I thought I was mad when they sent Dale home. I thought that would be the most unjust elimination this season, as I was certain there would be no way Spike or Lisa, the no talent ass clowns that they are, could make it to the finals. And I was halfway right, with the Ultimate Douche Spike getting cut in the final five. Then last week’s episode crushed my dreams, as Top Chef is known to do. They sent home Antonia, easily in the top three of talents from this season. My heartbreak would continue through the week, but watching this phenomenally talented woman get set home certainly set the tone.
The episode opened with the Golden Three arriving to the aeropuerto in Puerto Rico and looking genuinely excited to see each other. Lisa shows up last with her new Flock of Angry Seagulls haircut and basically ruins everything, especially when she initiates the most awkward group hug in the history of humanity. Blaise makes it quite clear that Lisa is the least talented of the finalists and doesn’t really even deserve to be there. The top four make their way to the Quickfire Challenge and meet their guest judge for this round – Wilo Benet from Pikayo restaurant, who apparently embodies Puerto Rican cuisine.
Wilo teaching us about true flavors – since most chefs are known for utilizing fake ones.
Padma explains that the Quickfire Challenge is to create two frituras – a fried snack known mostly in Puerto Rico but also ubiquitously throughout Latin America. Both of the two frituras have to feature plantains as an ingredient. I don’t know if any of you have had plantains, but they’re basically the bastard cousin of the banana. The banana may be the sweet, social, fun-loving one, but plantains encapsulate the bitter, bland, and boring relative that you all know. It actually is a challenge to utilize plantains in anything that resembles good flavors. Steph creates tostones with seared tuna and pork and a shrimp fritter with a brown butter, lime, and basil sauce. Antonia has crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam and a fried yellow plantain with a spicy slaw. Lisa offered tostones with pan roasted duck and mango papaya salsa and the sweet plantain, red onion, and chorizo fritura with chutney slaw. Finally, Blaise presented pork meatballs with plantain sauce and green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa.
The bottom two were Antonia for her mediocre decoration and her slimy jam. Blaise also faltered because of his dry meatball (that sounds gross in so many ways) and his raw plantains tasting too….raw. Steph, on the other hand, did a great job with two balanced dishes and great portion sizes. Lisa had well executed tostones and Wilo enjoyed her food, as well. Ultimately, Steph wins the challenge – her first Quickfire win! Her advantage will be revealed at the Elimination Challenge, but for now, they Final Four are guests at a party that Wilo has thrown in their honor. They basically mill around and bitch about how nervous they are and how eager they are to get into the kitchen.
The Elimination Challenge is introduced by Tom and Padma at the Governor’s Mansion in San Juan. They will be preparing food for a garden party hosted by the Governor with 100 VIP’s and chefs of Puero Rico. At this point, Colicchio reveals an entire pig; each chef has to create at least two dishes from a pig they will be given. As always, they’ll also be getting some help – Dale, Nikki, Spike, and Andrew walk in. Lisa interviews about how much she hates Dale and then adds that Andrew hates her after she threw him under the bus. Basically, she realizes that everyone hates her because she’s such a miserable person.
At this point, Steph’s advantage is finally delivered. Steph will be able to assign the sous chef’s for all of the contestants. If someone like Spike had won this, he would have attempted to purposefully undermine and sabotage the other contestants by pairing them with clashing personalities. Steph shows her true character and level of awesome by putting people together that she’s fairly confident will work well as a team. She chooses Dale for herself, gives Nikki to Antonia, Spike to Blaise, and Andrew and Lisa. Dun dun DUN.
The chefs have to butcher their pigs while the sous chef’s run to the market to purchase produce and other ingredients. Lisa discusses how she wants to only use authentic Puerto Rican flavors instead of the Asian cuisine that she’s actually comfortable with. Blaise points out that the challenges aren’t there for you to change your style. “Don’t play their game, play your game,” he urges, adding that using your strengths in each challenge is the way to play the game. Don’t create a new game at the last minute because you won’t last long.
Some hilarity ensues as Andrew attempts to speak Spanish and fails miserably. Later Blaise points out that Lisa is Chief Thunder Cloud and brings misery every where she goes. This is possibly the most obvious statement anyone has ever made on this show. The chefs have two hours to prepare after the sous chef’s get back, and five hours the next day before the final party. As they begin to leave at the end of the first day, the camera focuses on some pork that Dale and Steph left out. My heart immediately begins to suffer from palpitations at the thought of Steph going home this round. Luckily, being the prodigy that she is, Steph and Dale come up with a back up plan to replace the pork bellies that were clearly not safe to use. Here are each chef’s final dishes:
Pork satay on sugar cane skewer with miso almond sauce.
Coconut braised pork with black plantain pancake.
Tropical fruit and prosciutto salad with chicharrones (crispy pork skins).
Fresh ham with local beans (um, throwaway dish, anyone?)
Pressure cooked pork belly with pickled watermelon.
Pork ribs with Malta and soy glaze.
BBQ pork shoulder with braised greens and mango.
Citrus braised pork belly with potato and plantain mash.
Adobo roasted pork, black bean, and onion tostone.
Pork filled yuca rellena with pineapple mojo.
Honey pork belly with pickled sweet pepper salad.
Curried pork with pumpkin and yuca.
Pigeon peas with pork sausage.
The poll this week asks who should pack their knives and go. Skipping ahead in time, my answer meshes well with the rest of the nation, as 91% of us agree that Lisa should take her nasty hair and crappy attitude and get the fuck off the show already. When we come back from commercial, it’s quite clear that Steph and Blaise did well while Lisa and Antonia had issues. Blaise did a great job with simplifying his dishes whereas Steph utilized great flavors in hers. Blaise is declared the winner, and as a prize, he is gifted with a 2009 Toyota Corrola, which is pure insanity. I’m actually really happy for him, as long as he gets a car seat for his matching brand new baby girl.
Lisa is quintessential Lisa in front of the Judges’ Table, and gets excessively defensive about her dishes. Tom calls her out on going Puerto Rican instead of using Asian flavors, but she claims that her dishes were strong and there’s no reason that she should be in the bottom again. Gail notes that her plantain and potato mash was overwhelmingly sweet and that Lisa focused mostly on garnishes and sauces and not the pork itself. Wilo adds that the tostone was unbalanced. On the other hand, Antonia had peas that were undercooked and they said that all three dishes were on one plate, so it was difficult to distinguish the dishes from each other. In addition, her dishes were apparently the least sophisticated of the four finalists.
Then comes the shock that I wasn’t expecting. I thought Lisa was much worse off than she apparently was, as Antonia is asked to pack her knives and go. I literally scream out in anger against my TV. Antonia had undercooked peas and made an admittedly stupid mistake in plating her dishes together, but Lisa’s food was unbalanced, unfocused, and overseasoned. There were problems with every single one of her dishes. And yet the beautiful Antonia is sent home. Then, as the top two Golden Chefs meekly congratulate Lisa, she has the audacity to whine and complain about how no one bothered to pay attention to her. At this point, I can safely say that I hate her and love Blaise as a result of his response. “What did she expect? I don’t understand, you won the effing bronze medal. Congratulations. There you go.”
Absolutely gorgeous, Blaise. I love it.
Next Wednesday, we finally have a winner. And I sure hope it’s Steph.