Top 16, Parts One and Two. Judging from the opening montage, Red team will lose this upcoming challenge of cooking for 101 off-duty fire-fighters. The challenge is a Wal-Mart product placement cooking steaks with a sauce, and fresh veggies into two sides. Since I’m not exactly live-blogging this, I’m going to try to list team members separately.

Bethy, as captain of the Blue Team, picks Lynn, Jessie, James, Howard, Johnny, and Savannah (who she’s going to put on sauces with James).

Bemi picks Jordan (he’s not happy), Eddie, Luca, Natasha, Bre, and Beth.

Bethy picks Krissi, leaving Bemi with Kathy. OK, so now I know someone from the red team is going home. That explains why Luca looked like he might get eliminated, but from today’s montage, I’m guessing that was Frankenediting. Bethy is now given the chance to swap a team member. Bemi hopes she doesn’t pick Eddie or Jordan, because he needs them on the grill. So Bethy promptly picks Eddie and tossed him Krissi. Again, no surprise thanks to the montages showing her in a red apron.

Red team is doing steak and mushrooms, cauliflower puree, and a simple reduction sauce. Luca suggests using red wine as a base. When Bemi asks him what if they don’t have any, Luca says to use chicken stock. Sigh. No, for a steak sauce you’d use BEEF stock as a base. He’s been watching too many Swanson broth commercials. They make beef, too, as well as vegetable, IIRC, but you’d never know it from their commercials. Although I wouldn’t mind checking out the sodium amount in their new Flavor Boost packets (which I just found out also come in beef).

While red was a group effort, Bethy is numero uno captain of her ship. We know this works for her. Wonder if it’s because she leaves the sauce up to James, who is thinking either a balsamic vinaigrette or a chimichurri. She’s also dictated potatoes and red peppers for the sides. Ah, the narrator says the red team is not doing a rub. Mistake!!! Gordon tries to talk some sense into Bemi, but without any evident luck. He also tells Bethy to pick one or other of the two sauces, as she’s having James make both. I need to find a recipe for a chimichurri, since is the second cooking show I’ve seen where they talk about it.

Bre is interviewing about too many cooks in the kitchen on the red team, and the judges note it, too. But as the firefighters are shown heading out from their respective stations, Gordon has to yell at Bethy to get some steaks going, already. On the red team, Krissi is trying to talk Beth into putting cumin in the cauliflower puree. Beth wants nutmeg, but Krissi says they don’t have any, which is why she suggested cumin. Um, no. Mace would be my first choice, since they’re part of the same plant. Cinnamon would work in this instance, too. Cumin is a pepper and the flavoring is completely different.

Beth is trying to give advice, but the many cooks are holding to their own ideas. On blue, Bethy finally decides on the chimichurri sauce, which James now has to rush to finish. They’re also serving asparagus; I guess the red peppers are in with the potatoes? Red is struggling with their service. Blue is whipping them out but keep leaving stuff off. I’m going to pause now, since we know how this is going to turn out. The firefighters are pushing a button hidden in a lectern. Bemi notes one firefighter emphasizes a reach to one side, then give him a thumbs up, but that doesn’t really help him keep track. Bemi accepts the blame in an interview, so we’ll see if he picks himself to save during the pressure test. I know Krissi will be leaning over the balcony. Beth says their food was disgusting and Natasha goes off on her. Beth is in tears; while Bre tries to comfort her, but neither Krissi nor Natasha give a damn. Evidently Natasha took the remark personally, while Krissi’s just a bitch. I wish Bemi hadn’t saved her; she needs to go home.

The next day, Bemi blames the food and the rest of the team call him out for his leadership. The judges flat out give him immunity, and he gets to pick *one* other person. He picks Jordan for doing a good job on the grill. So it looks like Krissi will be cooking after all. Hmm. Luca looks like he’s wearing the outfit he was during last week’s Frankenediting, but he tends to wear the same thing a lot. They have to make Eggs Benedict. They have five eggs, one English muffin, one lemon, a chunk of Canadian bacon to slice, white wine vinegar, tarragon, chives, clarified butter, Dijon mustard, and peppercorns. That’s just enough for one portion. They only have one shot. As the chefs start in, the judges discuss what they’d do, and who they think will excel or fail. They peg Natasha as doing well and Krissi as not. Bre has never made it, Natasha has. This may be why she’s the only one who hasn’t done her Hollandaise yet. Luca’s water isn’t boiling. Beth is confident; she has experience poaching eggs and has a good sauce. Krissi’s sauce broke, so she has to start over, and she only has one egg to make the sauce, which evidently requires two or three. Now I understand why there were five eggs. Kathy drops her egg as she lifts it out of the water with a spatula (use a slotted spoon). The judges talk about whether or not the yolk broke; it doesn’t look like it, but Graham claims there’s some on his glasses. Natasha’s hollandaise also broke; it looks like mayonnaise, and so did an egg.

Kathy doesn’t have enough sauce on her eggs. Luca’s egg is undercooked. Hmm. Maybe they do all go home. But then Joe approaches Natasha, and in Krissi’s interview she’s wearing a different shirt, so we’ll see. Natasha added too much vinegar to her sauce, which turned it into a mayo. Good to know for future reference. Beth’s also looks bad, with a broken sauce, and in Natasha’s talking head about it, she’s wearing the same shirt. Beth looks like she is, too. Then Natasha interviews again in a different shirt, so once more, I’m going to give up on that. Bre, whose name I now see is spelled Bri (sorry, Bri!), and who has never made Eggs Benedict before, is the first one to get it right. Krissi’s looks like it turned out well, too. I can only hope Ms. Mayonnaise goes home, but I think it might be all four of the failures. No surprise, Krissi and Bri are safe. That explains the shot of Krissi on the balcony. Gordon says the judges couldn’t make up their minds, and all four of the rest of them are leaving the kitchen. As the four chefs give their talking heads, I’m waiting for the twist.

Yep. They have to face yet another test. OK, I said I wasn’t going to do this anymore, but Natasha’s interviewing in yet a third shirt from what she’s wearing right now. They’ll be line cooks at Gordon’s restaurant Burgr at Planet Hollywood Resort in Vegas. Usually, Burgr uses one executive chef, three sous chefs, and nine cooks to serve an average of 680 burgers each night, but tonight it’s going to be just the four of them. They’ll be divided into two teams of two, and each team will create a signature burger to serve. The diners will vote, and the losing team will go head to head in a final competition. At some point, some VIPs will come in, but the judges don’t say who yet. They tell them they have an hour of prep and 75 minutes of service. They’ve paired Beth with Natasha (oh dear), leaving Luca with Kathy. Gordon will expedite.

Luca talks Kathy into hamburgers, not cheeseburgers. Good choice. People have allergies and dietary restrictions and stuff. Beth volunteered to be leader, and is talking about fried eggs and truffle oil and stuff. She tells Gordon the egg in the hamburger will make it moist; he’s concerned about it turning into meatloaf. The fried eggs aren’t working, but Natasha refuses to take any ownership in coming up with alternatives when Beth asks her to. Luca is evidently putting a sauce on his burgers. Beth is making salad instead of working on the burgers. Gordon sets them straight, which is good, because service starts in twelve minutes. Natasha is ready to throw Beth under the bus, but Gordon’s talk got through to her and she runs up with three minutes left to give her ideas. Now the blue team is serving a beef burger with prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula, and aioli sauce. The red team is serving a beef burger with caramelized onions and arugula. The diners will get both burgers at the same time.

To accomplish this, Gordon tells Joe if one team says they’ll be up in two minutes, the other team better have them up them as well, or at least within sixty seconds, or they’ll lose votes. Blue team seems to be on the ball, and red team seems to be struggling. Joe is interviewing diners, and Blue is also pulling ahead in votes. In fact, at one point red team doesn’t have burgers ready, and Gordon starts counting down. Luca throws burgers at him, and he calls them out for one being raw. So, they lose those two votes. Now Beth starts struggling, burning the buns, then suddenly Joe brings back raw burgers from the red team. I’m not sure Luca knows how to grill burgers. Gordon calls both teams to him. The VIPs are coming in. It’s the other contestants, and the teams immediately take their aprons off to ensure anonymity. Gordon says they have to send out the 12 best burgers ever. Luca suddenly gets a handle on the grill, and has a bit of a strategy: he gets burgers prepped so they can serve immediately, which means the other team will only have 60 seconds to serve.

This appears to work; Beth starts burning buns again, and Luca rushes his last four burgers in an effort to cost blue those votes. It works, but since he rushed them, he might just’ve served them raw. Turns out at least one of red’s pre-made burgers was too done for one of the safe cheftestant’s taste. The four cooks have to watch their competition vote, and the blue team gets worried when the ones who didn’t get their burger have to vote red. They put their aprons back on, and their fellow competitors express surprise. One of the guys (I’ve forgotten who as I add this) asks Luca what happened to the cheese, but I’m sticking by my original opinon of it. Even though Krissi irritates me with her loud whinging about having to scrape off a lot of goat cheese so she could taste her burger. It tastes better with goat cheese, woman. Shut up. Blue wins by about five votes. Natasha says she’s happy for both of them, but more for her, as she’s not there to make friends. Drink! Kathy’s not happy about having to face “the Italian stallion”, and I can only hope he seriously kicks her ass.

They head to the top of Caesar’s Palace, which has two stations and the MC judging area from L.A. set up/reproduced. Graham lifts the lid off the example meal. It’s butter poached lobster with shaved fennel salad. Luca thinks Kathy’s not organized enough to produce this technically difficult dish, and I hope he’s right. They have 45 minutes. Kathy tells Gordon she’s going to take her time and prove Joe wrong about her yet again. Joe tells Gordon and Graham he doesn’t think she has the technique for it. The judges comment that they better start getting their lobsters, or someone’s not going to plate and Luca gets his, but Kathy doesn’t. The judges are worried she’s too focused on her butter, and impressed with Luca’s lobster technique until he cuts the tail off instead of twisting it. Commercials.

Instant replay when we come back, of course. Then Luca adds salt to the water after he puts the lobster in it, and interviews he’s never cooked it before. Salt’s handy; it lowers the boiling temperature of water as well as the melting temperature of ice. The judges comment again on Kathy’s lack of lobster, and this time she seems to hear them, including them urge her to twist and pull the tail off. Both have about ten minutes left and are done boiling their lobster and need to shell it and poach it; they weren’t supposed to completely cook it by boiling. Again, good to know for future reference. Luca’s got his salad going, and Kathy’s struggling to deshell the claws. They have to start plating. Luca does, but Kathy doesn’t as sixty seconds is called, and Gordon starts the countdown. Kathy’s dish looks messy, but we know she got the tail off right, so we’ll see. Gordon tells her it’s perfect, but the knuckles are slightly exploded. He says the butter is seasoned perfectly. Turns out she’s never cooked lobster before, either. I think Luca’s in serious trouble.

Graham doesn’t like the heavy lemon juice on the salad, and reminds her that the lobster isn’t the only thing they’re being judged on. Joe’s not 100% happy with her lobster. Poor Luca’s standing there holding his uncovered plate, and since both of them kept their coats on; I’m worried that the night chill on the rooftop is going to cool his dish down below acceptable levels. The judges like the presentation, though. Gordon claims it’s 30 seconds off from being perfect, but the salad and butter are both seasoned well. Graham likes it, and tells him to raise the water temp a bit to get the proper redness on the lobster. As usual, during the judges’ discussion, it’s impossible to guess who will win and who will go home. And going back with them to L.A. is Luca. Whew. Because I’m far behind, I fast forward through the judges’ farewell speeches, but stop in time to hear Gordon offer Kathy a chance to learn in his New York restaurant. The clips for next week show a horrible mystery box (looks like canned and flash frozen ingredients), and Joe’s mom as guest judge.

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