Welcome to the first hour of the season finale ofTop Chef, ”Puerto Rico: Part 1,” which I’m officially renaming ”Holy Schnickeys.”
Let’s begin with Lisa’s new ‘do. It was apt that she would get a new haircut, given that we began the season discussing Richard’s and Jen’s wacky fauxhawks. While I’m sure most of you agree with Blais’s assessment that ”I don’t think too many people expected Lisa to be here,” we can at least throw her a bone by saying she looks good (less sloppy), which has hopefully translated over the break into her being able to find her Zen place when things heat up in the kitchen.
Off to the quickfire challenge, where — holy schnickeys — at first glance I mistook Wilo Benet for a bloated Tom Colicchio. Whoops! My bad. No offense to either. As Richard, Stephanie, Lisa, and Antonia cooked up frituras(fried snacks) in an unfamiliar kitchen, Blais almost blaised his eyebrows off with the stove’s flame. Albóndigas (meatballs) with burnt-brow-hair garnish. That would be bad. I will say that I was fiending for Steph’s tostone and Lisa’s chorizo fritter as I took a stab into my salad at home. Watching Top Chef while dining on my usual subpar dinner is getting to me. Tom and Padma: I’d like to go out on a limb and say I’m available to be a guest judge next season (especially if Bourdain is also a guest). Stephanie and Lisa ended up on top in this challenge. The former had said she wasn’t too fond of cooking with plantains, while the latter said she had been practicing during the break. Who won? Well, Stephanie. Why? Because she didn’t take for granted that her familiarity with plantains would translate into victory. I’ll temper that by saying this was her first QFC win; as Padma said, ”Better late than never.”
Next, Benet and Padma invited the cheftestants to a party in San Juan. It was like, ”Gee, thanks, we finally get to go to a party where we aren’t surprised with having to cook, yet all that’s weighing on our minds is the elimination challenge. Thanks for prolonging the anticipation.” So they ate, they danced, and they stressed. Day 2 took them to La Fortaleza, the private residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. They would be cooking for a garden party of 100 VIPs. ”As I think you learned yesterday, in Puerto Rico, it’s just not a party without a pig,” Colicchio declared with a gleeful smirk while uncovering a whole pig. Dead. Lying there in the shade. Each cheftestant had to butcher a whole porker and produce at least two dishes using two parts of the animal. Holy schnickeys — and I was not the only one who was shocked ad nauseam. ”The challenges have progressively gotten so much harder,” said Antonia. ”I mean when we first get to Chicago, we’re like making a pizza, and now we have like an entire pig. Deep-dish is looking real good right now.” I would like to amend my availability to be a guest judge next season: I can only attend episodes in which I do not have to witness the butchering of the food I am about to eat. Thanks.