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Recap: Top Chef All-Stars, Episode 15, Last Supper

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It's Semi-Finals week on Top Chef! The final 3 competed in a challenging quickfire, and cooked last suppers that brought Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Bernstein, and Masaharu Morimoto back to their childhoods.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]

Confession: I thought this week was the finale episode. Nope! Still another whole week to go! Bravo's really stretching out this season, aren't they? It feels like it's been on since the Reagan administration.

The Quickfire

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Wolfgang Puck joined Padma in the kitchen as guest judge for this week's Quickfire. Mike Isabella was really excited, and said Puck was "the only chef he knew" as a little kid. In your face, Chef Boyardee! Now please pack your knives and go.

The chefs assigned memorable quickfire challenges to their fellow chefs. Mike won the last challenge, so he picked first. He gave "canned foods" to Antonia, Antonia gave "hot dogs" to Richard, and Richard gave "one pot" to Mike.

The challenge seemed really easy... almost too easy. Shh... what's that noise? That's right! It's the sound of another totally predictable Top Chef plot twist! The horror!

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Padma showed up half way through the challenge with eliminated contestant Carla Hall and introduced a new twist: each chef would have to finish the quickfire with a limitation. Richard had Mike Isabella cook without any utensils, Antonia had Richard cook with only one hand, and Antonia had to finish the challenge tied to a single apron with Carla.

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Ten minutes, lots of swearing, and a shot of Mike Isabella taking his frustration out on a kitchen rack later, and the quickfire was over! Richard made hot dogs and homemade bread, but Wolfgang said it was "too ketchup-y" but his "kids would like it." Sorry, Richard. Too bad this wasn't a "Create A Dollar Menu At Chuck E. Cheese" challenge, because then you might have won. Now run along to the back room and complain about how awful life is.

Antonia made a curry coconut soup with shrimp, sausage, peanuts, and fish sauce. Wolfgang liked it and said she did a great job considering she only had canned ingredients to work with, but ultimately it was too concentrated for him.

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Mike Isabella won the quickfire, with his braised pork shoulder dish. He managed to pull the whole thing together in 45 minutes, and Wolfgang said it was perfectly balanced. Mike won another $5,000 and even more momentum going into the elimination challenge.

Elimination Challenge

20110323-tc5.jpg The chefs arrived at the Ocean Club and were met by Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Bernstein, and Masaharu Morimoto (or, as Antonia called him, a "really freaking scary Japanese warrior"). The challenge was to prepare a last supper for each of the chefs, or the one meal they would want to eat if they knew it was going to be their last.

Mike won the quickfire, so he picked first. He chose Michelle Bernstein, who asked him to make fried chicken and biscuits. He then assigned Morimoto to Antonia, and Puck to Richard. Morimoto asked Antonia to make miso soup with sashimi, and Wolfgang asked Richard to make goulash with apple strudel and spaetzle.

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Things went fine in the kitchen except for a few minor hiccups. Blais couldn't get his pressure cooker open, and Antonia's hamachi smelled completely rancid so she couldn't use it. Antonia opted for tuna instead, and called it a day.

Judges' Table

Antonia's dish was up first. She made a tuna sashimi bento box, with pickled daikon, mushrooms, and eggplant along with miso soup and rice. Morimoto complained that the soup was too salty, while Gail Simmons coughed and said the "tuna blew out her mouth." I'm sure there's a joke to be made there, but I'm not touching it with a 10 foot pole.

Mike Isabella made fried chicken with pea puree, and egg yolk empanadas with mustard gravy. Morimoto said his white meat was dry and the batter wasn't crispy. Michelle Bernstein lamented the chicken wasn't juicy.

Golden child Blais made beef goulash, spaetzle with liquid nitrogen-blasted sour cream, and apple strudel. The onions were undercooked, the dish was not hot enough, and the spaetzle was tough.

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After about 5 minutes of anticlimactic deliberation, the judges declared Richard Blais the winner of the challenge.

Padma held up a super-secret envelope, and explained there was going to be one more challenge to determine who would get the last spot. Really? ANOTHER FREAKING CHALLENGE? I don't want to get off on a rant here, but what the heck was the point of the last 30 minutes of the show? The judges couldn't base their decision on that? Blasphemy!

The final, final challenge was a "one bite" competition. Mike and Antonia had 45 minutes to create a bite-sized dish for each of the judges.

Antonia went with a seared grouper in coconut lobster broth. The judges said it was bright and local, but very powerfully flavored. Isabella made surf and turf with caramelized olives and chimichurri sauce. The judges had a hard time and it came down to a 4/3 split, and in the end, they sent Antonia home because her curry was "too overspiced." I admit I was sad to see her go. I really wanted to see her whip those big-headed egotistical guys in the finale, but no such luck.

So there you have it! Next week really is the finale (I promise!) and it will feature Richard Blais and Mike Isabella creating their dream restaurants and competing for the title of Top Chef All Star. I'm team Isabella. Where do you stand?

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