Hello my little spaetzles! Anyone else having serious heart palpitations from this episode? Seriously, what a roller coaster! Let's start with the Quickfire, which was just impossible. Each chef had to complete a different classic Quickfire. This actually felt very Masters to me, but, hey, these guys can handle it, right? Mike gave Antonia the canned food challenge. Richard got the hot dog challenge and that left Mike with the one pot wonder. Antonia thought that Richard's choice to give Mike the one pot wasn't a smart one because it wouldn't restrict Mike from any specific ingredients. In the end, she was right. Of course in the middle of the chefs' cooking, they were presented with three twists. Mike couldn't use any kitchen tools, Antonia shared an apron with Carla, and Richard had to cook with one hand tied behind his back. At this point, I can't even say what was the hardest. These chefs are probably so nervous and delirious that any little change seems like the Apocalypse.
In the end, guest judge Wolfgang Puck, not throwing any donuts this time, gave the win to Mike. And Mike's winning streak continues!
In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are met by three culinary heavyweights: Michelle Bernstein, Morimoto and, of course, Wolfgang. This was Morimoto's first appearance on Top Chef, and I was pretty psyched to see him. I smiled at him at our Season 7 finale party, and that's my anecdote about him. Good story, right? Want me to tell it again? So, the chefs are paired up with a legend and have to cook their "last suppers." We've actually done a challenge like this before back in Season 5 with guests like Jacques Pepin and Lidia Bastianich and Marcus Samuelsson. I think I cried during that episode and I cried a little bit during this one. Just hearing the chefs talk about their childhood memories of food got me choked up. I'm sure this has much to do with the amazing food memories I have of my late mother's cooking, but no need to talk about that here. I wil say though that this episode did make me think about what I'd want my last meal to be. I think I've mentioned this before, but I thiiink I'd either want an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and nova or chicken parm with extra cheese on the side. Growing up my mom always put extra shredded cheese in the pan for me, so when it cooked it was just this extra blob of melted cheese, and it was amazing. What would you want your last meal to be? Tell me in the comments below!Anyway, Michael chose to work with Michelle Bernstein. I found it amusing that he said when he chose her that it would probably be the least challenging, but then later told Antonia that he chose Michelle for the challenge. Antonia quickly called bulls--- on that. I will say though that Michelle may have seemed like "the easiest" choice, but the easiest dishes are the ones whose flaws are most obvious. But let's get back to Mike and Antonia in a moment. Let's talk about Richard's dish first. He had to make traditional Austrian food for Wolfgang Puck. He said he was very comfortable with goulash, and it seemed the tough spaetzle was the only real complaint. The strudel was a winner. The only knowledge I have of how difficult it is to make strudel is based on the Quickfire Challenge in Top Chef Just Desserts where the chefs -- pastry chefs! -- had to make strudel and had quite a bit of trouble keeping it together. So, I was actually fairly shocked Richard had a seemingly easy time with it. He moved on to the finale. Mazel tov, Richard!
Mike and Antonia vied for the second spot. Let's start with Mike: He decided to tweak the traditional dish a little bit, and was given that creative license by Michelle herself which was pretty cool of her. He sous-vide the chicken, which ended up not being the best idea, and made an egg yolk empanada which I thought sounded freaking delicous. As much as I love a Pillsbury biscuit (I eat it layer by layer), I would love to try one of those empanadaas. Growing up in a Jewish home, I was really amused by Chef Bernstein's story. We never made fried chicken in the house, but we had our fair share of KFC. I remember begging my mother to cook for her once -- she usually wouldn't let me because I made a mess (still am) -- and I made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and crescent rolls. I recall getting rave reviews, but I haven't made it since. Ah, memories.
On the opposite end of the culinary spectrum, Antonia had to make traditional sashimi and rice for Morimoto. The look on Antonia's face when Morimoto was explaining his childhood was just priceless. She looked positively terrified (and confused). But I loved hearing about Morimoto's baseball past, and how his mother worked in the fish market. So, Antonia made a bento box, which is usually my go-to at any Japanese restaurant because a) it's filling and b) it lets you sample a few different things from the restaurant. She nailed the rice and some of the pickled vegetablees. but the star, the tuna, didn't go over so well. Although Antonia wisely changed course once she realized the hamachi she originally wanted to use wasn't good (thank G-d she tasted it), she mucked up the subtle tuna with too many things, and apparently the scotch bonnets (holy heat!) were just too much. The judges however needed one more challenge to decide who would move on with Richard. I was exhausted just watching the episode to this point, so I can't even imagine how the chefs mustered the strength to keep cooking. But, they did. They had to cook one bite! Although both looked a little big to me, I wanted to try both of them. Antonia stuck with a grouper dish and Mike made surf and turf. It was close, but Mike prevailed. I'm sad to see Antonia go -- I really enjoy watching her, but she's very talented, and I know she'll be just fine. Mazel tov to Mike! His winning streak in the Bahamas thus far is fairly epic, and he should be proud (and exhausted!)
Next week we see Richard and Mike go head-to-head for the ultimate win. The episode is insane, and possibly even more heartwrenching than anything we've seen yet, so grab some blood pressure medication and a box of tissues because it's a wild ride.
Until then, Have a Nosh!