To quote someone quite famous, “Yes, he can.” (Bet you thought I meant that other guy!)
To Mike’s credit, this was no walk in the park for Blais. Mike sort of stumbled his way into the Bahamas finale, he cooked well enough, but he wasn’t blowing anyone away. And then he got to the Bahamas and Mike was a different guy. Well, he was still the same cackling, booger-flinging, cocky MM that we all know and some love, but he was a different chef. I think that anyone lesser than Blais would have been steamrolled by the momentum Mike had built up over these last few challenges.
Both cooked some impressive, and creative, meals for the final challenge. I think Blais got a bit luckier with his team than Mike, and that may have been the X factor that Blais needed to win. Sure, he’s good enough to have beaten Mike with that menu if me, my almost-five-year-old and my cat were his sous chefs, but he got quite lucky. The defeated All-Stars all competed in a Quickfire-ish challenge to make a bite for Blais and Mike to taste. Via a blind taste test, the two of them would pick the best bites and those chefs would serve as sous chefs.
I liked this mini challenge, even if we never actually got a good look at the dishes. I don’t think we should have, as this episode needed to be all about Mike and Blais and not the other 16 chefs. It was interesting to see the two of them try and figure out the bites to pick – do they pick the best ones, or try and guess which chef made them because of who they wanted to have on their team. I think given their druthers, Mike would have taken Jen and Blais taken Fabio in a heartbeat. But they couldn’t.
Blais got Spike with the first pick, and that was probably a blessing in disguise. First, Spike and Blais have some history from their first season. Second, Spike may not be on the same level as some of the others, but he makes good food and is a very smart and savvy guy. That certainly came into play later one. Plus, if you can’t have Fabio to work the front of the house, Spike is certainly a good fallback option.
Blais then landed two of the most talented chefs available – Angelo and Antonia. Both have their negatives – Angelo being wacky and Antonia just lost the previous day and could have mentally checked out.
However, having both of those powerhouses preparing your food and giving ideas, was a certainly worth the risk. I think I share the opinion of many when I say that I’d love to know what the ceviche of squid, chicken and egg dishes were that made Blais pick Spike, Angelo and Antonia.
Meanwhile, the sheer total of his misogynist comments over two seasons caught up to Mike in a giant ball of estrogen-based karma. Granted, he did want a woman (Jen) on his team, but how funny was it that Mike wound up with three women? He chose a yogurt curry, a pork tenderloin and a tropical salsa and wound up with Tiffani, Jamie and Carla. He, of course, called them his angels, but you know he was disappointed with this. He really was trying to avoid having Marcel, but no way he wanted Jamie. I can see how he didn’t expect that dish to be hers – no liquids.
But the biggest problem with the teams was not who the six sous chefs were, but with how they were handled. Mike treated them as subordinates – they really were just there to prepare the food. Blais seemed to be taking suggestions from his three, especially Angelo. But the ace in the hole was Spike. He put on his thinking hat and schemed well for his Season 4 buddy, jet ski appointment be damned. Spike lingered by the judges’ table during the first wave of judges and reported back to Blais what was being said. It was this plan that allowed them to tweak the “controversial” dessert by putting more milk in it. The revision was infinitely better and I believe may have won the title for him.
If you believe the judges that Mike “won” the dessert battle and the four courses were split 2-2 (even though Blais made five), you would have to believe that Blais would have been further behind in the dessert if he didn’t serve a better ice cream for the second set of judges. Padma and our old friend Theoden (Hubert Keller) may have had bad ones, but Tom and Gail had a better dish. Cutting into Mike’s margin of dessert victory could have been the difference.
I think both mini-restaurants were successful, and I would eat at both. In fact, as readers know, I am going to Atlanta and am anxious to sit in Blais’ restaurant(s). Being a DC area resident, I will also admit that I now plan to go to Mike’s place. I’m still not a fan, but respect is there now.