The Quickfire and a Kitchen Fire Conspire, and Carla's Time's Expired
Tom Colicchio empathizes with Carla Hall's fans.
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.It genuinely was hard to see her go, and I really understand the pain of her fans. Simply put, Carla is great. She’s a pleasure to have around. Her appeal is evident: She’s always upbeat and positive and is never judgmental of others. She was supportive of her competitors and always adult in her approach and outlook about the competition. Sadly, we can’t keep contestants around based on how lovely they are as people. They signed on for a cooking competition, and this is exactly what they arehere for, to be judged. And they all know that they start out as one of eighteen chefs, and at the end there’s only one. (Any Highlander fans out there?) The odds are not in their favor.
But I have full confidence in Carla –- she has a lot of talent. She has recently started a business that I believe will do very well, called Alchemy by Carla Hall, selling sweet and savory tiny cookies. I’ve tasted them, and I think they’re terrific. I’ll let her tell you about them, in her uniquely-Carla way:
I look forward to the day she starts rolling them out, and I wish her all the best.
We have three more episodes in the Bahamas. I love being there. I took full advantage of our days off to go bonefishing. But again, I digress. It’s what happened in the Bahamas while I wasn’t bonefishing that really matters. Stay tuned…