Thursday, December 2, 2010

Top Chef:All Stars 12/1/10--"History Never Repeats"

Previously on “Top Chef”: 7 seasons of drama and people I hated until the next season started and I thought “Jesus, ANYONE but this guy”. (click for more)

I will say that I like there are no winners in this group. We’re back in New York for this season, and it seems Tony Bourdain is a permanent judge. Love him. Lots of clips of people talking about how awesome they are and how they deserve another chance. It’s the usual prizes except they get $200,000 if they win. Also the opening credits are hard core, but interspersed with people like, dancing around. Like if you told a choreographer you needed people to move around with pans and then played the theme music for him. And then all the graphics were hard-edged red and black. Tiffani arrives first, and I see we’re leaving out the LAST All-Star “Christmas” challenge where she won. Stephen, “hospitality entrepreneur”, gets a clip of the argument with Candice who called him a tool and a douchebag. Hee. Elia was angry not to win. She says this time she will win. She hopes Marcel matured. He thinks he was a threat. I think he was just in a season with jerks. Did you know he has a cooking show on Sci Fi? Oh, sorry, Syfy. Tre! You know, when people think of Restaurant Wars they think of Tre going home that challenge, because Restaurant Wars sends home strong competitors and I’m glad to see him get another chance. Dale L…damn, there are two Dales. OK, DaleL was from Season 3, and he made it to the finale. Casey is here too, so we can see a clip of both her and DaleL losing to Hung. Richard Blais is taking time off from “Iron Chef”, I guess, where he is one of Cat Cora’s sous chefs. You’ll remember he choked in the finale. Also HIS new cooking show will be on Discovery…so take that, Marcel. Spike…Spike, a backwards baseball cap is still an asshat. Antonia is here too and admits she doesn’t like Spike.

DaleT is Asian Dale who got into that giant fight with Jen and whoever in the Stew Room. Anger management. He’ll be entertaining and possibly crazy pants. Jamie, season 5, was the blonde girl that Stefan was always flirting with even though she likes girls. Fabio! Yay! He says he does not want to see Marcel, because of the reunion dinner that Fabio hosted and Marcel forgot that he agreed to come to the dinner so he should have expected people would ask him about the drama on his season. And also for the record NO ONE SHAVED YOUR HEAD MARCEL. You got held down, which was wrong, but no one actually got any of your hair. Fabio loudly declares he will not take a bunk bed because they squash his balls. I don’t know. Carla! Everyone is happy to see her. Jen, from season 6, that I think was just a solid chef. I can’t think of anything. Mike I. Why is Mike I. here? He’s such a tool. Angelo is back and wants to make up for being sick. I don’t think his “villainy” stacks up against the likes of Tiffani and Spike. Tiffany (must keep separate from Tiffani) is also back from his season. Ok, I think that’s everyone.

Jesus, 18 people? Everyone puts on black chef’s jackets and heads for the kitchen. Padma and Tom remind them they’re all losers because they haven’t won yet. She tells them the cash prize, and they pretend they weren’t already told what it was. I don’t know, maybe they weren’t.

Dear TLC, there is no fucking way I am watching your “Top Chef: Just Desserts”/“Cupcake Wars”/“Food Network Challenge” rip-off with The Cake Boss. Love, Toyouke.

Tom says they all talk big about how great their seasons were and now it’s time to back it up. Each chef will team up with the other chefs from their season to create a dish representing the city where their season took place. Winners get immunity. Nice.

25 minutes to cook. Antonia says that having 4 people from their season makes it harder to be heard and agree on what you’re doing. Angelo and Tiffany are making crab cakes. Jamie thinks she is stronger than Carla and Fabio, so she convinces them they should each make their own dish. I see. Elia and Marcel are making fish tacos. It looks like Elia tries to give Marcel a fist bump but he leaves her hanging. A very long shot of people freaking out and pretty much running into the cameramen. Tiffani calls herself and Stephen “the original gangsters”. Hee. Mike thinks “Vegas” equals “Old School Italian Mobster Scene.” Richard has busted out the liquid nitrogen to make mustard ice cream. I think. Spike makes fun of him. Stephen bumps Angelo and Angelo drops his fish on the floor. He doesn’t really blame Stephen but scrambles to cover it. Tre is trying to make sure the pork is cooked. Lots of last minute flailing.

Season 1: San Francisco. Cioppino gazpacho with sourdough. Season 2: L.A. shrimp tacos with guacamole in an apple wrapper. Sadly, it’s like, a huge pile of guacamole that dwarfs the shrimp and is too big for the wrapper. Mike calls Marcel a spoiled child. I can’t even…seriously? Season 3: Miami. Pork tenderloin, avocado lime puree, tostones, mango habanero sauce. Season 4: Chicago. Pork and black pepper sausage, mustard ice cream. It’s supposed to be a Chicago-style dog. Season 5: New York: curried apple soup, pasta with caramelized apple, and rib eye with apple walnut blue cheese slaw. Padma declares it “interesting” which Carla calmly tells us is the kiss of death. I can’t replicate her delivery, but it was hilarious. Season 6: Vegas. Bucatini with bacon lobster carbonara. Season 7: D.C. Crab cake essence with rockfish, lemongrass, jalapeno, and Old Bay.

Marcel and Elia failed, the apple was too thin and the shrimp was not seasoned properly. Tiffani and Stephen had too much raw garlic. Carla, Fabio, and Jamie had two poor dishes; only the soup was good (and I think it was Jamie’s, so I guess she was right). Tiffany and Angelo had too much salt. Miami had great flavors, Chicago was inventive (well, yes, mustard ice cream is inventive), and Mike can make pasta apparently. The winners are DaleT, Spike, Richard, and Antonia. Mike whines about it.

Elimination challenge: this involves a very large number of covered trays. Padma knows no one wants to go home. She tells them to lift the covers and they find…random items. For each chef, someone did their research and collected the ingredients that caused them to be eliminated, and now they’re being presented to the chefs on silver trays. See, the only one I can think of is CJ and the broccolini, but he’s not here sadly. I love it. And it gets better: not only are you using the same ingredients, but you must make the same dish that sent you home. Only this time, hopefully it won’t suck. You can improve on the dish but you can’t stray too far. They will have 3 hours tonight and 2 hours tomorrow.

Spike not only has scallops, but FROZEN scallops. That he tried to blame on the guest judge, but it wasn’t his fault and also shut up asshat. DaleT reminds us that he made “miso butterscotch scallops” and also that Tony Bourdain was there that night. Hee. There seems to be a lot of chatting. Fabio made crawfish and crab stew, which he thought was fine, but apparently not. He also points out that if you go home twice for the same dish, you’re pretty stupid. Stephen has to make 3 dishes, as he went home during Restaurant Wars for not spending enough time in the kitchen. So he has no idea what he’s doing. Tre doesn’t think Stephen can cut it. Elia made snapper in a ti leaf but thought it was fine. So this answers the question of finalists who make 4 or 5 dishes and what dishes they’ll have to make. They just pick the one the judges disliked the most. Elia is going to stick to the same dish, pretty much, as she thought her dish was fine. I sense the theme of the evening. Jamie went home during the episode where they had to make all of Eric Ripert’s dishes, and she never liked the dish anyway. Richard says Angelo has “spiked [his] curiosity”. Angelo’s making ramen again. DaleT fills something with liquid nitrogen, and when Angelo comes by to comment that he should refrain from blowing himself up, DaleT admits he didn’t measure; he just waited until it got “crazy” and then turned off the valve. Hee. Tiffany thinks he’s just doing random stuff. Mike has to make braised leeks again. Oh, I remember those. Ha. Jen is carefully not making her dish too salty. Carla reminds us of how Casey convinced her to make some sous vide dish, and then everyone blamed Casey but I don’t think it was really her fault. Carla is determined to cook her food no matter what. Spike is screwing around, trying to hide his scallops, as he has immunity so he can do whatever he wants.

Commercial interlude: Jesus Christ, we have to bring up the head shaving.

At the Russian Tea Room, everyone has 2 hours to prep. Tom comes in and tells them they’re going to serve in two groups. One group will cook while one will eat. Nice. Tom says they can comment or not, as if they’ll refrain from commenting. Winner of this challenge gets $10,000. This is going to be a long day, if they have 2 hours of cooking, then tasting, then another 2 hours of cooking and then tasting for the second group. Stephen can’t get done in time. I think he finishes and has food, but he says it’s not at the level he wants. Richard goes over time but no one will say anything to him, they’ll just talk behind his back. Back in the kitchen there’s a TV so the chefs can watch the reactions. Elia doesn’t want to watch.

Richard: pork belly with bread and butter radishes, mirin and cheddar. Jen and Casey liked it. Angelo: homemade ramen with sweet glazed pork belly and watermelon. They like it too. DaleT: butterscotch miso scallops with crispy long beans and spicy eggplant. Tony gives him props for digging himself out of the hole. Tiffany: pan seared halibut with coconut curry, steamed rice balls, and pea tendrils. Antonia and Carla don’t think it’s perfect. Tre: cured wild king salmon, grapefruit gelee, salted macadamia cookie. Jen thought the “macadamian toast” was too overpowering. Tiffani: crispy branzino, black olive pappardelle and spicy fennel. Branzino is a type of sea bass. I think they like it. Stephen: OK, I was going to try, but he had to remake 3 appetizers, and the chyrons are on the screen so briefly I can’t copy them. It’s a lobster egg roll, a savory oyster sabayon, and crab soup dumplings. They don’t like them. Tony says there are people who could solve this problem. Stephen did not solve this problem. Fabio: handmade caserecci pasta, crawfish and crab stew. Tony hates it. He says it looks like it’s an inside out animal. Fabio claims he’s going to tell Tony where he can put his comment. Elia: red snapper steamed in ti leaf with snapper jus. DaleL complains that it’s super watered down with no personality. I think also earlier someone found a scale.

Second group cooking time. Casey is slightly intimidated after eating everyone else’s food. Jamie still hates the dish. Fabio, to his credit, goes right after Tony, as he counted how many time Tony said he hated the dish. As the food is served, the second group finds the TV and realizes they’re really in for it. Antonia: sausage with cilantro, pigeon pea puree and roasted cherry blossoms. Tre could have eaten the whole dish, but Tiffany says it was incomplete. Spike: pickled mushrooms, scallops, lime dressing with hearts of palm salad. They could have lived without the scallops (which was the point), and Tony gives him points for being a crafty motherfucker and coming up with a solution for crappy product. Jamie: pan seared black bass, celery, green peppercorn sauce and herb salad. They like it, so she’s relieved. Mike: melted leeks, carrot puree and salt-crusted potatoes. They like it and think it’s pretty. Sigh. DaleL: curry poached lobster dumplings, chanterelle, corn and bacon. DaleT says the dumpling is pasty. Stephen doesn’t like it either. Carla: grilled strip steak, smashed potatoes, tarragon butter, and red wine sauce. Tiffani liked it but Angelo got some gristle. Casey: molasses glazed pork belly, pickled peaches, whipped crème fraiche. Gail says there is no doubt she redeemed herself. Marcel: uni and caviar, Meyer lemon gelee, fennel cream and kalamata olive dust. Tre doesn’t like it but Fabio at least gives him credit for putting it out. Jen: duck, squash, foie gras, apple cider vinaigrette, micro arugula. The duck ‘wasn’t there” and Tiffani was shocked it wasn’t as good as she expected. Yeah…Jen works for Eric Ripert. So I think everyone expected her to school all of them.

Back in the Stew Room everyone hangs out, discusses their screw-ups, and also how Richard was working after time. Padma collects Spike, Jamie, Richard, and Angelo. There is polite applause. These are the winners, of course, but before they start Tom tells Richard that he’s only there because they want to acknowledge he made a great dish, even though he went over his 2 hour time limit. Richard looks super confused, which lends weight to Tiffany’s theory that he was just too focused to notice time was up. Tom watched the tapes. They make him leave, which is kind of harsh. He explains to the people left in the Stew Room, and while people like Mike commiserate with him, you can easily tell who was in his cooking group because all those people look smug. OK, back to the winners. Jamie’s fish was crispy and the celery was great, but she still wouldn’t serve it. Angelo had to kill it to make the dish work, and he did. Spike chose a smart way to deal with a serious problem. The winner is Angelo. He’s really pleased and shockingly humble. Everyone congratulates him but DaleT thinks Richard’s disqualification was bullshit. Rules are rules, and also how do you know he had the best dish when you only tasted half of them? AND he cooked with you?

Fabio, Stephen, and Elia enter to the Loser Gong. Not quite who I expected for the first eliminated. Stephen knows he wasn’t around the first time the dish was made. He and Tony get into it about the color of the dish and the texture, as Stephen thinks he was fine. All his proportions were off. Elia thought she did well, but Gail got a raw piece of fish. Elia was pushing for medium, she says, but Tom cuts her off and says he asked her if she was going for raw. Then when she tries to say she didn’t check if every piece of fish was done in the center, Tom interrupts her again to say Gail’s fish was raw on top. Oh, that’s not good. Tony thinks she couldn’t overcome the dish’s problems. Fabio thinks the only problem the first time was it was too light. This time, it was overdone and looked horrifying. Fabio stands up for himself and tells Tony he is fine with criticism but not being made fun of, which is what Tony did all through the meal. A valid point. But that is Tony. Padma dismisses them, and Elia pipes up to beg them not to eliminate her because she has “a lot more to do”.

Elia’s dish should have had improvements, but she just shut down and did the same dish. And it was not cooked properly. Fabio’s dish was muddled and was sort of a pasta dish and sort of a gumbo. Stephen had no idea what the dishes were supposed to be, so he couldn’t improve on them.

Tom attacks everyone again, as always, and then Padma sends Elia home. She’s very upset. I kind of am OK that I get a few more weeks of Fabio and Stephen. Yeah, she’s too upset to even say the usual “This won’t stop me, I’m still a good chef, etc.”

This season: Paula Deen (proclaiming to someone she could “whip your cute little ass“), Jimmy Fallon, tennis, small children, Elmo and Cookie Monster, cook head to head against Tom, someone’s sent to the hospital, drama from Marcel, Mike yells at someone, diners are ready to walk out like on “Hell’s Kitchen“, Jen talks back to the judges.

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