The pre-starter sounded pretty extreme. “What are my chances of killing myself” was asked. Whoo, boy!

So tonight there are two competitions. First, they are working the speed knife skills. Then, they will move on to a crazy dessert competition – akin to real Iron Chefs, they have to make a dessert. No matter how improbable.

Biographies! John, Aaron, Traci, Michael, Jill, Chris, Morou, Gavin, nice to meet you! I’m hoping for Traci to win, and I think Chris and Gavin will dive early, just from the bios.

Eight tests, eight characteristics. The first day they get ‘two’ – the knife skills doesn’t count for judging. The reward for winning the knife competition is related to something “characteristic” competition, the dessert competition. No word on that yet.

They are given, in two groups, a huge pile of food. Each peice (for each chef) is given a point total. Deboning a chicken, for example, will garner that chef 25 points. Frenching a rack of lamb, 15, and so on. Their cuts will be judged, of course, and if it’s not perfect, points will be docked.

To top that, Alton is going around telling people what they are doing wrong. In some cases it seems to make the problem worse. Other cases, they simply do not listen. Chris, Traci, Gavin and John’s “group” doesn’t do so well. However, they are all judged individually, so the groups don’t really matter at all.

Morou, Jill, Micheal, and Aaron get their chance at the feast pile next.

Morou is amazing. 8 minutes left and “He’s already to the bivalves!” Alton calls. Basically that means he’s deboned and filleted a salmon, deboned a chicken, trussed a rack of lamb, and sliced a daikon. All in 7 minutes. Wow. However, during the salmon, he did slice himself open. No good! But, being an incredible troooper, he didn’t even pause. And at 3:04 left, Morou is done. Ah-mazing, people.

The people to watch for? Morou, (My word that man can cut!) Traci, and John. While Traci and John didn’t finish, their professionalism did seem to shine and other chefs were impressed.

Alton goes over everyone’s points rapidfire. Traci, 60 points. Besh, 60 points. Gavin, 60 points. Chris, failed it with 45. Besh wins their set on time – but the person to beat Besh in the second half has to beat him in point total, not time (unless of course they tie for points).

Second group! Micheal, 55. Jill, 40 points. Morou, merely 45. Definitely surprised – but he went so fast that most of the things that he cut didn’t qualify for consideration. Aaron got a full 75 points with no docks, so even though Besh was faster, and even though Morou was fastest, Aaron wins for quality. Highly approprate. After all, you don’t get points in the real deal for finishing your meal at 55 minutes instead of 60. Using every minute to maximize quality is definitely the better idea. Go Aaron Sanchez!

In the first dessert of two, there is no sugar, butter, or cheese on the ingredients-given table.   To use such things, they must make them from what they have been given. For a second dessert, the must use a weird, savory ingredient. Included is catfish, squid, caviar, tripe, salmon, etc. Ew.

Because Aaron won the last competition, he gets to choose first. He selected salmon. Tripe gets selected early (Chris, third person) – so Jill doesn’t get stuck with it. She’s happy about this, and everyone thinks Chris is completely nuts or excessively brave.

For the first dessert, as I said, they don’t get any plain sugar. They must create or substitute any butter, sugar, or cheese.  Dried fruit and coconut milk make great substitutes for Morou’s banana fritters. Jill decides to make her own ricotta for her beef gastrique, and Micheal discovered that the freezer doesn’t work – and his planned bacon ice cream is more like liquidy ick. He switches to something with a sweet (don’t ask me how, this is fast watching!) bacon cream, however, in the last minute there is successful ice cream. Yay for machine repair! Aaron goes for a flan, except his flan won’t set. He settles on a crema, instead.

Morou again finishes very quickly. A full minute ahead of time. He’s got the speed, but I’m wondering if he’ll be severely docked again. Quality could be a problem for him. Sanchez was reprimanded for “not putting down.” Always set all tools down the second Alton calls the battle, dude. It’s just cheap not to. Admit defeat, because the battle is over.

Besh is doing bread pudding – catfish – and so is Gavin, only with squid. Besh is very comfortable, and makes catfish ganace stuffed truffle sound good. For 3 minutes. And then he remembers that it’s catfish, and he curses himself for picking it.

Traci does a celery beet and apple parfait with salmon roe topping. Wow. It doesn’t sound completely vile. However, her creme fraiche is not making the transformation to whipped cream. Could prove bad for her.

Chris has an olive oil zabaglione in the works for his dessert, but it’s really kicking his butt. Again, not setting up. Nothing is setting up for these people – apparently the room is extraordinarily hot. Not surprising – but he does finish in time.

Hot? Wow, Besh was visibly dripping sweat. Lots of it. And he’s from Louisiana!

Donatella Arpaia, Andrew Knowlton, and Micael Ruhlman, will all be offering their commentary on the desserts for us. In rapid fire.

Michael Symon’s rice pudding is first. Safe, tasty, good, but it gets an “undercooked” judgement. His 6AM Special, vanilla bean french toast and bacon ice cream, sounds delightful, but the judges think it’s not very creative and they disapprove that he stuck with something that he knew.

Gavin presents his pecan crusted pain perdu. (yay, alliteration!) It sounds really good, he did really well without all the usual trimmings, but the judges aren’t pleased. They complain that the dessert is “too safe.” His squid bread pudding up next! They like it, because they feel he pushed himself and that it still turned out well.

Traci gets a “Your salmon roe is not a dessert” for her parfait. It is salmon roe. Maybe she should have put less on?

Jill heirloom tomato dessert gets a true, unchecked compliment. The first, go Jill! As for her gastrique crepe with ricotta,  they felt the beef wasn’t pronounced enough, but they otherwise loved it as well. She did quite well overall.

Aaron duck confit is spicy, delicious, and not dessert. Whoops.

Chris presents his goat’s milk rice pudding – unlike Symon’s, Donatella pronounces it perfectly cooked. That’s the trouble with making the same thing as someone else, but in this case it worked great for Chris. Fried tripe goes over well. Donatella says she “doesn’t mind it” and Andrew stares at her, saying, “You don’t *like* this?” They liked the tripe. Wow.

Besh’s first dessert was white chocolate challah bread pudding, and they love it. They decide that this dish proves that chefs rely on the crutch of butter-for-richness far too much. Next, however, is the catfish grape truffle. They didn’t throw up. A good sign, and probably the best he could hope for.

Banana fritters for Morou. Very desserty – however the judges don’t complain about creativity, despite the fact that he admitted it was “just like they make in Africa.” A little unfair to Symon’s 6 AM special, but maybe the complaint will come out in the points. His rice pudding is not desserty enough for Donatella, but it would satisfy Micheal.

Judgment comes!

The top chef of the desserting was Besh, and thus he wins the week. Excellent. They even liked the catfish truffle! (So weird…)

Chris gets to stay. Gavin, stays. Morou – though they complain a bit about the banana fritter – survives. Davie pulls it out! She gets to stay, despite the knife thing. Her great desserts pull her into safety, even though one had beef in it. Sanchez gets to stay, though they do complain about the lack of dessert-y flavor.

Oh boy, they’ll be doing the final-two critique here, as well. What else could we expect, neh? Got to milk the drama for every dollar it’s worth. At least there wasn’t a commercial break.

Symon “played it too safe,” though it was good, they felt they’d had the dish before, which is not acceptable in the Stadium.  des Jardin get a painful grade on the salmon roe. So painful, in fact, that they kick her off.

Traci, my favorite to win, leaves. No! Sadness! Traci! I was so hoping she’d win, not leave on the first episode.

Such is life, and she takes it extraordinarily well. At least she is a good sport!

Wow, that was an adrenaline rush. See you all next week!