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To 'Infinity' and Beyond

The chefs board a cruise to Alaska.

By Monica A. Reyhani

Hello, my little butterfly hair combs. (A Titanic reference seems appropriate.)

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef Season 21 Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

Doesn't it feel good to dodge a bullet sometimes?

No -- it doesn't feel good.

This little exchange between Josh and Brooke at the top of the show really stuck with me for some reason, but I'm also weird, so, y'know, whatever. Speaking of dodging bullets... Josie and Kristen battled it out in Last Chance Kitchen, and Kristen won. Please -- your applause is deafening. So, Kristen has now won two weeks in a row. And CJ is still alive in our Save a Chef vote. Things are getting interesting, everyone.

Back in the television screen, Padma and Tom invade the Stew Room to tell the chefs to pack their bags -- they're heading to Alaska! On a cruise! Everyone's psyched except Brooke, who apparently hates boats. This is where I tell you that I love cruises! I'm basing this off the one cruise I took on Spring Break with my best girlfriends senior year of college, but was maybe the most relaxing time I've ever had. I had a mild flirtation with a server, Piter (no idea how he spelled his name, but that is how he pronounced it.) But Piter got sick the last night, and so I never got to properly say goodbye. Piter, if you're reading this, you left quite an impression on me! Sigh.

Anwyaaay, I've heard Alaskan cruises are beautiful, so needless to say, I'm very jealous of our chefs. But then again, I don't have to cook things on national television, so I guess it's a trade-off.

P.S. Did anyone notice Stefan's odd look of relief when Padma announced that the chefs' final destination was Alaska. We'll call it his "salmon face." Raw fish at every dock! Think of the possibilities.

Stefan is packing his camping pants. Camping pants. Camping. Pants. 

Also! We learn that Stefan's mom tricked him into joining the army, which is one of the most odd and awesome stories we've ever heard on Top Chef. Stefan's ready for another booze cruise. He's ready to put his party pants on, which I think implies no pants at all, but that's just speculation. The chefs arrive at the Celebrity Infinity. We see a lot of great shots of the boat, and I'm ready to book another trip There's a Jacuzzi! There's a Jacuzzi! Brooke, those Jacuzzis get you into trouble. Trust me.

Stefan's already too close for Brooke's comfort.

The chefs enter the boat's kitchen and see Padma and Curtis Stone (he of the dreamboat variety). I love it when a handsome man wears a thick cardigan -- call me crazy. Lizzie comments that he looks really cute, and then says slyly "I wonder what we're going to have to do." Easy, Lizzie! Let's keep it professional.

For the Quickfire Challenge, the chef have to create one-bite dishes highlighting iceberg lettuce. All the chefs are throwing iceberg lettuce some shade, and they're not entirely wrong. It's not super-flavorful and doesn't have nearly as much nutritional value as other lettuces. It's basically water. But, guess what? Give me some shredded iceberg and some queso fresco and I'm satisfied. The chefs check out their cooking space and quickly see that they're working on electric stoves and not gas. As they start to conceptualize their dishes, Stefan makes the gross comment "They're freezing upstairs. Padma should have something warm in her mouth." Shudder. This was actually the first time I thought Stefan kinda crossed the line, but I guess that's Stefan. 

Overall, the chefs did a solid job. A couple of the ladies got criticized for not creating true one-bite dishes, but nothing was inedible. Sheldon and Stefan's dishes seemed to be the most innovative with Stefan braising his lettuce and Sheldon pickling the core. Ultimately, Sheldon wins! 

Sidenote: I loved when Curtis commented that Josh walks like a chef. I honestly have no idea what he means, but yet I know exactly what he means.

After Sheldon's win, he and Lizzie take advantage of some of the amenities on the boat and go for manicures! Josh doesn't think real mean get manicures. Well, I think i can speak for a few women when I say we'd rather you get regular manicures than have either long nails or gnarly ones. During their mani, we learn that Lizzie's father passed away pretty recently. I'm sorry, Lizzie. She admits that this trip will be quite emotional for her, but hopefully she'll be able to focus.

Josh might have some focus issues as well as he hasn't spoken to his wife, and she's almost due. We'll learn later on, in scenes from next week's epsiode, that she's in labor. Yikes!That night, the chefs get to relax -- well, as much as we ever let the chefs relax on Top Chef -- and the chefs eat at Qsine. My friend just took a Celebrity cruise and told me about the atmospher and food there, so it was fun for me to see the chefs there. After quite a bit of shit-talking, Padma and The Handsome Cardigan arrive. They issue the chefs' Elimation Challenge: to reimagine surf and turf. Since Sheldon won the Quickfire, he gets to pick his proteins first. The proteins he selects are off limits to the other chefs. Sheldon jokes that he'll select canned tuna and Spam, which is pretty much what Hugh has been joking about in relation to Sheldon every week in his blog. Weiiird. Oh by the way, Sheldon worked at Disney World. Whaaat?!

The chefs select their proteins, and although Sheldon has first pick, he selects the two most traditional: beef and lobster. Alhough the other chefs are surprised by this seemingly boring choice, I look at it as an opportunity. If he can cook them in a new and exciting way, he could win. Make the judges see them in a different light, Sheldon!

Theres some tension in the kitchen between Brooke and Josh. They actually have a really interesting relationship, but I don't quite know what to make of it. Anyone have any insight they care to offer?

All the chefs are all working furiously till the end of their time. The judges are joined by several members of the Celebrity Cruises team including Executive Chef John Suley. They talk about how nice the weather is. If you're a whale. Tom is waiting to see a narwhal. This is the weirdest exchange i think we've ever had between the judges, and i love it. if this is how they are on a boat, let's film a whole season on a boat!

Let's go through the dishes, shall we?

The judges really like Brooke's frog leg dish. Her papadum was greasy, but that was the only real criticism. Spoiler alert! She wins!

Stefan serves crispy pork with beer sauce and eel/ravioli. HIs dumplings weren't unagi enough, his sauce was greasy, but the the real issue -- or rather, debate -- seemed to be his pork. I found this whole conversation around the pork fascinating and was pretty happy Curtis, someone familiar with that style, was there for it. While the American and Canadian judges seemed to be really bothered by the crispy pork, it reminded Curtis of home. When Stefan said he was making it and i saw how he scored the top, I instantly thought of the pork at Porchetta here in NYC. The method seems to be similar. So, yeah, it's a thing. Whether Stefan's pork was just inedibly hard -- unlike Porchetta's -- is another question.So, was this just a culture clash? I don't know. I think the judges would have allowed for a certain amount of crispines, but if they couldn't even bite into it, what fun is that? Whether you're familiar with a dish or not, good food is good food. And apparently Stefan's was not.

P.S. I'm always skeptical when a chef says they're making something from his/her childhood because it could be amazing and soulful or they may find out that they've been eating crap all these years. Let's just make things inspired by our childhoods, OK? Deal.

Josh shows his cards pretty quickly saying his scallop pasta -- a great idea! -- didn't set correctly, so he had to make scrambled eggs. Thankfully, the diners like it, and he's safe!

Sheldon stays pretty traditional, and his tempura is soft… again. Uh-oh. Also his ingredients aren't marrying well. They're not even dating. [Cue other weird judge convo.] On the plus side, Hugh could eat his kimchi all day. And Hugh knows his kimchi

Lizzie has some troubles with the steamer and her cabbage doesn't cook enough, but her food's good. It's just messy and hard to eat.

Ultimately, it's between Sheldon and Stefan to go home. For the first time I felt like Sheldon really tried to BS the judges. He told them he was uninspired by the ingredients... the ones he chose. Nice try, Sheldon.

Luckily for Sheldon, the judges really didn't care for Stefan's dish, and he goes home to compete against his wifey in LCK. It's a good one! Watch HERE.

Until next week, Have a Nosh!


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