March 24th, 2011
01:38 PM ET
With last night being the 15th episode in this "All-Stars" season, I think this is now the longest season of “Top Chef.” And if you thought this week would be the finale (which I did), guess again.
It did, however, contain what might have been the cruelest “Top Chef” twist to date, but let's start with the Quickfire.
The show brought back a selection of some of the most classic challenges, with the twist being that the chefs would assign one of these challenges to their competitors.
Not enough of a complication? Let’s add three more, and let’s make them some of the toughest curveballs the show has ever thrown at contestants.
Antonia was restricted to working with canned goods (thanks to Mike), but forced into donning a double-apron for the challenge (welcome back, Carla!). Richard was cooking hot dogs (thanks to Antonia), but could only use one hand. And Mike was limited to using just one pot (thanks to Richard), and unable to use utensils or tools.
That last one may sound difficult, but since Mike’s one pot was a pressure cooker, and since everything was already in it when he was assigned the “no utensils” twist, he basically stood around and had free time to rattle everyone else’s nerves. Needless to say, he won the Quickfire.
Twists are one thing. But the Elimination challenge was pure intimidation. Each chef had to create a last supper for one of three culinary icons: Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Bernstein and Masaharu Morimoto.
As the Quickfire winner, Mike got to make the assignments, taking Bernstein for himself, and assigning Puck to Richard and Morimoto to Antonia. The dishes, as requested by the icons:
Puck: Goulash, spaetzle and strudel
Morimoto: Miso soup, rice and sashimi
Bernstein: Fried chicken, biscuits and gravy
Who says Mike stacked the deck in his favor? Well, me… and Richard… and Antonia… and Colicchio… and, oh yeah, Mike too.
At one point, he claims that he’s got it as tough as anyone, but he also said in an interview segment that he assigned Morimoto to Antonia because he wanted to go against Richard in the finale. He admits that he’s doing anything he can to get to the end and win, and I certainly don’t begrudge him the gamesmanship, but he needs to own it.
To his credit, Mike does take some creative license with the fairly straightforward dish, turning the biscuit into an empanada and cooking the chicken sous vide. Unfortunately, those risks don’t really pay off.
In fact, Richard is the first one told that he’s moving on to the finale (apparently we’re not naming a “winner” of this challenge).
As for Mike and Antonia, remember what I said about the cruelest twist to date?
Padma warned them at the start of the challenge about a twist that would come into play at some point. And here it is: The chefs have 45 minutes to make one bite of food. Best bite gets the last spot in the finale.
Nearly a full season’s worth of challenges, and your fate comes down to a single bite? No pressure.
Antonia does grouper with a strong coconut curry. Mike does a surf and turf dish with an olive caramel sauce. The diners/judges are split on who should move on, and it comes down to one final vote.
And with that vote, Mike is moving on to the finale with Richard. It’s heartbreaking for Antonia, who was eliminated at a similar point in her original season. But given how those two guys have been cooking throughout this competition, it’s probably the right final two.
So, next week is the finale… or should be. I’m done trying to predict the scheduling. But you can sound off about this week’s episode below!
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