In the Top Chef apartments, the guys are just waking up, but Stephanie and Valerie are already in the middle of their morning workout. Stephanie is feeling good after her win in the first day's challenge, but realizes that she cannot allow herself to get too self-confident. Valerie and Stephanie worked together in a Chicago restaurant years ago, and Valerie is happy to have a friend in the competition, and looks forward to perhaps working on a team challenge with Stephanie.
Mark and Spike talk over breakfast. Mark was sad, and surprised, to see Nimma go in the first challenge, but Spike laughs that he expected Mark to be eliminated.
Jen and Zoi are trying on each other's shoes before they head out. Zoi believes the two must treat this experience like they would a job. Jen agrees, suggesting that the two maintain a bit of distance as they will be competing against each other.
The chefs meet Padma at the Green City Farmers' Market for their Quickfire Challenge. Ryan is excited - he is looking forward to cooking "simple and clean." Padma tells the chefs that finding the freshest ingredients is part of a chef's job. The chefs are told that they are to create a delicious entrée with ingredients from the Farmers' Market. There is, of course, a catch: they are only permitted to use five ingredients for their dishes. The only other ingredients they will be permitted to use are salt, pepper, sugar, and oil. Any other item used, even from the Top Chef Pantry will count as one of their five ingredients. Padma sends the chefs into the market to shop - they have a budget of $25 and 30 minutes to shop.
While all of the other chefs are running madly through the area trying to see what is available, Spike spends a few minutes listening to a local musician. He feels that stopping to enjoy the music will calm him down and bring him back to his roots. Richard buys some eucalyptus, and Mark is frustrated by the other shoppers who seem to be taking their time. Dale tries to search out "the best" ingredients he can find, trying to avoid buying frozen meat. Mark ends up rushing through his purchase of lettuce, only to leave his bag of greens behind at the vegetable stand. Time is up, and the chefs head for the Kenmore kitchen.
Padma is waiting to introduce this week's guest judge: Wylie Dufresne, Chef/Owner of wd-50 Restaurant in New York. Richard is thrilled that his food will be judged by another molecular gastronomist. Padma reminds the chefs of the "free" ingredients that they are permitted to use: salt, pepper, sugar, and oil. She sets the timer at 30 minutes and the chefs begin cooking.
Richard begins braising his chicken legs that he will flavor with eucalyptus, explaining that molecular gastronomy is all about taking traditional tastes and, through science, making them better. Mark is concerned that he left his greens at the market; Spike is disappointed to find that the frozen meat that he thought was tenderloin tips turned out to be a cheaper cut once it was defrosted. The chefs battle each other for space at the burners - it seems as if each of the fifteen chefs has at least one sauté pan on the fire.
At the end of 30 minutes, Chef Dufresne and Padma begin their tasting starting with Richard's "Chicken Soup" with Chicken, Apples, Apple Cider, Eucalyptus, and Butter. Chef Dufresne comments that the eucalyptus isn't "terribly strong." Ryan serves Lettuce, Radishes, Potatoes, Sirloin Steak, and Dijon Mustard and the chef tells him that it is "simple, tasty, and nice." Dale's dish consists of Mushrooms, Shallots, Radishes, Eggs, and Butter and Chef Dufresne praises his mushrooms. Valerie's offering of Rib Eye Steak, Peaches, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Arugula has the chef commenting on its refreshing quality. Spike tells the chef how disappointed he was with the quality of the "tenderloin" tips in his dish of Tenderloin Tips, Apples, Bread, Apple Cider, and Rosemary. Both Padma and Chef Dufresne seem confused by his use of bread, expecting something in the nature of a steak sandwich. Erik offers a Lamb Chop, Baby Carrots, Potatoes, Mint, and Garlic in a very separated presentation to minimal comments, and Mark's Sirloin Steak, Turnips, Mushrooms, Peaches, and Butter earns some praise - as do his sideburns. Andrew offers Lamb Chops, Peaches, Onions, Mint, Potatoes, and Balsamic Vinegar - but wait, that's six ingredients. Andrew didn't realize that balsamic vinegar was not one of the "givens" Padma told them about, and he is disqualified.
Chef Dufresne chooses Spike, Erik, and Richard as his bottom three. Spike's use of the less tender meat was not creative, Erik's plate was not very composed, and Richard's dish was oily and not refined. The stand-outs were Ryan's well executed sirloin dish, Valerie's flavorful steak, peaches and sweet potatoes, and Mark's steak dish which showcased the bitterness of the turnip with the sweetness of the peach. Chef Dufresne declares Mark the winner of the Quickfire Challenge which earns him immunity for the Elimination Challenge.
The knife block comes out for the Elimination Challenge. Manuel draws first, and on his knife is written the word "Vulture." He cannot imagine eating a vulture, so the word makes him, and his fellow chefs, quite confused. Other chefs pull knives which include the words, "Penguin," "Bear," "Lion," and "Gorilla." The five groups consist of three chefs each who are very relieved when Padma announces that they will not be cooking vultures or penguins. The chefs will be catering a staff party at the Lincoln Park Zoo for 200 people and they will be basing their dishes around the main foods in their animals' diets. The chefs will have three hours the next day in the Kenmore kitchen to prep and cook before heading to the zoo.
The teams are given an outline of the animals' normal menu. Team Vulture, consisting of Mark, Manuel, and Zoi learns that vultures eat quail, rabbits, small fish, chickens, and lamb. Team Gorilla, with chefs Valerie, Stephanie, and Antonia finds out that gorillas consume leafy greens, root vegetables, fruits, eggs, corn, and many grains. Stephanie and Antonia immediately begin brainstorming, deciding to incorporate meat into the gorilla's vegetarian diet. While Valerie disagrees, she doesn't say anything. Ryan, Erik, and Richard of Team Lion discover that lions eat beef, ribs, buffalo, bison, eggs, chicken, and beans. The chefs of Team Penguin, Lisa, Jen, and Andrew, discuss the birds' diet of crabs, squid, herring, anchovies, and shrimp. Team Bear, Dale, Spike, and Nikki, discusses using honeycomb on their menu.
On the day of the Elimination Challenge the teams go to the Whole Foods Market, with a budget of $500 and 30 minutes to shop for all of their ingredients. Spike dodges through the produce section, leaving destruction in his path. Richard spends much of Team Lion's budget at the meat counter. Nikki of Team Bear insists her team put some food back so that they can buy table decorations.
Hurried preparations are under way as soon as the chefs enter the Kenmore kitchen. Team Gorilla chooses a menu of Lamb and Edamame Lettuce Cups, Banana Bread, Crab Salad on a Celery Root Chip, and Black Olive Blinis with Rutabaga, Beets and Mascarpone. Stephanie is making her grandmother's banana bread recipe and Valerie is concerned that she will be making the blinis ahead of time and serving them later. Team Lion has decided on a menu of Bison Tartare, Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Foam, Chicken Sate, and Prime Rib with Horseradish Foam. Erik has never worked with the tools that Richard is bringing to bear on their challenge, but he hopes the outcome will wow the judges. Team Bear has settled on Venison Loin with Squash, Seared Salmon, Stuffed Mushrooms, and Cheese and Honeycomb on Bread. Nikki will be stuffing the mushrooms with dried blueberries, and will be putting together the cheese and honeycomb dish. Team Penguin selects Thai Shrimp and Crab Salad, Roasted Zucchini, Squid Ceviche, and Yuzu and Mint "Glacier." Andrew is responsible for the jelly-mold glacier which will be served as a palate cleanser. Team Vulture has chosen to serve Braised Chicken on a Tostada Chip, Moroccan Lamb Meatball, and Anchovy on Quinda Croquette.
Head Chef/Judge Tom Colicchio enters the kitchen to check up on the teams, and is surprised to hear about the "glacier" from Team Penguin. Chef Colicchio then approaches Manuel of Team Vulture and asks if working with Mark, who has immunity, is a challenge. Manuel responds that Mark is a strong addition to the team. He leaves the chefs with a little over an hour to cook.
Dale and Spike take one look at Nikki's finished Stuffed Mushrooms and declare them too unappetizing to serve. Nikki suggests they take them to the zoo and perhaps top them with chives or chopped chervil to disguise their dark brown unsightliness. Stephanie is having problems with the chips for the crab salad - they are soggy, and the team realizes they haven't been completely cooked. After re-frying the chips, Team Gorilla decides to take the chips to the event unwrapped to prevent them from becoming soggy again. All of the chefs hurriedly finish their preparations just as the timer counts down to zero.
The teams arrive at the Lincoln Park Zoo with an hour to set up their stations for the cocktail party. Team Bear is still debating about whether or not to serve the mushrooms, with Nikki insisting that they "just have to make them look pretty." Dale decides to add cheese to try to ameliorate the disgusting look of the dish, but compares it with "putting perfume on a pig." Antonia has doubts about Valerie's blinis and Valerie herself comments that she should have made the blinis at the site. As they anticipated, Stephanie's chips have turned soggy, so she and Antonia remove the chips from the menu and serve the crab salad on top of roasted pear and celery.
Padma and Wylie Dufresne, the guest judge for this challenge, enter the room with Head Judge Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons of Food and Wine Magazine. The guests arrive and begin to circulate among the tables. One guest bites into Team Bear's revamped Stuffed Mushrooms and find that they are cold. The team pulls the mushrooms from the table, and begins explaining to guests that they only have three dishes instead of four. Chef Colicchio and Chef Dufresne both enjoy Team Lion's Beet Salad with Yuzu, Ras Al Hanout, and Goat Cheese Foam, while Gail and Padma try the team's Bison Tartare with Tarragon Coulis.
At Team Vulture's table, Mark has a hard time selling the anchovy dish to the diners, but Padma and Gail have nothing but praise for his Marinated Anchovy on a Quinda Croquette. Zoi plates her Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatball, Ricotta, Pomegranate Syrup and Pistachio and the ladies deem it "delicious."
Chefs Colicchio and Dufresne wonder where the chips are to go with Team Gorilla's crab salad, and Antonia tells them they were too soggy to serve. Valerie serves her black olive blinis. The chefs do not enjoy either dish. The team's Lamb and Edamame, and Banana Bread with Salted Caramel Sauce and Meringue, however, are big hits.
At the Team Bear table, the judges taste the Chimay Cheese and Honeycomb on Cranberry-Pecan Bread, and the Salmon a la Plancha on Lettuce Cups with Pickled Vegetables and Peanuts, When Gail asks about the mushrooms, Nikki feels that she would be in jeopardy of elimination if she did not serve her dish. Handing over a plate of Mushrooms stuffed with Blueberries, Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese, she explains that they didn't turn out as she had planned. Spike and Dale maintain that they should not have served the dish.
Andrew of Team Penguin explains his Yuzu and Mint Glacier to Chef Colicchio and Chef Dufresne who both try a taste. Then it is on to the Squid Ceviche with Soy-Balsamic Tapioca, Thai Shrimp and Crab Salad with Watercress which they both enjoy.
Dr. Shana Lavin, the Nutrition Manager for the Lincoln Park Zoo, announces that her favorite team was Team Penguin because they incorporated fish very well in every dish. Elizabeth Bruccoleri, the Zoological Manager of the Bird Department, enjoyed the tables that stayed true to their animal's eating habits. When the judges get together to commiserate, they decide that Team Gorilla has their least favorite dishes, while they all enjoyed the squid from Team Penguin, and many dishes from Team Vulture. The judges head back to Judges' Table.
Padma calls Team Vulture and Team Penguin to Judges' Table, and they are declared the top two teams in the challenge. Chef Dufresne declares Andrew as the winner of this challenge for his wonderful anchovy dish, as well as his creative glacier. Andrew informs the other chefs that the judges want to speak with Team Gorilla and Team Bear.
The judges are amazed to find that no one on Team Bear tasted the mushrooms after they added the cheese. Dale tries to disclaim any responsibility for the dish, but Spike tells him he should have been more vocal in insisting the dish be discarded if he felt that way. Stephanie is not surprised that her crab salad is being criticized - she should not have mixed it ahead of time. Valerie also knows that her blinis were not executed well, as they should be made to order, not made ahead of time. Chef Colicchio tells her that the other ingredients in the dish didn't help the taste. The chefs ask Antonia, as the only member of the team with successful dishes, to choose between Stephanie and Valerie. She tells them that Stephanie should stay.
After a bit more deliberating at the Judges' Table, the judges reach their decision and call back the two losing teams. Team Bear is chastised for serving a dish they did not stand behind. Chef Colicchio reiterates his assessment of both Stephanie and Valerie's dishes. Valerie is told to pack her knives and go.