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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.
THREE more episodes? So in addition to adding an episode by bringing an extra chef to the Bahamas and not cutting two at once, you're also going to make the last challenge a two-chef duel rather than the standard three? I can't say that I mind, since this season has been so enjoyable. Hope Bravo is planning on another All-Star season soon (two or three seasons from now). I also hope we get to see Stefanie, Hosea, Michael, and Kevin again this season. It seems a shame to bring them all the way to the Bahamas for one little Quickfire.
Chef, with all due respect -- if you want 4-star meals out of the contestants, why not give them the proper equipment to start with? That kitchen looked more suitable for a beach-side concession stand. Not to mention the equipment they had for the QF.
I can't cook. When I try to cook at home my family groans. But I LOVE this show. I do have one question for all the cooks out there. I thought it wasn't fair, when after the fire, the chefs could change their menu if they wanted to. Shouldn't they have had to stick with their original meal plan? Or am I just being too picky?
While we love Carla's personality, we knew before you guys dropped the hammer that it would be her. Raw pork is worse than bland overcooked shrimp. And while it is hard to see her go, b/c we really thought she was going to be the sleeper hit in the finale, we wish her the best! Give her a show, Bravo!!
Tom - Love the show, and this season especially has kept me on the edge of my seat! Last night, as I watched the remaining contestants make their way to the Bahamas with their knives, I wondered how in the world they get those by security??? Do you all have to ship them ahead?
Who didn't love Carla? I sure did. But when it comes to who should win, it's clear to me that Richard deserves the title. In addition to making thoughtful, imaginative and, apparently, delicious dishes, he possesses other qualities a top chef needs -- chiefly, inspiring and teaching others and earning their respect. Remember how he was praised by the Restaurant Wars team? They all recognized and acknowledged it. I am truly rooting for him.
Tom, please stop making these fine chefs cook in subpar conditions. This is no way to pick a Top Chef. Last week they had time to plan, shop and cook in a good kitchen and the results were spectacular. This week they had to cook with crappy equipment in makeshift kitchens, one of which exploded into fire, and the results were awful. What does torturing the chefs have to do with good food? I watch Top Chef to see great chefs cook great food, not to see great chefs running obstacle courses. This is not Survivor Top Chef!
One thing that struck me last night was how *tired* everyone looked! It seemed like the fire, and having to re-prep the food, just knocked everyone out. It must have been very late when judges' table finally happened - y'all just looked exhausted! I was SO sad to see Carla go - I was really hoping for a Blais/Carla/Antonia final. I will miss her happy attitude.
Shoot. Carla was my favorite for several reasons. She has an incredibly loving spirit, which is what we need in these days of harsh republican bullying. She was always compassionate toward her competitors, who often didn't deserve it. And last, I felt her boundless enthusiam for her craft, which as a teacher, I relate to. If Bravo is smart, she will become, in some way, part of the Bravo family.
She's the anti-NeNe. NeNe is fun to watch, but a totally positive energy person would be a blessing for those starved for positive energy.
As both a TOP CHEF and HIGHLANDER fan I know there can be only one and that the one must keep his/her head.
Tom wins "cool points" for quoting Highlander. "Don't lose your head..." is another that comes to mind. We saw some talented chefs "lose their heads," and other talented chefs rise to the occasion. Richard, consistent though self-doubting as always, and Mike seem to be leading the pack now. Mike seems almost reborn. He seems more focused, less about the one-upmanship and trash talk, and more about having good kung-fu in the kitchen. I think getting back in touch with his inner Sicilian gave us a new and better Mike.
If Carla cooks with LOVE, then Richard cooks with stress, anxiety and stomach cramps. I would prefer to eat Carla's dish any day of the week. I would be afraid all of the angnst Richard cooks with would leave my stomach in knots. In a word, Richard, "relax."
I can't believe I'm actually the first commenter! I'm sad to see Carla go. Exactly agree with you Tom: she appears to be a very cool, great person but wasn't cooking up to par. But I was as disappointed in all the chefs this Elimination Challenge, though. Felt they all fell short of their capabilities. It was very cool to see the past winners and I was shocked that Mike I. beat Voltaggio!?! I'm rooting for a final 2 of Antonia and Blais.... love both of them. Take care Tom! Love your blog.
It took me a few shows to become accustomed to Carla Hall's personality. She seemed like an off-the-wall nut-case. When I discovered that she was the genuine article nut-case, she became my favorite. She always seemed to set the bar high on how to handle oneself and the truth about one's performance in a competition. She won a lot of the challenges on both of her seasons, but she definitely won more fans for her off-center take on the world and how to project "some love" into her dishes. I am sad to see her go, but know her attitude is enough to make her a success in anything she decides to tackle. Tom, thanks for letting her showcase her abilities. Now lets see that ole stoner, Antonia, cook some ass.
If it's a cooking competition, why can't they put the chefs in a great kitchen with great ingredients and see what they can do? I thought it was about great cooking, not managing crises and shaky equipment.
Tom, why don't you use your pull to help Carla with her dream? She is a celebrity chef and guaranteed to make lots of money.
Time and again in the finals, contestants will use a technique with which they are not familiar. They usually go down in flames because of that. Carla is the latest victim of this suicidal behavior in Top Chef finals. Deep fried pork tenderloin is not only not Southern, but probably impossible to do well. When she was given a second chance after the fire, why didn't she change her entry? Unlike the rest of Top Chef, the finals are intended to place the chefs in an unfamiliar literally foreign envirnoment and challenge them to adapt. She failed to adapt and was eliminated.
Good episode chef Tom. I really liked the quickfire. Pitting each finalist against the Top Chef of their season was genius. It seems Mike I. is on a roll. I think he will get cocky and will not win.
Carla Hall is the primary reason I watch TOP CHEF ALL STARS. I simply adore her and I was very sad to see her go. But I think you are a fair judge Tom and, most important, she agreed with the panel's decision. I will follow Carla's culinary career, buy her cookies, chicken pot pies, and purchase all her books. She is an exceptional chef, an inspiration to women, and, BRAVO was fortunate to have her "brand" and victory dances showcased on TOP CHEF. I see a great future for Carla in the entertainment industry. Perhaps a "LATE NIGHT" version of Carla Hall LIVE :-)
Good episode chef Tom. I really liked the quickfire. It was ingenius pitting the finalist against the Top Chef's from their season. It seems Mike Isabella is on a roll. I think his cockiness will be his downfall, and he will not win Top Chef. I still feel strongly that Richard will win Top Chef allstars. The elimination challenge was chaotic due to the fire. In order to be Top Chef you have to adapt and change in midstream, so it was fair. I agreed with the decision to send Carla home. Now there are four left. I have a suspicion that it will be between Blaise and Antonia. I guess wew will see.
Sad to see Carla go, but raw meat is raw meat.
I don't understand why Tiffany is still here. As everyone sees, she's not going to be Top Chef but never goes so far to make a mistake that will send her home. come on, I would much rather have Dale, Angelo, or Carla in the finals.
I enjoy your blogs so much. I always learn something. That said I'm very sad to see Carla go. She is so uplifting and I was hoping she would make it to the final 3 at least. It was such a blow to see her go last time around... But raw pork is raw pork. Bless her heart.
Although Carla did not perform to her ability, once again this season, the chef that got the most criticism gets spared. I love Antonia & want her to win but her dish was shocking and all the judges weren't bashful in saying so. Additionally just as disturbing I guess it pays to always have the 2nd worst dish each week. How is Tiffany still on the show? Don't get me started, the girl must have pictures. Top Chef All-Stars this season has been most disappointing with the judging top of that list.
Carla showed the same grace and class in elimination as she showed when she would win. I too will miss her and her infectious laughter and positive attitude. I know that she will be successful in her career and I'd love to taste her cookies.
I think she will be missed greatly by her competitors as well.
Good luck to you Carla......ya done good!
Tom looked so shocked when he sat down in that way to small of a booth. Maybe that's why his introduction of the dishes was so snarky.
Who chose the King as the guest of honor? I'm sure he's a very nice man but he was booooring on camera. Add to that a dimly lit fry shack as the setting for a top chef elimination challenge and you get more booorring. At least sit outside, it's the Bahamas for gosh sakes.
Did the production crew arrive the night before? I thought the production quality and setting of the elimination challenge showed a bit a disrespect to the contestants. If they are expected to up the game for the final few challenges, the same should be expected of the production crew.
Chef--you looked completely miserable/pissed off throughout the elimination challenge. Were you just really tired because of the extension of the evening caused by the fire? Or did you have reservations about the whole challenge? The whole thing felt really slapped together and poorly executed. That kitchen looked awful and this just did not seem like a challenge that brought out the best in anybody.
Carla - you were a true delight to watch both in this season and last. I wish you nothing but the best in your cooking venture! Thank you for being yourself!
Well, I posted this once and it got screened out, but thought I would try again. Carla will be missed in this competition. She is all of the wonderful things that you say, Tom. But, where was the love in your blog for other very loved and probably more qualified chefs who were sent home and never made it to the finals? I mean Dale, Fabio, Antonio..great chefs with fans that love them and you didn't memorialize them in your blog. Just saying.
Perhaps it wasn't the loss in the Quickfire that threw Antonia and Carla off, but that maybe their dishes weren't as good as they should have been due to faulty equipment. Then, to go into the Elimination and have to deal with more faulty equipment would rattle even the best. I would think at this level in the competition, the chefs would be provided equipment that works properly.
There can be only ONE! Yes Tom, there are indeed some Highlander fans out here, loved the reference! This episode was a real downer after last week, but thank you for your words about Carla. It is nice to know she is as geniune as she seems, sorry she couldn't go farther. Living close to DC I hope I can check out her new venture & I wish her the very best.
I was sad to see Carla go but I agree with Tom that undercooked meat is unacceptable. The quickfire challenge was brilliant: A second chance to take on the person who beat them in their original Top Chef. Totally cool,guys. As for the Elimination challenge, I also wonder what the Chefs were thinking as to whom they would be cooking for. As Tom pointed out in his blog, Queen E isn't living in the Bahamas at the moment. I can see where the fire kind of shook everyone but the key is.......it affected EVERYONE. Therefore, no one has any excuse. Fire is something every chef has to be prepared to deal with. It goes with the job. I congratulate Mike for winning. He is hungary for the championship. My wish is that Richard doesn't sink himself with his negativity. Well done, Top Chef. This has been a really good show this season.
I don't see the point of having challenges that are this helter skelter at this point in the season. It's finale time, and we're still screwing with their heads? Just let them cook.
And as fun as the head-to-head quickfire should have been, it came off as boring. Probably weak editing, but there was hardly any of it in the show.
Two things about this episode.
First, while it breaks my heart of see Carla go, raw pork could be health hazard. It is that simple. I really wanted to see Carla and Richard cook in the finale.
Secondly, I was appalled that the contestants did not realize that the Bahamas had no independent royalty. Even I knew that. Did they think that Top Chef had, miraculously, gotten Queen Elizabeth to be on the show. Come one, guys.
Mental toughness is what will win this competition - and Blaise does not look like he could lose it. He's acting like Angelo last season, focusing on a particular competitor, playing political mind-games (w/ Antonia) and in the process losing focus on the food! Mike I. is one lucky guy - he got a pass for undercooked pasta several episodes ago. But those Italian-Americans - a Mafia lot, Colicchio included! (or maybe just truly family-oriented, no?) - stuck up for him when his going got rough. In my mind, undercooked pasta is as bad as undercooked potatoes and rice. Now here's a shout-out to the producers - you guys have to change the rules a bit so that mediocre cooking does not make it all the way to the Final Four. There was Tiffani so thrilled about what she thought was an edge she had over the other cooks, and she cooks what? And mentally, she was prepared too, what with that quick-fire win. Please - it's so more painful to watch mediocrity advance, more painful than the crash-and-burn of Angelo and Dale - and Carla.
First of all, you and Gail should have used a better sunscreen or spent less hour under the sun. Second, and that's because you've mentioned it, someday you'll have to do a Top Chef episode based on tradional Scottish cousine, just to honor the McClaoud clan! Because in the end it can be only one!
While I understand it's about the food, shouldn't some slack be given when there are atrocious conditions?? First the Quickfire and the equipment failures.. which Carla didn't bitch about, but I AM!! And then a fire? They could not be give the DAY to start over fresh? No? Well, I am glad Carla is such a lady, cos I want to curse! Love the show, I only hope Mike doesn't win.
Hi Tom, I just saw the episode, and I'm sorry to say that without Dale, Top Chef is just not the same anymore. The chefs food were not exciting, not creative, and actually sad.
It was a sad day for all when Padma was made to say the words "Dale, please pack your knives and go." With him, went all the talent, fun and passion that a Top Chef should have.
And now Carla was sent home for uncooked pork, when Antonia was allowed to stay for another dish that was a mess...sigh, besides "Top So-So Chef", "Top No-Wins Chef", "Top Middle Chef"...now we can add we are just looking for "Top Cook" instead of "Top Chef".
It's not like she doesn't know how to cook pork. She can. As proven by the cooked piece of Eric Ripert. And it wasn't her fault that the fryer was crap. It was the equipment that the show provided...
The test should be about the dish as a whole...and Antonia failed there.
From a sad sad fan.
Great show Tom !! I look forward each week to sitting down and enjoying the show with my wife and kids.
Regarding last night's episode, if Carla's loin was cooked properly (obviously it was unevenly cooked since some people thought it was done right), would you have sent her home ? If yes, because of the sweetness issues, then I agree with your choice. If not, I disagree. Although bringing out undercooked food is an embarassment, it can be corrected and brought back to the kitchen for finishing. On the other hand, overcooked food, i.e. shrimp, can not be saved. Also, you did not like the stringy meat grits. So, if the main reason for Carla's elimination was the undercooked pork, I disagree with your decision.
A final cooking question. At home, if I cut into my meat or fish and it is a bit underdone, I put it into the microwave for 5-10 seconds. Is that done in professional kitchens and/or on the tv show ?
Last point. Throughout the years there always seems to be some shows where the ovens don't work properly, or heating elements don't work properly. It's a shame when dishes get undercooked when time runs out due to a mechanical failure. Is there a way you can give extra time when this happens ?
Marty from Philadelphia
I thought the chefs all looked ragged when the episode started, like they were up all night traveling or partying and didn't have a chance to sleep or shower.
Richard, in particular, looked rough, and he's acting like he's coming unglued. I hope he's ok. The pressure seems to be getting to him.
Tom - please, please, please tell me that you and the rest of the judges are so tired of Richard and his fake self-loathing act! It has gotten so old that I'd be surprised if any of you weren't on to him. I initially liked Richard and wanted him to win (and he still might win), but after watching this season I've discovered how phony and judgmental he is.
Sure, I would imagine all the chefs have to have some level or arrogance and/or confidence in themselves, and they all seem to. But he has shown that he clearly thinks (unless he totally screwed something up) that he deserves to win every challenge, and when he doesn't he is such a sore loser. Here's hoping that Mike Isabella (or Tiffany, or Antonia, or the King of Junkanoo) kicks his a@@ in the final challenge! I'm out...
Yes, it's a TV entertainment, yes it's a competition, but no, equipment that doesn't work, even catches on fire? One of them might have been badly hurt! Then making them cook again the same night in the same inadequate kitchen. How often are they given the opportunity to make excellent food really worth admiring and enjoying, rather than just participating in ridiculous challenges? Yes, once again the producers or whomever makes these decisions have gone way off. And the rude remark to Richard, implying he was going home - beneath you Padma (I notice when the show was replayed this was edited out - don't know if this editing was respectful of Richard or cowardly by the producers). We've grown to love these chefs and you treat them as just a business to be manipulated, and in turn manipulate the audience. So then Karla gets sent home for uncooked rice - she could have cooked it just fine with adequate equipment. And after such a wonderful challenge at Ellis Island where the chefs were treated with respect and love, by both the show and their families. Dismal contrast. I'm angry and disappointed.
Carla, so sorry to see you go...your grace, upbeat spirit & talent have made watching this season so great! You are already a Top Chef!!!
can this comment be added? i've tried a couple of times and they didn't work for some reason, and one was a great one about marcel always sticking to his foams in the face of adversary (sp? sic) anyway, love the show as always and so sad to see carla go...it was wierd how they all did so great last challenge and all dropped the ball with this one. p.s. tom you are the greatest, wish i could go to new york and eat at your restaurant!
As a fan of Carla, throughout her first season and this one, I was sorry to see her go, but I understood the decision. I thank you for your kind words regarding her.
Third time I've posted this and can't get through the censors. Love the blogs and I liked Carla a lot, but many of us were just as sad to see Fabio, Dale and Angelo leave. They were not just good chefs, they were GREAT chefs. So, why all the love in your blog for Carla? I think she skidded by several times when she should have gone home. Then you blog about what a loss it is. Looks like favoritism in judging to me