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The judges present the mystery basket to the three finalists. SLIDESHOW NEXT »

The judges present the mystery basket to the three finalists.

Autumn jumps to help Sara get a pan that's hanging high out of her reach. SLIDESHOW NEXT »

Autumn jumps to help Sara get a pan that's hanging high out of her reach.

Autumn receives her 86 pan with a big trademark Autumn smile. SLIDESHOW NEXT »

Autumn receives her 86 pan with a big trademark Autumn smile.

THE FINALISTS' JOURNALS
Read more about this episode in the finalists' own words.
Katie Hagan-Whelchel
Sara Lawson
Autumn Maddox

The women have out-cooked the men! Our three finalists overcome the stereotype of a male-dominated chef business. Katie, Sara and Autumn have all impressed the judges with their talent and skill in the kitchen. When the judges ask the finalists why they can beat the other two women, Katie says that she is better than them and has better leadership skills. Sara highlights how much she's grown throughout the competition. Autumn refuses to use the word "better" and simply states that she is different. Then it's time for this week's challenge: the mystery basket. It's a creativity challenge, designed to test inspired cooking at a moment's notice. The contestants have fifteen minutes to come up with a three-course menu, using only what they find in the basket. Then, after turning in their final written menus to the judges, they will have two hours to cook their three dishes, each using a different method of cooking.

In the kitchen, the atmosphere is clean, focused, and under control. Since they have become good friends, the women communicate easily and help each other, working like a good kitchen team. The judges learn why Autumn is so talkative in the kitchen: she was deaf from birth until she was five and still can't hear very well. She needs to talk constantly to compensate for her impaired communication.

After two hours in the kitchen, the contestants serve their appetizers to the judges, followed by entrées and desserts. Sara's overcooked scallop appetizer disappoints the judges, but she redeems herself with a pasta entrée that chef Todd says is so perfect, he would serve it in his restaurant. The judges tell Katie, who claimed she was the best, that none of her dishes were the best tonight. The judges are confused by Autumn's story of a cow in a berry patch, but praise her good, solid flavors and balance. But since a chef needs to always believe that his dishes are the best, Autumn's attitude of "different, not better" won't help chef Todd run his kitchen. After Autumn's heartbreaking 86, the competition is down to the final two.