Fun Fact of the Week: When cheftestants feel stress after a double elimination, they go drinking. I’m sure this surprises everyone greatly.

14 of the cheftestants are left now, so they’re getting a wee bit more competitive. Again, this is sure to surprise. But they all walk in happy enough to see Tony Mantuano, the chef and owner of Spiaggia in Chicago. He’s no Joe Jonas anyway.

The Quickfire Challenge for this week is stuffing. Only harder, because they have to make the stuffing without knives or cooking tools. On the plus side, the winner gets immunity and $20,000. So you know it’s going to be some good stuffing.

The Quickfire dishes are:

  • Casey: Mushrooms with crispy chicken liver, miso cake and mushroom dashi
  • Jamie: Stuffing crepinette with pork, lemon oil and broth
  • Carla: Thai-inspired vegetable stuffing with black quinoa salad
  • Spike: Stuffed quail with raisins, herbs, port and apricot glaze
  • Marcel: Whole squab stuffed with raisin brioche, cherries, currants ad ras el-hanout gravy
  • Richard: Pressure-cooked onion with nitro-fried fennel, raisins and pine nuts
  • Tre: Southwestern stuffing with bacon, cheddar, bell peppers and chili powder
  • Dale: Spanish-influenced stuffing with crab, oysters, chili-lemon aioli, grapes and olives
  • Tiffani: Soy-maple stuffing with quail, grilled mushrooms and quartered grapes
  • Fabio: Polenta bread, vegetables, smoked bacon and grated (on a shelf) parmesan

The judges’ least favorites turn out to be Carla’s undercooked quinoa, Tiffani’s overly sweet stuffing and Casey’s stuffing (deemed to be more of an appetizer than a stuffing). On the flipside, the judges liked Tre’s spicy (but balanced) stuffing and Marcel’s stuffed squab. In the end, Tre wins. He’s pretty happy.

Time for the Elimination Challenge now! This week, it’s at the US Open, which means the cheftestants have to cook food that is both healthy and high in energy. They get divided into two teams by orange and yellow tennis balls.

Orange Team: Carla, Fabio, Antonia, Dale, Richard, Mike and Marcel
Yellow Team: Spike, Jamie, Tiffani, Tre, Casey, Angelo and Tiffany

The competition is determined in a style vaguely reminiscent of a tennis match, with cheftestants going up, one at a time, to face a member of the opposing team. The cheftestant with the best dish of the two wins tennis points until one team has enough points to take the match.

In order to win, the teams feel the need to strategize their dishes. They do so by separating back at home. The “master plans” must stay a secret. They whisper.

It’s time to cook and the teams each have three hours to prep in the US Open kitchens. Tragedy almost strikes the Orange Team when Carla cuts her fingernail off. But she’s not going to leave after the whole Jamie thing.

Once the food is cooked, the two teams prep at opposite sides of the court, which looks way bigger with chefs than with tennis players.

Time for the match!

Fabio goes first for the Orange Team, which causes Yellow to freak out. Casey takes one for the team and goes. Not that her team is happy about this, since they wanted Jamie’s undercooked chick peas to take the fall at the beginning.

Taylor Dent (some professional tennis player, apparently) helps with the judging, probably to give this whole thing some sort of tennis feel, since there are no sports otherwise.

Fabio has gnocchi with pork-loin ragout, caramelized fennel and zucchini, while Casey has grilled pork tenderloin with faro, cherries, sugar snap peas and vinaigrette. Everyone prefers the gnocchi, making it 15-Love for the Orange Team. And Fabio goes insane.

Next, the Orange Team sends up a desperate Dale (much to Marcel’s displeasure). The Yellow Team sends Tiffani. Dale has an edamame dumpling with carrot froth and crispy soy nuts. Tiffani counters with sashimi of black sea bass, avocado and ponzu vinaigrette. The judges prefer Tiffani’s dish, so it’s 15-15.

Marcel is up next for the Orange Team with cauliflower couscous with pomegranate seeds, golden raisins and yellowfin tuna. Angelo plays for the Yellow Team with smoked tuna, yuzu gelee, red onion and capers. Angelo edges out Marcel, making it 30-15 Yellow.

Antonia (Yellow) and Tiffany (Orange) are next. Tiffany has spiced tuna with fennel, peppercorns, coriander and lentil salad. Antonia has sea scallop, Indian lentil puree, mint, dandelion greens, cilantro and chives. Antonia wins the point, making it 30-30.

It’s Richard (Orange) versus Spike (Yellow) now. Spike has a tomato tamarind soup with olive oil-poached shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes and dill. Richard has “Thai-bouleh” with lamb, herbs and yogurt. Richard wins the point so Orange can take the lead, 40-30.

Carla is next for the Orange Team, against Tre for the Yellow Team. Carla has an African groundnut soup with baked sweet potato, adzuki beans and peanuts. Tre counters with Coho salmon, parsnip puree and olive oil sauce with citrus, tomatoes and olives.

Carla wins, which takes the win for the Orange Team. This means that yet again, Jamie did nothing (her food wasn’t ready until the end). They’re all going to hate her so much. Mike does nothing too, which only proves to him that he’s the best. Ah, Mike and his ego…

Back in the supply closet of doom. There’s dancing. A lot of dancing. And drumming. But then they calm down for the doom-like moment.

Fabio, Carla, Richard and Antonia head up for happiness at the Judges’ Table. As the winners of points, one of them gets a trip for Italy. The judges really, really liked the dishes. Carla’s soup was seen as homey but elevated. They liked the layers of flavors in Antonia’s dishes. Fabio’s light gnocchi is called a “miracle.” They just liked Richard’s food.

And Carla wins! She gets to eat her way across Italy! Also, she gets a big bottle of wine.
Now, Casey, Tiffany, Tre and Spike have to go face the judges. And everyone in the Supply Closet of Doom gets pissed at Tiffany.

The judges don’t really like the whole strategy. Especially because it didn’t work at all. Spike blames his dish on pretty much everyone else. The judges agree. Then they accuse Angelo of sabotaging everyone else. Tiffany, nice girl that she is, defends him. So the judges call her salad flaccid. Tre’s dish is labeled the least-favorite. Not that it matters because of his immunity. Casey’s dish is labeled too heavy. She disagrees.

With many tennis analogies, the judges discuss the dishes on the way to their match-point decision.

Spike is ultimately the loser of the match. He feels that he got screwed. Bye hats!

Did you enjoy this week’s Top Chef? Did Spike deserve to go home? Did Angelo sabotage everyone? Let us know what you think in the comments!

(Image courtesy of Bravo)

Laurel Brown

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include ChuckModern FamilySupernaturalMad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.