Final two battle for Top Chef All-stars tonight in The Bahamas
No one will have to take to the”Stew Room”tonight to wait it out to see who will be sent home, as the top five”cheftestants”have been chopped to two, and millions of Top Chef fans will watch tonight as the winner of Top Chef All Stars is revealed from The Bahamas.
It took its eighth season, but one of the hottest food shows on television which airs on Bravo TV(Channel 483)shot three episodes in The Bahamas in early February. The season finale airs tonight beginning at 10 p.m. with either Richard Blais or Mike Isabella walking away with the title of Top Chef All-Stars.
Blias and Isabella out-cooked three other finalists in Carla Hall, Tiffany Derry and Antonia Lofaso to rise to the top two of the chef cooking show, which surprisingly brought five finalists to The Bahamas(rather than the top four chefs they usually take). This year, the judges(Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons)simply could not make a decision on just four people, hence five finalists making it to Bahamian shores.
In the first of the four episodes shot in The Bahamas, Carla Hall, the owner of Executive Chef of Alchemy Caterers in Washington, D.C. who was originally on season five, was the first chef eliminated three weeks ago. TiffanyDerry, a contestant from season seven, the Executive Chef at Dallas hotspot Go Fish Ocean Club, was the next competitor told to pack her knives and go by Judge Lakshmi two weeks ago, followed by Antonia Lofaso, who is currently a national spokesperson for companies such as Stouffer’s and Sara Lee, last week. It was one female after the other exiting the show, setting up the all-male finale between Richard Blais and Mike Isabella. So tonight, it’s literally the last supper for the two men as they battle it out for the title of Top Chef All Stars in The Bahamas.
But it was by no means an easy task as last week as Lofaso and Isabella had to compete in a run-off of sorts, creating one-bite amuse bouches to see who would make it through with Blais.
Lofaso presented the judges with a piece of grouper sitting on a vegetable curry which the judges said was good, but powerful. The coconut lobster broth with curry, yam, dill and apple was very good and flavorful, and even though the voting was very close, the judges went with Isabella’s steak tartare, potato, lobster tail tempura and chimichurri sauce, a dish with a lot of textures and temperatures.
This after the three chefs had an elimination challenge that could be best described as cruel and unusual, having to cook the last supper for three culinary icons in Wolfgang Puck, Masaharu Morimoto and Michelle Bernstein at the Balmoral Club.
Lofaso, cooking for Morimoto, did a tuna sashimi with pickled radishes, mushrooms, roasted Japanese eggplant with miso soup and rice.
Blais had to make goulash, spaetzle and strudel for Puck, and Isabella cooked fried chicken with Latin egg yolk empanada and gravy for Bernstein.
The week prior, the contestants cooked with conch as the main ingredient for the judges who were flanked by members of the Nassau Yacht Club. The meal was cooked and served under tough conditions on a windy day on Rose Island.
The chefs had to first dive their own conch from the sea floor and extract them(which is something the average Bahamian can’t even do). They then had to prepare their meal on the beach on a day that turned out to be quite cool and windy by Bahamian standards, for the judges and a group comprised largely of members of the Nassau Yacht Club to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
Judge Tom Colicchio found Isabella’s dish, banana-wrapped grouper with braised pineapple and warm conch vinagigrette, to be one of the most successful, not only on the day, but of the entire season. On his blog Chef Colicchio said Isabella’s dish with banana leaf lent a satisfying smokiness to the dish, giving it a flavor that was hard to put a finger on. The conch vinaigrette he said was delicious, and the fish inside the banana leaf nicely cooked. All the components he said came together beautifully, and as good as each one was, the whole he said was even greater than the sum of its parts and that it was a terrific dish. It was from this challenge that Derry went home for her conch and coconut chowder with sweet potatoes and conch ceviche.
In their first challenge, the contestants were told they would be cooking for Bahamian royalty who turned out to be Percy”Vola”Francis, leader of the Saxons Junkanoo group at a stall at Arawak Cay.
Hall’s undoing was her pork medallion with sweet potato puree, apple sauce and apple chip which sent her home in the first episode shot in The Bahamas, after a fire in the kitchen at the fish fry stall that they were using rattled the chefs. The opening segment had the cooks whipping up a few goodies overlooking Nassau Harbour, atop Fort Charlotte, in a Quickfire Challenge that saw them pitted against their individual season winners.
Eighteen chefs started the competition, all of whom were favorites from the respective seven earlier seasons of Top Chef, but who did not win their season, and were brought back for a chance at redemption. But Tre Wilcox(season three), Tiffani Faison(season one), Stephen Asprinio(season one), Spike Mendelsohn(season four), Marcel Vigneron(season two), Jennifer Carroll(season six), Jamie Lauren(season three), Fabio Viviani(season five), Elia Aboumrad(season two,)Dale Talde(season four), Dale Levitski(season three), Casey Thompson(season three), and Angelo Sosa(season seven), all fell by the wayside–but not in that particular order.