Josie is gone, and the final five cheftestants are as delighted as 94% of the people who watch Top Chef. It's like a huge weight has been taken off the shoulders, or maybe it's been taken out of their butts, and the weight was from some really loud, bad fried chicken they ate, and then that weight came out of their butts the next morning and they feel a ton better. The chefs hug and smile and laugh and Stefan tries to kiss each one of them fifteen times because he's European and loves pulling kisses. Josh sputters out something about wishing Josie had gone home earlier. You and me both, pal. He's frazzled from his first win. Brooke, on the other hand, is lucky to have stayed. "I can't make those mistakes again," she says. She's always near the top or near the bottom in challenges; there's no in-between with her. Top Chef is killing the middle class.
Padma tells everybody to pack their bags. "You are all eliminated. Our producers agree that with Kristen gone, there is no need for this show to exist. Go back to your restaurants and your families." Actually tomorrow they'll be saying "bon voyage" to Seattle. ("Bon voyage" is French for "chocolate pervert.") The chefs are headed on a cruise to Alaska. Lizzie says, "I've never been to Alaska!" Stefan reveals that he used to be a cook on an army cruise, or something. I was confused. Or maybe he said that his parents took him on a cruise but it was actually the army for a year. Did he not figure it out until after? He sounds like a dumb kid.
Brooke says, "I'm afraid of boats!" Who is afraid of cruise ships? I can't imagine this cruise ship will ever be more than a mile from the shore. Brooke tells a very strange story about her child also having a fear of boats — apparently "huh?" runs in the family — and how that made her decide to not pass that weird-ass fear onto her kids. Way to be strong, Brooke. Conquer your cruisaphobia. The ship is cold, foggy, and filled with fat tourists. Brooke puts on a brave face and dances super hard with Stefan.
The cookpestants file into the kitchen of the cruise ship. It's an extremely large kitchen, nearly big enough for Curtis Stone's enormous skull to fit comfortably inside. Lizzie gets all flustered by him. "He's really cute," she says. In South Africa, obnoxious sweater detailing like toggles and shawl collars are a sign of a man's virility, so it makes sense that Curtis is extremely attractive to her. This week's Quickfire is more like a Slowfire; they've got two hours to make 200 one-bite portions to welcome aboard the ship's guests, all highlighting iceberg lettuce, "a non-foodie member of the lettuce family." That sounds like such a shitty, annoying family, that everyone in it is such a foodie that the one who isn't gets pointed out. Imagining that family's Thanksgiving makes me want to slam my head down on a pencil. Sheldon is bummed because iceberg is so boring but I would counter that maybe Sheldon is boring and he should shut up. Iceberg lettuce is great. It's what gives Taco Bell soft tacos crunch and stops them from being entirely smooth, frictionless diarrhea igniters.
The chefs race around and learn about how cruise ship kitchens are weird. For one, they are on a moving ship, and designed to quickly and efficiently produce mass quantities of food to shovel into the hambeast passengers; they eat so much and it's gotta go somewhere. I have never been on a cruise but I imagine passengers spend a lot of the time sitting on the bow of the ship with their butts hanging off, and then they just "make" into the wake of the ship. (On a cruise, that's called "the wake and make.") All the ovens have little locks on them so in case of a hurricane everybody still can get a hot pie delivered to their bunk at 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, Curtis and Padma wait for their dishes and make weird fuck-talk about iceberg lettuce.
Padma says, "What can you do with it, Curtis?" He replies, "Well, you can caramelize it, you can serve it raw, a million things." No, that's just two things. You didn't even list three things. Just bang already. He says, "I hope the only iceberg we see is on the plate, not on the water." Oh right, because of the Titanic. And the ham played on. Speaking of ham, Curtis comments that Josh "walks like a chef." That's a little mean, but also true, so here it is repeated forever.
Everybody serves their food and Curtis and Padma shiver and eat it. These five chefs are good, and Curtis likes everything. Stefan braised his lettuce and served it with pastrami. Lizzie and Josh both make teeny wedge salads, basically. Brooke's was a wrap. Sheldon went for a Vietnamese lettuce thing and pickled the iceberg hearts. Curtis declares him the winner. Sheldon says, "That just warmed me up!" because it looks miserably cold out.
The passengers love the food too. They look like who you'd expect to see on a Top Chef cruise; they moan and groan and cream themselves over the appetizers. The ship is lucky its life preservers are tied down, otherwise these animals would wrap them in bacon and eat them too. Mysteriously, the Quickfire segment ends with a wistful shot of a random, solo passenger stuffing his snack-hole from up on the crow's nest. Is he a ghost?
The chefs have some downtime. Stefan reminisces over losing his virginity on a cruise. He says he hopes to lose it again. Stefan likes liquor so much, but who doesn't? Lizzie and Sheldon opt for manicures. There's no shame in that, unless you are Josh, who being Southern sometimes revels in being charmingly small-minded. "Where I come from, men don't get manicures," he says, and then he winks. What does that wink mean? Does it mean those men do get manicures actually, or that you are going to kill Sheldon? He jokes to Stefan and Brooke that he hopes Sheldon comes out with French tips. Hey bro, for somebody who's way too manly to properly care for his nail beds, you dropped that "French tip" knowledge extremely casually, almost suspiciously so.
The chefs treat themselves to a meal at QSine, which has an iPad menu, "the most unique menu on the seven seas." QSine certainly has the coolest name on the seven seas. There are lamps screwed into the ceiling upside down, which is this stupid restaurant's on-the-nose way of telling you that they like to turn restaurant cuisine on its head. Is that a good thing? Who likes to be on their head? The five chefs take this opportunity to shit on each other mercilessly. Josh, Brooke, and Stefan rub salt in one another's wounds about previous failures. Lizzie and Sheldon don't want to mess their nails up, so they keep it classy and refrain. The food is finally served and it's as wacky and silly as you'd expect. There's lollipop sushi and a weird Hollywood Squares board of small plates. Where's Whoopi?
This meal is too-annoying-to-be-true, though. Padma and Curtis show up to ruin everybody's digestion. Tomorrow night the chefs will be running service as QSine. They'll be turning a classic dish, surf and turf, upside down. Sheldon won Quickfire so he gets first pick of proteins; whatever he chooses will be off-limits. There's an insane locker of options, and he chooses beef tenderloin and lobster tail, the most embarrassingly pedestrian of everything there. Brooke dives off the deep end — that's a clever reference to how they are on a boat — and chooses frog legs and mussels, which could be good but also sounds like something a witch would serve in a fairy tale. The kitchen staff is over 200 workers strong, and it's crazy how large the pantries are. They are like a warehouse, and it is a good place to kill someone, probably.
The chefs cook. Sheldon is already regretting his protein decision, and he worries about being thought of as the guy who only cooks Asian food. Brooke puts it simply, "Then stop cooking Asian food." She makes a good point. Josh tries to invent scallop pasta, but when it doesn't set in time, he turns it into scrambled scallops, which is horrific sounding and not much better looking. The judges this week are Tom, Padma, Curtis, Hugh Acheson, and some people from Celebrity Cruise Lines who I won't bother to name. You will never meet them again, I'm sure. Mostly, when they talk, words come out of their mouths but you can easily read their minds, where they are repeating over and over, "Don't look at Padma's cleavage. Don't look at Padma's cleavage." She doesn't make it easy. Come on, Padma. Kids watch this show.
Brooke brings her dish of mussels and frog legs inside an Ikea desk organizer. The papadum is greasy, but miraculously everything else works great. She actually invented something new. Stefan's braised pork belly is insanely crispy. Tom worries he'll break a tooth, and everyone can hear him crunch through it. Curtis tries to explain that crispy pork shoulder is a European thing; Tom and Hugh don't buy it, and I am pretty sure Hugh calls most of England toothless drunks. Padma says, "We saw a whale yesterday!" Josh serves his scrambled scallops with braised pork belly and bacon in a martini glass, like he's trying to impress a mom at a bar mitzvah. Though it was his fallback plan, the judges like the scallops. They can keep them.
Meekly, Sheldon serves his Korean barbecue filet mignon and tempura lobster. He screwed up his tempura at the roller derby, and he screwed it up again. He should stop serving tempura. The judges don't think the two proteins marry well. Tom makes a good joke, saying, "They're not married, they're not even dating," and Padma stomps on it by saying, "They're not even talking!" Good one. Everyone smiles and tries not to look down her dress. Lizzie had problems with her steamer, so the cabbage in her suckling pig and scallop rolls isn't quite finished. But the pig is good. "That'll do, pig," like in the hit film Babe.
Everyone stands before Judges' Table. Sheldon tries to blame his ingredients and how they did not inspire him, but also he chose the ingredients. A few things on his plate were inedible, nearly. Stefan's pork was too crispy for all, and Padma couldn't taste the eel in his ravioli. Brooke's boundary-pushing frog and mussels win the day.
She smiles, like she already knew she'd win. Padma tells her she has won a seven-night Carribean cruise for two. That's torture, because she has a crazy boat-fear, like a regular person. Lizzie and Josh are told that they're safe. I missed a lot of what was said here, because I got really distracted by Curtis AKA Johnny Cool Bracelet.
Stefan and Sheldon are on the bottom, and it would be a shame for either to go home. It's a question of soft versus hard, which is a common question: Sheldon's tempura was too soft, and Stefan's pork was too hard. Stefan has had an off season; yes, he made it this far, but he was on the bottom in nearly a third of the challenges, and he only won once. Maybe he was having too much fun? He certainly gave me plenty to write about. Padma tells him to pack his knives and go. I'm sorry to see him go. I hope one day I can get really drunk with him.
I watched the Last Chance Kitchen afterwards, and Stefan faced off against Kristen in some sort of outdoor, idyllic forest kitchen. He is very excited to see her, and he gives her about a dozen kisses and hugs. I get that. But his charm doesn't distract her, and she wins her third cook-off in a row. Stefan could still get voted by the viewers back into the show, so it's in our hands now.
In other exciting news, Kristen made good on my invitation in last week's recap, and after performing in Boston on Saturday I swung by her restaurant. We totally hit it off, and I don't want to say too much, but it's official. Please respect our privacy.