The morning after Lizzie is eliminated, Sheldon, Brooke, and Josh get a note telling them to head to Eaglecrest. Josh correctly surmises it’s a mountain. It’s also a ski resort on Douglas Island, just across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. When they arrive, they spot a helicoptor, and again, Brooke starts to freak, because this is two of her phobias — clausto and something I don’t catch — combined. Eventually, the two men persuade her to open her eyes and look at the view, and (unsurprisingly to any true Alaskan) she immediately forgets her fears. I’m sure it helps that they’re headed over the 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield (the real reason you can’t drive to the capital) to the Norris Glacier, which I mistakenly presumed was the Mendenhall Glacier.

That’s because, while Juneau is my hometown, I haven’t been back in a while, and so had not yet heard of the Alaskan Helimush Dog Camp, where some mushers are preparing for the Iditarod. That’s probably a lot better conditions to prep under than just putting wheels on the dogsleds – actual snow and ice and cold temperatures.

For the last Quickfire of the competition, Tom and Padma tell them they have to use the mushers’ stores and cooking facilities to try to give them some gourmet food. There’s no electricity, so they have to use what are probably propane-fueled campstoves with smaller burners than they’re used to. Brooke can’t figure out why her pan keeps getting cold so fast. Because you’re cooking in a tent on top of a glacier? Yes, Tom and Padma are the only ones wearing heavy jackets, but that’s because all those musher types are used to it.  Anyway, Josh goes with his standard fall back of breakfast featuring bacon, while the other two go for Alaskans’ other favorite fish, halibut.

Josh – Cornmeal cake with Canadian bacon, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. That would be good if it’s the real smoked salmon – closer to lox in flavor — than what Sheldon was going for last week. It’s not what he was originally planning in terms of texture, and unfortunately, his eggs don’t scramble together, but Tom says it’s not bad, and the mushers all like the corn cake.

Brooke – Pan-roasted halibut, panzanella salad with red currant and beet vinaigrette. She wins.

Sheldon – Pan-roasted halibut with tomato sauce, sesame bok choy and pickled radish. Tom thinks it’s salty. Foreshadowing?

Padma says she has a surprise for them and heads back to the chopper. She drives them back to the B&B, where Emeril and Roy Choi are making them lunch. Brooke claims Roy started the food truck revolution and I guess he knows her from here in L.A. Makes sense; it’s the type of career that’d be small world type thing. The food they’ve made represents the moment they realized they wanted to be chefs. It turns out that when Roy was in a really dark place in his life, he happened to be watching Emeril’s show and it was like he came out of the TV and slapped him. Emeril is surprised and touched by this revelation.

Padma tells the three semi-finalists this will be their Elimination Challenge, and Brooke starts to freak. I thought she said there were four, meaning she’d had four different moments, but Kim over on TWOP says she said she was four, and I trust her. But it’s not like I haven’t seen this challenge on this show before. I mean, it may not have been this particular iteration; I think I’ve seen it on Top Chef Masters, but wouldn’t you at least give it some thought before reaching this point? Then again, the dish that inspired me to learn to cook wasn’t even from a recipe, but a mix, I was a lot older than four, and I don’t remember a whole lot from when I *was* four. Except I think that’s the year my mother told me about Santa. That was my first lesson about asking questions you don’t really want to know the answer to, and since I know the question you’re all asking me is “when are you going to get back to the recap?” the answer is “In the next paragraph.”

They’ll be making these dishes for Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell and his wife, Sandy. Unlike his predecessor, Sean knows that the reason there’s a Governor’s Mansion in the state capital is because the governor is supposed to actually reside there, at least while the State Congress is in session. They’ve got 2.5 hours to prep and cook, and since Brooke says she still has no idea what she’s making once they get to the kitchen, Josh tells her he’s going to keep asking her. I thought it was a way to keep her focused and motivated, and thus rather sweet, but now I don’t know. At least he’s able to keep his mind off his wife, who called earlier to say she was finally on the way to the hospital.

That night, Josh is awakened by his wife calling him, crying in the middle of her labor. It’s really sad to hear her, and Josh is obviously distressed he can’t be there for her. But I guess her doctors and his producers are optomistic about “any time now”, and he goes downstairs and gets some water so he can wait in front of the laptop and, eventually, Skype with her and meet his daughter. I guess they gave his wife some serious drugs, because she says it wasn’t that bad and they can do it again, and Josh smartly replies that they can wait a while.

Another day in Juneau! Congratulations are given, and they hie to the Governor’s Mansion, where they have 1.5 hours to prep and finalize their dishes. In the meantime, Governor Parnell answers his own door to greet Wolfgang and the others.

Sheldon goes first. Tom had come back into the kitchen to reiterate about not cooking the fish too soon; as a result, Sheldon winds up missing the fact that he over-reduced his sauce and now it’s very salty until he’s plating it, and it’s too late to fix it. He serves pan-roasted rockfish, spot prawns, baby vegetables, and dashi. Otherwise, the fish would’ve been perfect, but the salt overpowered it.

Brooke – Braised chicken, grilled quail with carrot barley and pickled vegetables. Roy says it’s Brooke on a plate. The quail was a tad overcooked, but it was layered and flavorful.

Josh – Foie gras three ways: Torchon, pan-seared, and profiterole. It takes four days to make a torchon, not four hours, and it didn’t set or get cooked through. He serves it with corn bread, which worked, but there was no variety in texture.

Brooke wins, and Josh is gone. Brooke and Sheldon toast to going home in a good way.

LCK – I was spoiled by TWOP letting me know Kristen returned for the finale, which is good because LCK didn’t acually reveal it. I was not expecing Lizzie to beat out CJ for the Save a Chef vote, though.

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Finale Part One

Wow, it’s been six months since the last episode. That explains Josh’s comment on LCK; they brought them to LA so the winner could rejoin the finale immediately.

We visit Sheldon in Hawaii, where he has lots of support from family and friends, and then Brooke in Santa Barbara. Roy Choi and her former mentor Sang Yoon pay her a visit to encourage her.

They head to Craft, one of Tom’s restaurants, where he brings Kristen out of the kitchen right after she wins LCK. Neither one of the finalists is surprised.

Tom announces that the restaurant opens in three hours and they’re his cooks. Each one has to prepare an appetizer, entree, and dessert. He’ll expedite. Hugh and Emeril are also there for advice. While Sheldon and Kristen have menu ideas right away, Brooke is floundering again. Tom, Hugh, and Emeril talk to Kristen, Brooke, and Sheldon about their menus. Brooke’s panicking, and Sheldon and Kristen are not comfortable with their desserts.  Martin Yan and John Besh join Padma, Hugh, and Emeril to judge. Tom will taste each dish in the kitchen.

Appetizers

Sheldon – Sashimi spot prawns, court bouillon (a wine and vegetable stock for poaching fish and other seafood. I just bookmarked a recipe), radish and Asian herbs. The judges like it.

Kristen – Chestnut veloute, duck rillette, and brussels sprouts. The sprouts are raw, which gives it a touch of bitterness, but the judges want more with the rillette.

Brooke – Crispy veal sweetbread salad with kumquat, beets, and mustard. Martin thinks the beets stand out, and not in a good way. Hugh wanted her to clean the sweetbreads more and not slice them so thin (sic).

Entree Course

Kristen – Seared ahi tuna with veal mustard jus and meyer lemon puree. Padma doesn’t like the puree and John says he got a strong hit of salt. As a joke, he blames the expediter.

Brooke – Braised short ribs, parmesan sauce, nettle puree and squash dumplings. The judges love it.

Sheldon – Roasted quail, pine nut puree, garam masala and tangerine. He tried stepping out of his comfort zone, but the judges “want the old Sheldon back”.

Dessert

Brooke – Brown butter cake, whipped goat cheese and blackberry sauce. The judges love it but it’s later pointed out that it’s not a restaurant quality dish.

Kristen – Curry chocolate with cashews. It gets mixed reviews at the table, but later Tom gives her some serious trouble for it, and I can’t really blame him. She left it until the last half hour, then just kinda threw it into a bowl. I *think* it was supposed to be a mousse.

Sheldon – White chocolate mousse with apple and fennel. Good concept with the flavors, but for the most part the judges find the huge chunk of raw fennel overpowering.

Kim made a very good point in her recap. Why don’t these chefs learn at least one restaurant quality dish? It’s always the downfall on this show.

I don’t recall if I mentioned this on a previous recap for this show or Project Runway, but I keep track of the positive and negative comments that the judges make on these shows, and am usually fairly good at sussing out who stays and who goes. I’m afraid Kristen might be in trouble, but I’m hoping it’s Sheldon. And it is. Whew.

Y’all enjoy the rest of the finale tonight; remember I won’t get to see it until Friday at the earliest, so please don’t post any spoilers!

Nina Lisa

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