For anyone who is a novice cook, knife skills are equivalent of riding a bike with the training wheels on. You really get a feel for who has experience -- who's been doing this for a long time. You can look at anyone's knife skills and know which person has worked in what kind of environments. The skills will always show. Knife skills are really one of the first things that you learn, and they only get better with experience. That being said, the two that I thought were really standouts, who were really smart about the challenge, were Cliff and Elia. What I thought was smart about Cliff was that he didn't take it too far. It's a Quickfire challenge, he has great knife skills, he cut up his mango, he sliced his fish really thin, but at the same time, he didn't not get involved in the rice. If you're not a skilled in Japanese cuisine, leave the rice alone -- it's just going to make problems for you. And I saw several people trying to make rolls and stuff. I thought Cliff played it really smart. He did a really nice job.
I can make a roll, but unless I'm doing something really creative with a lot of flavor profiles, I'm not going to impress a sushi chef. Elia did make a roll, and I thought that was really intelligent. I really thought it could have gone either way. Then, I have to say, I was worried about poor Mia getting sick. It's not good if one of the contestants is getting sick this early on. Because they're all living in this house, which is like a petri dish, and it's just going to go from there. I'm on the lookout for Marisa. I would hope that for her sake, there's a pastry challenge coming up. I'm going to be honest, I think Marisa is at an enormous disadvantage.
I never really understood why they would have a pastry chef inside the Top Chef competition, because your recipes are taken away from you. And pastry is such an exact science. It really does make me nervous. Team Challenges are always a cook's Achilles heel. It's not so much that you can't work together as a team, it's that you don't know these people. You don't know their style or experience, and it's difficult. One team on this episode had Betty, Josie and Mia, all who clearly complimented each other. I just knew that of all the other teams, these girls were going to pull this off.