We finally made it guys! It is the finale!
From the opening scene with the not-so-final three, Richard and Mike are squaring themselves off against each other, while Antonia just wants some respect from the boys.
A blindingly yellow-clad Padma and Wolfgang Puck greet the chefs in the kitchen, standing by a spread representing seven “classic” Quickfires.
Hey, do you remember when the cheftestants could only cook with canned food? Oh, man! That was CLASSIC!
The first twist of the evening is that the chefs get to decide on the challenges for their opponents. Since Mike is on such a roll, he gets to go first, giving his “cousin” the canned and dry goods challenge. Antonia picks the hot dogs for Richard – perhaps this was the inspiration for Haute Doggery? Richard, in his first of multiple displays of horrible strategy, gives Mike the one-pot challenge and access to all of the ingredients in the kitchen.
In strolls the busty Indian Big Bird with twist #2: Now the chefs must assign a “classic” Top Chef twist to one of their competitors.
I don’t trust a chef that can’t cook an amazing meal with one hand tied behind their back. Cuh-lassic!
The twists are cooking with one hand, no utensils/hand tools, or the double apron three-legged chef twist featuring…HOOOTIE HOOOO….Carla! Richard gets to go first this time, and he assigns the no utensils twist to Mike, the one person that was almost done prepping. Antonia ties herself to Carla and ties one hand behind Richard’s back.
Mike spends the bulk of his time strolling around the kitchen waiting for his pork to braise, and uses that time to turn the annoying up to 11. If I were Antonia, I would have used Carla’s hand to slap him in the face while he loomed over them smirking.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: If you actually fork over $.99 to text in your vote for fan favorite, you deserve every second of Real Housewives commercials that you must endure. Seriously, you are a moron.
Antonia’s curry coconut soup with shrimp, andouille sausage, peanuts, and fish sauce had strong flavors, but Wolfgang thought that it was a little too concentrated.
Before he even tastes Richard’s hot dog on roti bread with curry ketchup, mayo, and mint leaves, Wolfie is already mocking it: “I think I could feed that to my kids at home, huh? They would love that…they love sausage and ketchup.” He found it to be a little too ketchup, but a nice sandwich “if you want to call it that.”
Though Mike’s pork was a little tough, the flavors were balanced and Puck pumps Mike’s smugness up to a 12 by giving him the QF win.
The chefs arrive at the Cloisters to find Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Bernstein, and Masaharu Morimoto waiting for them. Aside from being one of the most widely known chefs in the world, Wolfgang could teach the other two “icons” a thing or two: Slap your face on every half-hearted airport kiosk and mediocre can of soup that you can find, and laugh all the way to the bank.
The chefs will pair off with one of these culinary legends and prepare their ideal last meal. Having won the Quickfire, Mike gets to decide the pairings. He pairs himself off with Bernstein, puts Blais with Wolfgang, and sticks Antonia with the Iron Chef.
Oh, and do you remember the ominous envelope from the commercials? No? Well, you will, because you are going to hear about it so much that you will want to paper cut your eyeballs with it before this episode is over.
Mike gives us a little insight into his cousin bashing strategy here – he wants to get her out of the way so that he can go mano y mano with the professor: “I want to beat the best to be the best.” I guess blood isn’t thicker than machismo.
Continuing with the theme of the episode, Mike gets the easiest set of circumstances to deal with. Richard has to cook goulash, spaetzle, and strudel – something that he has never done before – for Wolfgang Puck, Antonia must sift through rice to ensure that the grains are uniform and prepare miso soup and sashimi for the Iron Chef Japan, and Mike has to cook fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. Wolfgang and Morimoto want dishes just like their mothers made, and Michelle wants the antithesis of what she grew up eating in her Jewish/Latino household.
Back at the hotel, Mike tries act like he picked Michelle because she would be the biggest challenge, which I’m surprised he got out while keeping a straight face.
This episode is all about buildup. Painful, unnecessary buildup. Tom strolls into the kitchen for his stove-side chats with the chefs, doing little more than killing a few minutes of airtime while the chefs explain the dishes and how much winning this would mean for them. If Blais doesn’t take this thing home, I think we may need to put him on suicide watch.
As if the deck weren’t stacked against her enough, Antonia opens a giant plastic bag of hamachi (yellowtail) to find that the fish for her sashimi is minutes away from rancid. Come on, Bravo. If you aren’t going to let them shop for their own ingredients, have the decency to provide quality product. She has to call an audible and pull out the less flavorful tuna instead.
Oh no! Richard can’t get the top off his pressure cooker! What is he going to…oh wait, he got it open. Slow news day in the kitchen Bravo?
Antonia – Bento box with tuna sashimi, pickled daikon, mushrooms and eggplant, miso soup, and rice.
Mike -Fried chicken with pea puree, egg yolk empanada with mustard gravy.
Richard - Beef goulash, spaetzle with sour cream and apple strudel with tarragon cream.
The slivers of Scotch bonnet on Antonia’s sashimi make Gail gag, and Morimoto finds her miso to be too salty. Her rice and vegetables impressed the judges, but Tom found her lack of subtle flavors to be the antithesis of Japanese cuisine.
Mike wanted to be different for different’s sake, and took the idea of putting his spin on the dish a little too far in my opinion. He didn’t put his “touches on it.” He pounded it with his tattooed fists. You want biscuits? I’ll give you an empanada with an egg yolk in the middle (which Michelle surprisingly loved). Instead of properly frying his chicken, he sous vided and flash fried it, which left a moderately crispy crust that never adhered to the meat. Moreover, Morimoto’s chicken was dry, a nearly impossible feat when cooking a protein sous vide.
Richard was the only one that really grasped the concept of remaining true to the original flavors of the dish, while still tweaking it to make it his own. The strudel won universal praise, and Wolfgang says that even his mother would have approved of the dish, despite the fact that the spaetzle was a little tough.
The chefs return to the dining room to a sudden Judge’s Table. Richard, the first chef to be called back from the ledge, earns the first spot in the ACTUAL finale. That leaves Mike and Antonia. But wait…there is 20 minutes left in this episode. That is a lot of frozen pasta commercials…
Yup, the bleepin’ envelope. You dodged a bullet Ms. Scotch bonnet, because you were heading home otherwise.
INTERLUDE: More freakin’ envelope buildup.
You thought we were done with twists? No such luck. But what will it be? An awkward cousin jello wrestle-off? Cooking rack of lamb with nothing but a fountain pen and a scrunchie? The suspense is killing me.
No, it is the one-bite challenge. The chefs have 45 minutes to put together the best bite they can. Though neither chef actually made an amuse-bouche, none of the judges complained.
Antonia – Seared Grouper in Coconut Lobster Broth with a Yam, Apple and Dill Pollen Relish.
Mike – Tempura lobster over beef tartare with caramelized olives and chimichurri sauce.
The vote came down to the wire, but Mike ultimately wins by a vote of 4-3. $100 says that vote # 4 belonged to the producers, who have been setting up the Mike V. Blais finale for far too long to let a – gasp – girl into the finals.
NEXT WEEK: The ACTUAL finale! The whole gang is back! Mike wants to win! Oh no! Richard thinks he might blow it!
Notes and Quotes:
How many different ways could Richard call out “SCOOORE BOOOAARD!!!” in his interviews?
No matter how creatively they tried to edit around it, it was painfully obvious that Antonia was going home after about 20 minutes. The winner doesn’t cry during their interview.
“If I tried, I definitely could throw up.” – Blais
“Richard. Not the sharpest one in the shed.” -Antonia