Top Chef
Pike Place Pickle

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Cheese Curds for Life!

The cheftestants all head to the kitchen, where they have an hour to cook. Josh teases Bart about his salmon candy, but Bart says it's both smoky and sweet. Bart interviews that it's very sweet, so they can't add anything else sweet to their dish, so they're making a salad. Stefan and Brooke are making duck breast with cabbage to go with their rose petal jelly.

The various artisans enter the dining room and sit down with the judges. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, John and Josh are working on their pan-seared salmon with popcorn grits and popcorn truffle sauce. I'm confused by this whole dish. I don't get how you put popcorn in grits and I definitely don't get how you make popcorn into sauce. John makes the grits and Josh thinks they're too thick, but he interviews that he doesn't say anything because he's trying to keep the fragile peace they've established. Meanwhile, Josh is cooking the pork and John thinks it's getting overcooked, but he doesn't say anything because he doesn't want Josh to explode on him. So in order to spare one another's feelings, they're putting out subpar food. That's awesome.

Padma goes around the table and lets the various artisans introduce themselves and their products before the first foods are served. The judges include Daisley from this morning, Hugh Acheson, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. The return of Mr. Unibrow! First to serve are John and Josh who had truffle popcorn and made pan-seared pork tenderloin with truffle popcorn grits. Micah and Kristen had cheese curds and made cheese curds three ways: b├ęchamel, raw and fried. Stefan and Brooke had rose petal jelly and made rose petal glazed Muscovy duck with braised cabbage. Sheldon and Bart had candied salmon and made candied salmon with sweet and sour salad.

Hugh comments first on Stefan and Brooke's duck, saying that it's tough. Gail likes their concept, but can't taste the rose petal jelly and it tastes more like a standard sweet and sour sauce. Tom bitches that there's too much sugar in the cabbage. I mean, it's a valid critique, but he says it very dismissively. Hugh's biggest issue is that the duck isn't cooked properly.

The judges move on to John and Josh's dish. The artisan of the truffle popcorn wishes they had added more flavors to compliment it instead of just "truffle popcorn." Hugh, who is Southern, says that the grits are terrible, and Tom adds that the meat isn't cooked well and the sauce is "a gloppy mess." Yikes.

Micah and Kristen had too much going on with their plate and you couldn't discern the actual cheese curds. Padma insists adamantly that she LOVES cheese, and she couldn't tell what a cheese curd was. That's a problem, especially since they cooked them three different ways. You'd think at least one of the ways would stand out.

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