Let me say right up front, Jacques Pepin is a legend. Period. He is also the classiest man to ever polish a copper pot: full of grace, empathy, passion and knowledge.
We are starting out as we start most episodes these days, with Nicholas taking the piss out of Carlos. This time it's an accusation that Carlos has been just cooking Mexican food the whole time. Yeah, Mexican food is kind of limitless Nicholas. Open your eyes. And Carlos is Mexican. His restaurant is called Mexique. He's going to probably cook stuff with a kinship to that, while you cook your "modern American influenced by France."
Pepin is standing like the icon in an apron that he is. Padma introduces him and the challenge: Jacques will demonstrate his famous Dover Sole with Artichokes and Asparagus and then the chefs will recreate.
The dish is a beautiful ode to France from the cold water Normandy fish to the flavors of Provence with the tomatoes and artichoke. It is a dish that everyone should be able to cook because it has place, meaning, and the core techniques that are so important to all food. The basics are that the vegetables need to be prepped, a buttery nage needs to be made to be the enrobing sauce, the fish needs to be butchered and pinwheeled, and then the dish needs to be finished. . .Easy as pie. . .well not really.Shirley and Nicholas rank themselves as favorites in this challenge, because they know how to speak some French. We learn that Nicholas' rage was ignited in the past year by being let go from his position as chef in a big restaurant that had an ownership change. Technique is important in cooking but equally important in life and you cannot let the rage dominate. You just can't. Things happen. Shrug and move on. You are too good to succumb to that.
Nina's technique is great except she didn’t apply heat to the situation. This is not a great position to be in with four minutes to go. Nicholas is going for the bonus gold star by curling the little butter flower.
Oh my. Carlos is missing a bunch of things. Shirley nailed it. Brian made a challenging hot mess, that is cold. Nina looks like she figured out the heat on the stove. Stephanie looks nervous as always but her plate looks pretty good. Nicholas makes a complete plate with a melting rose of butter on the table.
Bottoms are Brian, Stephanie, and Carlos. Nicholas and Shirley were tops. Nicholas wins with the tarragon addition. He looks kind of happy. Take a picture, cause it's nice to document this elusive happiness that he is feeling.
The elimination challenge is Spain v. France. Dominique Crenn and Julian Serrano waltz in. Five course meal with five core ingredients found in both cuisines.
Teams are chosen: France is Nicholas, Stephanie, Shirley and Spain is Nina, Brian, Carlos.
The teams shop and Crenn is a force in the Whole Foods race. She so awesome. They get back to the kitchen and Julian is schooling team Spain. Crenn is calling everyone her little cabbages.
The restaurant they are cooking in is Revolution, which is a co-production of Rick Tramonto and John Folse. Both are legends. They cook, they freeze stuff, they rearrange olives. The diners arrive.
Nina: Ensaladilla Rusa With Green Olives, Gulf Shrimp, and Potatoes. Soulful and loved. Simplicity is difficult.
Shirley: Snapper Ceviche With Dehydrated Olives and Ice Cream. They seem to love it. TC seems to not like them together though.
Nina: Ajo Blaco With Almonds, Crabs, and Cherries. Emeril loves it. Crenn is crabby with it. It looked great to me.
Stephanie: Pickled and Poached Mussels, Crustacean Jus, and Tomate. Rick had some grit but it was flavorful grit.
Shirley and Stephanie: Chicken Liver Mouse With Roasted Chicken Bouillon. Intense and well loved. Julian doesn't like the mousse.
Carlos: Mejillones a la Romesco With Crispy Leeks. One note perfection. Limited but good.
Nicholas: Cornish Game Hen and Spiced Chocolate With Corn Silk Nest. The nest is stoopid. Julian is aghast with this nest stuff. I kinda love Julian Serrano.
Brian and Carlos: Pollo Con Arroz (Chicken and Saffron Rice). They are having mixed reactions along historic border lines.
Brian: Flan de Chocolate and Strawberries. Flan is sweet. Too sweet.
Nicholas: Almond Flan, Plum, and Dark Cocoa. The custard is just not great.
You gotta wonder, has Nicholas driven this Peugeout off a cliff because he has immunity? Or has the Real Julian team failed their leader?
Spain up first. They are the winners. Nina’s salad and soup get her tops.
France crawls before the firing squad.
From all the comments it seems abundantly clear that Nicholas is really, really lucky to have immunity. Chef Pepin puts an option out there for Nicholas: Resign or watch a non-deserving teammate go home. Nicholas is in it to win it and shrugs off this idea.
They talk through things in the stew room and at the judges table. They whittle down to who took more responsibility for the best dish, the liver mousse with consommé. Shirley gets the edge here.
Stephanie is going home. This one was hard to watch. Painful.
You will go far in this world. Your wit and your craft will take you to great places. Be well.