So. Here we are. Part two of the four-part fake-out finale for the season that WILL NEVER EVER END. Until we are all dead. Probably from braising. We shall be buried in Beaumont.
Last week: Antonia spazzed. Carla served raw pork. Tiffany was suddenly noticed by the judges in alarm, as no one realized she was still there. But since she managed to cook one small step above salmonella poisoning, she was rewarded with a spot in the final four. Bye, Hootie Hoo.
This week: I’m 28 weeks pregnant, on antibiotics for a UTI and suffering quite intensely from a stomach virus I caught from my preschooler. It’s been a fabulous day, and if Tiffany makes it through another Judges’ Table tonight I will run someone over with my car. Or maybe just the caps-lock key. Don’t push me, Top Chef! I AM IN A MOOD.
We have some programming synergy for the Quickfire involving some lady from that America’s Next Great Restaurant show. I wish they’d gotten the Chipotle guy instead. I know nothing about the Chipotle guy, but hot damn, I love Chipotle. Anyway, our guest judge’s name is Lorena Garcia and she has nothing to do with Chipotle. Or Fashion Directing At Marie Claire Magazine.
The chefs divide themselves into teams of two (Blais/Mike and Antonia/TIffany, with Mike reminding us of Antonia’s cursed status as the Black Hammer team member of dooooom), and must produce 100 dishes for hungry diners in the restaurant as consistently as possible. The judges will be served randomly, so there’ll be no “these plates go to the judges” advantage. Which, honestly, strikes me as the way it should always be done during these mass-service challenges.
The chefs cook and plate. And plate and plate and plate. 100 plates are all completed before a single one hits the dining room. There are no heat lamps in sight, and I don’t think the plates were heated either, so I hope the diners are prepared for some cold-ass food. The judges grab their plates right there in the kitchen.
Team Badger Boys made pork bolognese with homemade macaroni (Mike’s attempt to redeem himself for the Great Pasta Disaster of a few weeks back). The judges question their ability to portion out each plate precisely the same, because America’s Next Great Restaurant is a show about chain restaurants and blaaaaah consistency 35-noodles-per-plate soulless assembly lines we get it. Next time I eat at McDonald’s I’m totally counting out the fries and giving them shit about the consistency of the scoopage.
Team Black Hammer of Beaumont serves beef tenderloin salad with cilantro, mint basil and chimichurri sauce. Hotel party catering food, but they get points for thinking ahead and doing something cold. The guys mock how simple the dish is, but Lorena Garcia Consistency Director of America’s Next Probably Not All That Great Restaurant declares it the winner. And I’m torn, because I like Antonia but am irrationally angry about any late-game success for the underwhelming Tiffany. Likewise, I am bummed for Blais but want to offer a hearty Nelson HA HA to Douchebag Mike.
I demand a closer look at the sauce dribbles!
Whatever. This show is not worth an existential crisis. Let’s move on to the Elimination Challenge. Well, after we get a glimpse of Blais’ grooming process. He does the typical guy move of haphazardly rubbing product through his hair, a move that does NOT usually result in hair that…pointy and vertical. And…horizontal. I guess the part where he stuck his finger in an electrical outlet was cut for time.
The challenge will involve conch, a staple of Caribbean cuisine, and the chefs arrive at a dock where Padma greets them in a bikini and high heels, all “I just had a baby, bitches.” Antonia and Tiffany kind of glare. Me too.
Last week, in the recap comments, Lynne pointed out that too many of the challenges are bordering on Top Chef: Survivor this season, what with all the malfunctioning or bare bones kitchen equipment. This week, the chefs are all but literally shipwrecked on a beach with crates of ingredients…and one crate of snorkel gear, because they must dive for their own conch. I raise my glass of urinary-tract-friendly cranberry juice to Lynne and her psychic powers, and hope that she’s enjoying something stronger. Like tequila.
I hope you all are, since we get treated to the sight of the boys with their shirts off. OH TRE. WHERE ARE THOU. AND THOU ABS.
Tiffany and Blais can’t swim, and struggle to reach the conch in the like, six-foot-deep water. Just hold your breath and BEND OVER, guys. Then they all head back to shore and attempt to get the conch out of the shell, which is not easy. Mike smartly practiced with conch before the finals, because he’s WATCHED the show and BEEN on the show, and kills the conch with hot water before pulling it out of the shell. This seems to make it a little easier, but my husband predicts he’s toughening up the meat as well with the teensy bit of extra cooking. I have no idea if this is true, but hey! It’s Mike. I will never be able to resist piling on even the most unfounded of criticisms for the pettiest of reasons.
Everybody dons their chef jackets and struggles with the rustic cooking stations, particularly Antonia. The diners arrive, and they are…some Nassau Yacht Club. Rich assholes with boats. MY FAVORITE. They are all very tan with overly white Chiclet teeth, presumably to match the all-white clothing and tablescape concept. One must always match the tablecloth, you know.
Blais is — SURPRISE — freaking out about his omg! not! Caribbean! dish, like he just suddenly realized the point of the challenge. Oops. It’s a play on linguine with clams: sweet potato linguine with conch and spiny lobster. Tom is totally fooled by the “pasta” and thinks that Blais actually churned out homemade pasta on the beach. It’s actually just sweet potato ribbons. Tom’s like, “Oh. Yeah. I feels teh dumbz now.”
There’s a storm brewing as the remaining chefs struggle to cook in the mounting wind and dropping temperatures. Antonia serves next: red snapper with conch tartare and lobster nage. (I had to look ‘nage’ up. It’s like a poaching liquid/broth.) The diners love the flavors, but Tom dislikes how small she cut up the conch, and declares his fish overcooked. The diner to his right says his was undercooked.
Tiffany finishes her plates early, but is worried that this will cost her as the flavors may change and the temperature could cool down too much. Guess what she made? Guess! SOUP. Soup. On THE BEACH. In THE BAHAMAS. Sweet baby badger hair, people. It’s a conch and coconut chowder with sweet potatoes and conch ceviche. It’s…very, very white. And it just plain looks sweet. And cold. It is both, according to the diners and judges.
Mike serves last — another version of the fateful banana-leaf-wrapped fish that sent poor Elia home TWICE. He’s confident that his is better and more refined and way awesome and whatever. It’s a grouper with braised pineapple and conch vinaigrette. I predict that he will get dinged for sidelining the conch too much, but I’m wrong. He does get criticized for using too much butter, though.
There’s a dumb interstitial about assigning Gilligan’s Island roles to everyone and it’s dumb and it’s Mike and DUMB.
Top Chef Masters! Where we take successful, established and respected chefs and make them work the drive-thru and cook with worms! For charity! THAT’LL SHOW ‘EM.
Judges’ Table. Tom congratulates everybody for the lack of sand in their
vaginas dishes. Each dish gets praise and then a criticism or two. Antonia’s was a bit conventional, but she’s all, “Yep, that’s me, bitches. Conventional! East side! Waaatup.” Blais sent out at least one plate with underdone lobster and his hair starts vibrating in terror. Tiffany’s soup was cold and too sweet. But that’s how they do it in Beaumont! Mike used too much butter and this single negative comment seems to inspire a Blais-like crisis of confidence in him for the first time back in the stew room. Which is more like a stew palace, honestly.
Mike wins, continuing his hot streak. Yay? Meh.
And…you guys, it happens. It finally, finally happens. Tiffany goes home. To Beaumont. Yay? Yay. And yet also MEH. WEEKS TOO LATE.