Speaking of which, after telling us that "a chef useeng no tools ees like a sorgon dooeeng a-sorgery a-weeth hees a-fingers," Fabio used the top rack of a metal shelving unit to grate Parmesan cheese. He theenks he's hot sheet now.
Padma and Tony go around tasting the food and seem to be happy with the majority of dishes. Carla unfortunately has chosen to work with black quinoa, a grain that requires more than 45 minutes of cooking. She tells the judges that she made "un-done-tay" quinoa; when Mantuano corrects her pronunciation, "you mean al dente," she says "I said un-done-tay" and that's exactly what she meant. She ends up on the bottom, as does Tiffani with her too-sweet maple stuffing and Casey with her Asian-esque stuffing.
On top are Tre and Marcel, and while it looks close, Tre wins it with his Southwestern bread pudding. Yes, I said "bread pudding." Who knew it was a dish that could make or break a chef?
Next came the announcement about the Elimination Challenge, which will involve competing at the US Open. But rather than playing tennis, the chefs will be cooking. I tell you, this was one of the more convoluted contests in all of Top Chef. First, the recheftestants had to choose cans of tennis balls. They were then instructed to remove one ball from their can; the color of the ball would reveal the team on which each would be playing. Are they getting sick of the knife block, too?
Before we get any further, here are the teams:
Team Orange Balls: Blais, Carla, Fabio, Mike, Dale, Marcel, and Antonia
Team Yellow Balls: Spike, Tre, Tiffani, Tiffany, Jamie, Angelo, and Casey
Now for the rules: the recheftestants must compete head-to-head in rounds, one Orange Teamer against one Yellow Teamer. The winning dish in each round will score a point for that team, tennis-style (15, 30, love, nonsense shit like that). The team with the most points wins the match, with all of the point-scoring members of that team eligible for the win. The point-losing members of the opposing team would be eligible for elimination. Got that?
Also, the teams need to take into account that they wwill be cooking for tennis players, who are on a strict diet. And because of the whole head-to-head thing, there is an element of strategy involved.
The teams get fifteen minutes to do menu planning then are sent home where they work on strategery. Spike thinks that his team should send their weakest dish out first because he's sure the other team would send out their best and that way would waste their strongest dish. His teammates pretend to agree, but they're all off making sure they can save their own asses.
Carla wants to make a groundnut soup, but Dale shoots her down by saying that the US Open crowd is high end. But she knows better than to listen to someone else and stands her ground.
The next day, after shopping at Whole Foods, the recheftestants have three hours to prep their dishes at the US Open kitchen.
Fabio is making gnocchi yet again, and he's really acting cocky about it. It's as if he's channeling Stefan or something.
Angelo finds that his fish is slimy (there's a joke in there somewhere) and begs for fresher fish from Tre who refuses and sends him to Tiffany who does give him some of her tuna. (And there's another joke in there, too.) Tom comes in to ask about strategy. Team Orange is mum on the subject, but Spike reveals his plot to send out the weakest dish while everyone else on his team rolls their eyes and shakes their heads.
While preparing her dish, Carla becomes momentarily distracted and lops off the top of her finger. Blood ensues. The set medic bandages her up and suggests a trip to the hospital, but Carla is a team player, not a...well, you know.
Out on the court, the teams set up tables on opposite sides so they can't see what their opponents are planning. Jamie's dish of chick peas is undercooked, which according to Spike's plan makes it the weakest dish. However, she's refusing to plate so Casey volunteers to go first against Fabio. Team Yellow speculates that if Fabio has the strongest dish, then every dish on the Orange Team must be great. (Shows what they all think of Fabio's abilities, eh?)
Round One: Fabio vs Casey - Fabio wins a point for Team Orange
Round Two: Dale vs Tiffani - Tiffani wins a point for Team Yellow
Round Three: Marcel vs Angelo - Angelo wins a point for Team Yellow
Round Four: Antonia vs Tiffany - Antonia wins a point for Team Orange
Round Five: Blais vs Spike - Blais wins a point for Team Orange
Round Six: Carla vs Tre - Carla wins a point for Team Orange
That makes four points for Orange and two for Yellow, so the last two competitors, Mike Isabella and Jamie, don't need to compete at all, much to Jamie's relief.
During the competition, Angelo is "helpful" to his teammates by sabotaging them. He adds some completely unnecessary lemongrass gelee to Spike's shrimp and soup dish, when it really just needs more seasoning on the shrimp. And he "helps" Tre by overcooking his salmon (perhaps to pay him back for refusing to let him use some in his own dish).
Back at the Stew Room, nobody is surprised to see Fabio, Antonia, Blais, and Carla called out to Judges' Table first, because they were the winners of their round for Team Orange. Gail tells them these were some of the strongest dishes in the past seven seasons, everything was so good. But the best of all was Carla's groundnut soup. For the win, Carla not only gets bragging rights but also a giant bottle of wine and a trip to Italy, courtesy of Terlato Wines.
And Jamie, who didn't present her dish at all, is safe for another week. But I'm sure she'll get her comeuppance fairly soon. I hope so. And then I'll be the one laughing.
And on that note - Merry Christmas to all! (But not to Jamie. Bah.)