Were we the only ones who thought last night's episode of Top Chef All-Stars was going to be the season finale? In actuality, next week's will be the last of the season and judging from how cooking in the Bahamas has been going thus far, there is no clear favorite. Last night's episode included a guys vs. girls challenge, Richard's sad swimming skills (or lack thereof) and a meal cooked on the beach instead of in the kitchen. Read on for our thoughts on the episode as well as a reveal of the winner and loser.
• Consistency & precision: The Quickfire Challenge is first and foremost about turning out plates that look and taste the same. Working in teams, the chefs have to plate 100 servings of the same dish, knowing that four of them will be randomly chosen and judged on their consistency. Mike and Richard team up to make handmade pasta with bolognese sauce, while Tiffany and Antonia turn out a chilled beef salad. The boys seem awfully cocky about the superiority of their dish — which seems less original and certainly less attractive than the beef — so we're glad when Tiffany and Antonia are named the winners.
• Deserted island cooking: For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must cook a meal for the 80th anniversary of the Nassau Yacht Club, using a "deserted island" theme and an emphasis on conch, a local favorite. The catch? They have to cook on the beach with limited ingredients and equipment. The other catch? There are no conch. The chefs have to dive for them! This proves problematic for Richard, who has trouble diving down five feet for a conch that looks like it was placed on the empty ocean floor by a Top Chef intern. We actually feel bad for Richard, whose overconfident highs and self-hating lows we have begun to resent.
• What's beach cooking without a little sand?: All the chefs struggle with cracking the conch shells, pickaxes spraying shell and sand all over their work tables. Mike has the smart idea of boiling the conch, which allows him to pull them more easily out of the shells, while Tiffany hammers and squeals for what seems like hours. Richard notes that he has to cook with just the basics in this challenge, no gadgets, yet he comes up with the very Blais-sounding idea of cooking thinly sliced strips of sweet potato like pasta.
• The all-white dress code is strictly enforced: The yacht club members and judges show up dressed all in white, which makes the meal seem like the gathering of a Caribbean cult or someone's vision of foodie heaven. The diners are delighted by Richard's unusual sweet potato noodles, Mike's smoky banana-leaf-wrapped fish, Antonia's spicy conch and the flavor of Tiffany's chowder. They are less impressed by the inconsistency of Richard's lobster and Antonia's fish (some people have undercooked or overcooked portions), the butter in Mike's dish and the stone-cold temperature of Tiffany's soup.
• "They know how to eat conch": At Judges' Table, it seems like everyone had some hits and misses in their dishes and it isn't clear who will be winning and who will be going home. Richard is shocked to hear portions of his lobster were undercooked and admits later that he doesn't believe it, period. Really? In the end, Mike's buttery fish was the most successful and he is named the winner. He celebrates by drinking a beer by himself in the stew room. Meanwhile, Richard and Antonia are called out for not consistently cooking their proteins, but room temperature chowder is a graver offense and Tiffany is sent home. She's just scraped through more than once this season, so we're actually surprised she made it as far as she did.
What did you think of last night's episode? Have you been rooting for Tiffany or do you agree it was her time to go?