It’s down to the final three, and that means tonight’s challenges are likely to be tough. Really tough. And, given the rest of this season thus far, weird. Really weird. I’m fully expecting the chefs will have to cook while trained carrier pigeons dive bomb them with frozen cilantro and little people attack their shins with crème brulee blow torches. The stunt cooking Mike, Richard and Antonia have suffered through has bordered on the ridiculous lately, so I won’t be surprised by anything.
Wolfgang Puck is on deck to oversee the Quickfire, which Padma promises will be different than anything the chefs have tackled before. Oh, joy. I’m on the lookout for pigeons. Wait, no. The chefs must pick classic Quickfires from previous seasons and assign them to their competition. Tricky!
Mike gets first pick. He picks the canned goods competition for Antonia, because it’s the toughest and most disgusting. So much for chivalry. Antonia picks hot dogs for Richard. Richard picks the one pot challenge for Mike. Richard thinks this will be challenging, and Antonia thinks he’s stupid. Mike will get to cook with any ingredient he wants in the kitchen, as long as he only uses one pot. Does Richard not realize Mike can wash out the pot and reuse it?
Mike is braising pork for his dish, which should take 3 hours but which he must complete in 45 minutes, while Richard is making bread from scratch. WTF? These guys don’t seem to understand that a Quickfire is supposed to be, um, quick.
Padma walks into the kitchen and reveals that the chefs can also assign a classic “Top Chef” twist to one of their competitors as well. They can choose among three options: cooking with one hand, finishing the dish without knives or hand tools or the double apron twist with Carla. Richard picks no utensils for Mike. Antonia chooses one handed cooking for Richard and she takes Carla for the double apron twist, which seems like a bonus to me. Mike is also thrilled that Richard stupidly picked the wrong twist for him. Since he’d already sliced his cabbage salad, he didn’t need to use utensils for anything anyway. Richard, come on, pay attention!
Curry coconut soup with shrimp, andouille sausage, peanuts & shrimp sauce.
She got all that from a can? Seriously? Where does “Top Chef” find their canned goods, because that sounds pretty good to me. Wolfgang thinks the flavors are strong but balanced.
Hot dog on handmade roti bread with curry ketchup, mayo & mint leaves
Wolfgang says his kids would love it. Which, given that Richard had to cook hot dogs, seems like a pretty decent compliment.
Pork shoulder with black beans, chili paste, ginger & cabbage salad
Wolfgang likes the balance. Wolfgang likes to say balance a lot.
Time for judgment. Wolfgang thinks Richard’s was a little too ketchupy, but he liked it. He thought Antonia’s soup was delicious but too concentrated and Mike had pretty good balance. He gives the win to Michael. Dammit! He gets five grand. I am a little sick of Mike right now, simply because being on a roll has made him insufferably cocky.
The chefs go to The Cloisters to meet some special guests, whom Richards notes could be aliens or rock stars. And he’s not wrong. If “Top Chef” has to get all goofy, I’d love to see the eating with aliens challenge. Maybe one of them would eat Gail or something. Instead, the chefs find Wolfgang with Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s and Chef Morimoto from “Iron Chef.” Antonia is scared of Morimoto. I’m scared of Morimoto. He’s a friggin’ iron chef, people! These are chefs that can make things like tripe and eggplant taste good.
Anyway, the chefs must prepare and serve the last supper of one of these three chefs. Mike gets to choose his chef, and he picks Bernstein. He wants a second shot at impressing her, as she was a guest judge for his previous season and said he overseasoned something. Um, okay. That’s a choice. Mike is clearly feeling über confident to go with someone who previously thought he’d messed up. Mike also gets to pick the chefs for Richard and Antonia. He gives Morimoto to Antonia and Richard to Wolfgang.
Again, the boys clearly don’t see Antonia as competition. Or specifically, Mike doesn’t. He thinks Morimoto will knock Antonia out so he’ll be able to go against “the best of the best” in the final two. I do think Richard is the better chef, but I wouldn’t be so cocky as hesitate in knocking out Richard at any opportunity.
There’s always a twist, of course. Which will be revealed later. It’s in an envelope, and Padma looks sad when she holds it up, as if she wants to say “This isn’t my fault, I’m just here to eat nice food and look pretty.”
The chefs reveal what they want to eat. Wolfgang wants apple strudel. And goulash and some spaetzle. This does not sound easy, especially given that Richard has never made strudel before. Michelle chooses fried chicken, biscuits and gravy. Mike’s got it easy. Morimoto wants sashimi, rice and pickles, which sounds easy but won’t be. He wants rice that’s all the same size, because his mom used to make sure all the rice were all the same size. So, Antonia will be sifting through some rice.
Everyone is nervous. Richard wants to throw up. And Mike actually has the gall to say he has the toughest challenge. Um, no.
Because Mike thinks he’s smarter than your average bear, he’s making an empanada instead of fried chicken and biscuits. All I can say is, if I were expecting chicken and biscuits and I got an empanada, I’d throw it at the wall and tell Mike to not only pack his knives, but stick one in his eye for good measure. Tom comes to visit the chefs and notes that Mike took the easiest challenge for himself. Wouldn’t it be funny if Mike got sent home for this challenge?
Antonia gets her fish and discovers it’s about to go rancid. Holy crap. Richard can’t get the lid off his pressure cooker. Double holy crap. Oh, he got it off. No big deal. But Antonia still has rancid fish. So, she has to wing it with tuna from the fridge. Yeah, Antonia is going home.
The judges sit down for dinner and are joined by Melanie Dunea, who photographed the book “My Last Supper.” Plug, plug, plug.
Tuna sashimi with pickled daikon, mushrooms & eggplant, miso soup & rice
Morimoto says the soup is too salty. Gail almost gags on the scotch bonnet pepper that Antonia used on the tuna. What the hell is Antonia thinking? It’s Japanese food, not Szechuan take-out. Melanie thought the rice was delicious and thought she handled the most difficult part of her challenge really well. Tom liked the eggplant but thought the meal wasn’t subtle. Oh, well. Pack your knives, Antonia.
Fried chicken with pea puree, egg yolk empanada with mustard gravy
Michelle thought the egg inside the empanada was incredible. Morimoto says his white meat is dry. Gail says the batter on her white meat isn’t crispy. Tom says it’s a nice dish anyway. Michelle says it isn’t what she would have done, but she loves that. Michelle is very forgiving, because if she got this on death row right before her execution, I don’t think she’d be as thrilled.
Beef goulash, spaetzle with sour cream & apple strudel with tarragon cream
Wolfgang loves it and says his mother would have approved. Tom thinks the onion is overcooked and he wished the dish were hotter. Gail says the strudel is outstanding. Michelle thinks it’s perfectly Richard. I think Richard’s won, simply because you could hear people saying “Mmmm!” after the first bite. You don’t get a lot of “mmmm!” from the judges on “Top Chef.”
Wolfgang thought Mike was too creative. Gail loved Antonia’s vegetables. Morimoto appreciates that her challenge was difficult but can’t say hers was the best. Wolfgang loves Richard’s goulash. Gail loved that he found a balance between being creative and cooking what Wolfgang loved. No one threw Mike’s stupid empanadas at the wall. Go figure.
Judges table! Michelle starts in on Mike. She points out that she asked for two things; that the chicken be super juicy and really crispy. Not so juicy and, though the chicken was crispy, the breading was falling off. Wolfgang tells Richard he got the flavors right on for the goulash but the spaetzle was tough. Morimoto tells Antonia the soup was salty but interesting. Tom abruptly cuts to the chase and tells Richard he will be cooking in the finale. Yay! Go, Richard!
Oh crap, time for the envelope of twist! Padma reveals that there will be one more challenge for the last spot. Mike and Antonia must go up against one another to make one last bite for the judges. In 45 minutes. Eeek!
Mike sweats all over some lobster tails. He wants to make expensive proteins to impress the judges. Really, Mike? These aren’t people who eat at Red Lobster or something. Antonia decides to make a coconut curry grouper thing. How much coconut curry can this chick make?
Seared grouper in a coconut lobster broth with a yam, apple & dill pollen relish
I will say, even though she seems hung up on curry this episode, this looks delicious.
Tempura lobster over beef tartare with caramelized olives & chimichurri sauce
Lobster with olives and chimichurri? I’d think that was too bold for mild, sweet lobster, but maybe it works with the beef.
Gail likes the idea of Antonia’s dish, but thought it was powerful and not in a good way. Tom thinks that was the point. Morimoto agrees, and he wants a bigger piece. Michelle loves Mike’s crispy lobster but it didn’t wow her. Gail hated the olive gloop on its own, but thought it worked well with the other components. Gail and Michelle would prefer to eat Michael’s again, while Morimoto and Padma pick Antonia’s. Melanie picks Antonia as well. Tom picks Michael. It’s a tie. Wolfgang picks Antonia’s flavor but thought Michael’s was perfect technically. What to do, what to do?
Michael and Antonia both want to throw up. Everyone wants to throw up on this episode, which I’m glad they don’t.
The winner is… Michael. Antonia has to pack her knives and go. Dammit! I realize Mike is probably a little stronger, but he’s been such a pain in the ass for the last few episodes I’d just like to see him packing his stuff and sobbing like a two-year-old over his bad tattoos. Antonia was never a favorite of mine, but she’s grown on me as the season progressed and her dishes had seemed to be getting stronger overall, despite the weird fascination with curry once she hit the Bahamas. Maybe she was channeling Carla’s spirit or something. Antonia cries. It feels worse to be going home this time. Her daughter is the only thing that would make her feel better. Aw, man. But Michael is thrilled, as it’s the finale he and Richard had planned on. I hope Richard kicks his recipe-stealing ass in the finale, but given the run Michael’s been on, it’s anyone’s game.
Do you think it was time for Antonia to pack her knives? Do you think the Quickfire was kind of goofy? Who do you think will win the title of “Top Chef”?
By Liane Bonin – It’s down to the final three, but one goes home based on a single bite