I love “Top Chef.” And I love “Top Chef” more now that they did something so right last night. But more on that in a bit. The show began as the chef-testants were being filmed in their dorm, which, as it turns out, is in Brooklyn with a great view of Manhattan. Then host Padma Lakshmi showed up and asked them to meet her on the building’s roof, which really showed off the amazing view. You could also see Ellis Island, which is where immigrants had to pass through on their way to the “new world” a century or so ago.

The quickfire challenge would be to create a dish using only the ingredients and cooking utensils that were on board the ferry boat to Ellis Island. So, you know, hot dogs, chips and Twinkies. Blue Hill’s Dan Barber was the guest judge and would be for the elimination challenge as well.

The least favorite dishes were Richard’s hot dog jerky sandwich, that was partially aided by some packets of something that boils hot dogs that he had in his jacket; Tiffany’s nachos and popcorn with candied mango; and Mike’s peasant soup made with bread, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos. Dan commented that that soup could have sunk the ship. Ha! His favorites were Carla’s orange papaya salad and Antonia’s grilled cheese sandwich with apples made on the hot dog roller. And the winner was Carla.

For the elimination challenge, it was mighty interesting. As they were on Ellis Island, genealogists had helped each chef-testant trace their family trees a bit, and the challenge was to create something that showcased their roots. But joining them for dinner and in helping to come up with their ideas were family members and loved ones…..the moms of Antonia, Mike and Tiffany; Richard’s pregnant wife and Carla’s husband. Too cool. And then as they were looking at the geneaology results, they realized that Mike and Antonia are actually distant relatives. Ha! Now that was funny, and they kept playing up the whole cousin thing.

So Carla and Tiffany, who are both African American, found out where their ancestors had originated from in the US–Carla in the south in states like Tennessee and Mississippi; and Tiffany in Texas and Louisiana. So Carla made pork shoulder with grits and cheddar biscuits; and Tiffany made short ribs with stewed okra and rice with oxtail marmalade. Antonia and Mike were both Italian, and Mike made gnocchi with pork ragout; and Antonia veal shank with risotto. Richard had Irish and English roots and made short ribs with bone marrow, corn puree and pickled glass wart (or sea beans). Wow.

So Padma asked all of them to come into the judge’s table, and what they found out was that they loved every dish. How could they possibly eliminate someone? Well, first they announced that the overall winner was Antonia. She was automatically advancing to the finale and also won a new Toyota. Mike was also safe and in the finale. So it was down to Richard, Carla and Tiffany. Padma said, “Richard, please pack your knives……you’re going to the finale!” Yikes! Of all people to do that to, they made Richard sweat for 10 seconds and made me and Mrs. Mike angry for those 10 seconds.

Okay, down to Carla and Tiffany. Man, what a tough choice. Padma said, “Carla…….Tiffany…..you’re both going to the finale!” And folks, that’s why I love this show. The judges decide who will be eliminated and they are almost always fair. And in this case, they made absolutely the right call–turning a Final Four into a Final Five.

So there you have it. Next week Mike, Antonia, Carla, Tiffany and Richard will compete for the grand prize of Top Chef, but with the added status of Top Chef All-Star. And that will all take place in the Bahamas, with this added nugget–each chef will compete head to head against the chef that won their respective season. Oooooohhhh. That’s good TV.

Thanks for reading and see you all next week….