Fabio Vivani, recently departed from the contest. I thought this a real testament to their opinion of his food that he was invited along. I really grew to enjoy Fabio throughout this contest. I would have loved for him to be there in place of Hosea.
And of course: Gail, Tom and Padma, the holy trinity of Top Chef judging.
The one twist of the night is that three unique proteins are brought in to make a passed appetizer. Hosea wins the little contest to see who chooses the protein and assigns the others; he chooses the redfish and assigns crab to Carla and alligator to Stefan (wanting to stick it to Stefan, of course). As it turns out, they all rock this assignment, so going into the sit-down portion of the meal it's pretty much anyone's game.
Three fairly unmemorable courses later and they're back at the judges' table. Meanwhile, Carla bombed one course when her blue cheese souffle wouldn't rise, and no one was impressed with her sous vide course either--it didn't seem like her style and everyone pretty much figured (correctly) that Casey played a big hand in that style of cooking. They really felt Carla should have stuck to what she does best, her way, her style.
Stefan took some hits for doing dessert, and for doing it, as Gail Simmons said, "Very 1982." Ouch. As well, he did a fish carpaccio that he'd frozen the salmon and halibut for and when it thawed on the plate it was watery. No good. The fact that he made really great squab for his main protein was lost on them at that point. The other two courses did him in.
It really was Hosea's to lose at that point. He did all his courses well, and his venision was really good, no big mistakes, and all three courses progressed nicely in depth and heft. So there he goes: Top Chef Season 5.
Color me completely beige about the whole thing.