Top Chef: Finale Part I Predictions
This week, the final four chefs – Lisa Fernandes, Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard and Antonia Lofaso – head to Puerto Rico for the two-part finale of this season of Top Chef 4. Spike Mendelsohn just missed the cut last week as he was sent home instead of Lisa, who was also in the bottom two.

I feel like I am repeating myself this week, but I pretty much feel the same as I did before last week's episode: Richard, Stephanie and Antonia are my picks for the final three. While Lisa has never bugged me as much as she seems to irritate some viewers, I just want to see the chefs who have been stronger performers make it to the end.

With what appears to be a great deal of viewers also wanting to see Lisa head home, Top Chef 4 could alienate a lot of viewers if she doesn't. But with Richard and Stephanie being such strong contenders from the get-go (and Antonia has also been perceived to be a solid chef) the show also risks criticism that it has become predictable if they all become the final three.

So Top Chef 4 has seemed to put itself between a rock and a hard place for this episode. Send home the least-liked but most-obvious chef (Lisa), or play out a twist and tick off a lot of the viewers?

Of course, if the judging is as above-board as Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi say it is, their decision at judges table will just be about the food. But even with that, the editing of the entire season up to this point has certainly set Lisa up to be a kind of villain, so if she turns out to make it above one of the more likable chefs, there was still a choice made at some point by the producers to spin it strongly in that direction.

Last season, the win of “villain” Hung Huynh really offended many viewers who considered his self-interest and general lack of concern with being warm and fuzzy somehow anathema to actually being a Top Chef. (Having met my share of chefs, I have some quibbles with that idea, but to each their own.) There was the usual outraged chorus of “I'll never watch that show again!”

So on the first part of the finale of this season of Top Chef, we will learn if this season has the potential to bring us another decision as controversial as that one. Tune in Wednesday night to find out.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)