The setting: Tom Colicchio's waterfront rental>"/>
The setting: Tom Colicchio's waterfront rental house
The elimination challenge: Tom's in the mood for fried chicken.
The guest stars: A sushi chef who is unforgivably not Shiro, but identified as "the pioneer of sushi in L.A.", Michelle Bernstein, David Chang, Vinnie Dotolo and Jon Shook.
The drama: See above: The judges are a formidable bunch.
The triumphs: After a strong of 27 losses, Stefan finally pulls off a win, taking $5000 in the Quickfire--the first which doesn't earn immunity for its victor -- with his raw yellowtail and lobster. But he's lukewarm on the fried chicken challenge after learning the prize is a mere 365 bottles of wine: "That'll last me three months," he scoffs.
Stefan is ultimately spared the burden of wine rationing, as the judges are most impressed by Josh's smoked paper bag chicken, Sheldon's Momofuku salute and Lizzie's coriander chicken breasts with a peach-cabbage slaw that slays Tom Colicchio. Following in the footsteps of Sheldon, who last week triumphed in Restaurant Wars by paying homage to his Filipino grandfather, Josh nabs the challenge win for frying chicken the way his Southern granddaddy did. According to David Chang, the results were "lipsmacking."
"In the end, keeping it fucking simple always works," Wolfgang Puck pronounces at the close of the tasting in Colicchio's borrowed backyard.
The debacles: The judges get pretty sloppy at a picnic table generously set with wine, which may partly explain why judging's postponed to the following day. But there were plenty of mistakes in the kitchen too.
Brooke's doomed from the moment she cuts up her chicken, disposing of the bones that give the meat flavor. "It's really unfortunate she did this," Colicchio sighs. For Jon Shook and Vinnie Dotolo, who unsuccessfully interviewed for line cook positions at Brooke's restaurant before they became the hottest chefs in L.A. , the salty breasts taste of revenge: "I'm glad I didn't take the job," one of them cracks.
Stefan inexplicably decides to ditch the assignment in favor of making chicken cordon bleu, claiming fried chicken is unknown in Europe. He gets his comeuppance from Puck, who points out fried chicken is an Austrian specialty. "Such a bullshitter," Padma Lakshmi says after the bottom three cheftestants file out of the judges' chambers. "Such a bullshitter."
The losers: Josie wants to make chicken two ways, but one of her fryers fails, so she's stuck serving "Southern" chicken on a banana leaf, a garnish which doesn't strike the panel's Southerners as particularly authentic. "I just, I can't," says Michelle Bernstein, who had a hand in shipping Josie home from her first Top Chef stint.
Colicchio describes Josie's chicken as "greasy" and "nasty," and her excuses about running out of time don't fly. Weeks after she first seemed like a shoo-in to pack her knives, Josie gets the axe. "Thank God the Josie show has been cancelled," Josh says.
The future: Goodbye Seattle! The remaining five chefs board a cruise ship and head north to Alaska.