Carla wins yet again! She's on a Stefan-esque winning streak, and she grabs a car in the process, but unlike Stefan, her humility and grace remain fully intact. Because of Carla's win, Jeff will not progress to the finale, but he definitely did himself proud tonight. Hosea claims the next spot in next week's finale, leaving Team Euro to face off. Padma asks Fabio to pack his knives, and his good spirit doesn't waver, as he threatens Stefan's life if he doesn't take the top prize. The finale looks to be a one challenge, three dish affair, leaving more room for drama in the kitchen, where Stefan and Hosea get into a heated argument. Who will be season 5's Top Chef? Come back next week, and we'll find out!
Padma comes to the chefs' suite and unsurprisingly asks all of them to accompany her to judges' table. The judges heap praise on Jeff, declaring his cocktail the best of the night. They are less kind on Fabio, though, pulling buckets of criticism out of left field. Stefan's cockiness has reached a new height tonight, and the judges' acclaim for his grits-gumbo combo don't help. When Tom criticizes his attitude in the kitchen, though he gets something to think about. They don't have a bad thing to say about any of Carla's items, so she should be back next week, thankfully. They seem almost as excited with Hosea's meal, possibly setting up a face-off with Carla for the victory tonight. It looks like Team Euro will definitely lose at least one member tonight, and my bet is on Fabio. Stefan's consistency should prove too much to conquer, and his only undoing could be his increasingly sour attitude.
The guest begin to arrive, all clad in masks, which remind Fabio of a porno. I wasn't exactly thinking that, but ok... All of Jeff's dishes, including his cucumber mojito, receive high marks, and Stefan's food is popular with the judges, as it is more often than not. The good reviews keep coming with Fabio and Carla's meals, which gets the best feedback so far. Hosea claims that his gumbo is the most authentic of all ten meals tonight, and he may be right, because Emeril claims that it "captures the spirit of New Orleans." With all five chefs doing so well, it's tough to pick who will get the boot tonight. I don't think Jeff did well enough to get the win, but I have no idea who else will join him on the sidelines.
The chefs use the kitchen back at Delmonico, and Carla gets in over her head right of the bat by deciding to shuck a hundred oysters. Everything else seems to be going smoothly over the five hour preparation time. Maybe it's going a little too smoothly for Stefan, who opts for prepared sausage over his own variety and complements his cooking with a couple of smoke breaks. Tom has doubts about the creole-ness of Fabio's dishes and the authenticity of Hosea's roux, but he reserves ultimate judgment until he tastes the final products. Preparation finishes up at a stately art museum, where somehow Carla still has 2/3 of her oysters left to shuck with only an hour left. Each chef is provided with a bartender who will whip up the cocktails that they concocted. Gail is finally back, and Carla seems almost as excited as I am, throwing out a "Love you girl!" Seriously, Gail's presence was sorely missed, especially with her revolting replacement, Toby Young.
Back from the break, and Emeril quickly names Jeff the winner. Padma confirms my suspicions that, in order to reach the final three, Jeff must win the elimination challenge; if not, he goes home again. The chefs don't get into the elimination challenge yet, because they have a full night ahead of them, checking into a gorgeous suite and feasting at Emeril's restaurant Delmonico. The next morning, the contestants head to Mardi Gras World, a huge warehouse of floats and memorabilia. Their challenge is to create two dishes, one of which must be in the creole style, and a cocktail for the company's masquerade ball. If Jeff wins the challenge, two chefs will be eliminated, but if he loses, he and one of the other four will go home. The winner of the challenge will also take home a brand new Toyota. This might be the most high-stakes challenge of the season so far, and everyone seems to be on a relatively level playing field, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Here we are, the first part of the two-part finale, and the final four chefs reunite at the New Orleans airport, actually five if you count Fabio's new mohawk. The action gets started quickly, as Padma, Tom, and guest judge Emeril Lagasse, introduce the first quickfire, but the final four aren't cooking. Instead, the last three eliminated chefs, Jamie, Jeff, and Leah, compete to join the elimination challenge, where they may have a chance to join the final 3, probably if they win that challenge. They have to prepare a dish using one of the Big Easy's signature ingredients: crawfish. I'm never a huge fan of these second chance opportunities on reality shows. I feel like if you're eliminated, you deserved it, so there's no reason to rejoin people who never messed up as badly. The most amusing part of the challenge is not the cooking but the live crawfish crawling all over the tables. All of the chefs receive similar feedback, and unsurprisingly, the winner won't be released after the break.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009