March 17th, 2011
01:45 PM ET
Resolving the question I had at the end of last week, this is not the finale. (Although someone does get eliminated, so if you don’t want to know what happened, stop reading now.)
The four remaining contestants pair off for the Quickfire challenge, which is to make 100 identical plates of food in one hour.
Antonia and Tiffany make a beef salad, and talk up the difficulty of plating multiple components in a consistent manner. Mike and Richard make pasta from scratch, and talk up the difficulty of trying to do that in the short timeframe. They also take more than a few digs at Antonia and Tiffany's dish for being too simple.
Anyone want to guess how this one went down?
The judges find little fault with either dish (seems like we’re getting a lot of that lately), but Antonia and Tiffany are the winners.
For the Elimination challenge, the chefs will be cooking a lunch in honor of the Nassau Yacht Club’s anniversary, and the theme is “deserted island,” which is also where they’ll be cooking.
As the contestants arrive at the dock, we get that shot of Padma in a bikini. It lasts for less than a minute, and the chefs’ reactions are almost as good as the shot itself (I said almost). Since she changes before the meal, I’m a little curious about why the bikini outfit happened at all (besides the obvious reason).
An important part of the challenge is that the chefs have been told that their dishes should feature conch, a staple of the region. But when they get to the island and start digging through the supplied food, the box labeled “Conch” only holds snorkel masks.
It’s time to go fishing!
As the chefs get ready to jump in the water, Richard gets in the best line of the episode: “I don’t wanna see Mike Isabella topless… and you don’t either.”
Maybe not, but I also don’t mind it, and I celebrate what it says about these contestants and this show.
Imagine if a "Real Housewives" cast was told, without notice, to get into bathing suits and go do serious physical activity for 3.5 hours, cameras on you constantly, often recording you from less-than-flattering angles.
But the chefs take it in stride. Their focus stays on the work, the food and the competition. It’s one of the reasons why I think “Top Chef” is one of the best reality shows on TV. (Stepping down from soapbox now.)
After some wacky high jinks trying to pry the conchs from their shells (only Mikey has a proven technique; he REALLY prepared for these final rounds), it’s time for service.
There are some issues with consistency that could be chalked up to cooking over a fire pit on the beach. But for the most part, everyone’s food goes over well. Most impressively, according to Tom, there wasn’t a drop of sand in a single dish.
The one stand-out conceptually is Richard’s version of linguine with clams: replacing the clams with conch and the linguine with sweet potatoes. He fashioned the sweet potatoes into pasta, and apparently did well enough to fool Tom for a minute into thinking it was actually pasta.
At Judges’ Table, the main criticisms were that Richard’s lobster was inconsistent; that Mike amped up the sweetness of his dish too much by using butter; that Antonia’s dish was too predictable (which she takes as a compliment since she claims it means she has established a personal cooking style); and that Tiffany’s chowder was cold (she finished too early, so it lost all of its heat).
Ultimately, the winner is Mike. I have no problem with Mikey winning; he’s certainly proven himself to be one of the stronger chefs this season. But this feels like two weeks in a row where the judges had the most praise for Richard’s dish, but Mike ended up winning.
If you’re going to claim that it’s creative editing designed to ramp up the suspense, I’m going to claim that it’s bad editing. I want to be able to figure out the winner based on the judges’ comments, and it seems like the show isn’t allowing that to happen.
Packing her knives this week is Tiffany, who graciously admits that she was simply out-cooked.
Mike, Richard and Antonia are heading to the final challenge. Sound off about last night’s episode below!
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