By People Staff
Updated January 29, 2009 12:00 AM
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

The end is nigh. And the chef-testants can taste it! At the opening of Wednesday’s Top Chef, the usually zen Carla was intensely re-strategizing, Leah and Hosea were regretting their kiss and Stefan was — shocker! — singing his own praises.

For the Quickfire challenge, the chefs were assigned food groups — Jamie got fruit, Stefan got dairy, Jeff got poultry, etc — that they had to pair up with Quaker Oats. Stefan handily won (again) with his banana mousse and oatmeal petit four after guest judge Scott Conant applauded the dessert’s texture.

Right after the Quickfire, the chefs were surprised with personalized football jerseys. But that’s not all. Suddenly, the Top Chef All Stars — Andrea, Miguel, Spike, Andrew, Nikki, Camille and Josie — busted through the doors and it was game on!

Each All Star was matched against a season 5 contestant in a head-to-head cook-off with ingredients representing various NFL teams. As his QFC reward, Stefan picked first and chose the Dallas Cowboys and season 1’s Andrea, a seemingly weaker chef, as his opponent. Jeff and season 2’s Josie were paired up, making food that represented the Miami Dolphins. Carla challenged Andrew of season 4 in the spirit of the New Orleans Saints, while his cast mate Nikki took on Leah, cooking with the New York Giants’ food. Also of season 4, Spike taunted his competition Fabio by calling him “Fabian,” before tackling the food of the Green Bay Packers.

The next morning, Padma welcomed everyone to “the first-ever Top Chef Bowl” before a crowd that included this current season’s eliminated chefs, some culinary students, Scott Conant and the judges.

Round 1: The New York Giants-inspired dishes were completely different. Nikki made chicken livers while Leah cooked a simple New York strip and nailed it, scoring big points for her team.

Round 2: Hosea followed suit with the Seattle Seahawks’ ingredients, killing Miguel with cooked-to-perfection salmon rolls.

Round 3: In honor of New Orleans Saints, Andrew made a crawfish crudo, but Carla did better with her traditionally-flavored gumbo. More points for season 5.

Round 4: Stefan’s roasted pork versus her Tex-Mex chili. In a shocker (for Stefan), Andrea won by a landslide, sending an angry Stefan back to his team to break the bad news.

Round 5: Camille prepared a sweet potato mash, but it wasn’t good enough to beat Jamie’s crab cioppino.

Round 6: Jeff and Josie both prepared ceviche — hers was warm rock shrimp and his was cold but too complicated. Josie won and Jeff looked defeated because he knew the only other contestant to earn points for his team was Stefan.

Round 7: Spike served a five-spice venison while Fabio did his with a mustard sauce. Spike scored a touchdown with the judges but Fabio got a field goal, which was just enough to win the game for season 5.

For failing to score touchdowns, Fabio, Stephan and Jeff were sent to the judges table. But first, the MVP was Carla, who scored 2 tickets to Super Bowl as her prize. She was elated after saying that she doesn’t like football but her husband and stepson are fans.

At judges table, Fabio threw a fit when Conant insulted his skills for serving over-cooked venison. Stefan got a little lashing, but he was clearly safe. Sadly, Jeff was out of luck and sent home for his weak and “watered-down ceviche.” — Alyssa Shelasky

Tell us: Did Jeff deserve to go? Were you happy for Carla and her Super Bowl win? Which dish looked good to you?Virginia Sherwood/Bravo