Welcome to Mexico! Cue the Hat Dance. Not that hat dance. The other hat dance!
We are in the final round of the season and very shortly a brand new chef will be able to claim the title of Top Chef, the cash and all of the other thing Padma voiceovers every week. Six weeks after the action in Boston came to an end; the chefs make their way across the border, and the Imaginary Fence of McCain, into our neighbors to the south.
Fish Bitch, Gumby and Melissa arrive crosscut to scenes of the furious Mexican Clam Battle between George and Zaphod for the right to make their way back into the competition. Tom arrives to bring the chefs to the final LCK meal and we catch up to where last week’s online footage ended – with Tom deciding who will the fourth on the Final Four. Both men made delicious clam dishes, but Zaphod edges out George for the final slot. Sorry, George – DC does not get this one this year. It would have been interesting for him to get his third shot at it, but he should consider himself rather lucky to be one step away from the Final Four.
So, good for Zaphod! He was doing so well this season before the foie gras fiasco. He managed to beat some good chefs – Adam, Kats and George – to get back to business. And he gets no rest as the four of them are led to Padma and local Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera. Zaphod mentions how Enrique’s restaurant is #20 on the Pellegrino List. And if I had any idea what that was, I am sure it would really impress me. Zaphod has also been instructed off-screen to strip off the Top Chef jacket so that he and the other three are all in street clothes. As a result, the poor guy is standing there in his white undershirt like a mini version of Stanley Kowalski.
The chefs are presented with a regular Quickfire Challenge – No twists involved. They have to make a dish using the local Prickly Pear called the Xoconostle. Surprisingly, Spellcheck has no idea what that fruit is, and neither did I until this episode. Melissa reveals that during the six weeks she actually studied this fruit in her prep for the finals. Good for her! Michael Voltaggio also redirected fish Bitch to practicing Mexican cuisine – as Volt (I know I used to call him Hawk, and that Brian Voltaggio’s restaurant is Volt, but it is so much easier essentially calling them both Volt at this point) can sense a second Top Chef title in his inner circle.
Zaphod points out that he is used to making cactus thanks to his Texas roots and that the Xoco is very tart and needs a balance. He is making a vegetarian dish to feature the Xoco, and because at its heart Mexican cuisine is very vegetable-focused. Gumby is making a relish, Fish Bitch is badly cooking a steak and Melissa has zeroed in on the salmon. Meanwhile, Padma is brightening the whole place looking majestic in a white dress.
Zaphod – Xoconostle and Tomatillo Stew With Roasted Peppers and Pepitas – Enrique points out the same thought about Mexican cuisine. Score for Zaphod!
Gumby – Garlic Shrimp With Olive Oil, Prickly Pear Sauce and Xoconostle Relish – The olive oil really stands out. That would be good if it was an olive oil challenge. And if it were, I would hope somebody would make it with spinach.
Fish Bitch – Ribeye Tataki With Xoconostle Salsa and Nopales Salsa Verde – Unfortunately, her steak is cooked in varying degrees of “doneness” even if the sauce had good flavor.
Melissa – Salmon Ceviche with Xoconostle, Leche De Tigre and Prickly Pear Salad – The liquid is the best part for her.
Gumby and Fish Bitch hit the bottom and will not earn the Elimination Challenge advantage. Melissa’s was refreshing and Zaphod focused on the Xoco. Only a novice Top Cheffer would not see this coming…Zaphod earns the win.
Amazing, in a very short span of time he went from fighting for his show life to having an advantage in the challenge to send him to the Final Three. Never give up on these shows, future contestants.
Never, ever, ever.