Leaving Chicago behind, the remaining four chefs show up in sunny Puerto Rico for the first part of the two-part finale. I'm not sure of the length of the break period but it was long enough for Antonia to open her restaurant, Lisa to get a new 'do and a relaxed attitude (until the Elimination Challenge) and Stephanie to visit Thailand, Viet Nam and Cambodia, and, sporting a t-shirt that read "I ? Tahoe Boys", perhaps Nevada too.
Padma Lakshmi for the Quickfire Challenge is guest judge Chef
Wilo Benet who presents a table filled with plantains that the chefs would use to make two different types of fritters. It's preferable to cook them before eating, but Antonia and Richard fell into the same trap of using uncooked plantains in their sauces. Antonia's plantain jam that accompanied her crispy oysters was considered slimy and Richard didn't eliminate the rawness from the ripe plantain sauce served with pork meatballs.
Both Lisa and Stephanie created tostones (plantains simply flattened and fried) to go with their dishes. The decision seemed like a close call until Lisa's Pan Roasted Duck and Mango Papaya Salsa was criticized for being sliced too thick. Stephanie's seared tuna was sliced just right but also had well-balanced flavor giving her the win and an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. But just how well did this advantage pay off for her?
The location of the EC is La Fortaleza, a fortress built in 1533 that is now the private residence of Puerto Rico's governor. With 100 guests arriving the next day, and the challenge requiring the chefs to use a whole pig to create at least two dishes, help will be needed. Four familiar faces show up as the finalists' sous-chefs: Dale, Nikki, Andrew and Spike. As the QFC winner, Stephanie was to assign and pair up the chefs. Instead of purposely putting the others at a disadvantage as Hat Guy Spike tried to do (twice), she looked for compatibility to create a positive working environment. Though Lisa had problems with at least two, she was given Andrew to work with. They had a shouting match several episodes ago but Andrew stepped up to the plate vowing to do his best.
While the sous-chefs went shopping at the local market (and Andrew speaking only colors in Spanish), the chefs began butchering their pigs. Flying mallet heads weren't the only problems in the kitchen. The tension is definitely high and Lisa goes from calm to cranky with Andrew. Nikki senses that Antonia's mojo is off when her rice - the most problem-plagued dish of the season - has to be tossed. And though Dale is a good worker, neither he nor Stephanie realized until the next day that their marinated pork belly had been left out all night.
With some quick thinking, Stephanie substituted a Tropical Fruit and Prosciutto Salad with Chicharrones (fried pork skin) that rounded out her menu of Coconut Braised Pork and Pork Satay on Sugar Cane Skewers. She was chosen the judge's favorite along with Richard who was the only chef to prepare four dishes. That, coupled with his last minute decision to incorporate malta (a carbonated malt beverage) into his Pork Ribs with Malta and Soy Glaze giving the dish a unique caramel flavor, most likely elevated him into the winner's spot. Plus it doesn't hurt when most of the guests are surrounding your table.
Having come this far in the competition, the slightest slip up will send you packing.
Tom Colicchio questioned why Lisa stepped out of her comfort zone and prepared Latin food for the guests instead of using her Asian influence. She said her upbringing gave her experience but
Gail Simmons said Lisa focused more on the garnishes rather than the pig and prepared a purée that was too sweet and overpowering.
It seemed everyone had negative comments for Antonia. Gail said her food was rustic and the least sophisticated. Chef Tom thought her three distinct dishes should have been served separately instead of all on one plate. I immediately knew there was trouble when Padma asked Antonia at the party how long she soaked the beans. The fatal flaw was serving them undercooked in her dish of Pigeon Peas with Pork Sausage. Once more with that pained expression, Padma asked Antonia to pack her knives and go.
It has to be a lonely feeling when your competitors hug and send well wishes to the losing chef and don't bother to acknowledge or congratulate you for making it to the finale. Lisa made this point an issue to both Richard and Stephanie, to which Richard responded "You won the bronze medal. Congratulations."
" Do you think Richard would still have won if Stephanie had been able to serve her marinated pork belly instead of the fruit and prosciutto salad?
" Typical of the man with a smoker, Richard's response at winning the 2009 Toyota Corolla: "Holy smokes!"
" Text Poll: Who should pack their knives and go? A whopping 91% voted for Lisa.
" The three remaining chefs should be at the top of their game next week. So, as Padma asks at the beginning of each episode, "who will get to turn their culinary dreams into reality?"
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Leaving Chicago behind the remaining four chefs show up in sunny Puerto Rico for the first part of the two-part finale Im not sure of the length of the break period but it was long enough for Antonia to open her restaurant Lisa to get a new do and a relaxed attitude until the Elimination Challenge and Stephanie to visit Thailand Viet Nam and Cambodia and sporting a t-shirt that read I hearts Tahoe Boys perhaps Nevada tooJoining Padma Lakshmi for the Quickfire Challenge is guest judge Chef Wilo Benet who presents a table filled with plantains that the chefs would use to make two different types of fritters Its preferable to cook them before eating but Antonia and Richard fell into the same trap of using uncooked plantains in their sauces Antonias plantain jam that accompanied her crispy oysters was considered slimy and Richard didnt eliminate the rawness from the ripe plantain sauce served with pork meatballsBoth Lisa and Stephanie created tostones plantains s