Not a lot of food porn in this episode since the Quickfire challenge was the ever-popular blindfolded taste test. A nice change of place slowing things down and returning to the basics of cooking. Even Richard acknowledged there’s nowhere to run and one can’t hide behind technique in a challenge like this. Either you’ve got a palette, or you don’t. But while a taste test is nice, how about a knife skills or a speed prep demo? That’d fire everyone up and test that liability clause in everyone’s contract.
And a note to Dale. He said he’s tasted a lot of caviar so he knows what to look for. Since he picked the less expensive version, he may want to find out who produces it. If he can be fooled, so can the customers in his restaurant, and he could probably save a few bucks buying the cheap stuff.
For Elimination teams broke up into four groups to prepare dishes evocative of four elements-Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (I thought for a moment they’d include Wind to try for a 70’s retro vibe, but, sadly it was not to be)-for a Meals on Wheels fundraiser. The drama hook was Fires team’s lack of consensus and focus. Lisa, Dale, and Stephanie had difficulty conceptualizing their dish and couldn’t make up their mind about what to prepare even during their food shop. But guys, why worry? You’ve got Stephanie on your team. With all the challenges she’s won and winning teams she’s been on, she’s a walking good luck charm. If the Chicago Cubs want to win a World Series, they should comp hometown girl seats to all of their games. Despite Fire’s indecision and Lisa’s kitchen profanity tirades Fire team takes the challenge and the producers afford us the delicious shot of Dale fuming after Lisa is picked over him as the overall winner. Oh, smolder, smolder.
On the opposite end of the spectrum Antonia’s immunity proves to be the kiss of death for her team and their carpaccio. Padma and crew, along with the rest of the diners, found their Earth-inspired dish to be bland, tasteless, and less than inspiring. I mean, come on, they had Earth. Where were the hearty roasted vegetables? The braised meat with a toothsome sauce (although I admit braising meat may have taken them over their two-hour cooking limit, but with big risks come big rewards, right?) Spike tried to convince his teammates to create a butternut squash soup, but he was shot down by Immunity Girl, although she later denied it. Their lightly seasoned effort seemed to be a much bigger sin than Richard and company’s salmon, which according to the judges still had enough scales on them to jump in the nearest river and swim upstream.
In the end another San Francisco entrant, Zoi-poor, hapless Zoi-was done in by her lack of seasoning or taste. I was kind of surprised Zoi packed her knives because I thought the producers would try and get more mileage out of her relationship with Jennifer. We’ve had glimpses in earlier episodes of the kind of jealousy they engendered in the other chefs, but again finding herself on a losing team finally caught up with her. I don’t think the butternut squash soup could have even saved her.