Previously on Top Chef: In the last competition before the finale, the chefs took a boat ride, got back to their roots and discovered that Antonia and DoucheyMike are distant cousins, something we will now hear about incessantly. And when it was all over, we realized we had just wasted the last hour-and-change since no one was eliminated.
Ooh, la la la, ooh la la. It's betta in the Bahamas.
Well, that's the way the song goes. We'll have to see.
It's finale time, months have gone by as the final
Soon she's joined by Carla, who has veered sharply from the top to the bottom of things this season. And then who should show up but forgotten American Idol winner David Cook!
A tween David Archuleta fan runs up and kicks him in the nuts. And only then do we realize it's actually Richard with a new color process, 'do and facial hair.
Moments later, on comes DoucheyMike, and Antonia greets him as her long-lost cousin.
Did I not tell you this thread would be eternal?
Da Douche tells us that he's spent the intervening hiatus investigating cooking techniques across D.C. , spending extra time on pastry cooking. ... And pastry eating, it seems.
After the meet-and-greets, the chefs turn a corner and arrive at the ...
The chefs are greeted by Tom and Padma and the chefs who won the five remaining finalists' four different Top Chef seasons: Stephanie Izard (Season Four), Hosea Rosenburg (Season Five), Michael Voltaggio (Season Six) and Kevin Sbraga (Season Seven).
Immediately, DoucheyMike is pumped, since he imagines that this means he'll get to be on a team with Michael, who won his season. But, no. Tom informs them that each contestant chef will cook head-to-head against their season's winner, making one dish. The winner of each face-off will be awarded $10,000. (Since Stephanie will be facing off against two chefs -- Antonia and Richard -- she will have two opportunities to win with one dish.) The teams will each have to work with a different protein which Tom has selected in advance.
When they lift the lids on the mystery boxes, they are all a mite surprised to find rather conventional meats there (veal, lamb, duck and pork), since they had psyched themselves up for more island-centric dishes.
They cook. Stephanie tells us she wants to win everything. DoucheyMike thinks he'll slow Michael down by having him butcher the duck. And Hosea tells us in so many words that the entire world still resents the fact that he won his season.
As time ticks away, both Carla and Antonia remark that their portable burners (or whatever they're called -- I can't cook, remember?) aren't staying on. For Antonia, this means that her veal isn't so much being fried as it is being steamed. For Carla, this means her rice isn't cooking properly.
So, in a moment of on-the-spot miscalculation (sadly, one of many), Carla decided to dump her rice into the same pot with her lamb and instantly regrets the decision. She informs Hosea that she probably just handed him $10,000, which, when you think about it, is apt, since she's done that before. Hosea, Pyrrhic Victory 2 is on hold for you.
Once, time is called, Tiffany scores against Kevin with her pork dish, which earns her her first (!) win of any kind this season. As expected, Carla's undercooked rice results in Hose Man getting another win-by-default. In a split decision, DoucheyMike gets to say he beat out Michael for once with his duck dish.
One of them declares this "awesome."
In the face-off of Antonia vs. Stephanie, none of the judges is particularly enthused with either chef's veal dishes. But, as someone has to win, Stephanie is given the money. Of course, she's not too thrilled to win "for a crappy dish."
Turning to Richard's veal two-ways, the judges love it and don't even have to think about awarding him the $10K against Stephanie's winning/losing dish.
Once the veteran winners (and Hosea) leave, Tom, Padma and guest/returning judge Eric Ripert inform the chefs about the ...
They are told that for this contest, they will be preparing a meal for a "very prestigious" event and that they will be cooking for "Bahamian royalty."
Yeah, there's no way that's a "twist." There's never a "twist." Especially in a series finale.
With that, the competing chefs head off to Nassau's sumptuous Red Carpet Inn to check out their luxurious digs and speculate about the prospect for cooking for "the king and queen of the Bahamas."
This, of course, sends me into fits of insanity, screaming at the set, "Who the fuck thinks the Bahamas has or has ever had its own king and queen?! How? Why? And why the fuck are Americans so consistently fucking stupid about the rest of the fucking world?! Fuck!"
OK, I got that out of my system.
But, seriously. Aside from the rulers of the pre-Columbian indigenous kingdoms of Central and South America, could anyone even imagine how a Western Hemisphere country would even have a royal family (not including their ruling European kings and queens)?
OK, maybe it was still in my system.
The chefs (wearing their ready-for-the-royals t-shirts and jeans) are super excited when they are picked up at their hotel by Cadillac Escalade™ with a police escort, clearly a signal that they're going to the Bahamian Royal Palace & Candy Cane Fairyland.
(Note: In a particularly hysterical moment, this show, lord of all that is corporate sponsorship, grand ruler of "We arrived in our Dodge Dakota 4X4s" or whatnot, blurred out the SUV's Cadillac nameplate as it pulled up and had DoucheyMike describe it as "this truck.")
As they travel to the Imperial Castle Of Bahamian Duke and Duchesses, the chefs discuss how they expect to be heading into some "mack daddy" kitchen and cooking for well-heeled people with the most refined of palates. And, in a move no one could have possibly seen coming, they soon find themselves, not in a posh neighborhood of royal guards, footmen and ladies-in-waiting, but along a pretty standard restaurant row. And, what's this? Look! There's a party going on in front of one.
It's Junkaroo! And, aha! There's a man with a crown!
He must be there to guide them to where Bahamian King Xavier Doesn'tthefuckexist lives!
Now, everybody dance!
Tom exits from the restaurant and informs the gang that this man with the colorful garb and crown is the King of Junkaroo and they will be cooking for him and his krewe.
Oh, you coulda knocked me over with a yellow headdress.
Richard, Mike and Antonia immediately start to sweat over the fact that they've prepared dishes that are probably too refined for the street-dancing krewe. But Tiffany, who had planned on sticking with her down-home cooking concept, is actually quite thrilled with this development.
They rush into the restaurant's exceedingly humble (read: small and ill-equipped) kitchen and start cooking. (They had gotten to do their prep work at the Red Carpet Inn's kitchen earlier.)
But as she drops some plantains into a deep fryer, Antonia The Instant Psychic starts to notice that there's something wrong with the one next to hers. It's smoking. And not like Kelly from last season, either.
She has Carla turn down the heat, but that doesn't seem to help.
She says the magic words. "Fire fryer."
And BOOM the entire thing goes up in flames.
When will Antonia ever learn? If she vocalizes something it will happen.
Antonia, can you come over here and say, "iPad 2 for Cliff." Please?
The chefs throw towels over their food and are forced to exit the kitchen so that the firefighters can put out the blaze.
But as the men with the fire-retardant do their work, back in the dining room there's another Blaise causing a different kind of meltdown. With this unexpected time to kill, Antonia is stressing again that her concept is too highbrow for the audience. And Richard, wishing to get into her head and do some psychological warfare, encourages her to go with her heart.
"This is a competition."
Once the fire is out, Tom goes in to examine the damage and quickly realizes that since chemicals have gotten over everything, including all the food, there's no way they'll be able to cook in there now.
He tells the chefs that they will be scrubbing this batch and the kitchen, but not the challenge. The chefs will have to go back to the Red Carpet Inn and start their prep all over again and will be coming back to the restaurant and cooking later.
This, of course, comes as a blessing to Antonia (and, theoretically, to Richard), who takes this opportunity to completely reformulate her dish. Tiffany, though, is pretty damn pissed, since this eliminates her (perceived) advantage and the element of surprise.
They cook again. They come back again. And, at I Don't Know When O'Clock, they finally get to serve their dishes to the Royal Order Of The Boxing Day Dancers.
But the food doesn't particularly impress.
Padma calls all five chefs before the judges and each dish is critiqued.
Tiffany's was way too simple and, for the umpty-umpth time, she's criticized for having called her dish something. In this case, she's slammed for having called it a "curry"-something when it didn't have that kind of flavor.
Carla suffered from Carla-itis, having yet again opted to employ a technique she's never tried before in a finale. This resulted in Gail's pork having been totally undercooked. It doesn't look good for her. Again.
Mike is generally praised for his sous vide chicken, a dish he didn't change at all from before fuego interruptus. But even he gets knocked around a bit for what he presented.
Antonia gets it for her Take Two Shrimp Grits & Mystery Meat. The poor girl is totally dejected, since she knows she shouldn't have changed horses mid-stream and really didn't like her dish at all.
And even Richard gets a going-over for his dish, which split Tom and Eric.
But the win goes to ... Mike.
Back in the Bahamian Room Of Stew, the chefs discuss nuts and nonsense, going over each of their dish's failings. Richard, our resident head case, reveals that he is such a second-guesser that he "hates" everything he does.
I can't stand people who do that.
Or maybe I don't. I need to think about that.
Back before the judges, the knives come out.
"Carla, please pack your knives and go."
Awwww. Well, it's not like we didn't see that coming.
But it's not nearly as bad as what I think I see coming now.
Next time on Top Chef: The finale ... continues? Padma causes sexual arousal from the Bahamas to the shores of Gitchy Gumee. And the chefs have to snorkel for snacks.
* Note: I just discovered something I find insanely upsetting. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the actual final episode will not be March 23, but March 30, a date on which your gentle blogger is not going to be anywhere he can see the show, but will likely be spoiled on it anyway. What this means is that if a final recap even happens, it's going to come from someone who's likely to be very bitter for more reasons than the expected one.