Virginia Sherwood/Bravo
Brian Orloff
March 10, 2011 09:25 AM

They’ve arrived in the Bahamas – and not for a vacation.

Five chefs were left to battle it out in the Top Chef finale in an episode that supplied one heated Quickfire challenge and an actual fire.

Immediately faced with the chefs who defeated them on their original seasons, the finalists – Richard Blais, Tiffany Derry, Antonia Lofaso, Carla Hall and Mike Isabella – were fighting for redemption and $10,000 in the challenge, which found them using proteins hand-selected by Tom Colicchio.

While each of the five had plenty to prove, Tiffany got a major boost from besting Kevin Sbraga, who beat her in season 7. The late-in-the-game victory not only netted her some cash, but it helped relieve her nagging anxiety about being the underdog.

The other chefs fared equally well – mostly. Mike Isabella beat powerhouse Michael Voltaggio, while Richard Blais beat out Stephanie Izard and Antonia with his veal. Unfortunately, Carla had a rough go of it. Her undercooked rice undermined her lamb dish, and caused her to fall to her season’s winner, Hosea Rosenberg.

Fire! Fire!

And her poor performance seemed to foreshadow events ahead.

Told they were cooking for Bahamian royalty, the chefs dreamed up rich, high-end dishes fit for a king. But as it turns out, the producers had something very different in mind.

Upon arrival at their mystery destination, the chefs learned they were actually cooking for Vola, a.k.a. the King of Junkanoo, a Carnival-like parade that occurs each winter, as well as his crew. And they’d be doing it in a relatively sparse kitchen with just deep fryers, a flattop and microwaves.

As they got busy, reimagining their dishes on the fly, disaster struck. One of the deep fryers caught fire, shooting flames and forcing a kitchen evacuation and major delay of the evening’s meal. When the chefs learned their food and prep work had been tainted by chemicals, they all looked dismayed, though Colicchio reminded them this would be an opportunity to start over if they weren’t happy with their original concept.

Antonia and Richard took the bait, switching up their dishes rather drastically, while the other three dutifully got to work re-cooking their meals.

A ‘Disappointing’ Result

In the end, Antonia’s new dish, a variation on shrimp and grits, failed to impress the judges, who griped about her overcooked prawns and the beige mystery meat lurking underneath those grits. Meanwhile, Richard’s new plate, a play on cannelloni which cleverly used a papery slice of turnip instead of traditional pasta, landed him in the top.

Mike’s sous vide chicken was a touch dry, but he ultimately claimed the finale’s first win, and the judges rhapsodized about his rich sauce which tied his chicken and lobster hash together beautifully.

Tiffany was once again in the bottom – for playing it too-safe. Carla, too, had a bad day. The judges thought her pork dish, with a crispy apple chip and sweet potatoes, was treacly, greasy and undercooked.

Her pork tenderloin hadn’t cooked all the way through, and Gail Simmons got a raw, inedible piece. It was a fatal error, and Carla knew it, which is why her unfortunate elimination didn’t shock anybody – least of all her.

“The judges made the right decision,” she said, acknowledging the “disappointing” outcome. “I didn’t have a winning dish.”

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