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Top Chef All-Stars - Ep. #15 (Finale Pt. 3) - 03/23/11 (Spoilers)

We're getting there - just two more episodes!

After Tiffany's left the Stew Room, the remaining three talk about how good a competitor she was. Mike is pleased he's winning; Richard isn't worried that Mike's on a streak. As Richard said - Mike's won 2 challenges on his seasons of TC; Richard's won 8. :-)

Padma and Wolfgang Puck meet them in the kitchen...Their last Quickfire will be choice of seven Classic Quickfires from seasons past. And each chef gets to choose for another chef what their challenge will be!

Since Mike won the last EC, he chooses first:

Mike gives Antonia = Canned Foods
Antonia gives Richard = Hot Dogs
Richard gives Mike = One Pot

Antonia isn't pleased with what Richard chose for Mike, but we'll see!

Antonia goes with a Curry Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Andouille and spices.
Mike makes Pork and Beans (pork shoulder and black beans) with a spicy chili paste
Richard makes Curry Wurst with homemade Roti Bread and a Spicy Ketchup

But what's this? Padma shows up in the kitchen EARLY! Rut-roh! And sure enough - there's a twist....each chef gets to assign a classic Top Chef twist to another!

Richard gives Mike = cooking with no utensils or knives
Antonia gives Richard = Cooking with one hand
Antonia takes = cooking in a double apron...and she gets to cook with Carla!

Mike doesn't seem to have a problem, as he used a pressure cooker as his "one pot" - so he's standing around doing nothing. Meanwhile, Richard's having issues with trying to cut limes with one hand, and Antonia seems to be doing well having Carla by her side.

Wolfgang and Padma taste the items - he *really* seems to like Richard's dish, but it was a bit too ketchupy. He liked Antonia's soup, but very highly spiced. Mike seems also to do well.

The winner is Mike yet again! He wins $5,000. NOW Richard seems to be feeling the pressure (not that he doesn't always feel the pressure!)

They head out to The Cloisters the next morning, and meet up with Puck, Masaharu Morimoto, and Michelle Bernstein. They are to create a Last Supper for each.

Mike chooses Michelle Bernstein - AND gets to assign the other chefs! He gives Morimoto to Antonia, and Puck goes to Richard. He's definitely playing the game! Sure enough, however, Padma says there will be another twist - which will be revealed later. And for the first time in a LONG time in Top Chef, only TWO of the chefs will go on to the actual finale!

Richard for Puck - Goulash, Spaetzle, and Apple Strudel
Mike for Bernstein - Fried Chicken, Biscuits and Gravy
Antonia for Morimoto - Miso Soup, Picked Vegetables and Sashimi

Back at the hotel, Mike says he has it the hardest - both Antonia and Richard disagree with him. Antonia said her dishes are the toughest, and if she pulls it off, it will be kudos to her. Richard says Mike has the easiest, as he's not dealing with different cultures. Mike says he's never made biscuits before, and Antonia said "you will tomorrow!" He said "Nope, not doing that - I'll be doing my own thing" and Richard says he'll be doing the same thing with Puck's Last Supper.

THIS is going to be interesting!

Tom Colicchio shows up in the kitchen to talk to them - even *he* thinks that Mike picked the easiest dish! He thinks that Richard, who can break down a dish, might be able to manage this task easiest. He said if Antonia can pull off making Morimoto's dish, she can compete.

But it turns out the hamachi is bad - almost rancid! She has to go with tuna. Richard cannot get the lid off the pressure cooker; he knows he cannot choke in this round!

Melanie Dunea, who wrote "The Last Supper" joined the judges at the table.

Antonia serves first - Tuna Sashimi, Pickled Daikon, and Miso Soup. Soup was too salty, per Morimoto, and Gail Simmons choked on the tiny piece of scotch bonnet pepper on her tuna sashimi - effectively wiping out the taste of the tuna.

Mike is up next - he made Fried Chicken with Pea Puree, Egg Yolk Empanada, and Mustard Gravy. The batter on the white meat wasn't crispy (perhaps because he chose to sous vide the chicken first?), and Morimoto's white meat was dry, but most seem to like it.

Richard made Goulash with Spaetzle and Frozen Sour Cream, with Apple Strudel with Frozen Tarragon Cream and Ras al Hanout. This is one where everyone seemed to really like the dish (including Morimoto!) Puck said his mother would have liked this dish - high praise! I'm thinking it's going to be Richard who gets the "win" of being named first into the finale.

Padma calls them back into the dining room - and Tom announces that Richard is moving on to the final round!! YAY Richard! BUT - that envelope comes out again! Rut-roh! Richard's glad he's through to the finale - he can see Michael and Antonia are super nervous.

Padma gives the envelope to Antonia - who reads "You have one more challenge to see who claims the last spot in the finale." Tom said they have 45 minutes to create one bite - 7 diners, 7 bites. Antonia and Mike scramble back to the kitchen (while Richard just kind of stands there! LOL)

Mike is sweating in his beef tenderloin and lobster tail. Antonia seems to be hung up on curry flavors - she's using group and curried coconut flavors - a Seared Group with Coconut Lobster Broth. Mike ends up with a "surf and turf" - Tempura Lobster and Beef Tartare with Red Chili Potatoes with two sauces - a Chimichurri Sauce and a Olive Caramel Sauce.

After trying them both, Padma polls the judges - they're evenly split - three to three, until they come down to Wolfgang Puck. He like Antonia's flavors (although Tom thinks that the curry flavor was too overspiced), but he likes Mike's preparation. Who's it going to be? It could go either way! (Kind of hoping for Antonia!)

We're back...Mike looks like a deer caught in the headlights. And who's it going to be? It's Mike who gets the win - Antonia is to pack her knives and go. :-( Sorry to see her go.

Preview shows the earlier kicked off cheftestants coming back to be sous chefs....AND at the end of that preview, I *think* I see who Padma tells "You ARE Top Chef!" I won't say how, but I think I know. At least I *hope* I'm right! LOL

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  1. thanks so much for the recap - I will be checking in to see how the rest of the episode goes. My kids love Top Chef, so I record it & then we watch it together at an earlier time. I have to know what happens, so I read your posts!

    10 Replies
    1. re: elfcook

      Thanks very much! I only have one more to go, thank goodness!

      1. re: LindaWhit

        This is better than the DVR, do you want to recap the NCAA games for me? :)

        1. re: Phaedrus

          ROFLMAO! Ummmm....no. ;-)

          But I'm going to take that as a compliment, Phaedrus.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            why do that? all you have to do is watch the last two minutes and youve seen the whole game

            1. re: mattstolz

              not when my beloved Aztecs keep me on the edge of my seat through double overtime!

          2. re: LindaWhit

            What do you mean one more to go...you are not planning to watch TC Masters 2??

            1. re: LJNew

              Isn't it masters 3? Pretty sure already had 2 seasons.

              1. re: LJNew

                one more to go for TC8 - Masters is a separate thing altogether. and as Cherveny pointed out, it'll be the 3rd season of TCM.

                1. re: LJNew

                  One more for TC8. I don't do write-ups for TCM seasons. :-) But yes, I will watch.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Oh - OK.
                    Thanks for getting the ball rolling with these posts anyway. I am sure there will be some posts for TCM as well.

                    TCM 3 then, folks.

            2. This will be interesting...the wait is killing me!

              1. aaahaahhhhhahhhhhhh!!!! I am so bummed. I really wanted Antonia to win it all. The rest will be anticlimatic, Mike, Richard, who cares-

                16 Replies
                1. re: karenfinan

                  Well, maybe *you* don't care, but I know I do! (And I think there are many others who do as well!)

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I care! I really, really, really wanted Antonia to get in there with Richard. I've never pulled so hard for a contestant from my couch! That being said though, I want Richard to win it, he deserves it.

                    1. re: Angel Food

                      I would have loved seeing Antonia be there with Richard as well. I found her much more likable this go-round than in her season and liked her food a lot more as well.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        nooooo.... I really wanted a Richard v Antonia final episode finale! boo! mike really played ithe game well this episode - darnit! :)

                  2. re: karenfinan

                    I don't care either, Blais vs. Antonia would have been a lot more interesting and I've had about as much of Mike as I can take for one lifetime. The way they conducted that episode was ridiculous.

                    1. re: tofuburrito

                      Mike's ideas are more interesting (caramel olive, wtf?) - I think he very deservedly will face Blais in the final.

                      1. re: fame da lupo

                        I am not so much a fan of Mike's personality but I agree that he's a more worthy competitor to Richard (duck). He was much more imaginative last night. I was kind of astounded that Antonia went for curry *twice* last night.

                        1. re: DGresh

                          and not just curry, coconut milk-based curry...i think she even used peanuts [again] in the one-bite challenge. it sounded like she was repeating her canned food QF dish! i'm certainly no fan of Mike's, but based solely on his performance the past few weeks i have to agree with you that he earned a spot in the finale over Antonia. ugh, i hate that i just had to say that.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            have to agree with both of you, on everything you've said.

                          2. re: fame da lupo

                            Did anyone else gag a little when they heard "caramel olive"?

                            1. re: Nettie

                              the eater.com blog that GHG posted describes it as caramelized olives, which makes more sense, but it did sound odd. tho they seemed to like it, when paired with the food. i think Gayle said she hated it on its own.

                          1. re: karenfinan

                            I liked Antonia this season, but at least this way it will be very easy to root for Richard in the finale, if it was Richard vs. Antonia it would have been harder to choose.

                            1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                              They may both be really likable people, but Antonia is no match for Richard as a chef.

                              1. re: chicgail

                                I'd rate Antonia higher than Mike, but really, you are probably right in regards to both of them. This has been an odd season, I think Jennifer, Casey, Dale, or Angelo all could have been stronger competitors for the finale. As it is, Richard just needs to make sure he doesn't psych himself out and defeat himself.

                          2. I was hoping the twist was that Antonia and Mike would have to cook each others dishes.....Antonia-Fried Chicken, Biscuits and Gravy and Mike-Miso Soup and Bento Box....would that have been more fair??

                            31 Replies
                            1. re: christy1122

                              Now THAT would have been a great challenge - but would take too long, I think. I think Antonia would have taken that one. :-)

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I totally agree Linda.....she would have rocked it out! When they get to pick each other's "challenge", the ultimate twist would be to have to make the same dish as your competitor....I was disappointed with the "small bite" challenge.

                              2. re: christy1122

                                I was thinking the very same thing. Antonia having to do a Bento Box for Morimoto - maybe a trained Japanese sushi chef would have had an outside chance ...

                                1. re: bobbert

                                  That's overstating the difficulty in this case. There's nothing insanely hard about miso soup, pickled vegetables, and sashimi. As Japanese food goes, those aren't super challenging preparations. The bigger problem was that it was out of Antonia's comfort zone. Technique-wise, Richard's assignment was probably harder, though more familiar to many Westerners.

                                  On top of that, her mistakes should have been pretty easy to avoid in the first place, even for someone untrained in Japanese cuisine - she got too much salt in her miso soup (understandable, but taste your food) and garnished her tuna with chunks of raw scotch bonnet pepper (what the hell was she thinking?) You don't have to be a trained sushi chef to avoid these problems.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    She must have been thinking, very wrongly, that the Scotch bonnet pepper would take the place of wasabi for the sashimi. As for overly salty miso soup, I agree that she should have tasted it. It's easy enough to fix. I wish Mike had gotten cooking with one hand - can you imagine trying to get the lid off the pressure cooker?
                                    I was sorry to see Antonia go. I'll be rooting for Richard next week. I don't think I could stand it if Mike won - he's insufferable enough already!

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      The difficulty is in who you're making it for; perhaps the greatest Japanese chef of all time. That an absurd quickfire could lead to such a huge difference in the challenges the contestants had to face led me to the conclusion that Top Chef jumped the shark last night.
                                      I also think that skin falling off fried chicken is a much greater error than slightly salty miso soup.

                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                        I couldn't agree more on that one. Getting the skin right on fried chicken is critical!

                                        1. re: tofuburrito

                                          I totally agree on the Chicken....I thought it was doomed when Michelle said the Chicken was not crispy...

                                          1. re: tofuburrito

                                            They edited it to make it seem like the miso was more than slightly salty - e.g. Gail's rush to her water glass.

                                            1. re: fame da lupo

                                              IIRC that was in response to the Scotch Bonnet, not the soup.

                                              1. re: Pylon

                                                yep, she chugged water after that scotch bonnet.

                                                1. re: edible complex

                                                  and started coughing....it seemed to me there were mixed reports of whther the skin was crispy or not. something about the white meat? Also, I still don't get why he souvied(sp) it first.

                                            2. re: tofuburrito

                                              Morimoto is no more illustrious than Wolfgang Puck - don't let the lines of cookware and airport food and cheap chicken stock fool you. The man has been huge in American cooking for decades. I don't know who between the chefs was the hardest to please - that's based on their personalities, which I don't know. But Puck is no man's sous chef.

                                              "I also think that skin falling off fried chicken is a much greater error than slightly salty miso soup."
                                              ______
                                              Depends on how salty the soup was. If it was inedible due to salt, that is typically a much bigger problem on Top Chef. It didn't quite seem that excessive (who knows though?), and it's an easy mistake to make since miso soup should be a little salty.

                                              On the other hand, adding scotch bonnets to tuna sashimi is much less understandable. Too salty miso soup or loose crust on fried chicken are both errors of execution I might expect from a decent chef in a timed contest. Adding scotch bonnets to tuna sashimi is a clueless amateur move.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                I think she was thinking scotch bonnets would take the place of wasabi, but their types of heat are very different, and the level of heat is so high on scotch bonnets, you REALLY have to be careful using them. Wondering if the hamachi switch out to tuna at the last minute flustered her a bit, which, in such a stressful situation can often lead to mistakes in judegement being made.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  I have respect for Wolfgang as well as Michelle Bernstein but I think Morimoto was the toughest draw. Very few chefs can create as Morimoto does and as good as Puck and Bernstein are there are a lot of chefs who can do what they do.

                                                  1. re: tofuburrito

                                                    Morimoto probably was the toughest draw, but not by as much of a margin as people are making it out to be. And that wasn't because Morimoto is more masterful (or whatever) than Puck, but because Japanese cooking was probably less familiar to the chefs, and also less able to be fudged with Western techniques - the basic techniques and philosophy of Japanese cooking can be a bit alien to Westerners, more so even than other Asian cooking traditions.

                                                    Still, as Japanese food goes, her assignment wasn't that hard. It was common, simple preparations that most people who've eaten Japanese food would be familiar with.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I agree but I think if she had executed it perfectly she still probably wouldn't have won unless the other two both had major errors. I don't dispute Mike won fairly in accordance with the rules, what annoys me is that at this stage of the competition my preference would have been for less gimmicky challenges.
                                                      I think it is possible for the competition can be fair and entertaining. When one chef is practically eliminated from a chance at winning before the challenge even begins I don't see what the point is.

                                              2. re: cowboyardee

                                                Japenese food is very simple, deceptively so. Because they do things so simply they demand that the foods are season subly and unobstrusively so that the taste of the food comes through. What tastes bland to us may taste perfectly seasoned to a Japanese palate. I think the scotch bonnet is also a matter of competing palates. The essence of sashimi is to taste the fish with very little adornment or dressing.

                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                  Sashimi is best with nothing on it, I can't imagine using one of the world's hottest peppers as its accompaniment.

                                                  1. re: fame da lupo

                                                    But if that's how she served it Morimoto would have been happy and Tom would have said, "she didn't do anything but cut up some fish. She was in the very difficult position of having to make something uncluttered while at the same time adding her own interpretation and keeping the non hard core sushi people interested.
                                                    Contrast that with Blais and Mike who both were free to interpret their own versions.

                                                    1. re: tofuburrito

                                                      The point is, there is no interpretation needed. How she really could have wowed people is by her knife work and how well she presented the aesthetics.

                                                      There is a saying in China: he adds legs when he paints snakes. meaning the person is overembellishing, that is what I think the scotch bonnett did to her dish.

                                                      This is what makes her challenge more difficult.

                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                        I agree but I think if she does it perfectly it comes off as boring to most of the judges in comparison to her competition. It also makes it impossible to put her own spin on it.

                                                      2. re: tofuburrito

                                                        "But if that's how she served it Morimoto would have been happy and Tom would have said, "she didn't do anything but cut up some fish."
                                                        ______
                                                        I am fairly certain that if she had found a nice piece of fish and cut it well and served it unadorned at the right temperature, Tom would have praised her confidence and her understanding of Japanese cuisine. I'd bet that Tom has great respect for and understanding of Japanese food.

                                                        On top of that, if she absolutely HAD TO season and garnish the fish, why on earth would she pick scotch bonnets to do it? That's a terrible idea.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          I agree it was a bad idea but she didn't have the luxury of turning a biscuit into an egg filled epanada because it better suited her abilities.

                                                            1. re: tofuburrito

                                                              It may have been the extended judge's table clip from bravo.com - Tom said she could have taken liberties with the soup - not tried to make a dashi if she didn't know how, used a mushroom broth, etc. Also, even if she made miso soup traditionally, she could have added a special touch or two to it without destroying the integrity and effect of miso soup - that was a good opportunity for her to garnish a bit and distinguish herself.

                                                              I agree that sashimi was a problematic for a competition for the reasons you stated, though I still think at least Tom would have given her high marks for delivering a nice, well-cut piece of fish simply (fans, on the other hand...)

                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                      That's kinda the point. I'm sure she could have made the "basic" sashimi that one see's in 99 of 100 sushi places but, to make something "special" for Morimoto, she had to try something different and take a risk with an unfamiliar cuisine. The guy at the kiosk in the food court at the mall can slice a piece of raw tuna as well as anyone, so what's she supposed to do? She took a shot at it and made some mistakes.
                                                      The good part of the challenge is that they seem to have realized that part 1 might not have been totally fair so they gave Mike and Antonia a second chance with an even playing field. That made up for any unfair advantage/disadvantage any of the chefs had in the 1st part of the challenge.

                                                      1. re: bobbert

                                                        It's not just that she garnished the fish (which is supposed to be the star). It's also that she chose an absurdly hot pepper to do it, when almost any other choice would have been more subtle and allowed the fish to shine more. It was anathema to Japanese cooking to treat raw fish like that.

                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                        It's true that the menu for Morimoto was relatively simple, but for that reason it required pristine, perfect ingredients and it appeared that the hamachi Antonia initially wanted to use was not sushi-fresh even if it was sushi-grade. It was also much more difficult to "adapt" such a menu with creative cooking methods or alternative ingredients. Scotch bonnet just wouldn't work as a substitute for wasabi, but Antonia may have felt compelled not to use a prepared wasabi. Agreed, Antonia's was the most difficult challenge, and I, too, wish that the end-game plot-twist had been for Mike and Antonia to swap menus.

                                                    3. re: christy1122

                                                      I was thinking they'd have to redo their dish to address the JT critiques...but perhaps that would be too easy...

                                                    4. I knew Richard won this EC from the intro. When Richard said Mike has won two ECs in two seasons while he has won eight, I looked it up. That quote from Richard was from after the judging because Richard does have eight wins, but that includes this one. Although the wikipedia chart isn't giving him a win, simply an 'in' and in fact Tom said he was safe and in the finals, not that he was the winner.

                                                      23 Replies
                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        Oh, NICE catch, John! And I just checked out Wikipedia after reading your post, and it looks like it's been updated - Richard has the "win" for tonight's EC.

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Actually, I think I'm going with 7-1/3 EC wins for Richard. His first win this year was the team thing from the museum episode where he, Angelo and Marcel made some kind of fruit salad.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            I don't know when they did it, but the Wikipedia site now has Richard with an 'in' instead of 'win'. In the episodic descriptions they point out that no winner was declared, that Richard was the first chef announced as continuing to the finale, but no winner was declared.

                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                              Interesting - I'm still seeing it with the green WIN. I suppose that's cached info. And I still think it was a "win" - first one to be named in the finale? That's a win.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Does Bravo have a similar page where these details are posted? I supppse the Wikipedia entry is being done by an avid TC viewer but I don't know much about it. I do know that they did not declare Richard the winner. They didn't have a high and low group so 'in' seems to be the most logical description. I'm sure Richard agrees with you.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  No, I've not seen anything like that on Bravo's site. The only place *might* be Monica Reyhani's blog (Team Top Chef) - but all she says is "Richard had a seemingly easy time with it. He moved on to the finale. Mazel tov, Richard!"

                                                                    1. re: Cherveny

                                                                      Interesting - so they are saying Blais "won" the EC. (And just shows how bad their website is - I never even noticed the scorecard in the listing of links - I just go to the blogs.)

                                                                      However, I also noticed that they say "The Last Supper" is Episode 16, while it's actually Ep. 15. They skipped right over that number. :-)

                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        They also skipped over the quickfire winners on episode 13. It must have been too confusing to them to have 5 quickfire winners, 2 of whom were not actually this year's contestants.

                                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                  And I still think it was a "win" - first one to be named in the finale? That's a win.
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                  agreed. the judges clearly chose his dish over the other two - how is that not winning? silly.

                                                                3. re: John E.

                                                                  Seems like a question of semantics. Technically speaking, Richard did not "win", but functionally, he won.

                                                                  1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                    Agreed. He was the only one after the dinner to be IN. Both others still had to compete for a spot. I seriously doubt that they chose him randomly to not participate in the one bite round.

                                                                    1. re: LurkerDan

                                                                      But since scores are not kept, it doesn't really matter. Although Richard really cannot claim it as a win since he was not actually declared the winner. Have they done this before?

                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                        If Richard claims it as a win, are you gonna write him an angry letter?

                                                                        I'm with LurkerDan - all semantics. Richard won.

                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                          Nah, I don't care that much, but it is curious because they have been precise in the past about actually declaring winners and losers (PPYKAG).

                                                                4. re: John E.

                                                                  ok, i don't understand. So, Richard didn't "win" this one, and the other two didn't lose either - i mean, what happened to the actual EC challenge for Mike & Antonia? The judges never judged them! I mean, they did, but then their two dishes were for naught, because M&A ended up being judged only for the last bite challenge, right? i'm not being clear, but do you get what i mean? I know they've done this before, but .....

                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                    I think the judges judged them and found their dishes inferior to Richard's, though they chose not to elaborate on whether Mike's chicken or Antonia's bento was worse. They were judged on their 'last meal' - that judgement was why they had to cook a single bite challenge and Richard didn't. From the descriptions and comments, I suspect Antonia would have went home anyway if they had to make a decision based on the 'last meals.'

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      I'm betting, if they didn't have the final twist, Antonia would probably still have lost. A couple judges mentioned couldn't taste the tuna because of the peppers, and not being able to taste the main protein of a dish is a pretty major flub.

                                                                      1. re: Cherveny

                                                                        I thought the "twist" was much more in her favor as well. Looked like Mike had her beat.

                                                                  2. re: John E.

                                                                    Very good eye.

                                                                    I had figured out that Antonia lost this episode when she started talking about losing her season before the finale. She started crying. I thought that was odd - that she should have gotten over it by now, that there was no reason to cry about another season if you were about to possibly win this season. Then it occurred to me that she was crying because she lost again, and the interview was taken after the judges table (likely she was talking about getting eliminated this season in the first place).

                                                                    Two big slips in one episode - the elves are getting a little sloppy.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      I thought the same thing about the tears.

                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        I was trying to play that game as well, but thought that Mike was too demure (bet you never thought that modifier would describe Mike Isabella) in talking about his one-bite dish.