles, and started the whole gourmet food truck revolution. Turns out that Brooke used to cook at the restaurant that Roy cooks at right now, but as Emeril says, it's not going to buy her any extra points.
Emeril and Roy have cooked them a special lunch in honor of getting to the final 3. Roy and Emeril do their cooking, and sit down with the chefs and Padma to eat Emeril's cornbread and Roy's braised short rib, which has a lot of significance to him. He didn't become a chef until later in life - around 25 - he calls himself a scumbag. He said you didn't want to meet him on the street. He was lying on the couch one day watching Emeril on TV cook a braised short rib in red wine, and said it was like Emeril popped out of the TV and slapped him across the face. Roy said that was it; he started researching culinary schools and he's cooked ever since. Emeril seemed very honored to hear he was an influence for Roy. Emeril said he started off washing pots and pans in a Portuguese bakery, and the bakers took a liking to him and taught him to bake bread, and that was the start of his love of cooking.
Padma said these amazing stories brings them to their next Elimination Challenge - they are asked to make a dish that represents the moment they all knew they wanted to be a chef - their defining culinary moment. They will be cooking for the Governor of Alaska and his First Lady at the Governor's mansion. They'll have 2-1/2 hours to prep that night, and then another 1-1/2 hours the next day to finalize their dishes. Emeril tells them to *not* hold back at all.
The cheftestants start talking about dishes that define them, and Josh gets a call from his wife saying her water broke and she's heading to the hospital. A *very* emotional time for both Josh and his wife without him there. Sheldon says to Josh to let him know if he needs breathing exercises; he can help. Brooke asks if he wants to go home; his immediate reply is "No!" and then he clarifies to say "Well, eventually, yes. Just not now."
They rush into the kitchen to conceptualize and prepare; Brooke has no idea what she wants to do, and Josh says he's going to continue to ask her what she's making (and he does). Sheldon removes the head of a big-ass prehistoric fish, and puts the head into a large pot of water - and I *swear*, the fish's gills start to expand as if it's breathing - freaky! LOL Josh is trying to do a foie gras torchon in 4 hours (usually a 4 day process).
Tom comes into the kitchen to ask what everyone is doing. Tom tells Sheldon that he says every time someone makes fish, they start the fish too soon - so Sheldon's going to take his advice and cook it at the last second. Brooke's working on a braised chicken dish, which she remembers her Mom making as she made dinner for the family every night - she will elevate it with quail to show where she is now. Josh said his defining moment was when he was reading an article in Food & Wine about foie gras, thinking it was so far advanced for a kid from Oklahoma, and then the first time he had tasted it - turns out the restaurant he was working at, the chef used to work for Tom, which Josh says puts even more pressure on him.
They head to bed, but Josh's wife calls him and says "I just want you to be here!" and is crying on the phone. Josh ends up staying up waiting for his wife's or mother-in-law's call. He gets a Skype call from his wife, and baby Georgia has arrived! His wife said "It wasn't so bad, so I guess we can have another one." Josh replies "Well, we can wait a little bit!" The morning arrives, and he tells Brooke and Sheldon the baby has arrived.
They head to the Governor's mansion to finish their dishes. Sheldon notes that Brooke has won more challenges than anyone else; but she feels very nervous knowing that one of them still needs to go. Sheldon begins to get nervous knowing he can't start cooking his fish too early. BUT when he tastes his broth, he realizes he let it reduce way too long, and it's too salty. But he has no time to make changes.
The judges arrive and are greeted by the Governor and his wife. The judges are the Governor and his wife, Tom, Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, Gail Simmons, and Roy Choi.
SHELDON - Pan-Roasted Rockfish, Spot Prawns, Baby Vegetables & Dashi - Wolfgang likes the prawns and Tom agrees that the fish and the prawns are done perfectly. Roy Choi loves the conception of the dish, but said it was too salty, and the Governor's wife agrees. Tom notes that one mistake will be the difference for sending someone home, and over-saltiness is definitely a mistake.
BROOKE - Braised Chicken, Grilled Quail with Carrot Barley & Pickled Vegetables - Tom said you know when the food is good, because everyone's quiet. And everyone *is* quiet. Roy said it looks very simple, until you start breaking it apart and see the various layers. Wolfgang said his only criticism is that his quail breast is overcooked, but if that's the way her Mom cooks, he would go to her house. Tom said Brooke accomplished taking something her mother did and making it more upscale. The Governor said it's reminiscent of his mother. Roy notes that Brooke was a prodigy in the city of L.A., and this was her style of food - this was Brooke on a plate.
JOSH - Fois Gras Three Ways: Torchon, Pan-Seared and Profiterole - Roy ate his whole plate - he liked the flavors on all three. Gail enjoyed the Profiterole, but the Torchon wasn't set (and sure enough, he was having problems with it in the kitchen). Tom said he understands that Josh is pushing himself, but sometimes you have to pull back a bit. Tom notes "You cannot make Fois Gras Torchon in one day. You just can't do it." The Governor said he liked the flavors, but said he wanted something to chew on - he needed more texture. Wolfgang said he loved the sauteed fois gras, and both Emeril and he loved the corn puree.
The chefs arrive at Judges Table in the Governor's mansion. Padma says she was surprised to get fois gras from Josh; he said he wanted to go balls to the wall. Tom called him out on the Torchon, but he does get praise for the flavors.
Roy Choi tells Brooke that her dish looked simple, but it ended up being like origami as he opened it up. Wolfgang said the flavors were great, but his quail was overcooked. Padma notes that she set herself a difficult task trying to meld two dishes into one, and Tom said she did a great job and it all worked.
Wolfgang asks Sheldon how he could have done such a perfect job on the fish, but screwed up the broth so badly. He thought there was someone else cooking the broth. Gail said there was a lot of flavor, but the saltiness left a harshness.
It was a unanimous decision - BROOKE is the winner! She moves on to the finale in Los Angeles. The judges ask Sheldon and Josh to leave so they can discuss. Tom notes the two major mistakes - Sheldon's overly salty broth and working with an ingredient Josh really didn't seem to understand. Roy said he felt Josh was trying to impress them and lost sight of the dish. Padma is frustrated by Sheldon, as he should have been able to make the broth in his sleep. Wolfgang was surprised he didn't taste the food *before* he plated. But Tom notes that whoever they send home has one more chance in Last Chance Kitchen - so *someone* will be going up against the current LCK champion!
Improper cooking or overseasoning - which loses out? It's Josh who is asked to PYKAG and Sheldon moves on to the finale! Josh tells Brooke and Sheldon to "knock 'em dead in L.A. - maybe I'll see ya!" and winks at them both as he walks out.
Tom and Padma come into the kitchen to tell them that they'll be competing in the finale along with winner of Last Chance Kitchen. Padma tells them to bring their A Game to be the 10th Top Chef, and Tom says to work on their technique, but come back raring to go.
Previews show Josh entering LCK, ready to go up against the LCK champion, and the two chefs up for Save-A-Chef join them. And Brooke's response in the preview to whoever walks in from LCK seems surprising - perhaps not who we're hoping for? Off to watch LCK....
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