Our final four gave it their best shots. None were surgeons (I'm being kind), but they all emerged with usable pork. And for the most part, the dishes they made out of it were pretty darn good. In fact, Richard's was so good we gave him a car. But this is the stage in the competition when we start to nitpick mercilessly; the remaining chefs are all skilled enough that they rarely make huge mistakes, and execution is, for the most part, solid.
So who made the small mistakes? Lisa's puree was too sweet. Antonia's pigeon peas were undercooked and she opted to serve all of her offerings on one plate. Rather than giving it the rustic feel she was going for, this gave her food a muddy, jumbled quality, and turned the "al dente" peas into a spoiler for four dishes instead of just one.
One taste of each contestant's dishes was all it took for me to know immediately how the judging would play out, and a quick glance around the party confirmed it: As the guests queued up for seconds, a long, winding line snaked its way around Richard's table. Another line, of decent length, led to Stephanie's, and a short but interested one led to Lisa's. There was no line at Antonia's table.
Alas, we had to let Antonia go, which of course has brought a wellspring of vitriol from the theorists on our message boards. Therefore, I'm compelled to give my once-a-season response to those cynics out there who insist we make our decisions to manipulate the ratings. If I sound defensive, I think I'm entitled: Let's just say we were the types of judges that, in exchange for scaling the breathtaking heights of reality TV, yielded to the producers directives, in order to play to audiences. Wouldn't that mean we would have let Lisa go?