Top Chef recap: Iceberg (Lettuce), Straight Ahead!

The chefs board an Alaska-bound cruise ship and cook to stay afloat
Ep. 13 | Aired Jan 30, 2013

SEASICKNESS Brooke didn't let her fear of water and boats get to her in the surf and turf challenge.

David Moir/Bravo

But breaking up the family squabbling were Curtis and Padma, and the chefs realized with some dread that a challenge was on the horizon. The Qsine staff began serving their dishes, which included an assortment of tapas arranged in something that reminded me of a dollhouse, and things like sushi lollipops. What delight and fancy and wonder! Curtis said their Elimination Challenge would have them serve dinner the next night at Qsine, and they'd have to present surf and turf in an innovative, out-of-the-box way. Because Sheldon won the Quickfire, he'd get first pick at his proteins, and none of the other chefs could choose them.

The other chefs joked that Sheldon should choose canned tuna and Spam and other undesirables. But instead of reaching for the emu meat and live sea cucumber, he went for the most standard proteins available: beef tenderloin and lobster. Of course, Josh got his hands on the pork, and Brooke did the opposite and went out on a limb with frog legs and mussels. Ooh, good luck with those.

The work in the kitchen this week really showed how much more of a level playing field there is now that Josie's gone. All the remaining chefs worked with urgency and displayable skill. I mean, look at Lizzie take apart that pig! I didn't know whether to be disgusted or turned on. Josh flubbed his scallop pasta and instead turned it into a scallop scramble, which shouldn't make sense, but it was a creative recovery, even if it did attract some additional "breakfast food" taunts from Stefan.

Brooke went right down to the wire in plating her extremely elaborate dish of poached mussel, frog legs with a beet glaze, papadum with shallot chutney, and a bed of celery root and fennel puree. Tom loved that she brought the earthiness out of the frog legs with the beet flavor, although he thought the papadum was greasy.

Stefan's ultra-crispy pork belly split the judges on the issue of pork crispiness. Tom and Hugh almost cracked their teeth, although Curtis thought that in some cultures you'd want the pork skin to be that crunchy. Padma appreciated that Stefan pushed the envelope with the eel and parsnip ravioli, but Hugh couldn't taste any of the eel.

Much to many of the judges' surprise, Josh's scallop scramble went over well. While Padma thought the turf of the pork belly overpowered the surf, Tom thought the seafood taste of the scramble packed a flavorful punch.

Ever since getting his pick of the proteins, Sheldon was in an immediate funk and didn't seem to care much about the challenge. His Korean barbecue filet mignon and tempura lobster with dynamite sauce seemed like something you could get at a Benihana. Sheldon tried for tempura again after failing at the roller derby challenge, but he wasn't any more successful this time. Hugh wondered, "Why do people continually think tempura is a good idea?" All the judges agreed that there was no harmony between the surf and turf.

While she destroyed that pig with skill and elegance, Lizzie had a harder time with steaming her cabbage rolls, and she was in a rush to plate the cabbage stuffed with suckling pig and seared bay scallops with mustard sour cream and pickled shallots and apple. Everyone agreed that the dish was hard to eat because the cabbage split apart upon touch, but Tom enjoyed the pickles and the flavor.

Despite her fear of boats, Brooke managed to win the challenge, and she even won a seven-night Caribbean vacation for two. "That's ironic," she said. In the bottom were Sheldon and Stefan; Sheldon, for making such an uninspired dish, and Stefan for the overly crispy pork and the grease-heavy sauce and lack of marriage between the two proteins. In the end, they ended up eliminating Stefan, who really didn't have the momentum Sheldon did. For the most part, I really enjoyed Stefan this season, and he was the only one of the returning chefs I cared about. Now he'll face off against his "wife" in Last Chance Kitchen ...

Was it Stefan's time to go? Which contestants do you think will return?

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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