How we love Loren Means and her spunky recaps. This week’s Top Chef All-Stars tell-all makes me laugh in all the right places. Take it away, Lorenzo…
We’ve made it to Episode 12, and the final five Cheftestants are super-nervous. They are all just one Elimination Challenge away from being in the Final Four. Richard is missing Dale. Antonia is missing her daughter. Tiffany is having déjà vu from her previous season (she was sent packing at this point in the game). Mike is super stressed out. Carla is filling the air with love. And I have selected my new favorite chef. I spent the last six days mulling it over. Okay, I didn’t. I decided who would be up next on my roster the minute Dale was sent home. Drum roll please…..Richard Blais! As he put it, and I agree, he really is the only big seed left standing.
jump to continue reading the recap…
The Quickfire Challenge put the chefs on the Miss Freedom ferry to Ellis Island. While the history of the island is very impressive (40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island), the food the chefs were asked to prepare was far from it. Using the ingredients on board, the Chefs had to prepare a snack for Padma and guest Judge, Dan Barber, Chef/Owner of Blue Hill. If you’ve been on a ferry, you are aware that the snack options are generally not gourmet, not five-star, and typically not fresh. Welcome aboard – would you like a beverage to wash down your salty preservatives?
Working with hot dogs, potato chips, and things of this nature, the chefs tried frantically to turn these ingredients into something worth feeding to Padma, although Mike said he wouldn’t have fed his finished dish of hot dog buns and sour cream to his cat. Of course Mike has a cat. Richard managed to make open-faced hot dog sandwiches that actually looked delectable. If you squint, you might have even thought it was a small plate at nice restaurant. Props for presentation Richard. Antonia mixed things up by pulling ingredients from different pre-made sandwiches to create a grilled cheese with apples on raisin bread. Props for originality. Tiffany, while she is a sweetheart (and from Beaumont), served nachos just the way the guy who works the ferry probably does, with cheese, lettuce, peppers. Fail. Carla impressed me the most on this challenge when she went for the fruit basket to create a healthy, refreshing looking orange and papaya salad. I personally wouldn’t have touched it because papaya tastes like baby diapers but being that the guest judge is all about local, sustainable food, this was a smart move and probably why she took the win. I hated to see poor Richard’s little disappointed face though.
The Elimination Challenge was based around the history of Ellis Island and the Cheftestants were asked to draw upon their heritage to create a dish. Each Chef was pleasantly surprised to have a loved one arrive for the evening and receive a book of their genealogy. Mike and his mother looked through his family history while Antonia and her mom did the same. In a wild and crazy reality TV twist that you can’t plan at all….turns out, they are long lost cousins from Sicily! While I think it’s cute that they are buddies now, it’s comical to me that two people who could hardly stand each other are now calling each other ‘cuz and hoping to make it to the final two together. Carla and her husband, who is adorable and has made me a believer (although still not a subscriber) in match.com, learned more about her Southern roots. Richard and his wife learned that he was Irish and English and Tiffany and her mom confirmed that they are legit Louisiana Southerners.
Armed with the knowledge of their heritage, the Chefs hit the kitchen while their family members gathered at a lovely waterfront table with Tom, Padma, Gail, and Dan Barber. In the kitchen, all kinds of magic was happening. Antonia prepared braised veal with risotto and Mike put his heart and soul into a pork ragout with potato gnocchi. Remember when I said I wanted to be Italian? I still do. I spent the remainder of the show drooling and dreaming about a giant glass of red wine and bowl of risotto the size of my head. Back at the braise-fest, Carla cooked a braised pork shoulder with grits and cheddar biscuits while Richard braised short ribs with fried bone marrow, pickled glasswort, and corn puree. Not to be excluded, Tiffany braised short ribs as well, but took hers a Southern direction with mustard greens and pigs feet. It should be noted, Carla used the nitrogen. All the cool kids are doing it.
One by one, the chefs presented their dishes and family history to the table and were able to create a little Top Chef history, for this season anyway. All five of the chef’s nailed it. Not a negative thing was said at the dinner table. Although the two Italian mothers did have a bit of healthy competition over whose child made the better Italian dish. I want in. Perhaps I’ll start going by Lorenzo.
At judges table, my heart literally broke. All five Chefs really did an amazing job and it is just so tragic that they have made it this far only to be sent home right before final four. And I just knew Tiffany was going home…again. Antonia, who will become my new favorite if something goes horribly wrong, won, taking home a brand new Toyota Highlander and a chance to compete in the final four. I was on pins and needles as the judges told Richard to “pack his knives (long pause) because he was going to the Bahamas!” WTF, Padma?! Not cool. I had a heart attack and was ready to start throwing things at the TV. My blood pressure recovered just in time to catch that Mike was also moving on to the final four and headed for the Bahamas. Down to Carla and Tiffany, I braced myself to watch Tiffany fall apart when the judges announced that they would both be continuing on and, keeping with the theme of history, for the first time ever there is a final 5. And while I do love a happy ending, I thought this was a little weak. Come on judges, grab your cojones and send someone home. But not Richard. Okay?