Everyone has finally recovered from their double shot of restaurant wars hangover, but the party's just getting started. MC Hammer and Padma Lakshmi greet the chefs in Oakland and it's very legit and there's absolutely no quitting.
For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs must come up with their own rap names and create a dish that personifies that name. The rap name and dish that wins earns immunity, so there's a lot on the line. I've given my own rap name plenty of thought, and I'd probably go with something like DJ Kale Jews, since I'm a half-Jewish girl who loves to pay eleven dollars for a liquified salad.
Amar Santana, aka Santana Lovah, is making a sea bass dish for the ladies and also doing some pretty impressive horizontal dance moves behind his station. I don't mean horizontal like laying down in bed, I mean the ones Hammer does when he shuffles back and forth. This is still Top Chef.
Spicy J-Rock 305 and Bay-Lish, better known as Jeremy Ford and Kwame Onwuachi, are both doing Dungeness crab broths, so they might have some beef. Well, Jeremy is doing halibut and Kwame is doing lobster, but beef as in rap beef, not cow meat.
Karen Akunowicz is the Pink Dragon, a name that comes from her hair color, naturally. Well, not naturally, but obviously. The dragon part is half attitude in the morning, half penchant for spicy foods.
Dr. Funky Fresh is Carl Dooley, whose initial choice was Soigne Ploosh before he realized that sounded like a porn star name and he reconsidered. When Padma and Hammer come around to his station, he doesn't just serve them, but he raps about tartare and fish sauce. It's impressive. Also, apparently rapping for MC Hammer was on his bucket list. Interesting, my bucket list is just a bunch of cheeses I want to eat.
Miss Punch-a-Lot Marjorie Meeks-Bradley shifted away from the challenge winning baking and desserts of the last few challenges and did a fried chicken sandwich with honey srirachia. The judges like it but it's a little bread heavy. Toups Legit is obviously Isaac Toups, who went back to his Louisiana roots and did scallops with barbecue sauce and grits.
Kwame tells Padma and Hammer that he used to rap and spin, so obviously Padma makes him deliver on that. A slow beat drops as the Northern California wind blows through Padma's hair and he awkwardly raps a bit before earning a cheek kiss from Padma.
At the top of the challenge are Isaac, Carl, and Karen, but the winner and chef with immunity is Isaac Toups Legit 2 Quit. This coming right after his restaurant wars win is solidifying him as someone to beat in the second half of this season.
Padma introduces guest judge chef Jonathan Waxman, who shows up with a globe full of toothpick flags on it. They aren't just pointing to countries, but significant periods in history. For the challenge, the chefs must make a dish inspired by the culture of that important historic era and region.
Isaac chooses the Viking age for the big knives and meat. Carl picks ancient Greece, which would be my choice when it comes to eating (and drinking). Amar chooses Paris. Marjorie gets ancient India, Kwame goes for Beijing, Jeremy stays local with the San Francisco gold rush, and lastly Karen picks the Empire of Japan.
The chefs get to do some serious research at the library in San Francisco to better understand the cuisine of the culture they've chosen and it's giving everyone college flashbacks. Just seeing a library on screen recalls the super late nights writing papers that would ultimately get me my English degree. I actually used it the other day — I wrote down a phone number on the back of it.
To unwind, the chefs all go to this old-school tiki bar called the Tonga Room for a few bowls of frozen cocktails. They also casually start a band so that Jeremy can whet his drum appetite.
Tom Colicchio and Jonathan Waxman visit the chefs in the kitchen as they're prepping their dishes. Kwame has a test sample of the duck he's cooking for the Han Dynasty, so Tom and Jonathan ask to give it a taste. He slices into it, but it's so undercooked that Tom won't even try it.
First to serve the judges are Carl and Marjorie. Carl's ancient Greek dish is marinated mackerel and calamari with olives and grapes. The judges really enjoy it. It seems simple but it's actually a complex dish that really speaks to the era and region he chose. Marjorie's Indus Valley dish is a lamb kebab with a heart jus, curried split peas, and paratha. The bread is greasy and off, but the spice balance is great. It's the kind of mistake that can get you sent home at this point in the competition.
Next up is Isaac and his Viking dish of cumin and mustard-seared venison with caramelized onion grautr and pickled beets. Kwame came back from his prep mistake for his coriander-crusted duck with black sesame duck jus, eggplant, and lapsang souchong cream. The judges love both dishes.
Jeremy learned, from his library research, that lots of East Coasters flooded the West during the California gold rush. Knowing that, he did a sourdough halibut with shellfish chowder. The judges aren't on board with his interpretation of the era and his gross underuse of the awesome looking crab that Jonathan saw back in the kitchen.
Karen also took a risk with her interpretation of food from the Empire of Japan. It was a heavily Chinese-influenced era, so she prepared soba noodles in mushroom dashi broth with wagyu beef and pickled mushrooms. The dish is a little complicated, though tasty, but doesn't appear to honor Japanese cuisine.
Last to serve is fittingly the most recent era of history, which is Amar with the Belle Epoque in Paris. He did roasted squab, seared foie gras, sweetbreads, tourne vegetables, and truffle sauce. The judges love it, it's reflective of the era and just tastes good.
At Judges' Table, Padma calls Kwame, Amar, and Carl to the front for the top three dishes of the evening. All three had great dishes, but the winner for the evening is Amar with his first win.
The bottom three are Karen, Marjorie, and Jeremy. This is the point in the season when people go home for dishes that are actually pretty good. Unfortunately, Karen is sent home for her overly complicated soba noodle dish.