Top Chef: Still Not Over
Yet another week in the Bahamas, and still, that light at the end of the tunnel is maddeningly faint. What can Top Chef's producers give us that we haven't seen before on a cooking show, aside from a virgin sacrifice? A Quickfire Challenge that's "different than anything you've experienced in the past," Padma tells us, Wolfgang Puck by her side. Oh. Yep, that's all we get.
This challenge, like so many this season, is cobbled together from those of past seasons: Each chef will have to make a dish based on ingredients or a cooking vessel they're assigned. And because this is so radically different than anything we've seen before, each contestant gets to assign the fellow competitors a dish. Mike gives Antonia canned foods, Antonia gives Richard hot dogs, and Richard, determined to throw Mike off, rubs his brains together and gives him ... one-pot meals. "Blaise: not the sharpest knife in the drawer," says Antonia. Thank you, Antonia.
Halfway through the challenge, Padma shows up to throw in a
predictable patented Top Chef twist: The chefs will have to finish the Quickfire with either only one hand, with no utensils, or being tied together with Carla. Richard gives Mike no utensils; Antonia gives Richard the use of only one hand, and assigns herself Carla. And we're treated to the scintillating sight of Mike wandering around, waiting for his pork to cook, while Richard sweats and Antonia and Carla chop things. The suspense is so utterly unbearable.
Finally, finally, Padma and Wolfgang Puck reappear to taste Antonia's coconut curry soup with shrimp and sausage, Mike's pork shoulder with black beans, and Richard's currywurst on roti bread with curry ketchup. Somewhat annoyingly, Mike wins $5,000, and Richard looks like he's going to pop a blood vessel.
And viewers lose, because the Elimination Challenge looks even more boring than the Quickfire Challenge. Upon their arrival on a giant, manicured lawn, Mike, Antonia, and Richard are met by Puck, Morimoto, and Michelle Bernstein, and are told that they must prepare a last meal for each chef. Mike, as the Quickfire winner, gets to assign chefs, and gives Morimoto to Antonia and Puck to Richard. "The gravity of this cannot be underestimated or downplayed," Richard says, without a whisper of irony.
The chefs all want food that reminds them of their childhood: Michelle wants fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy; Puck wants goulash, spaetzle, and apple streudel; and Morimoto, who gets subtitles to underscore just how daunting he is to Antonia, wants rice, sashimi, and pickles. So Antonia starts to reflect on what it would mean to go home. "Losing the finale feels like when your first boyfriend breaks up with you: You wake up crying in the middle of the night." But here, at least you don't have to worry about genital warts.