THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jane McGivney Headshot

Top Chef: Whole Hog

Posted: Updated:

It's Puerto Rico and the chefs are arriving! My darling Stephanie arrives, and she looks glowing and relaxed. She's been traveling through Asia, "Enjoying life!" Antonia, single mom, has a bit more of a working experience - she's opened up a restaurant and been cooking 100 hours a week. Richard doesn't really say what he's been up to, but he does comment that everyone is surprised to see Lisa here. I agree. Lisa has a new haircut and I'm sure the same old bad attitude.

QUICKFIRE:

At first I think to myself, oh wow, Tom has gained weight over the break. After at least five minutes I realize it's our guest judge, a popular chef in Puerto Rico.

The Quickfire Challenge is to create "beach side fritturas, or fritters" - "fantastic little snacks served best with a cold beer." I heartily support beach side snacks served with cold beer. The chefs must cook 2 fritturas, both containing plantains. The chefs immediately run towards the table of produce, but Lisa The Evil One immediately runs towards the "proteins" in the kitchen. She probably also wants to make sure her broomstick and hat are in the kitchen and also wants to put a quick Curse on all the other chefs and judges and poison all the candy in England so that all the little children turn into mice and also burn down Puerto Rico. Oh, just kidding. Okay, I'm serious.

Stephanie makes a tostone with seared tuna, and a pork and shrimp fritter with a brown butter lime and basil drizzle. Antonia makes crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam, and a fried yellow plantain with spicy slaw. Lisa makes tostones with pan roasted duck and mango papaya salad and sweet plantain red onion and chorizo fritter. For a second I think Padma doesn't like it because she takes a long pull on her beer. But then I remember that it's Padma, so this just means it's breakfast. Richard makes a pork thing with plantain sauce and raw green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa.

The top two are Stephanie and Lisa and the bottom two are Richard and Antonia. Stephanie is the winner, and will receive an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. But for now, it's time for a party in Old St. Juan! I'm such a cynic that I immediately presume it's a trap, but no, it actually is just a party. There's some dancing. Richard wisely opts out.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

"Is that Tom or fat Tom?" I say to Travis. Travis says it's, "Classic Tom." Very diplomatic. Better than "Tom Light" or "Tom Zero." Anyway, Tom says, "It's just not a party without a pig," and dramatically gestures to the tables upon which lie little pink piggies. I'm having flashbacks to AP biology in high school, when the only thing that stood between me and graduation was a little pig in a jar that I had to dissect.

The chefs have to use 2 different parts of the animal to make at least 2 dishes. Tom says, "It's a big job, but we're going to give you a little help," and gestures towards...Dale, Nikki, Spike and Andrew. I had no idea Andrew had a house in Puerto Rico! Lisa says, "I'm looking at the options, and they're very limited." Meaning no one will want to work with her.

As the winner, Stephanie gets to assign the sous chefs. Stephanie takes Dale (she's known him ten years) and assigns Spike to Richard, Nikki to Antonia and Andrew for Lisa. I actually think she did a great job - she could have screwed everything over but she wants to keep it about cooking. I feel for Andrew though, but he says "I play with honor. I'm her sous chef and I'm going to help her anyway I can."

Dale, I should note, is wearing a crazy hat and glasses. Dale, you goose! It's too late, you've been eliminated, and crazy hats won't save you. Lisa is prowling around the kitchen insulting Andrew, with things like, Let me do that, I seem to do a better job." Andrew says to the camera, "Lisa is a very...strong personality." You said it, sister. Even the implacable Richard says, "Lisa is a bit much for me sometimes. She's got a bad attitude."

After the chefs leave the kitchen, it becomes apparent that Stephanie's pork belly has been left out of the fridge! I actually gasp. I'm sure that Dale has done this, not Stephanie. The next morning Dale realizes this and confesses to Stephanie: "I fucked up, I left the pork out all night." Stephanie is incredibly nice to Dale. She is one amazing chef. Rather than freaking out, she just tries to figure out what to do. And Dale, to his credit, though he confesses to the camera, "If I get her sent home, I swear to god I'll never forgive myself," actually concentrates on fixing the situation rather than wasting time lamenting or saying sorry repeatedly. Dale comes up with an idea for crispy skin salad.

Antonia is feeling off, but reveals that her daughter, The Littlest Santini, said, "Don't even bother coming home unless you win."

Both Toms are at the party tasting, along with Gail and Padma. It seems clear that Richard has done well - Tom actually says "Good Job" right as he's eating, and it's apparent that Lisa will go home - the judges won't even finish her food!

JUDGING

Although it's between Richard and Stephanie, one was unanimous and the crowd favorite...Richard. I will be surprised if Richard doesn't win next week, although I love Stephanie. Richard wins a new car! He looks nonplussed. It feels like Wheel of Fortune.

As for the bottom two, it's Lisa and Antonia. Essentially no one liked Lisa's food - both judges and partygoers - and Antonia had undercooked peas. It seems obvious to me that Lisa will go home. Gail also thinks that Antonia's dishes were the least sophisticated and she served all of her dishes on one plate, and that there is no such thing as "al dente" beans. Nice try though, Antonia. Suddenly I fear that Antonia will go home.

And, she does. Right before Padma drops the ax, Tom says that one table just didn't have as many people as all the others...Lisa's. And yet, here she is, cooking and scowling her way to the last show. Padma actually manages to sound despondent when she says congratulations to Lisa.

Richard says to Antonia, "Bye, Chef" and I actually tear up.

After Antonia leaves, the most interesting part of the episode happens. Lisa and Stephanie and Richard are sitting around, and Richard and Stephanie look sad. Lisa says: "I know you guys are upset that antonia's leaving, but a congratulations would have been nice. i get it but it just makes me feel like you feel the wrong person went home."

They both give Lisa weak congratulations, and Richard voice overs to the camera later: "You won the fucking bronze medal. Congratulations." Well said, Blaise.

After, I chatted with Max.

Max: I LOVE that all the contestants are back, but now with the perspective
of seeing the editing and the Internet reaction. Blais being "Yeah, no one really expects Lisa to be here, or win, nor is she liked, or respected."

me: oh seriously. on that note, i was surpised to hear richard say that richard, steph and antonia were the top three, everyone thought. I wouldn't have put antonia in there.

Max: Yeah, wrong. I think Rich/Steph/Dale were the widely accepted Top 3.

me: Totally. I'm a BIT bitter about the top three not being those three, but i shall enjoy seeing Lisa go down in flames. And I have to note that I could not distinguish Tom and the guest judge.

Max: Yeah, when they first showed him next to Padma. I was like "Oh my god, Tom is dead and they got a cheap replacement"