Judges' Table. Padmahontas thinks that was "one of the most fun lunches we've had yet." "There's NOTHING better than a Telenovela to get your appetiteâ€¦rolling!" Gail exclaims with a lot of emphasis on "rolling." I don't even know what she's talking about, but I'm starting to think Gail's been away from the Top Chef camera for so long that she's trying to shove all her Gailness into one episode. Chef Frumkin adds, "They were knowledgeable about it -- they were like, talking about the ingredients and this and that -- it was very interesting." It was interesting that Latino people were knowledgeable about the food of their culture? Isn't that sort of like being pleasantly surprised that Italians can talk about lasagna? Colicchio mentions the "major twist" of the episode, which in keeping to the theme of this episode, should have included not just a time cut, but everyone sleeping together and then discovering evil twins. Everyone liked Joey's dish, but when it came to Lia's dish, Gail says, "Everyone sitting around me left her dish on their plate." Drama. Padmahontas screws up her face and says, "The polenta cake got so mushy -- that dish just didn't work for me at all." "She didn't go to the Latin theme," Chef Frumkin agrees. I know the dish itself wasn't a traditional Latin dish, but what about the fact that she used Latin flavors in it? They all pretty much hated Casey's dish as well, and Colicchio finally gets a word in edgewise, "That could have been the best coffee thing that we put in our mouths and it couldn't have saved dry chicken and God knows what that rice was." Next, they all bill and coo over Howie's pork, and Chef Frumkin loved it so much she rolls her "r"s when she goes on about his "red onion."
In the back, the cheftestants wait nervously. Padmahontas with her Digger O'Dell voice -- I actually had to turn my volume way up just to hear her -- asks to see Joey and Howie. Not at all hoodwinked by Padmahontas' playacting, Joey and Howie heave themselves triumphantly up, slap hands, and the leftover cheftestants applaud.
In front of the judges, Howie and Joey both stand at attention and gaze off into the distance. I can't believe they didn't call back Sara M.. Padma congratulates them and talks to them about their dishes. Joey explains that the "Spanish guys" in his kitchen make that dish for the family meal (sans lobster), and that's where he got the idea. He had never made it before and he wouldn't have done anything any differently had they been allowed the full three hours they were promised. Colicchio notes that Howie has a "smirk" on his face and wants to know what's up. "No, I was exactly on the opposite -- I thought I might be in trouble when we found out about that little curve ball," Howie says. "Is this going to be a regular thing for you? It seems like timing is your --" Gail says. "Achilles heel," Padmahontas finishes. "Yeah, your Achilles heel," Gail agrees. But an Achilles heel is a vulnerability, and Howie did well in this challenge, so how did timing end up being a bad thing for him? ["Gail and Padma need to acquaint themselves with one of my Grandpa's favorite words: 'bugaboo.' Timing has proved to be Howie's 'bugaboo.' It's a recurring obstacle for him, even if he occasionally overcomes it." -- Joe R] Meanwhile, Padmahontas assures Howie that his flavors were "spot on." The only thing that Howie felt he could have improved upon was letting the pork rest longer before he sliced it. Colicchio wants to know if they ate other dishes, and both guys talk about how much they loved each other's. Howie admits he was worried about his dish, "But when I got called in here with him, I said, 'If I'm in here with him, I gotta be in good shape.'" Chef Frumkin announces that Howie is the winner of the challenge and presents a bottle of "very, very nice" Argentinean wine as his prize. Howie stands there, nodding, until Joey pats him on the back, prompting him to stride up and accept his glories. Padmahontas sends them off with secret instructions on who to call back.