Mercifully, this week Bobby Flay is back on the job so we don't have to put up with Guy Fieri's porcupine 'do and ridiculous facial hair. Bobby and ACT Fluoride Rinse fan Giada DeLaurentiis meet the nine remaining Wanna-bes in the Star Kitchen to give them their first challenge of the day. This "Camera Challenge" will involve cooking with chile peppers, an ingredient near and dear to Bobby's heart. After creating their dishes, the competitors will present them in a 30-second on-camera spot in which they must convey its flavor, bringing it to life. The winner of this challenge will have their recipe featured on the specials menu at all three of Flay's Mesa Grill locations.
The Wanna-bes are encouraged to rush at the table of chiles and fight for their choices, which leads to lots of mature pushing and shoving.
During the cook time, we find that Herb's feeling down and that his competitive side is taking a break.
In a flash, the cooking is over and the Wanna-bes have to talk to the camera. As is to be expected, Paul's presentation isn't compelling, but his food is a "solid B." DAS is a mess, not giving any indication of what his food, which was poorly executed, tastes like.
Aria overthought her presentation and completely forgot to mention the pepper she used. Herb was clearly discouraged.
Serena tried to speak more slowly, and while she was successful there, her dish was underwhelming. Aarti looked cute as usual, but ran out of time.
On the more positive side, Brianna's presentation and dish were both praised. Tom also did well. And Bobby thought Brad used his chiles with finesse.
Brianna gets the win and a spot on the Mesa Grill menu for a week. She immediately makes plans to go to the Bahamas and Las Vegas.
At this point, Herb begins to enjoy wallowing in his depression and wonders if he should even be there. Oh, stick it out for a few more episodes at least, Herb! You'll be eliminated eventually!
Immediately the Wanna-bes get their Star Challenge. Before them stand Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger, and Eric Greenspan. Hmmm...two Top Chef Masters finalists! They must have been filming that show at the same time (both were set in LA). The challenge is also taken from a page in the Top Chef book. The chefs are put in teams of three, not to compete with each other but against each other, head-to-head-to-head (as in Top Chef DC's episode 2 Elimination Challenge). Each team must put their own spin on a dish that is a childhood favorite of their assigned chef (reminding me of the "Last Supper" challenge from TC season 5). Confused? Ok, that means we're on track.
The teams break down like this:
Team Waxman: Aarti, Herb, and Tom must create a dish of lamb and potatoes.
Team Feniger: Serena, Brad, and Brianna must create dishes of fried chicken and iceberg salad with bleu cheese dressing.
Team Greenspan: Aria, Paul, and DAS must create a dish of steak with macaroni and cheese.
The next day the Wanna-bes head to Feniger's restaurant, Ciudad, where they have one hour to cook their dishes.
The first team in the kitchen is Team Feniger. Because she got injured in the kitchen last week, Serena makes sure that every time she needs to walk behind the other two on her team, she calls out, "behind you." This annoys Brianna, who still isn't feeling any guilt for stepping on her competitor.
The hour passes quickly and soon the three are presenting their version of fried chicken to the judges. Brianna makes chicken with curry waffles and tells the sad tale of her reunion with her father, a veritable heart-tugging rags-to-riches story that includes both homelessness and a PhD. Serena makes Italian-style chicken cutlets, the heavy breading of which does not impress the judges. Brad's fried chicken is delicious but the judges aren't so excited about his POV. He wants to call his Food Network show, "The Pro," but seems so tentative around the real pros whom he is serving.
Next up in the kitchen is Team Greenspan. DAS decides he wants to show the judges something that's all about him, so he puts a "tri-berry" relish on his Prime steak. And then he puts his foot in his mouth. When asked if he knew what "prime" meant, he said sure.
BZZZZZZZT! WRONG. He also couldn't explain the existence of that berry mess he used to top the steak.
Aria makes the bizarre combo of fajitas with jalapeno mac and cheese, hoping the addition of jalapenos will tie the two disparate dishes together. Unfortunately, it doesn't. And Paul...he does his own thing too, making pork tenderloin instead of steak, and spaetzle instead of mac and cheese. His reasoning is that when he was a kid, his family couldn't afford steak and ate lots of pork instead. Yeah, but remember that you're cooking with Chef Greenspan's memories.
Finally, Team Waxman sets to cooking. Tom does an underseasoned leg of lamb and smashed potatoes, but he tells a nice story from the heart. Aarti makes lamb kabobs that she sauces with home-made pomegranate molasses. She stepped out of Waxman's box but stayed completely in her own zone, which the judges loved. And finally, poor depressed Herb burns his balsamic vinegar reduction and fails in every other aspect of his dish.
Back at the Executioner's Table, Tushface, Bride of Fogelstein, and Bobby Flay critique the Wanna-bes and their dishes.
Bobby was into Brianna's chicken.
But Brad's chicken was even better. Aarti nailed her lamb dish, and Aria was the winner from her team only because her dish didn't suck as badly as those of her competitors. The winners and "safe" folks were sent off while the bottom three remained, awaiting their fate.
Serena is cute and had a cute story, so she gets to stay. Herb, who made Bride of Fogelstein tear up with his dinnertime story of woe, also gets to stay. That leaves DAS, ridiculed by Bobby on the "prime" issue, to get the boot. The DAS boot. (Yeah, I know you didn't get the joke this time either.)
Next week: someone rises from the ashes to impress Tushface. Is it Paul? Serena? Herb? Stay tuned! Or not.