The episode starts out as all seasons do, with the cheftestants meeting for the first time. Only they're not meeting for the first time, as most of them already know each other. There are at least two chefs from every season, with three from season 5 and four from season 4, and apart from Fabio dreading to run into Marcel (which he does the moment he walks off the elevator), it's a big love-fest.
After suiting up in spiffy black chefs jackets, the eighteen competitors proceed to the Top Chef Kitchen where Padma and Tom give them their first challenge of the season. For this Quickfire, the cheftestants must team up with their season-mates and create a dish that represents the city in which that season was filmed. Team Season 4 (Richard Blais, Dale Talde, Antonia LoFaso, and Spike Mendelsohn) takes the win with their riff on a Chicago dog complete with Blais' liquid nitrogen mustard ice cream. With the win, all four of them have immunity from elimination in the next challenge, which is...
...adding insult to injury for the cheftestants. They are each presented with a dramatic dome-covered platter containing ingredients from the dish that got each chef eliminated the first time around. The challenge is to re-create that dish, but this time make it a winner. After a round of groans, the chefs get to work.
Jamie Lauren, if you remember, was eliminated after making a mess out of a dish created by Eric Ripert that featured braised celery. Stephen Asprinio was eliminated because he spent too much time playing with wine during the very first Restaurant Wars rather than concentrate on his appetizer course. Consequently, he never really cooked the food in the first place, so he was really in a bind. Spike Mendelsohn was the victim of "Scallopgate" when he attempted to make a pleasing dish out of frozen scallops that had no place in Rick Tramonto's restaurant. Carla Hall listened to Casey Thompson's suggestion that she use a new technique - sous vide - which failed miserably for her. This time she vowed to do her own thing.
And on and on for the remaining fourteen cheftestants. Yes, there are a LOT of chefs this season!
Because there were so many bodies, cooking and plating was done in two shifts, with the idle chefs partaking in the meal along with the judges. Back in the kitchen, the chefs whose dishes were on the table were able to watch the reactions via a large monitor. Bourdain was particularly brutal towards Fabio's pasta dish, which pissed off everyone's favorite Italian chef. Stephen and Elia Aboumrad also did not fare well in the judging.
On the other hand, Spike managed to overcome his frozen scallop issue and ended up in the top three, along with Jamie's now successful celery braise and Angelo Sosa's re-designed noodle and watermelon tea entree from season 7. Richard Blais actually produced the favorite dish of the evening, but because he continued plating after time was called, he was disqualified.
Angelo wins; Elia goes home.
So what did you think about this episode? Please tell us in the comments!