The episode begins six months after the last episode ended. In the interim, Stephanie traveled in southeast Asia. Antonia opened a restaurant and did you know she's got a daughter? Richard did nothing apparently, and Lisa got a bad short haircut and seems to have lost some weight.
Quickfire Challenge. The Guest Judge is Wilo Benet, a famous Puerto Rican chef. The challenge is to make frituras, or fritters, which are a common Puerto Rican beach food, for Padma and Wilo. It's important for the cheftestants to use plantains, as Wilo explains that they are probably the most traditional Puerto Rican ingredient. Stephanie made tostones (a flattened fried green plantain) with seared tuna and a pork & shrimp fritter with brown butter and lime. Antonia made crispy oysters with a cilantro plantain jam and a fried yellow plantain with spicy slaw. Lisa made tostones with pan-roasted duck and mango papaya salsa and a sweet plantain, red onion and chorizo fritter with chutney slaw. Richard made pork meatballs with ripe plantain sauce and green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa. Wilo Benet thought Antonia's fell flat because she didn't integrate the ingredients well enough, and her plantain jam had a slimy texture. Richard's meatball was dry and the raw plantain tasted...raw? I didn't really understand that criticism. Stephanie did well with portion size and flavor balancing. Lisa executed her tostones well, but could have sliced the meat smaller. The winner is Stephanie, for her first quickfire win ever! She doesn't get immunity, but she does get an advantage to be named later.
After a welcoming party with traditional food and music, the cheftestants learn about their Elimination Challenge, which will take place at La Fortaleza, the Puerto Rican governor's residence. 100 VIPs and chefs are invited to a garden party catered by the cheftestants, who have to use a whole pig to create their dishes. They will get help from the previously eliminated contestants: Dale, Nikki, Spike, and Andrew. As winner of the Quickfire, Stephanie gets to assign the pairs. She picks Dale for herself, and then pairs Richard and Spike, Antonia and Nikki, and Lisa and Andrew. Dale somehow manages to leave one of Stephanie's dishes, a pork belly with a spice rub, sitting out on the counter overnight. Stephanie immediately decides to trash it, knowing that cooking it could lead to some bad trichinosis for the party guests. Dale feels terrible about his oversight.
Richard cooks BBQ pork shoulder, pork belly with pickled watermelon, ham & beans, and ribs with Malta glaze. Antonia does pork belly with sweet peppers, pork sausage with pigeon peas and rice, and curried pork. Lisa makes yuca and pork rellena, citrus braised pork belly, and adobo roasted pork tostone. Stephanie ends up doing chicharrones (fried pig skin), fruit, and prosciutto salad, coconut pork with plantain pancake, and pork satay on sugar cane. The first dish was her last-minute replacement for the bad pork that Dale effed up.
After the judges (Padma, Tom, Gail, and Wilo) have a chance to sample all of the dishes, it's time for Judges' Table. They call Richard and Stephanie out first, since they were clearly better, as always. Wilo announces that it was a unanimous decision, and the crowd agreed, that Richard is the winner. And he wins a car!
Antonia and Lisa have to face the judges next, knowing that they were the bottom two. Lisa gets criticized for doing traditional Latin food when she's known for Asian cooking. She is? Where have I been? Antonia realizes that her beans were undercooked, but didn't realize it until too late, and she takes some criticism for serving all of her food on one dish, which the judges feel was too rustic and not sophisticated enough. And then the judges keep Lisa! WTF? I mean, Antonia is no Stephanie or Richard, but Lisa just sucks. Blergh. To the surprise of no one, Lisa is all bitchy after Antonia leaves, because Richard and Stephanie didn't congratulate her quickly enough. Oh, go suck on a lemon, Lisa. Oh, wait. By your facial expression, you've been sucking on one all season long.
It's time for the first part of the finale, and the cheftestants are all arriving in Puerto Rico. After some establishing shots of scenic Puerto Rico, we learn that it's been six months since the last challenge, and Stephanie has traveled in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. It's like her own personal No Reservations. At the airport in Puerto Rico, Stephanie welcomes Antonia with a hug. It turns out that Antonia opened a restaurant since the last challenge and has been "cooking a hundred hours a week." Did you know she's got a daughter? And her daughter is used to her not being around "six or seven nights a week"? Which would be the whole week, if my calculations are correct. Look I'm not saying she's a bad mom. I'm just pointing out what many have said previously: that working as a chef and trying to have a family are often incompatible. And no one knows that more than the next arrival, Richard, who recently welcomed a baby daughter to his family. Richard doesn't get a mention of how he spent the interim, though. He's happy to see Stephanie and Antonia, and adds that most people have anticipated those three being in the finals, but no one expected Lisa to get there. Nice of Richard to establish that Lisa is the redheaded stepchild in this scenario, but viewers already knew (and mostly agreed with) that. Speaking of Lisa, she poses while riding down an escalator in the airport, like who stands like that in normal life? I know that the first few episodes had aired before this was filmed, so maybe she's feeling self-conscious in front of the cameras now? She also got a bad short haircut and seems to have lost some weight. At least her face looks thinner; it was always pretty tough to tell what was going on under those bulky chef's coats anyway. The others greet her warmly but you know they're dying inside.
As they are driven to their accommodations, Lisa comments that it hasn't really hit her yet that they're in Puerto Rico. But it will soon! Because it's already time for the Quickfire Challenge. Padma welcomes the cheftestants to a cabana on the beach, which includes a table loaded down with various tropical-looking fruits. The guest judge is Wilo Benet, who Richard informs us is a famous Puerto Rican chef. Padma explains that one of the signature dishes of Puerto Rico is a fritura, or fritter, which is usually served on the beach with a cold beer. So it's like hot dogs at a baseball game or cotton candy at an amusement park. Although cotton candy and beer - not such a good combination. Trust me. Anyway, the challenge is to make frituras for Padma and Wilo. Wilo explains that plantains are probably the most traditional Puerto Rican ingredient, and Padma adds that the cheftestants' creations must include plantains. Stephanie interviews that, before coming to Puerto Rico, she obviously realized that using plantains might be required, so she tried out different ways of preparing them, and none of them worked out. Lisa says that plantains are fairly common so she assumes most chefs know how to work with them. Padma delivers the rest of the rules - forty-minute time limit and they can use anything on the table of produce or from the kitchen - and time begins.