Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio empathizes with Carla Hall's fans.

on Mar 10, 2011

Bahamian Royalty…? I’m surprised our chefs fell for that. Did they think they were cooking for Queen Elizabeth? She’s the reigning monarch of the Bahamas, and I have a hunch she was out of town the night our chefs were cooking. Or at least otherwise engaged (though what an episode of Top Chef that would have been!)
It was still quite the honor, and certainly a lot of fun, to have with us Percy “Vola” Francis, the King of Junkanoo, even if the title was self-proclaimed back when he was about 15, much the way that Michael Jackson named himself “The King of Pop” and the title stuck (Elvis didn’t name himself “The King of Rock and Roll,” by the way. He was uncomfortable with the title, but it stuck. But I digress.) As with all royalty, there were protocols to follow in the presence of the King, such as the imperative to drink Kalik beer at dinner (specifically, the one Kalik puts out during Junkanoo, with the Junkanoo label). No other would do.
The fire in the kitchen understandably rattled the chefs, so I'm not surprised that we didn't get their best in this challenge. And this was not the first event in this episode that had a psychological impact on them. This week’s Quickfire Challenge really affected them. When our finalists saw the winners of their seasons standing there, they assumed that they were there to serve as sous chefs, to help the finalists as they competed against each other. Instead, they found that their Top Chefs –- the chefs who had beaten them for the title in their first seasons on the show –- were there to go head-to-head with them. The finalists were already really fired up to compete in the Bahamas, and they really wanted to prove something by beating their particular Top Chefs. For Tiffany, Richard, and Mike Isabella, doing so gave them a mental edge going into the Elimination Challenge, an extra boost of confidence. Mike was strong in the last challenge prior to coming to the Bahamas; his then beating Michael Voltaggio in the Quickfire gave him an extra boost in confidence, and we saw him parlay that into a win in the Elimination Challenge. So, he’s in a good head space moving forward. For Carla and Antonia, however, losing to their Top Chefs clearly unnerved them, and we saw the domino effect from there. Antonia didn’t cook her own food, and Carla didn’t cook to her ability.
Carla is a good cook, but her style of cooking suits her well in some challenges and not as well in others. She was remarkably gracious with all her comments in her exit interview but was also self-aware and honest when she said that the judges had made the right decision. In addition to presenting an over-sweet, poor dish, she served raw meat. It was an insurmountable error. As soon as she sliced into the pork, she must have seen it wasraw, but perhaps she was simply out of time. Any which way, she knew the gig was up. Hard as it was to ask her to pack her knives, her dish made her the clear choice for elimination.