home Archive Top Chef: Chicago, er, Puerto Rico, Episode 13 – You Won The F****n' Bronze Medal

Top Chef: Chicago, er, Puerto Rico, Episode 13 – You Won The F****n' Bronze Medal

Please forgive me for the lateness of the recap. I underestimated the time it would take to do three recaps, work my job and participate in Relay for Life this weekend. Plus, the two-year-old’s need for Daddy’s attention, of course.

Previously on Top Chef: there is restaurant takeover. Lisa may catch on fire. Frozen Spike Scallops. Tom scared Richard. Spike mouthed off to the adult table. He is sent home. Presumably with his hats.

We have altered new credits as Padma shows us the Final Four. We still have the French Alps, $100,000, and lots and lots of glad products. Oh, I miss Val and her Dratch-like qualities.

We are in Puerto Rico! Steph waits for her bags and tells us about her six month journey through Asia since filming the show. She is wearing an “I love Tahoe boys” t-shirt during this story. I love Steph. She thinks Puerto Rico is awesome.

Antonia arrives and hugs Steph. Her preparation for the finale was the opening of her restaurant. Congrats to her! She spends 100 hours a week cooking and her daughter is getting used to not seeing her. I hope that she isn’t distracted or anything during this episode.

Richard is welcomed and he is focused. Antonia and Steph welcome him to Puerto Rico. Hey, they just got there too, what are they native islanders? Richard is happy to see them and feels that these are the three chefs that fans want to see in the Final Three. To quote every George Lucas film, I have a bad feeling about this. Richard says that people don’t expect Lisa to be there.

And here is Lisa, down the escalator with very short hair and a tank top. She looks like she means business. There are hugs abound.

Holy smokes! Richard thinks the coastline is beautiful. I love how in the Season of Non-stop Cursing, Richard actually says “holy smokes.” Of course, he curses as well, but there is that. Lisa says that everyone looks more relaxed and calmer now. It hasn’t really hit her yet that they are in Puerto Rico. That plane ride apparently didn’t do the trick.

Quickfire! We have bananas today! Oh, Padma. The tropics REALLY agree with you. I want to know why Vic Mackey is with her.

She says that this is the endgame and this round gets them to the final challenge. It is not Mackey after all, it is Wilo Benet. Richard says that he embodies Puerto Rican cuisine and the island itself. Padma tells them they will be making fritters and even does some Spanish. Not sexy at all. She says they are best served with “cold, cold beer.” Also, not sexy. I am certainly not thinking about her in her tropical outfit talking in another language and drinking cold brew. Not at all.

Wilo says that Puerto Rican gastronomy has the plantain as a key ingredient. Chefs will be making two different fritters, both using plantains. Steph has practiced with plantains as she rightly expected them to show up in a challenge. Lisa assumes that most chefs can use them and she is comfortable with them.

There will be 40 minutes for the challenge and they can use anything from the giant table of plantains and the small kitchen. The three favorites run for the table while Lisa takes off for the kitchen. She says that she wanted to go and find her proteins and make sure they are fresh. She grabs chorizo and duck. I must say, that was a darn good idea.

Steph thinks that her Quickfire problem is that she has too many ideas in her head and that she needs to focus on something that simply tastes good. Antonia thinks that working in the strange kitchen is tough. This is the first real indication that Antonia lost her edge in the layoff. Top Chef is ALL about cooking in strange kitchens.

Let me just say that I really dislike the fact that Top Chef waits six months to have their Final Four compete. I think it not only ruins momentum, but it affects the drama. The four of them have seen how they appear on TV and I am sure it affects their behavior. I understand why Project Runway has the delay – you know, to design the clothes! – but Top Chef doesn’t need it. It makes no sense.

Chopping. Grating. Lisa has been playing around with different things, especially traditional Puerto Rican items. The green plantain is one of them, and she smashes it and fries it and it “comes out nice and crispy.”

Richard starts a FIRE and almost scorches off his eyebrows and fauxhawk. I can relate. At Relay for Life in 2004, I scorched my eyebrows, eyelashes, and the hair on my head and forearms due to a propane accident. Lisa thinks it was scary and laughs.

Plating montage and Padma and Wilo share a toast.

Steph – Pork and shrimp fritter with brown butter, lime and basil & Tostones topped with seared tuna. It seems to go over well and she is complemented on the fact that this is her first tostones attempt ever.
Antonia – Fried yellow plantain with spicy slaw & crispy oysters with a cilantro plantain jam. Padma wants to know if the second one has plantain in it. No, it only has the jam. I am sure that did not help.
Lisa – Sweet plantain, red onion and chorizo fritter with a spicy chutney slaw & Tostone with pan roasted duck with spicy sweet mango papaya salsa. Well, it looks good to me. Probably the most appetizing of the four contestants in my mind. Lisa has come to play. The slaw is kumquat, oranges, a bit more chorizo and “juices off the oranges for kicker.”
Richard – Green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa & “Abondingas of Pork” with ripe plantain sauce. He went for “bar food, salty sweet” and made a “play on chips and salsa” and says he made them raw.

Wilo thinks they all did a fantastic job and that he saw “a lot of applications and neat little sauces, relishes and chutneys.”

Antonia fell flat. He wanted more integration between the ripe plantain and the slaw. On the jam, he felt the undercooked, ripe plantains were slimy.

Richard grimaces when placed in the bottom half. Wilo thought they tasted too raw and that the meatball was a little dry.

Steph did a great job; he loved the tostones and the sizes and balancing of her flavors. Loved the portion size too.

Lisa also did a great job. Her tostones were well executed. Wilo wanted the meat sliced thinner, however.

The winner: Steph. It is her first Quickfire win and she knows that there is no immunity. Padma says better late than never. Steph is excited and hopes to keep up the momentum. Padma says she will find out her advantage tomorrow. They are all invited to a party in old San Juan. I would like to be invited to a party in old San Juan.

Drums. Dancers. Our Final Four in casual clothes. Lisa says there was lots of rum, food and people. Oh, and a giant pig. I am sure that is an unimportant fact. She felt it was a nice way to be welcomed to Puerto Rican culture.

Padma is dancing and girlfriend is cutting a serious rug. Lisa tries to get Richard to dance. Alas; he is not up for it. He says that he is having fun at the party but is not much of a dancer. He is concerned about the task at hand. The video gets slow-mo as the other three give three different ways of saying that they want to win in a voiceover.

Commercials – I just simply do not understand these new Bravo awards.

We are now at a beautiful villa that Padma tells us was a fort built in 1533 and has been the home of the Puerto Rican governor since the 19th century. Tonight it will be host to 100 VIPs and chefs for a garden party. Tom adds that it is not just a party without a pig and he unveils the pig carcass. Awww, it’s Babe’s mom.

They each get one whole pig and have to make at least two dishes from it. Antonia says that the challenges have gotten progressively harder. The first one in Chicago was a deep dish pizza and now they get an entire pig. Deep dish is looking good right about now.