Top Chef: 'It Wasn't the Apple Chip That I Intended'
The sun comes up on the Bahamas, where our intrepid final five have gathered for one very long Top Chef goodbye. Antonia reflects on the "fiery season" as Richard appears wearing fewer styling products and a wispy ginger schmeard. He's afraid he'll both lose and miss the birth of his child, but which he fears more, he doesn't say. And then Mike and Tiffany show up looking well-rested, and everyone troops off to a fort.
Waiting inside the fort are scowling faces from the Top Chef canon: Michael Voltaggio, Hosea Rosenberg, Stephanie Izard, and Kevin Sbraga, all winners of seasons past. They all seem kind of cranked, Voltaggio most of all, and we're left to wonder what it is about reality TV contestants that makes them believe that they have to keep proving themselves, again and again, in front of a camera. What is there left to prove? That you have contractual obligations to Bravo?
Padma, Tom, and Eric Ripert appear to inform the contestants that for the Quickfire, they'll be competing against the winners of their respective seasons, using a secret ingredient chosen by Tom. The prize: $10,000. Mike V. and Mike I. get a duck, Carla and Hosea get lamb, Tiffany and Kevin get pork, and Stephanie and Richard and Antonia get a veal rack.
First up are Kevin and Tiffany. The judges prefer Tiffany's pork stew with potatoes and peppers to Kevin's barbecue pork with citrus salad. Next, Hosea's braised lamb in red chili broth beats Carla's jalaf rice and harissa lamb, and Hosea gets to "prove to the haters" that he "did deserve to win."
The judges are fairly disgusted by Antonia's roasted veal with leek and almond purée and Stephanie's veal scallopini, so the win easily goes to Richard's seared veal loin and braised veal cap. And finally, Mike I.'s cashew-dusted spiced duck breast with duck leg beats out Mike V.'s duck breast with duck leg in bacon vinaigrette, and, holy hell, does Mike V. look pissed off. He won't let Mike I. hug him, and it's sort of horribly beautiful.
For the Elimination Challenge, Padma says, the chefs will be cooking dinner for Bahamian royalty later that night. "Guys, please make us proud," Tom says, using FCC speak for "please don't fuck this up." The chefs are given 2 1/2 hours of prep, during which Mike reveals his strategy: "Honestly, you don't want to put up a plate of bullshit." Everyone else frets about what to feed the royals, which leads Carla to process her feelings. "All the people that have tried something and have been underestimated, [this] is for them," she proclaims, wiping tears from her eyes as she preps apple chips.
Later, a big SUV and police escort show up, and Mike gets a haunted look in his eyes. "Every time I get a police escort I'm on my way to jail," he says. This time, they're on their way to a restaurant where they're greeted by some local people dressed in bright plumage. "I don't know if I should be happy or scared," Tiffany says, but then Mike starts dancing so we choose the latter.
Tom shows up in a pink plaid shirt, and at this point we're loving the Top Chef Resort Wear Line. He introduces one of the dancers, who turns out to be the king of Junkanoo, and everyone except Tiffany starts to fret that their food is too highbrow. Their worries are for naught, however, because almost as soon as they get into the kitchen, a deep-fryer catches on fire and a production assistant appears and screams at everyone to leave. This puts Antonia "in a bad head-space," which fills Richard with joy, because he wants "to mess with her head." But then Tom messes with everyone's head by informing them that because the fire-fighting chemicals ruined all of the food, they'll have to start from scratch.