Richard’s menu: BBQ Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly with Pickled Watermelon Rind, Ham and Beans, Ribs with Malta Glaze. He sneaks a swig of the malta; looks like he developed a taste after all.
Antonia’s menu: Crispy Pork Belly with sweet peppers, Pork Sausage with Pigeon Beans and Rice, Curried Pork with Pumpkin Adjuca. She thinks that the rice is overcooked and the bottom is like mush and the top is raw. Nikki comments that she thinks Antonia is off her game and that she needs to stay focused. Antonia owns up to this and thinks her new restaurant is weighing on her mind.
Lisa’s menu: Yuca and Pork Rellena, Citrus Braised Pork Belly, Roasted Pork Tostone. Not much else here to talk about.
Steph is starting to stress about the pork issue. She rightly believes that submitting two dishes will punch her ticket home. Dale chops like crazy and comes up with a replacement idea.
Steph’s menu: Chicharrones, fruit and Prosciutto Salad (The Replacement), Coconut Pork with Plantain Pancake, Pork Satay on Sugar Cane.
Smashing. Cursing. Steph is nervous but Antonia wants to go all the way and says her daughter told her to not bother coming home if she loses. I think little Antonia may be having a party.
Commercials – I think it is bad taste to have that Pigs Fly Ruffles commercial tonight.
They have 30 minutes to service. They set up and Steph starts cooking the pancakes. Lisa wants to get to the final challenge so she can cook the food she wants. Richard wants to win because of his subpar Quickfire.
Here they come!! The First Lady, Luisa Acevedo Vila, is there and Lisa is honored to be there as well. Here comes Padma, and this is not even fair. She has brought her A game to the finals. She looks like she is going to the Oscars. Gail doesn’t look to bad tonight either.
First is Steph, and Padma is hungry. Steph was influenced by her Asian trip and I presume, Dale. Wilo wants to know about the pancake. It has milk and crème freche. Gail is digging the dish that Dale substituted. Steph tells them to have fun with the pork. Wilo comes back and asks more about the pancake, completely surprising Steph with the return. She is confident that she is safe.
Richard says that he grew up on his mother’s crappy pork and beans from a can. He was also inspired by the pickled rinds in the south. Wilo mentions about malta’s popularity in Puerto Rico and Richard talks about how he tried to use the region with his dishes. He says each has a story and is like a painting. He thinks you need to bend each challenge to your strengths and not change your style. And this is why he keeps winning.
The sun sets and we come to Lisa’s table. Gail thinks something is very sweet and Padma does a double take. Lisa thinks that the judges are much more anal about the food now.
Gail asks Antonia about her inspiration, it is traditional island cooking. Padma asks about how long the beans soaked. Overnight. Gail notices a kick, and that is from the habanera sauce. Nikki gives her a “good job” and a hug.
Random guy: “I’ve lived in Puerto Rico all my life and have never see malta used to cook.” Older Puerto Rican Miranda Hobbs liked Antonia’s curry. Some woman loved Lisa’s tostones because of the spice. Another dude loved Steph’s blini.
Commercials – The Avon stretch mark treatment was developed in the Avon R&D Center right in my backyard. Yeah!
Judges Table – The New Meat Locker of Doom is less… doomy. Wilo saw great originality and well executed classics. Tom thought that Richard’s pork belly and Steph’s salad (The Replacement) were highlights and that Antonia and Lisa were not as good.
In the locker Lisa asks how everyone felt, and Richard says that no one had a fatal flaw. Padma fetches Richard and Steph and Lisa makes a face. She should be used to this by now. Antonia is worried. She has put too much “blood, sweat and tears” into this. That would be a terrible recipe for curry.
Richard thinks it was a great challenge and Tom gives him credit for self-editing in the kitchen. The simplicity was a plus. Steph had a great time with Dale and Wilo loved the satay. Richard is the big winner and gets a special prize. What is it, Johnny? It’s a NEW CAR!!! Richard says, “What?” It is a 2009 Corolla and I hope they make him drive it back to Atlanta. He says “Holy smokes” again and adds “I don’t know how to react.”
They come back and send the other two out and Steph says, “Good luck you guys.” Remember that she wished the two luck when her manners are called out later on.
Lisa has learned one lesson: suck up a bit to the judges. She says that in retrospect, she thought all were strong and that she tasted Richard and Steph’s food and it was very strong. Tom is surprised that she went traditional Puerto Rican rather than her usual Asian. Lisa says she has Latin experience from her time in South Florida. Gail thought the puree was overpoweringly sweet. She also criticizes the dish for being too much about the garnishes. Wilo asks about the wait time on the tostone. Lisa says it was three minutes before serving for preparation. She wanted an “amazing balanced bite.” Wilo thinks not so much there, Lisa.
Antonia thought the pigeon beans could be cooked more. Tom says that the judges agree. Antonia took it off of the stove and it felt soft enough and she gets some surprised looks. She likes her beans on the “al dente side.” Tom shakes his head. Padma wants to know why she served it all on one plate. Wait? She did what? Is this the office picnic? Antonia didn’t want the meal to be too refined. Gail couldn’t distinguish the flavors from one another.
I am now petrified for Antonia..
Tom says it all comes down to mistakes. Lisa made a few. Gail didn’t like elements of each dish. Tom agreed and Gail thinks the worst was the tostone. Lisa is positive that she is going home and says so in the Locker of Doom-Lite.
As for Antonia, she made her mistakes early. Her rustic and homecooked theme was a bust. Gail called it the least sophisticated of the four. Tom thought it all blended together. He is amazed that she intended to undercook beans. Gail isn’t sure there is such a thing as al dente beans. Antonia does NOT want to leave. She. Is. Nervous. And in tears.
Commercials – Michelob Foam. I can’t stop thinking about Marcel when I hear the word foam.
Tom sums up. He says you need your A game (like Padma brought) and these two just brought B+ games. Antonia’s judgment is questioned, but her fatal flaw was the beans. Lisa is also given a hit for going too traditional and had some memorable and some telling dishes. The bottom line, one table had no crowd at all. That was Antonia.
Padma knifes our single mom. I am sad. I wanted a Rich/Steph/Antonia finale. Antonia is upset and in tears. Her “entire heart was invested in it.” She also says that her daughter is the only one who can cheer her up. She whispers to Steph to “kick their ass.”
After she leaves, Lisa turns to the other two and says this winner, “I know you guys are upset that Antonia is leaving, but congratulations would have been a little nice.” Steph is stunned and shakes it off after a second and offers a “sorry, congratulations.” Richard says that they were tired and offers his own. She doesn’t give them a pass and says that she feels that they think the wrong one went home. She THs that people enjoyed her dishes and that the others should forget friendships and congratulate her as a fellow chef.
Let me just say here that I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt this week, but this little outburst was too much. It is not about you now; it is about the one that failed to make it and was upset. Second, she gave them hardly any time to process Antonia’s departure before moving on to congratulate the surviving chef. Third, it is easy to forget about friendship when you don’t have any.
Richard adds, “What did she expect? You won the f****n bronze medal. Congratulations. There you go.” HA!
Next week: We have a winner!
You can contact Jeremy at firstname.lastname@example.org.