Thursday, June 19, 2008

Top Chef 6/18/08--"Reunion" summary

It’s reunion show time! Woo! Oh, when will “Top Chef” learn from “Project Runway” and not let Andy Cohen anywhere near them? I dislike him so much.(click for more)

First things first: Richard isn’t at the reunion. It looks like they filmed this soon after the finale because his wife hasn’t given birth yet, and he’s at home with her. Andy starts by replaying the moment Stephanie wins. She’s so cute. She says it didn’t feel real. Ted says she always looked like she was about to be killed, until something good happened. Andy asks how shocked everyone was when Richard said he choked, so we have to watch that. Gail was surprised he said it, but Tom and Ted agree that it’s Richard’s personality to do something like that. Antonia nods. Now we have to let Lisa talk about how she was confident and did she think she won? Oh, I’m OK with losing to Stephanie. Whatever. Tom asks a good question of Stephanie: would you rather be “winner of season 4”? Or “first female Top Chef”? Good question. Stephanie would rather just be the winner of season 4, she doesn’t want people to think she won just because she’s a girl. She’s going to open a restaurant with the money. Yay!

Viewer question time! What is it like watching yourselves? Any regrets? Oh, you might as well have tacked the LISA on the end of that. Dale wouldn’t have made scallops in butterscotch sauce. Padma says she regrets that too. Hee. Jen wishes she hadn’t said “phallus” so much and made smaller croutons. Heh. She says Padma’s face was priceless. Andy prompts them to keep talking, and Spike says the bath was too hot. Andy of course if very interested in cute boys in the bath together, even though Mark plays it down. Ted declares it “man soup” and says “Nice”. (Me and Kmanpat: “Agreed.“) Then he uses the horrid word “bromance”. Ugh, it’s Ben and Ronnie all over again. Stop forcing your fantasies on us. We get the clip of them in the tub together. Spike is sculpting things out of bubbles. Now…Dale and Richard? Huh? Dale is in the kitchen, announcing that “someone” watched him put lotion on this morning. Shot of Dale in the bathroom rubbing himself and sticking his tongue out. Right. Cut back to the kitchen and Richard telling him he has gorgeous nipples. Dale jokes about it. These reunion shows just get stupider every year. Now we have Andrew and Spike, and I don’t remember them flirting at all, just sharing a brain, which isn’t the same thing. (Kmanpat: “Hey, we share a brain!” Me: “Speak for yourself, but I have all of my brain.”) I don’t know that this is a “bromance” so much as it is dorks finding like minded dorks. Then Andrew contradicts me by saying that while he isn’t gay he’d let Spike bang him. I missed Andrew’s nonsensical sound bites. Back in the studio, Mark says he got married (dang) and that he’ll be in the country for a while.

Now we have to talk about the real relationship of Jen and Zoe. Do we get to count all the times Jen said she was doing it for Zoe? They tried to be fair and not support each other too much. Some viewer asked how they felt about Spike’s attitude, and Jen said that on the show they had no idea. Spike of course claims he has no problems, and Andy is quick to remind him that he said he thought they had an unfair advantage. Well…that’s not the same as saying you have a problem with their relationship. Zoe thinks they both would have been better had the other one not been there. Now, respond to the internet rumors that you’ve split up! Far, far too long of a pause. Jen finally says they’ve gone through some “bumps” and Zoe refuses to discuss it. Translation: We split up.

Someone says Spike was their favorite because he “played the game”. If by “play the game” you mean “be an asshat”, then I agree. Andy makes us watch the asshattery. They leave out the parts where it totally backfires on him. Stephanie says she’s worked with cocky a**holes, but in the end he’s trying to win. A few people think he might win fan favorite, but since they just featured him in a montage, I’m going to say no.

Montage of people’s nightmares. Apparently people were having nightmares about the show. Dale had one about lamb, Richard’s told he’s on the bottom before he knows the challenge, Spike is wandering the store with no idea what is going on. Didn’t that really happen? Jen dreams that Tom is staring her down, and there’s this great shot of Tom with this dead-eyed stare, all creepy. Richard dreamed he was having sex with his wife and Mark walked in. Hee. Mark refuses to share. All of them say they still have nightmares. They all woke up terrified every day, every time. A lot of them had watched the show, but the reality was super different. Generally that’s how that works.

Andy says that some of them would say anything to try to save a bad dish, and by “some of them” he means “Ryan”. Montage of Ryan babbling and everyone looking irritated. I do kind of remember that. Various contestants say he talks a lot. That fade-in and fade-out edit they do to make it seem like a person talked for hours. He won’t answer Andy’s questions. Ha.

Some viewer asks about “the curse of Casey”, and I’m not sure what that means. Andy agrees with the viewer that this curse was passed onto Antonia. Antonia doesn’t know what they’re talking about either. People are clapping. OH! I remember. Any time Casey would say that a person was her best friend, that person would get eliminated. Montage. Lisa fills us in that Antonia’s nickname is “The Black Hammer”. The difference here is that when you have a season with so many team challenges, being on her team was the kiss of death. Andy tries to start a fight by asking Valerie if she thought Antonia threw her under the bus by saying she’d hire Stephanie over her, and she said she did at the time. And then we never mention it again. Andy discovers several people who think Antonia could be fan favorite. You fools! We just had her montage!

Now we have to tolerate another “viewer” question. I put “viewer” in quotes because she asks what the Stew Room is. Are you kidding me? How can you watch the show and not know what the Stew Room is? Andrew sums it up nicely in two quotes: “the fifth level of hell”, and “the dirtiest, nastiest bar ever with people you may or may not like.” Montage of Stew Room outtakes. They aren’t that great, although I think the contestants are playing Scattergories, or something, because Stephanie is asking for “things you find at the zoo.” To which Antonia replies “Hookers.” Hee! Now they’re wrapping Mark in saran wrap. And hiding in a hot box and shouting about cooking hobbits. Oh wait, Tony Bourdain outtakes! “Are we over?” “No, then we have to smash the hopes and dreams of the losers.” Tony should be on more. Mark playing on a giant roll of plastic like a didgeridoo and the judges looking over that way confused. Andy reveals that in between camera changes and during down time Gail took naps. New montage of judges being super critical and saying mean tings about everyone. Nothing new. But it’s kind of fun.
Reader question: who is the toughest judge to impress? Spike jumps in and says Tony Bourdain: he’s well spoken and quick with the words. Agreed.

Now we have the part of the show where the contestants get to challenge the judges on whatever they want. Lisa asks if her groom’s cake was really that ugly. Yes. Yes it was. A question about the scales Richard left on his fish, and why that got by. Apparently not everyone had scales, but everyone had the nasty mushrooms Zoe made. I think it was Zoe. Tom says he’ll stand by all decisions. However, Tom wasn’t around when Dale got eliminated, and as it turns out, he disagreed with the decision. But he’s quick to clarify that based on what he saw, he disagrees: Lisa screwed up two dishes, Dale screwed up one. Ted asks Dale if he feels wronged, and Dale says when he screws up a dish in the restaurant it’s on his head. He’s OK with it.

Now is the time to call Lisa to task for her bitchy attitude. Back in the studio she seems to be amused. People are giving her nasty looks on the street. Shocking. Apparently she was at some party and these two girls, after watching her for a while, finally came over and said they were afraid to introduce themselves because she looked like such a bitch. Oh, you laugh now. But she said “looked” not “seem”. It makes me think that she was standing there scowling and not inviting anyone to talk to her. She goes on to say that in the “real world” she has no problems taking criticism, as long as you tell her why. Then Andy makes Andrew talk about how Lisa threw him under the bus. He says he was disappointed because to him it was desperation and unnecessary. Lisa agrees and says she regretted it, but does not say she apologized. Well, that was a bust. No one called her on anything. P.S., I could totally afford to eat at your restaurant, not that I ever will, so bite me.

Andrew montage! Everyone thinks he’s on drugs! But first he says that there’s a lot of talk about ADD and that’s so odd because he hasn’t played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons for years. Ha! Such a goofball. Ryan says that if he was on drugs he couldn’t come up with the stuff Andrew does. He sings while prepping. Lots of flailing. Getting stuck in the football helmet, which was so great. And we finish with the culinary boner. Somehow Andy must share that he thinks there’s something between Andrew and Gail. No one cares that much.

According to Andy it’s a “Top Chef tradition” that they make a T-shirt each season with a quote. Did they make one last year? I only remember “I’m not your bitch, bitch!” Oh, and they had “Oh, big time!” for CJ, even though he never really said it that much that we saw. I guess season 2 didn’t really say anything they wanted to put into print. Andy tells Spike to reveal this season’s shirt, which he does by stripping. “I have a culinary boner”. Well, that’s good and inappropriate. Could Andrew be the fan favorite? “I have a f***ing T-shirt!” Indeed.

Top Chef fights. Blah. #4: Dale vs. Spike, when they had that team challenge when Dale did all the work and Spike called him a little bitch. #3: Lisa vs. Dale, the stupid argument they had about the rice. #2: Lisa vs. Andrew, when she threw him under the bus. #1: the melee of Spike, Antonia, and Jen, after Zoe lost, with a little Lisa/Dale thrown in for good measure. Andy was confused by the last fight. Why? It makes sense. Jen says she was in the middle of the fight and all of a sudden Dale is fighting and she was confused. Antonia is left to explain to Andy, who apparently doesn’t watch the show.

Several comments about the amount of swearing, from viewers who use the phrase “toilet mouths” and for some reason think people who swear shouldn’t touch their food. Montage of cursing, but it’s all bleeped so it’s no fun. But Andrew says “Cheers, bitches” and they leave it alone. Dale says his mom called him because all of her church was rooting for him and he cursed a lot. Padma was shocked at the stuff that happened backstage. They all vented during confessionals, because the producers is unbiased, so that’s where a lot of the cursing took place. Tom just reminds them that they need to think about if this is how they want to be portrayed.

Andy says Richard is close to coming on, so now is the montage of “our Willy Wonka”. Oh, the peach and sweet tea glazed pizza. I have to say, that sounded really weird but also I really want to try it and I don’t like peaches. Now we get a live feed of Richard. He’s all tired because I guess his wife went into false later last night. He’s just opened a new restaurant in Atlanta. Now he’s forced to talk about telling Dale he had gorgeous nipples. And he doesn’t really say anything, so now he explains that at the end he over thought, forced some things, and just didn’t make it. He knows the final challenge he didn’t make the best meal of his life, and he doesn’t seem to regret saying that. Andy says Bravo got Richard a baby gift, and he should open it now. Andrew asks if it’s a culinary boner t-shirt. No, just a “Top Chef” onesie. Aww. Barf.

Fan Favorite time! Everyone speculates. Tom says Lisa won’t win. Heh. Stephanie wins! She says dinner and drinks are on her. Andy is like, this never happens! There have only been 4 seasons. I don’t think they had fan favorite the first season, possibly not the second. Shut up, Andy. Stephanie montage, with everyone talking about how awesome she is.

Advice for next season. Nothing you couldn’t guess at. They make Tom say this is the most talented group of chefs ever. Woo! We’re done! Thanks to everyone for reading all season! I’ll be back with “Project Runway” and possibly a few comments on “Shear Genius”. See you later!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef 6/11/08--"Finale pt. 2" summary

Previously on Top Chef: The final 4 went to Puerto Rico to cook fritters and also whole pigs. Richard made wonderful dishes and won a car. Stephanie recovered nicely from Dale leaving her pork belly out on a shelf overnight, and she was also in the top. Antonia and Lisa did not do so well, but in what seems to be the theme of the season, Lisa survives to cook in the final. I get that she seems to be lucky, and also that other people screw up at the exact wrong time. I mean, I understand things like getting rid of Dale. That’s fine and all but it doesn’t stop me from not liking her. I’ve found one single blog that defends her. One. And it really just says not to judge her based on what we see on TV. To which I say, reality television has been around long enough that you have to know there’s the chance you will look bad. Also I don’t feel the need to be nice because Lisa’s been quoted in an interview as saying she doesn’t read blogs because she doesn’t care about what people who can’t afford to eat at her restaurant think of her. Also that none of us know anything about food. Who exactly do you think reads blogs? Could it be that some of them might have money and know food? You can dismiss bloggers and claim you don’t read about yourself because it’s upsetting, but it’s probably not a good idea to insult them, especially since they don’t really like you to begin with. In addition I would eat ramen noodles for a month if it meant I could eat at Perilla.
(click for more)

Also we’re reminded of how Lisa demanded congratulations from Richard and Stephanie after Antonia had left. You can’t be all, “I’m not here to make friends, everyone has a negative attitude” and then whine about how no one likes you.

In the morning the final 3 sit outside to have breakfast. It looks like eggs benedict. Mmm. Also mimosas. Stephanie wants to be the first female Top Chef. Richard wants the money for his family, and he says Lisa has a bad attitude and isn’t a leader, and doesn’t deserve to win. Lisa at least knows she just barely made it by the skin of her teeth, but she feels that even though Richard and Stephanie have won far more challenges than she, she’s about to beat them.

Everyone goes to meet Padma, Tom, and April Bloomfield, Dan Barber, and Eric Ripert. Eric Ripert shouldn’t still be bleaching his hair. Everyone is suitably impressed. Tom announces the final challenge, which shouldn’t be too surprising: 4 course meal, tasting portions, traditional sequence: fish, poultry, meat, dessert. Yes, Tom says, you must do a dessert. Lisa says she doesn’t eat cake. Each of the famous chefs has different proteins in front of them, so I guess when you pick your sous chef you pick your proteins. Padma says the original plan was to have the chef that won the most elimination challenges pick first, but after Richard won this last time there’s a tie between him and Stephanie so the knife block makes one last appearance. Stephanie gets to go first, so she takes Eric. Richard picks Dan, which leaves Lisa with April. They have 3 hours today and 4 hours tomorrow to cook and will serve head to head.

Lisa is going back to Asian, because she is “naturally pretty damn good” at it. April does not cook Asian, but Lisa has a plan so she‘s not concerned. Lisa is thrilled to work with her and says their personalities are really similar. She seems like she’s in a much better mood today. Richard’s concept is his “journey” which means classical training plus molecular gastronomy. He claims he doesn’t know what he’s doing since they just got the challenge, but he should have been thinking of possible dishes ever since he went home. Dan says he has no idea what all Richard has going, but he doesn’t think Richard does either. Stephanie is keeping the balance, and Eric seems to approve. The sous chefs tease each other, since it’s been a while since they’ve followed anyone else’s directions. Stephanie hovers but quickly learns that Eric knows what he’s doing. Much cooking. Richard has brought liquid nitrogen as his “special ingredient”. So he can make Tabasco sauce ice cream for oysters. Or something. Awesome. Lisa says that’s not her, she cooks simple food with minimal ingredients, but I have to say that Asian food can have very long ingredient lists. Eric seems interested and Richard points out, rightly so, that being able to teach Eric Ripert something is f***ing cool. Stephanie notices that Lisa is getting along with April, which she finds odd because Lisa has had serious problems getting along with everyone, “as some people might remember.“ Hee. Lisa says if you’re happy your food tastes better. How have you gotten this far then? Also her tone of voice as she says she gets along with April implies the other two are arguing, which they don’t seem to be doing. At the end of the day, Richard hasn’t finished anything. Stephanie says she’ll just do the best she can, while Lisa says she’s been waiting for this. She sounds more confident than Stephanie, which bodes well if you can believe the editing.

In the morning none of the sous chefs are around, but everyone seems to just start working anyway. Tom comes by to tell them that the sous chefs are not coming, and that the judges want to make sure they “live and die by [their] own hand”. That…seems to be unnecessarily evil. I mean, would it be so much worse if they told them up front that the sous chefs would only be there one day? They all are used to chefs not showing up to work, although Richard implies that he’d fire a chef that did that. Lisa’s personality is in your face spicy and bold. Right. The most interesting thing on her menu is black Thai rice pudding. Richard is making bacon ice cream. And his banana scallops. Again. Also, bacon ice cream’s been done. He’s telling a story, although without the oysters and Tabasco ice cream he was talking about yesterday. Stephanie has ricotta pound cake which sounds really good. Given the choice she’d rather not have dessert.

Tom tries to ask Richard about what’s going on, and not only does Richard make it clear that he’s super busy right now, but he won’t give Tom any solid answers. Stephanie has only tried her pound cake once before but it was very good. Lisa is calm. Tom thinks Richard might be doing too much, Lisa’s attitude could help her, Stephanie should have known she’d need a dessert and should have worked it more than once. Richard tells us that if you use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, it doesn’t make ice crystals so it’s super good. Actually, that makes sense. He insists it’s not just about the show. Stephanie says her cake sucks. Lisa tells her that she’s said that before and won, so shut up. Lisa then interviews that Stephanie is too hard on herself. It just feels…fake. Like, I get that when people say they suck, and then win things, that’s really annoying. But saying that you’re annoyed because she sells herself short and actually is awesome, rather than that her modesty is annoying to you? Richard makes a comment about how tense it is, Stephanie agrees, and Lisa is like, tense? I’m not tense! And Richard is like, whatever. She says she just wondered why no one was talking and Richard rolls his eyes. Richard plates with giant tweezers and says he’s the best here. Lisa wants to be the first female Top Chef. Stephanie is not as concerned about the money as the title.

The sous chefs are at dinner, talking about following other peoples’ directions for once. The three finalists come out to meet all of the diners: the sous chefs, Alfredo Ayala, Tim Zagat (!), Gail, Ted, Tom. Richard goes first to explain himself: he’s named all the courses. Of course. This meal is about his journey. Lisa has Vietnamese and Thai. Somehow it will shock people. Stephanie likes mixing up proteins and flavors. Also she likes fruit. (Kmanpat: “Yay fruit!”)

Fish course: grilled prawns with chili basil sauce and crab, and homemade potato chips from Lisa; seared red snapper over truffled clam and asparagus broth, with asparagus salad from Stephanie; scallop with mango and pineapple vinegar from Richard (which is titled “You Are Here“). Dan says he doesn’t even recognize Richard’s dish. Zagat wants it simpler. Lisa’s texture is good, but the sauce is really strong. Stephanie’s is elegant and has a delicate flavor. It seems to be the best.

Poultry course: tom kha gai (coconut soup with chicken) and dumplings from Lisa; seared quail breast over lobster ravioli, mango lobster sauce, and quail egg from Stephanie. “Which Came First?” from Richard, which is guinea hen, sous vide chicken egg, and foie gras. Richard’s ingredients kind of blend together, although it‘s complex. Lisa’s soup was delicious and everyone seems to want more. Stephanie seasoned her food well, but the leeks are undercooked and irrelevant.

Meat course: Lisa has Wagyu beef marinated in coriander oyster sauce, chayote and cucumber salad, hot sauce and garlic chips. Stephanie: lamb and maitake mushrooms, braised pistachios, blackberry and olive tapenade. Pickled radishes, mirin broth, and pork belly from Richard, titled “Be the Bacon“. Richard’s food isn’t seasoned, and his pickled radish is the most flavorful thing. It’s not crispy. Yeah, shouldn’t pork belly be crispy? Lisa’s beef isn’t tender and the sauce is really sweet, in that it’s the prawn sauce, just sweeter. Stephanie’s dish is surprising. Everyone wanted to hate the olives but they all love it. Eric points out that they’re using the word “love”. Stephanie wins this round.

Dessert course: black Thai rice pudding with lime and mango cream, crispy taro sticks, and caramelized coconut from Lisa; ricotta pound cake with tropical fruit and banana cream from Stephanie; Richard’s “You Are Still Here” is a banana scallop (again) and bacon ice cream. OK, points for tying the two “scallops” together. Everyone seems tired of the chips from Lisa, but it kind of works. Richard’s dessert works also. Eric enigmatically comments that you can be playful only after you have your flavors down. Stephanie’s dessert was OK but not exciting. They welcome the finalists out to thank them and give applause. Tom talks about their journeys and whatnot.

At Judges’ Table Tom says the finalists delivered exactly what they expected. And also there were some missteps. The loser gong greets all three. Richard is up first. He says the first course should wake up your palate, but everyone thought it was under seasoned. Lisa had a very assertive hot dish. Tom wants to know her intention, was that on purpose, and she says it was. Stephanie had a beautiful presentation and everyone loves it. You’ll notice that even now Lisa has her arms crossed and is scowling, even though she just got praise. Richard’s second dish got muddled, and he agrees that he could have left out the foie gras. Lisa’s soup was wonderful. Tom wanted to know what the leeks were doing in Stephanie’s dish and they were undercooked. She looks horrified. Richard says if he had seared his pork belly it would have fallen apart and that wasn’t worth it. Tom says Lisa should have cooked her steak more, because Wagyu beef has such wonderful marbling it’s nasty when not cooked. And Lisa undercooked it on purpose. Stephanie’s dish was super creative and everyone was surprised. Richard’s ice cream was great, as was Lisa’s rice pudding. Stephanie liked her flavors of her dessert, but Tom says her banana cream wasn’t flavored enough. Padma asks for last words. Stephanie says Dale told her not to second guess herself but she did on her dessert. Lisa is confident they’ll give her the win. I see. Very loud loser gong. Richard is like, OK, I’ll say it, I think I choked. Woah. He feels like he overthought and it’s not his best performance. Where did that come from? It’s not false modesty, he’s about to cry.

After Padma sends them all off, Gail says she’s shocked by what Richard said. Tom says he agrees, because he did make some mistakes like the pork belly. Richard wanted to them to know that he could do better. Tom wants to go course by course. Fish course: Stephanie seems to take it. They mention Lisa’s dish, but not as positively. Poultry dish: who knows, but probably Lisa’s soup that everyone loved. Red meat dish: Stephanie’s dish with the braised pistachios. Richard’s idea was original, but not executed. They think that’s what he meant by choking. Dessert: Lisa’s dessert was her best dish of the night. Stephanie’s dessert wasn’t great, but the rest of her dishes were great. Ted demands bacon ice cream to become commercially available. Well that was a bust. They didn’t really say anything new. Lisa tells Stephanie she nailed the first and third courses, and Lisa nailed two and four. Stephanie immediately looks at Richard who looks miserable. The judges seem to have a choice, as you can hear birds chirping in the background.

Tom heaps praise on everyone. He says the decision is based on which meal they’d like to go back and have again. And the winner is…Stephanie!! WOO!! Lisa really thought she could win, but she’s proud of herself. Richard is disappointed, and about to cry. Everyone who had come to Puerto Rico is there hanging out. Stephanie is doing a little dance. Ah…so satisfying.

Next week: reunion show. Notice there aren’t any clips. Very interesting. Let’s see if Lisa can piss off the rest of the viewers.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Moley moley mole!

I was so glad to see "The Mole" again on my TV. You feel so smart watching it. Like, you might actually learn something! And then when the actual contestants have no idea what's going on, you feel so superior. I mean, it's not hard to feel superior when you're watching "Big Brother" or something.

I like Craig as the mole, and also Nicole. The fact that everyone loves Craig and wasn't mad at all that he didn't get his money? They were right, that's the perfect persona for the mole to have. And yes, Nicole is too obvious, maybe. I mean, we all thought Elavia was the mole until she quit. However I do like the idea that she would be as annoying as possible just at the right time to put herself in charge of a task and win an exemption. It's probably because Angie Everheart was the last celebrity mole and she was pretty obvious, trusting that people would chalk it up to her temper.

Thinking of that makes me miss Corbin. He was crazy. He would have been a good host, messing with people and pretending to give out hints. Let me just say, that putting a thumbprint on one person's helmet? That's weak. Clicky clicky

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Chef 6/4/08--"Finale pt. 1" summary

Previously on Top Chef: The final challenges before everyone got a chance to go home involved steak. First, butchering the steak, then cooking the steak, then working the line at a steakhouse. Spike did well with the cutting and the searing, but not so much with the choosing of non-sucky non-frozen scallops. From what I can tell (which isn’t much; good job Bravo on maintaining a working website) Lee Anne tried to make sure everyone had a good selection of proteins to choose from, since Rick Tramonato’s restaurant has a small menu. She also had a budget, and anything that Rick provided them with had to be paid for, while she could get frozen scallops from Allen Bros. for free. So she’s the one that put the scallops in there. But Spike still used them, he still insisted on searing them. He could have done something else with them and it would have been fine. Spike still called out Rick at the judges’ table for having them in the freezer. Rick was very gracious, considering he knew full well it wasn’t his fault they were there. Spike went home in the end, leaving us with Stephanie (woo), Antonia (woo), Richard (meh), and Lisa (ugh). (click for more)

Time for Puerto Rico! Stephanie has been traveling throughout Asia. Her T-shirt says “I love Tahoe boys“. Antonia has started her restaurant. Richard is thrilled to see Stephanie and Antonia, who he says are the ones everyone thought would win at the beginning of the show. But not really Lisa. Lisa has cut her hair, which should please people who thought her hair was always greasy and bad. However I think she’s gained some weight, maybe. She says everyone looks relaxed. They go off somewhere to great Tom and Padma, and a table full of plantains. Oh wait. It’s not Tom. It’s Wilo Benet, who “embodies“ Puerto Rican cuisine, according to Richard. Sorry, he looked like Tom.

Padma says that beachside fritters are a tradition, served with a cold beer. They have to make frituras, or fritters. Apparently these are just little fried snacks. And Wilo says that you have to use plantains. Hope you know how to use them! Lisa thinks they are common and all chefs should know what to do with them. Two separate frituras, both with plantains. They have 40 minutes.

Lisa immediately goes for proteins while others are getting plantains. Stephanie is trying to focus and eliminate some of her ideas. She thinks that’s her problem with Quickfires. Lisa is making fried plantains. It appears that she looked up Puerto Rican cuisine before she came. Richard burns off his eyebrows as he tries to light the stove.

Stephanie: tostones with seared tuna. Tostones are the fried plantains; you fry them once, then smash them and fry them again. Also she has pork and shrimp fritters with brown butter, lime, and basil sauce. Yum! Antonia: crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam. There are no plantains in the actual fritter. Her second dish is plain fried yellow plantains with spicy slaw. She pronounces it “plan-TINS” which bugs me. Lisa: tostones with pan roasted duck and mango papaya salsa, and sweet plantains, red onion, and chorizo with chutney slaw. Chutney slaw? It has citrus fruits and cucumbers, and chilies. Chutney slaw. That is the most non-descriptive term. Chutney and slaw are categories. Richard: pork meatballs with ripe plantain sauce. He calls them something in Spanish, “abondigas” I think. The other dish is green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa. Interesting. He’s made the salsa with raw plantains. That…seems bad. Now I want some tostones.

Wilo says everyone did well, lots of neat sauces and chutneys. Antonia could have used more integration, and the raw plantains are indeed not good. Richard had the same problem, and his meatballs were dry. Hee. Stephanie had great balance and right portions. Lisa’s tostones were great, but her meat could have been smaller. (Hee!) Stephanie wins, her first Quickfire win. Wilo invites them to a party, with traditional food and music. No one seems suspicious. Random parties never turn out well.

The party has great music, and lots of food and a whole pig. Lisa makes Richard dance. He says he’s having fun but he doesn’t dance. There are stupid slo-mo shots of everyone having fun with voiceovers of them in confessional talking about how they want to just get this over with already.
The next day (I think) everyone ends up at La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence. I think that’s what it’s called. Tomorrow there will be a garden party, with 100 VIP guests. Now Tom is here. He says it’s not a party without a pig, and he takes off some fronds from a table to reveal a pig. Everyone gets a whole pig and they have to make at least 2 dishes. Cool! Tom knows this will be a lot of work, so he’s got some help for them. Now Dale, Nikki, Andrew, and Spike show up. Oh, come on. Twice in one season? Lisa says her choices are limited. Mostly because she doesn’t get along with anyone, but of course she doesn’t think that’s the deal. Well, she does admit that Andrew is angry with her because he felt she threw him under the bus. Stephanie, as winner, gets to assign everyone’s people. Ha! She says she wants everyone to get along. She takes Dale, then puts Spike with Richard, Nikki with Antonia, and Andrew with Lisa. Andrew says he’ll try to help her win, but neither of them look thrilled. The “helpers” are going to shop for produce while the contestants butcher their pigs. They have 30 minutes to plan, 2 hours today to cook, and 5 hours tomorrow. Stephanie has to know that Andrew and Richard would be a better, more harmonious match than Andrew and Lisa. Maybe she’s trying to get rid of Lisa.

Richard talks about the importance of inspiration. He thinks as long as Spike buys fresh ingredients he’ll be fine. Does he not remember the frozen scallops? Antonia is going traditional. Lisa, shockingly, wants to not do Asian, but Puerto Rican. She insists she knows Latin food and flavors, and the natives will love her food. Richard thinks this is dangerous. I would agree, I think. You’d better be solid.

The helpers get $250 and 45 minutes to shop. Nikki doesn’t recognize some of the stuff. Andrew is having a communication breakdown because the woman doesn’t understand English. Hee. He knows he looks stupid. Dale is buying “black” plantains, which look rotten but apparently are super sweet. Back in the kitchen everyone gets ready to butcher their pigs. Someone kids Lisa that her hacking looks too natural. She comments that she’s Jewish. Antonia is cutting along the joints with her chef‘s knife, but Richard and Lisa are using mallets to pound cleavers through the meat, I guess. And they both break the mallets. Richard remembers some sweet malt beverage that he’s been using to glaze ribs so he calls Spike to have him get some.

Richard is organizing because it’s pretty crowded. He’s got tape for everything, all his appliances and dishes and bowls and whatnot. Nikki has great fruit, Antonia says. Stephanie is making pork belly and she makes sure to spice it. Andrew says Lisa “has a strong personality”. That’s is a good way to put it. Richard agrees. She kicks Andrew off something because he’s too slow. Someone spills something on the floor. The fridge is crammed. After 2 hours everyone says goodbye to their helpers and heads out of the kitchen. Stephanie says she feels organized…as the cameraman pans from the departing contestants to a shot of her pork belly sitting on a shelf. Not refrigerated. “Top Chef” has been hiring “Amazing Race” cameramen during their off season.

In the morning, Dale admits he’s the one who left it out, and Stephanie immediately says she’ll throw it out. She’s really nervous, and Dale is really really sorry. He says if he gets her sent home he’ll never forgive himself. I think she’s recovering well. Richard always has “something tricky”, according to Spike, and he can learn something. He’s got BBQ pork shoulder, pork belly with pickled watermelon, ham and beans, and ribs. Antonia: pork belly with sweet peppers, pork sausage with pigeon peas and rice, and curried pork. But her rice is ruined; she says the bottom is mushy and the top is raw. Nikki says she can tell Antonia is off so she needs to be on to compensate. Lisa is making yuca and pork rellena, and pork belly, and an adobo roasted pork tostone. Oh, no, everyone has pork belly except Stephanie. She says if she only makes two dishes she’ll be going home. Her last minute idea is chicarrones, fried pork skin, in a salad. Her other two dishes are pork satay on sugar cane skewers, and coconut pork with a plantain pancake. Antonia says her daughter told her not to come home if she didn’t win. I hope everyone is kidding about that.

With 30 minutes until service everyone goes outside to grill and prep. Stephanie is trying to make blinis, but they seem to be burning. Lisa doesn’t want to get sent home. Of course. Stephanie thinks little things will send people home. Last minute frantic working.

Padma appears, in a one shoulder drapy gown Rami would be proud of. Stephanie is up first: pork satay on sugar cane skewer, in a miso almond sauce. Coconut braised pork with black plantain pancake. Tropical fruit salad with fried pork skin. Wilo says the pancakes are inventive. Richard: fresh ham with local beans, whatever local beans are. Pressure cooked pork belly with picked watermelon. Ribs with malta and soy glaze. He talks so damn much! Everything has this long ass story about his inspiration and everything. BBQ pork shoulder with braised greens and mango, braised in coffee and cinnamon. That sounds really good. Now it is dark. Lisa: citrus braised pork belly with potato and plantain mash. Gail says it’s really sweet. Adobo roasted pork butt tostone and black beans and onions. Yuca rellena filled with pork, with pineapple mojo. Mojo is dipping sauce. It looks like they didn’t finish eating her food. Antonia: honey pork belly with pickled sweet pepper salad. Curried pork with pumpkin and yuca. Pigeon peas with pork sausage. The peas have a kick, and she soaked them overnight. The last two dishes seem to be on the same plate. None of the judges have had any opinions, or voiced them anyway. Random people talk about stuff. Everyone gets a comment; sadly, Antonia gets the bad comment of dry pigeon peas.

Before the contestants come out, the judges talk about everyone’s food. They seem pleased in general. Lisa and Antonia weren’t as good as they have been, but everyone was good across the board. Now that Wilo and Tom are next to each other, I must say Wilo looks like Andrew Zimmerman more than Tom. Padma comes to get Richard and Stephanie only. Lisa and Antonia do not look happy. Richard and Stephanie look really nervous until Padma tells them they are the favorites. Tom thinks Richard was self-editing, with simpler dishes than he served at the beginning of the competition. Stephanie’s satays were wonderful. No mention of the pork belly. Richard is the unanimous winner, and the crowd favorite. He wins…a car!?!?!?! He just won a 2009 Corolla. Damn. He seriously cannot believe it. Stephanie looks happy for him, but I would be thinking “Damn. Dale cost me a car.”

Antonia and Lisa go out to face the music and the loser gong. Lisa felt her dishes were strong, but she knows that everyone else’s dishes were strong too. Tom is surprised she cooked Latin food, when she’s “known” for Asian. She insists that she cooks Latin food all the time and it’s not that far from the Asian she cooks all the time. Her potato puree was really sweet and overpowering, and all her dishes focused on the garnishes rather than the pork. She took the tostones out of the fryer right before the judges arrived…but if the judges didn‘t get to her until it was dark? That‘s not good. She starts talking about balance in a traditional Puerto Rican meal, but Wilo says that didn‘t happen. Antonia knows her peas were not cooked enough, but she says she didn‘t notice until the very end. Also Antonia served her dishes all on the same plate, so they all muddled together. Her plan in that was to make things more rustic.

Tom says now it comes down to mistakes. Lisa’s tostone wasn’t that great, and her sweet potato puree wasn‘t right for the pork she paired it with. She had the right idea, but it’s execution again. She says she’s going home. I really hate editing sometimes. Sigh. Antonia went for rustic, and she should have put each of her dishes on separate plates since they were all distinct dishes. Gail says there are such things as al dente beans, but Tom says no. Antonia says she really doesn’t want to go home.

Commercials. 91% of voters think Lisa should go home. You usually don’t see that high of a percentage. That should tell you something. I wonder if we’ll ever hear Lisa address that.

Tom says they needed to bring their A game today, but they both are competing at a B+. Hee. Tom rehashes their errors. Antonia has specific problems; Lisa has an overall lack of…whatever they’re looking for. Also Tom says her table didn’t have a crowd. So what does this mean? Of course it means Lisa is safe. AGAIN. She promises them again they won’t be disappointed. Didn’t she promise that before they left Chicago? At least she looked genuinely shocked. Antonia is crying and she talks about her daughter, and she is really upset she has to go home. She tells Stephanie to kick ass. The final 3 sit around in the Stew Room, until Lisa bitches at Stephanie and Richard because they didn’t congratulate her. They both kind of mutter congratulations (which you know they don’t mean) and Richard says he’s just tired, which is probably true. Lisa says she gets it (um…no) but it makes her feel like they both think the wrong person went home, which, 1. That is what 91% of the viewers think, and I’m sure they think that too, and 2. Cry me a river. She says that they can have their opinions (didn’t you just yell at them for their opinions?) and it’s not a popularity contest. Yeah, lucky you. In confessional she says people enjoyed her dishes, even though they seemed to do it far away from her table so Tom wouldn’t see the crowd. Somehow Stephanie and Richard should forget that Antonia is their friend and “as a fellow chef” tell Lisa good job or whatever. Just because you didn’t go home doesn’t mean you’re entitled to praise. They don’t like you. Deal with it. Richard is like, you won the bronze. Good for you.

Next week: Lisa thinks she can beat everyone, Richard is behind, Tom gives them a curveball, we find out who wins.

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