Well, we have our final four, and I’m having a difficult time caring. Is it me or have these last two episodes been…boring? Is it because the cheftestants are now annoying me? Is it because Richard Blaise, in particular, is annoying me? When he started talking about getting into Antonia’s head and essentially mentally sabotaging her, I wanted to reach through the screen and poke my finger in his eye. Really, Blaise? You choke in the final your season and now the answer is to mess with the competition? One – I think you’re giving yourself too much credit when it comes to espionage. Two – Screwing with Antonia’s game plan isn’t going to make your food any better, so why bother? Ugh. UGH.
The chefs arrived in the Bahamas and were immediately sent into the Quickfire where the Top Chef winner from each finalist’s season awaited them. So we had Carla versus Hosea (Season 5), F.M.I. versus Michael (Season 6), Tiffany versus Kevin (Season 7), and Richard and Antonia versus Stephanie (Season 4). Don’t even get me started on two of these Top Chefs in particular (cough, Hosea and Kevin, cough). The challenge: Head-to-head cook-off with their season’s winner, both using an ingredient handpicked by Tom. Once again this season, the challenge is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. Oh, sure, Hosea talked up wanting to prove he deserved his title, blah blah blergh, but let’s be real: THEY ALL WON. They don’t really have anything to prove. And they were cooking outside, which I loathe because it usually means someone’s equipment won’t work correctly (sorry, Antonia and Carla!) and it’s just not that exciting to watch. Yes, it’s a competition, and they have to test what the chefs are made of, no matter what environment they’re cooking in, but this should be more of an exceptional circumstance than it has been this season. I’m just over it and annoyed that this Quickfire in particular was done outside. It lent the entire challenge a throwaway feel when it should have at least pretended to have stakes (on the pride front).
Now that I’m done ranting about that: As much as I dislike F.M.I., I was glad he beat Michael Voltaggio in their head-to-head. Yeah, I said it. Voltaggio was the only one who seemed thirsty to win his challenge and, as F.M.I. explained, Michael absolutely dominated Season 6. I honestly think he went in there expecting to wipe the floor with F.M.I. but two of three judges (Eric Ripert was on hand) preferred F.M.I.’s cashew-dusted spiced duck breast with a mushroom jus to his citrus-cured and smoked duck breast with duck leg in bacon vinaigrette with a coffee and burnt leek pesto. (To be fair, the judges thought both were good, but F.M.I. “handled the duck better,” according to Colicchio.) Tiffany also defeated Kevin (her first win all season) with a pork stew flavored with citrus and allspice, and Richard won against Stephanie with veal prepared two ways, braised and seared, with raisins, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Hosea took the win over Carla’s Jollof rice with harissa lamb, which suffered from undercooked rice, and Antonia lost to Stephanie with a very dry roasted veal. The only thing we really learned this challenge? Richard decided not to underestimate F.M.I. Well, good for you, Richard. It’s only THE FINAL.
The Elimination Challenge was straight-forward enough: Prepare a dinner for Bahamian royalty. Haha, just kidding, it wasn’t straight-forward at all, as the chefs later discovered. Turns out the “royalty” was the Bahamian version of a Carnivale king. Of course they didn’t discover this until they’d already prepped their dishes – which is important, because it would be at least one chef’s undoing after a fryer fire forced the chefs to abandon their cooking and all of the food was destroyed by chemicals used to put out said fire. As the chefs waited to return to cooking, Antonia decided to completely change her dish from something very refined and “royal” to something she felt was more in keeping with the humble, celebratory spirit. And Richard sat on the other wise of the booth, encouraging her to “go with her gut.” Blaise, when did you get so slimy? He also changed up his dish, though his last-minute decision worked in his favor, while Antonia’s decision to go with her version of shrimp and grits landed her on the bottom.
Turns out NO ONE blew the judges away with their dishes. F.M.I. won the Elimination Challenge with sous vide chicken and lobster hash (the judges loved his sauce), and RIchard fared well with his roasted lamb loin and malted braised leg with pickled turnip and mustard, but this wasn’t last episode’s Judges’ Table, where they enthused and seemed genuinely excited about the food. It was a great big pile of MEH all the way around. Even Carla, who has the energy level of a high school football team hopped up on Pop Rocks and Coke, was utterly deflated. The entire proceeding was just sad. Some of Carla’s fried pork medallions were underdone and Ripert declared the entire dish to be closer to a dessert, with the fried apple chip on top and sweet potato puree and apple sauce; Colicchio was baffled by the “garnish” slaw on top of Antonia’s (overcooked) shrimp and grits and Gail couldn’t figure out the “mystery meat” in the grits; and the judges universally thought Tiffany’s roasted spiced pork with dirty rice and tomato relish was underwhelming. Gail theorized that the kitchen fire threw the chefs off, but Colicchio had no sympathy at the Table.
In the end, there was no redemption for Carla and she was sent packing. I should be devastated, but as I mentioned before, I’m past caring who actually wins this competition. I don’t think Tiffany should be there, F.M.I. is F.M.I., Blaise is pissing me off… So I guess that leaves Antonia? Antonia as the person I would be least annoyed with winning at this point? Who are we rooting for?