Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 1/19/11--"Restaurant Wars: One Night Only"

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: everyone had to fish and there were many lame fishing puns. And also groups. Carla won again, which was awesome, because making smoked fish lettuce wraps with bagel chips, with a view of New York, is a very good idea. Dale also made fish tacos, which is nice and casual. Richard, Marcel, and Fabio made one dish between the three of them, which was overly complicated (shocker), but then Tiffani and Jamie both made poor dishes, and ended up going home. (click for more)

Carla is proud of winning, and is glad to be one of 3 girls left. Richard is pretty cocky, because he’s only been on the bottom during team challenges. Antonia lets everyone know Carla and Tiffany refused to move into her room. Remember how Antonia was the Hammer in her season and everyone who was on a team with her got eliminated? She was on Tiffani and Jamie’s team last time. Heh. Last season, this season…crazy.

Everyone heads straight to Le Bernardin, awesome! Eric Ripert! But waiting for them is Tony. He describes the life of the butcher/fish person who breaks down the fish at Le Bernardin. Who needs 3 people to do his job when he goes on vacation. Who knows where this is going? They all go downstairs to the kitchen to meet Justo Thomas and watch him break down some fish. It’s awesome. Fabio claims to be moved to tears. Tony doesn’t patronize anyone, knowing and admitting they’ve all figured out what their task is for the Quickfire. Each person must cut up one cod and one fluke to “Le Bernardin” standards. Since Justo can do it in 8 minutes, they will have “the relatively luxurious time” of 10 minutes. Hee. Carla says “Woo hoo, I say to myself. Woo hoo.”

Tiffany says she knows how to do this, but maybe not nicely in such a short time. Marcel, apparently, used to be allergic to fish, but because he’s so damn awesome he just ignored the pain and now he’s not allergic to them anymore. That’s too bad. It would have been interesting to see him try to butcher the fish with swollen hands. Carla is slow, according to Mike. Fabio cuts through his thumbnail. As is required by this season’s contracts, he must mention Jamie.
Watching Justo check people’s filets is not exciting. He’s nice to everyone. Carla didn’t finish. Richard left some scales, Tre left some meat on the bones, Tiffany cut it “wrong”. Bottom: Carla, Fabio, Tiffany, Antonia. Tiffany is super embarrassed. Top: Dale, Richard, Mike, Marcel. Someone must win immunity, so the top four have 45 minutes to make something with the waste: heads, bones, etc. Nice. Richard has to ruin it though, by making it about using refuse and recycling and like, being a hippie tree hugger.

Mike is trying to borrow things from Marcel, I guess? And Marcel can’t fathom why he’d let anyone borrow anything from him or why they would ask. Mike just shrugs and says Marcel is a dick sometimes. Dale is totally cool with this challenge because he’s been doing this for forever. Mike isn’t worried about Marcel, but he knows it’ll be hard to beat Richard and Dale. Richard interviews that he used to be the “fish cook” at McDonald’s. He tries to pretend that sending out the Filet O’Fish without a top bun is “avant-garde” instead of “dumbass”. Marcel gets into the hippie “throwing away a life is wasteful” nonsense too. Not eating bones is not wasteful.

Richard: schnitzel of cod belly, ragout of braised collar and fried skin. Mike: pan roasted belly, confit cheeks, charred collar and tomato sauce. Dale: fluke back fin sashimi with cucumber and fluke liver sauce, and also bacon dashi with salt roasted cod collar. Marcel: cod mousseline, yuzu chili oil fluke broth. He feels the need to tell us that Tony tasted it wrong and didn’t get enough broth. Your excuses are old and tired.

Out in the dining room, everyone says they can’t guess who will win. Mike interviews that he just hopes Marcel doesn’t win because Marcel sucks. I smell an editor’s storyline. I mean, from what we’ve seen, Marcel is pretty obnoxious and a pain in the ass. I can figure that out on my own, though, I don’t need everyone to tell me in confessional.

Richard had good textures and flavors, Mike’s dish was light and delicious, Marcel was creative but had no texture, Dale had excellent variety and used the liver. The winner is Dale. He says he’s not going to slack.

Padma is waiting for them with Ludo Lefebvre, who was on Masters and also is very cute with short hair. He’s been working on some new concept called a “pop-up restaurant”, which is a restaurant that is only open for one night, or maybe a month. It uses existing kitchens, and allows a chef who maybe can‘t open his or her own place to get their name out and make some money. Or try out a concept without the risk of a big investment. It’s Restaurant Wars time! And all of them made it far enough that they’ve all experienced Restaurant Wars. And that’s when Dale and Tre were eliminated. Since Dale won the Quickfire, he gets to be one captain, but he also gets to pick the other captain. He picks Marcel, on the basis that he won’t work well with Marcel and wants him as far away as possible. Marcel, of course, is honored. Marcel picks first, and Richard demonstrates for us in confessional how he tried not to make eye contact so he wouldn’t get called on. Hee. He takes Angelo, who seems to be OK with it. Marcel’s team ends up being Angelo, Mike (who curses for us), Antonia, and Tiffany (she’s not super thrilled). Dale has Richard, Tre, Fabio (Dale can’t believe the other team wouldn’t snatch up his front-of-house mojo), and Carla. This time, the diners will decide who wins. Interesting.

Marcel says he tried to get the team with the most talent. They volunteer Tiffany for front of house, which she’s not really thrilled about because those are the people who tend to go home. Angelo works on her, saying she’s charming, which is true. Angelo is just slightly too awkward, and Mike is out, and Marcel is DEFINITELY out. Antonia could do it though. Tiffany eventually agrees. Dale is thinking about a market? Maybe? Marcel says “modern global cuisine” which is the most generic statement ever. Seriously. Angelo tries to take over, but Marcel tries to insist on getting a menu. They get distracted by details, and he gets pouty that they’re just supposed to be putting down ideas and they’ll decide at the end. Whatever. Pretty much what’s happening is no one respects Marcel, and my guess is they’re afraid of going home for his crappy leadership, so everyone is just ignoring him to decide what dishes they want to make. Mike is especially guilty of this. It’s pretty bad, and I’d feel bad but Marcel’s been kind of a jerk. Richard promises Fabio they’ll never abandon him with no food. Fabio says that Dale’s team is full of marathon runners, while Marcel’s team is full of sprinters, and cooking is a marathon. That actually is a very interesting analogy.

Back at the lofts they keep talking. Dale’s restaurant is “Bodega”, which seems casual and lowbrow. For example, I think Richard just said he was going to serve caviar with ranch dressing. “What your redneck cousin would get if he won the lottery”. Marcel wants to name his restaurant “Medi” because they all seem to be making Mediterranean flavors. Mike protests but the best he can come up with is that this name lacks “vision” because it’s just an abbreviation. That’s pretty weak, dude. Marcel tells him that the restaurant is named “Medi” until someone comes up with something better. Angelo tells him that if everyone else hates his name then he should do what they want. Yeah, but he’s the captain. You can’t demand he do what you want when we all know if you go down, you’re throwing him under the bus.

Everyone arrives at the restaurant they’re working in, but they’ve set up the kitchens outside on the patio. Interesting. 5 hours to prep. Marcel is worried about motivating everyone on this team. Team Bodega is making what seems to be homey traditional dishes with twists. I mean, you know Richard isn’t making “canned tuna”. Medi is making Mediterranean dishes, oxtail, gnocchi, fish. Marcel says something is a “reverse amuse” which is a small dessert, I guess.
Tom time! He comes to ask Marcel what is up. He and Mike are going to work the line, making entrees. Marcel says he’s working the line so that if someone screws up he can step in. Tom keeps at him, asking another question, but Marcel asks him to get lost so he can keep working. Tom interviews that Marcel’s energy is a weird energy. Dale’s dishes aren’t traditional bodega dishes, but it might be good. I think a bodega is a type of bar? Maybe? Tom tells everyone they have 1 hour left, and there will be one winner, who will get $10,000.

Fabio sets up the tables and greets the servers. He says he’ll deliver the 50% of the task that is not food. Marcel tells Tiffany how the eggs should be ice cold after cooking, because they’ll peel better, and some other stuff, and she just keeps saying “Yes” and mutters “Yes, chef, teach me how to cook an egg”. I mean…the eggs are in an immersion circulator. You could leave them in there all day and they’d be fine. She’s freaking out because she’s not doing her front of house stuff. She says she checked an egg and it was fine, but Marcel says they’re raw, so they need a new dish. He’s disappointed in his team. So they figure something else out, but Tiffany’s pissed because she should have just cooked the eggs the way she knows how to cook eggs. Marcel of course thinks the failure is because his team doesn’t listen to him. He thinks all his orders were “suggestions” but that in the end, Tiffany just can’t cook eggs. Why wasn’t she just making them herself in the first place? Why was she trying to use the immersion circulator and do whatever random stuff Marcel told her? Did he insist she do it that way? All I know is that no one is claiming responsibility. Mike tries to help Tiffany out, but she has to go meet the servers, and Angelo promises to take care of her dish. All of it is done but the egg yolks. I’m sure that’ll be important. Angelo is pissed because Marcel is insisting he include a foam. Bodega is pretty quiet, and has no issues, so Richard is worried. Fabio tells the servers to ask questions if they have any. Right before time is called Carla and Antonia (on opposing teams) wish each other good service.
OK, so it’s not Team Medi, but “Etch!!! Forever in your mind” which is possibly the lamest restaurant name in Top Chef history. Do you want your restaurant to have a name that sounds like the noise you make when you retch? Not a good idea. Dana Cowin is here but not eating with the judges. So instead of having the diners fill out cards, or something, and total scores (which is what I thought they were doing), instead the diners will eat at both restaurants. They’ll start in one and then switch to the other one, and pick which one they like best. Dale curses at the servers I guess because they’re too crowded around the pass. Fabio tells him to chill and to come to him with problems. Someone sends food back to Marcel’s team to be cooked more. Oops. Dana and her table trash Tiffany’s dish as she stands there. Not looking good. Which is unusual, because usually the team that looks like it will fail ends up winning. Fabio knows Dana must be kept happy, so he says “Dana, you about to have a date with me tonight”. Heh. It seems Dana likes Bodega’s concept better.

The judges show up to Bodega: Padma, Tom, Tony, and Ludo. Carla thinks they’ve hit their stride. Chips and herbs for snacks instead of bread. Richard: raw tuna belly and fried chicken skin with chilies and lime. It’s served in an oval metal can, which is why Richard was calling it “canned tuna”. Dale: bacon, egg, and cheese with homemade focaccia. It looks like a poached egg, a slice of bacon, and a thick slice of bread. Yum. Dale’s dish was easy but delicious, it seems. The tuna is great but some random guy complains the can makes it hard to eat. Fabio is checking in with the judges and directing the waiters, which Tom says no one has ever done before. Richard: chicken-fried codfish and “Brussels kraut”, which is Brussels sprouts cooked like sauerkraut. Tre: pork shoulder, grits with cheddar cheese, Corona and lime sauce. The pork shoulder is delicious and the sauce goes over well. I know I hate Corona itself but Corona sauce intrigues me. Richard’s dish is busy but it all works. Meanwhile over in the other restaurant, people are telling Tiffany they love the food. Fabio: amaretto cake with candied lemon peel and cappuccino mousse (yum). Carla: blueberry pie with dry milk ice cream. Tony fucking loves Fabio’s dish. Hee. Carla’s pie is good, but not necessarily something you crave over and over.

Tiffany has to explain the restaurant name to someone, and she’s not around to seat the judges. To their credit, there is a server who steps up and seats them so they’re not standing around forever. Back in the kitchen Marcel asks if they can talk more. Mostly Mike. Ludo notices that Tiffany is chatting with the guests, but not directing the waiters. Tom thinks it’s forced, as they can hear her laughing but not a lot of other people. Tiffany: frisee and shaved asparagus salad with egg and chorizo. Angelo: crudo of fluke, grapes, pink peppercorns, lemon zest. I am pretty sure she says Angelo’s dish is finished with “EVO”, which makes me think of Rachael Ray and…you’re better than that. Tiffany’s dish is under seasoned and not that great. Tom wishes the fish was the star in the crudo. A guest sends back some food because everything is cold. Marcel tells Mike to put plates directly on the grill so they’re hot. Yeah, that’s not the best idea. Mike and Marcel get in a fight because Marcel tells Mike “I got it” and I guess Mike takes offense to his tone. Angelo tells them to chill out, and says in confessional that if this was his actual restaurant he’d send Mike home to cool off. Marcel: roasted monkfish with kalamata olives, pepperonata, and parsley. Mike: braised pork belly and octopus with cannellini beans. The monkfish is mushy. Well, some random people like it but Tony calls it baby food. Mike’s dish goes over well. Back in the kitchen Marcel accuses Mike of sandbagging the monkfish to focus on his own dish. Angelo tells them both they’re affecting everyone negatively with their stupid argument, and Marcel claims they totally understand that, because they’re moving forward, so no more comments from the peanut gallery. Angelo just laughs. Antonia, who has said like two words this entire episode, just looks on. Smart girl. Antonia: ricotta gnudi, braised oxtail ragout, arugula and lemon zest. Mike and Angelo: slow cooked lamb chop, cauliflower puree, turmeric and honey. Antonia’s dish is too salty for Padma, but Tony loved it. The lamb has good flavors. Antonia is expediting, but Marcel disagrees with whatever she says, so she shuts him down. Much more politely than Marcel told Angelo to back off. Marcel: duo of peaches--unripened peach and sweet peach with coconut powder and foam. It’s smoking, of course. Tiffany throws Marcel under the bus and says that she “guesses” this is Marcel’s dish but multiple people have had their hands in it. Tony hates it. Fabio kisses hands and schmoozes. Love him. Marcel tries to be cocky, but Antonia is like, let’s be real here and not pretend we are awesome. She thinks he’s on drugs if he believes they did a great job. Marcel calls her “Debbie Downer” and gets pissed and then asks her what her problem is. Yeah.

Commercial interlude: Dale talks about his season and how he totally lost it and cursed up a storm during Restaurant Wars. In contrast, Fabio loves Restaurant Wars and managed to collect someone’s phone number.

Padma collects Marcel’s’ team first. Richard is upset. He shouldn’t be upset, though, because only 17 out of 76 diners (!) liked Etch better than Bodega. Damn, those are crappy numbers. Marcel claims last minute dish changes and pick-ups sunk them. Tom knows they didn’t have a plan to execute their food. Antonia felt a lack of togetherness and calm, and Angelo thinks someone should have organized the kitchen. No one will say who should have done that, which is telling. Angelo’s dish wasn’t Mediterranean enough, but there was too much going on anyway aside from the fish. Mike’s pork belly wasn’t flavorful enough, and the octopus needed char. Antonia’s was actually salty. Tony calls Marcel out on the foam, which he says was his way of getting parsley flavor into the dish. Tom wonders aloud if this is the best way to get the parsley flavor. There was no texture. Also no one liked the peaches. Tiffany lost flavor in her dish. And then Tom starts in on the service, and Tiffany immediately throws everyone else under the bus and says that when there are arguments on the line, it’s hard to control and then the waiters are all in the kitchen and not in the dining room. Oh, snap. Tom, who is no dummy, asks what the arguments are about, and Tiffany says “Oh, oh no” because she’s realizing what she just started. Mike, pretty calmly actually, explains that he and Marcel got into it because he didn’t like how Marcel was talking to him, Marcel didn’t like how he was doing the fish, and eventually Angelo stepped in and then they were fine. Marcel complains that Mike wouldn’t talk to him and tell him when things would be ready. Mike is like, I kept my mouth shut but it’s ON now, and calls Marcel on plating desserts during pick-up, and because Marcel can’t do two things at once, no wonder everything was jacked. Marcel’s comeback is that Mike moves too slowly because he hasn’t worked the line enough recently, so Mike responds that Marcel did a poor job but no one wanted to say anything because he’s a “time bomb”. Tiffany tries to calm them, but I don’t know why, because it’s not going to work. Marcel feels he was a good leader because he told everyone how not to screw up their dishes. Antonia tells the judges that Marcel needed to step up and say “This is what we’re doing” and he did not do this. Well, he tried, but no one listened to him though. He’s bossy and obnoxious. Angelo cuts though everything and says he’s embarrassed, they acted like children and not professionals. Tom looks like he has a headache. Padma knows the kitchen atmosphere leaks into dinner service.

Marcel tells the other team they’re top, so Richard can stop worrying. Heh. He just takes a deep breath. Marcel is less of an ass about it than he was last episode to Carla when she won. Antonia needed someone to be in charge, but Marcel can’t force anyone to do anything, and he did try, in his own asshat way. Tom tells Bodega they killed it. Richard claims to be “technical advisor” while Dale was “executive chef”. The potato chips were Richard’s idea, and he helped everyone elevate their dishes. Fabio’s service was fantastic. Dale’s dish was “stoner food at its finest” per Tony. They loved Tre’s dish with the flavors. Carla’s dish worked with the rest of the menu. The winner is Richard. He’s shocked, because usually the team leader wins.

Antonia’s dish was too salty. Period. Marcel’s dessert was horrid, and he didn’t manage anyone. People sent Mike’s lamb back, and the pork belly was disappointed. Angelo’s dish was boring and not about the fish. Tony thinks Angelo saw the problems in the kitchen but kept his head down and didn’t say anything. Tiffany’s service wasn’t great, she didn’t direct the waiters, and her dish had no flavor. Tony feels prison breaks have more teamwork. And once again someone from Antonia’s team is going home.

Tom not only reminds everyone of why their dishes were bad, but tells Angelo and Mike they should have stepped up and lead. Marcel is sent home. Good. Of course he’s shocked he went home and doesn’t think he made any mistakes. Except for picking the wrong team. Then he claims he’s the most “notorious, diabolical contestant” which is certainly not true. He’s an asshat. Oh, but he’s a nice guy. Nice guys don’t threaten Dale and pretend to be gangster.

Next week: Italian guys, maybe, Tiffany burns things, someone’s not getting laid.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 1/12/11--"We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat"

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: the chefs had to make a dish in less time than it takes Tom to make a dish, which is under 10 minutes and I wish they’d made everyone cook against him, like a head-to-head battle or something. Because you know Tom would pwn them all. Anyway, Jamie and Dale completely fail at finishing, but Mike apparently is good at cooking quickly, and wins a car. Then everyone has to make dim sum, and this causes stress because everyone is carefully plating and making everything perfect. Not fast enough. People go hungry and walk out and mob the food when it does show up and basically it’s chaos. Dale, who keeps his cool and puts out food faster than most other people, also put out tasty food and is the winner. I know everyone wanted Jamie to go, because she failed again, but you could eat her food, while Casey’s chicken feet were inedible, so Casey was sent home. (click for more)

Jamie says she fully expected to go home instead of Casey. Antonia says they all think so. Marcel complains about Dale, somehow, but he doesn’t make any sense. I think he is accusing Dale of only cooking the judges’ portions? Wasn’t Dale putting out 12 plates at a time?

Back at the apartment, while the girls go to sleep like smart people, the boys sit around on the roof in their wifebeaters while Marcel yells at them that he’s not sure how it worked in their seasons, but in his season, he embraced the challenges and cooked for the people. He continues to accuse Dale of not making enough portions, and he’s like, standing up waving his arms around trying to be intimidating. Marcel is not intimidating. Shut up, Marcel. Dale is not “crying about it” and your “gangster” hand gestures and lunging only serve to highlight how white you are. Dale interviews that he’s proud of how he didn’t start anything with Marcel, but left the roof instead. Tre interviews that he’s beginning to see that Marcel is an asshole.

Everyone has to get up super early and go to the Top Chef kitchen, only to discover a wooden “Gone Fishin” sign, a map, and a note. They couldn’t have sent the note to the apartment like every other reality show ever? Tiffani jumps up and down because it’s pretty obvious they’re actually going fishing.

No Quickfire today, just an Elimination challenge. You have 5 hours to catch whatever you can, then cook it on the beach for 200 people. That’s a lot of people. Also they have to work in 4 teams of three. Antonia ends up on a team with Jamie and Tiffani, and she interviews that the last time she was on their team, it was “the most horrific team ever”. Luckily Dale and Marcel are separated. Tom also says it’s a double elimination today.

Team 2 (Mike, Angelo, Tiffany) and Team 4 (Marcel, Fabio, Richard) board their boat. Angelo hates the water because he’s terrified of sharks. He won’t even go in pools. Weird. Fabio says he’s an awesome fisherman. Team 1 (Dale, Carla, Tre) and Team 3 (Antonia, Jamie, Tiffani) are also getting ready to fish, on another boat. Dale seems to be the first to catch something. I’d care more about this challenge, but having seen it before on “Next Iron Chef” I can’t care that much. Also because I know in that situation, if you didn’t catch anything you could use like, sardines and bait for your dish. Antonia catches one and screams and jumps around. That boat seems to be doing pretty well. The other boat is failing. Carla tries to yell to the other boat that they have a ton of fish, but they don’t fall for it. It might be because they’re like, holding the fishing rods upside down and moving them around up and down. Finally they start catching things, actual fairly large fish. Once someone hooks something, the procedure is apparently to have them sit in the chair while other people hold the fishing rod steady. Richard acknowledges that “sitting in Marcel’s lap, holding his rod” is a bad thing. Hee. Dale pulls a ridiculously large bass out of the water and compares it to Marcel. That is a 37 pound fish. I find it very interesting that everyone is catching striped bass and nothing else. Fabio is worried as his team wants to only do one dish.

30 minutes and $150 to shop at the farmer’s market. Oh, this meal should be fantastic. The freshest fish and the farmer’s market. There is no excuse for this meal sucking. Antonia says Richard and Fabio are having a bromance. Normally I hate the use of the word “bromance” but I think I’ll allow it in this instance. Carla tells us that she caught some bluefish, which is oily. So I guess people caught something other than striped bass. Tiffani is planning to keep distance from Jamie.

So now they are back at the apartments…I thought they were going to cook right then? So everything is a day old? Stupid. Tre tells us his wife gave him permission to not miss him. His family is so cute.

2 hours to cook, outside on grills and hotplates. The editing is cut to make it seem like Jamie is doing nothing but complaining about the sand and the sun and whatever. Her team is each doing their own thing. Carla is making sure to get rid of the bloodline in her fish. Marcel’s team has put Fabio up front so he could schmooze everyone, and they also have him prepping vegetables. Fabio knows his prep work is crucial to the success of the dish. Marcel had the idea to only do one dish, but that one dish has like 7 things, so Richard is concerned. Tiffany is feeling the pressure as she works in a seafood restaurant.

Tom time! He tries to make Marcel’s team nervous, but it only works on Richard. Dale is using tortillas he bought. Tom is really fucking with people today. He leaves a string of nervous chefs in his wake, all second-guessing themselves.

Richard harasses Fabio, which, I think he is moving as fast as he can. Mike gloats about it, for some reason. Last minute flailing. Everyone shows up at once.

The judges show up and claim bright pink cocktails. I wish Tony was here. Instead we have Kerry Heffernan, who is a chef and also Tom’s fishing buddy. Fabio, Richard, and Marcel: sea bass, succotash, corn puree, tomato confit, concord gastrique and jamon air. That is a lot of things. “Gastrique” is a sauce and “jamon air” I believe is ham foam. Stupid foam. Dale: fish taco with bass, corn and avocado relish, crème fraiche, radishes, and cabbage. Carla: smoked blue fish lettuce wrap, pickled watermelon rind, radishes, bagel croutons. Tre: striped sea bass with gazpacho salad, tomato and avocado. That sounds good. Fabio’s team has a very busy dish, which does not seem to go over well. The fish tacos are tasty, as is Carla’s smoked fish. Tre cooked his fish well.

Jamie: striped bass, watermelon salad, with fresh dill, shaved radishes, and cucumber water. She’s been searing her fish in a pan, and she says they’ve been sticking. Tiffani: smoked blue fish with tomato, roasted corn, and zucchini ribbon salad. Antonia: open faced porgy po boy with Old Bay mayo and cabbage slaw. She discusses with Tom about porgys and how they have a smaller yield than other fish. Tiffany, Angelo, and Mike: pickled blue fish, spicy watermelon, shallots, red chilies, potatoes, and oil. They also made striped bass with corn puree, tomato, aleppo spice rub and watermelon. Aleppo is a kind of pepper. The pickled fish is nice but some random person doesn’t like the potatoes. Gail thinks there’s something off about the other dish from that team. Jamie’s “cucumber water” is kind of pointless. They like Antonia’s use of the porgy. Tiffani’s dish lacks acidity and finish. Tom and Gail approach some random table to find out what they liked. Mike tries to hook Angelo up with some random girls.

Commercial interlude: everyone compares their competitors to fish. Mike is gassy so would be a blowfish, Tre is one of those fish that buries themselves on the floor, and Angelo is a mermaid. Hee.

Dale, Carla, Tre, Tiffany, Mike, and Angelo are called up first. These are the winners. The winner of the challenge gets to go to Amsterdam. Tiffany and Angelo cooked the bass perfectly. Mike made sauce, and I guess it doesn’t get any extra praise. Gail tells Dale the crowd went crazy for his taco. Hee. It was perfectly suited to the environment. Carla was very creative and it worked. Carla wins! Yay!

When they all get back to the Stew Room, Marcel refuses to congratulate Carla because he knows now that he’s on the bottom. No, really, that’s what he tells her. Asshat. Pretend to be glad for like 30 seconds. Marcel claims his team’s dish came about “organically” when it seemed like he told Richard and Fabio what they were doing. Richard wanted to do one dish really well, instead of 3 average dishes. Fabio says they were pushing each other, but Tom finds this a trust issue. They went for a restaurant dish, that ended up muddled and too much for the beach. It also sounds like they were given a dish to serve in, and then served it in something else? I’m not sure why or why that was a problem. Antonia’s dish was absolutely delicious, but her teammates dragged her down so she couldn’t win. Harsh. Jamie added water to cucumbers, to make cucumber water. Because apparently cucumbers don’t have enough water in them already. After the fish, the rest of her dish didn’t taste like anything but water. Tiffani left the bloodline in her fish. Oops. Gail demands that Antonia pass judgment on her teammates’ dishes. Oh, that’s mean. Antonia says she tasted parts but not whole dishes, and then Padma asks if she’d tasted them, if that would have made a difference. So…you want her to admit she would have left them to screw up? What is going on with this question? It puts Antonia in tears, and she says she doesn’t want to see anyone go home, so I guess now no one wants to hear an answer from her.

Tiffani left the bloodline in her fish, and her dish wasn’t refined. Jamie’s dish was bland and too light. The boys needed to edit, and they seem to feel Fabio didn’t contribute enough to the dish. I agree with Fabio, who was going to do all that prep work? And I didn’t hear anyone blaming uneven knife cuts for that dish failing. Gail agrees, and says Richard and Marcel were responsible for the concept of the dish, and should be blamed. Both Richard and Marcel were responsible for parts of the dish that failed.

Tom makes sure to tell Antonia that if she’d helped out her teammates, she wouldn’t have ended up in the bottom. Padma sends Jamie home, finally, but also Tiffani. Boo. Tiffani says she enjoyed her time and she’s’ different from her season. Jamie stands behind her dish, and she’s OK if they didn’t like it. Jamie wouldn’t change it for anything. Tiffani is going home to her girlfriend.

Next week: restaurant wars! Everyone argues and Tony is back!
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 1/5/11--"Dim Sum Lose Sum"

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: Everyone had to cook dishes for tennis players, except that Top Chef spent all their money on flashy graphics and things with the logo on them and probably Andy Cohen’s wardrobe so they couldn’t hire any actual tennis players to eat the food except for one. They must be broke. How else to you explain the silly Quickfire and having to make stuffing with no utensils? They must have sold them all. Anyway, as it turns out Tre wins the Quickfire and then ends up on the losing team in the Elimination challenge, but he’s immune so he doesn’t care. And Jamie once again doesn’t have to finish a dish and is safe from elimination, which I would care more about except that Spike lost and went home and I’m perfectly OK with that. Carla fought her team and made African groundnut stew which won, so yay for Carla. (click for more)

You guys, I’m already kind of offended by the episode title, and we haven’t even gotten to the episode yet. And I’m not even Chinese. It kind of makes me excited.

Casey tells everyone how Spike threw Angelo and Tiffany under the bus a
t Judges’ Table and blamed them for screwing up his dish. Angelo points out that Spike let him do stuff, and they were all there, so…what is the problem. Antonia calls it “chef Tourette’s”. Richard makes fun of Jamie for not cooking and calls her an octopus for some reason. I don’t get it either.

Padma gets to greet everyone by herself in a weird shirt with narrow horizontal stripes and mutton chop shoulders. I think her fashion sense is going backwards. She says something about getting food out on time, and then says they’re going to test their speed “against one of the nation’s best chefs”. This “mystery chef” (oh, you know who it is from the previews) will set the time to beat. Tom walks in, and this should be good. I have no doubt Tom will pwn every last one of them. Angelo tries to mess with his head, but no dice. Carla thinks this will be a 15 minute Quickfire. Everything is organized and there aren’t any wasted movements. I wonder if he practiced? He does knock a bin off the table and almost hits Padma. Hee. Marcel says something in confessional but his stupid ass gang signs piss me off so I don’t know what it was. Tom finishes his dish, which is black sea bass with clams, tomato, and zucchini, in 8:37. Ha! Everyone gets to taste it, and of course it’s delicious. Tom says it’s the last time he’ll do this. Aww, this was fun!

So…Padma then says they have to make a winning dish? They don’t have to copy Tom? Suck! I wanted them to have to copy Tom. However Tom does point out that if they try to weasel out of the challenge with something like tuna tartare they won’t win. And the winner gets immunity and a Prius. Getting the car curse out there early, are we? Marcel says something cocky so I hope he’s going home today.

Marcel dives for Tom’s leftover fish instead of going for the fridge like everyone else. Tre gives him props. Dale wishes for a wok. Angelo, even though he was told not to do a raw dish, is making a raw dish. Seriously, dude? Dale is trying to make noodles and failing. I’ve never seen people run this fast ever.

Antonia: seared ahi tuna, tarragon and fresh tomato salad. Richard: foie gras roasted with aromatics, corn, fresh coriander, and port. Tiffani: New England clam chowder with celery and cream. Fabio: clams, fish, zucchini, tomato broth, thyme and garlic. Tom casually mentions that the ingredients seem familiar, with a sly parting look, and Fabio calls after him that Tom must lead by example. Hee. Angelo: yuzu branzino crudo with jalapeno and cilantro. Tiffany: pan seared bass with tomato relish, olives and capers. Tre: grilled beef tenderloin, seared foie gras with mushrooms and brandy sauce. Carla: shrimp with mango, cilantro, and mint. Dale: well, the chyron SAYS “pad Thai with egg noodles” but the plate is one sad noodle, with some sauce splashed around it in a ring. It’s horrible, according to Dale. Casey: spice-rubbed filet and fresh tomato relish. Marcel: black sea bass with dashi broth, bok choy, and chili oil. He’s had a chance to clean up his plates, because I seem to remember a shot of a very messy plate. Mike: pan roasted branzino with black olive and caper stew. Marcel interviews that they like Mike’s dish so maybe they still taste his dish? Oh, so now you’re forcing me to choose between Marcel and Mike?! God this sucks. Jamie: clam amuse bouche with bacon, tomato, and cream. Jamie couldn’t get her clams into the pot on time so since she only got one cooked she called it an amuse bouche. Clever.

Dale obviously failed, as did Jamie. Plus Angelo did exactly what they told the chefs not to do. Mike had a flavorful dish, Richard’s was “nice”, and Marcel also did well in the short time. The winner is Mike. Sigh. Well, at least Marcel is pissed.

Today’s Elimination challenge: go to Chinatown. Marcel interviews that going to Chinatown is like going to China because it’s full of Chinese people speaking Chinese. Shut up, Marcel. They will go to Grand Harmony and serve dim sum. Ha! Dim sum? Dim sum is like a buffet in that you have to constantly have food and you cannot run out of anything or you fail. With the added challenge of plating everything. They will work as one team. Poor Fabio is not pleased at having to make Asian food again. Dale is looking for redemption. They must keep the food carts full at all times. And shop in Chinatown, so that should be fun. Tony Bourdain’s blog says that what we are about to see is actually a normal day, and that dim sum in Hong Kong is even worse, and that is when people know what they are doing. So…there really is no way this will turn out well.

Mike’s Prius is outside, and Marcel makes a “Jersey Shore” joke but Mike doesn’t act like that so it’s pointless.

Menu planning at the loft. Richard correctly identifies dim sum as “Chinese tapas”, which is pretty accurate. I think the difference is that tapas can be cooked and plated like regular restaurant dishes while dim sum has to be cooked and plated constantly. Jamie says something about scallops, which she made like a million times her season. Mike volunteers to expedite, as he’s immune. Two of them must also be front of house, trying to get people to eat their food. Jamie argues that she doesn’t trust them with her dishes (if she’s pushing the cart, someone else will be finishing her food). Casey and Carla end up volunteering to do it. Mike insists he won’t have time to make two dishes. Some people are doing two or three dishes. Angelo is taking his usual role of trying to boss everyone around, but we all know Mike is not going to listen. Dale and Angelo are going to do three dishes. Marcel says some asshat comment again, and I’m pretty sure at this point he’s just saying shit to have more camera time. Upstairs they drink, except for Dale sits by himself and talks about his girlfriend and how much he’d like the money. Uh oh. Meanwhile the drunk people are talking about bras, with Tiffani saying “I’m a 36 DD, if I didn’t wear bras, you’d have gotten hurt in the Quickfire today.” Hee. Antonia starts screaming about getting jalapeno in her eye, and goes to wash it out. Tiffani hands her a bra to wipe her eye with, and the guys pretty much run out of the room. Hee!

Asian market! I love the Asian market by my parents’ house. It’s so much fun and they have awesome stuff. Fabio says he has a turtle that he takes for walks. Oo…kay. No one seems to know what is going on for sure. Antonia is going to do a dish with Jamie, and she’s skeptical, but she’s trying to be a team player. Casey is making chicken feet, which Tiffani likens to “making gumbo in New Orleans”. True.

3 ½ hours to prep. Strange kitchen and strange equipment. Dale says it’s his challenge to lose. Fabio is trying to braise ribs in the oven and then grill them, but there’s no grill and the oven won’t go above 300. Interesting. Each chef is making 180 portions of each dish. Jamie’s dumplings aren’t working out at all, so the dish she’s doing with Antonia isn’t getting done at all. Casey is discovering that chicken feet have claws she has to cut off. Then she says she likes butchering and she wants to be a bad ass female butcher. Carla is making summer rolls and doesn’t know why she’s making something “fiddly”. Tre is worried about his dessert because it’s so hot in the kitchen. Angelo says his dad used to make him sort rice and that if there was a black grain left “[his] ass was grass”. That doesn’t sound like a happy childhood memory. But his dad was proud when he made the finals his season. Upstairs there are a lot of Chinese people arriving for dim sum. Casey is setting up her station and leaving it for Antonia. Fabio’s short ribs are perfect and he calls it a “Top Chef miracle”.

So…as we begin, we get chyrons about how Mike is “The Expeditor” and Carla and Casey are “The Runners”, like we didn’t already know that. Mike is upstairs, calling downstairs to the kitchen to get things fired. Then Tiffany puts them in the dumbwaiter so they can be taken out to the dining room. Guest judge is Suser Lee, who is awesome. Tiffani: Chinese cabbage, cilantro, and sesame salad with crispy curry chicken. Fabio: soy honey glazed spicy pork rib. Carla: vegetable summer roll with lemongrass dipping sauce. Angelo: shrimp and pork spring roll. Marcel: boneless chicken wing with scallion mayonnaise. Downstairs Tiffany hollers for food, as everyone is slow. Angelo’s rolls need dipping sauce but are well cooked. Fabio’s ribs are indeed a miracle. Richard’s dish (which we didn’t see but I think it’s sausage rolled in cabbage) is alcoholic, as the wine didn’t burn off. Marcel’s wings are bland. Tiffani’s salad is tasty but Gail complains that all she has is sesame. Carla’s rolls look pretty but they don’t taste like anything but rice noodles.

Everyone is taking too much time to plate. Antonia and Jamie can’t agree on their dish. Mike, Tre, and Dale show up at the judges’ table with trays so the judges can get fed, at least. Antonia and Jamie: long beans with Chinese sausage. Dale and Angelo: cheung fun with XO shrimp. Cheung fun is a rice noodle roll, and XO is a spicy sauce. Dale (by himself): sweet sticky rice with Chinese bacon, wrapped in banana leaf. Tiffany: spicy pork with vegetables in a steamed bun. Tre: orange ginger dessert with fresh water chestnuts, toasted pine nuts and Thai basil, served in a hollowed-out orange peel. Food finally is coming out of the kitchen, and people are getting up from their tables and taking food off the carts, instead of waiting for the carts to come to them. Antonia doesn’t know if she can finish both her dishes and Casey’s dishes. Gail predicts a revolt. Some woman says all she knows about what she just ate is that it was fried meat of some type. Someone calls it “Caucasian dim sum”. Ha ha! It’s kind of refreshing to have people talk about the food and it’s NOT praise. Mike says if he was working there he’d have been fired. The XO shrimp is very spicy but good. The rice is delicious, but the long beans are overcooked and greasy. Tiffany’s pork is very Chinese. Dessert has the wrong texture. Casey complains her dish doesn’t look right, and Antonia has been ignoring it. It’s taking too long to plate, and people are walking out. Tom comes down, which freaks everyone out. As Carla puts it: “When you see that your daddy has shown up where he’s not supposed to be, you know you’re in trouble.” Perfect. Dale is calmly plating, a little too calmly for some people, but he says he’s been putting out 15 plates at a time, and if others think someone is slacking they should say so, and say it to their face.

Casey: Chinese chicken feet and scallion pancake. The chicken feet look black, which is not particularly appetizing. It’s supposed to be like chicken and waffles. Antonia: shrimp toast with pickled scallions and mushrooms. Mike: pork and prawn steamed dumplings with spicy soy sauce. Jamie: scallop dumplings with water chestnuts and Chinese chives. The spicy soy sauce is too strong. The chicken feet are not cooked right. Jamie’s dumplings have too much wrapper and not enough scallop. Finally near the end of service they catch up but it’s too late.

Commercial interlude: Tiffani says there’s nothing more humiliating to a chef than leaving people hungry. Someone says it’s worse than Restaurant Wars.

In the Stew Room, Antonia complains about how everyone looked out for themselves and had no sense of urgency, but Tiffany calls her on how she neglected Casey’s dish. Antonia makes it sound like she did everyone a favor by stepping up to cover Casey when no one else would, but we already heard from Casey that Antonia abandoned it so it rings false. Padma asks for Casey, Antonia, Carla, Jamie, and Tre. Padma says they’re all there because they needed to be speedy but it was dismal. So were they the slowest? Had the worst dishes? I don’t understand, but I think I heard the Loser Gong. Antonia claims there was a plan, when Tom asks, and she says the plan was to have Mike downstairs making them do stuff. None of them got enough food out, plus they were the worst dishes. Jamie kind of nods, and then admits the dumplings didn’t turn out. She bought wrappers that are supposed to be steamed, not boiled, so they were heavy. The long beans had too much oil, and Antonia says Jamie cooked the dish while she just prepped. Antonia’s shrimp toast, though, was delicious. Casey didn’t cook her chicken feet enough, and people left them on the tables. Her pancakes were supposed to be light, but Tom says they were lead. She tells the judges Antonia was supposed to make her dish while she was serving food. They try to get Antonia to admit Casey’s dish was bad, but all of a sudden Antonia is going to cry and it’s so much and it’s sad they didn’t have time to help each other and ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION. Tre knew his dessert wasn’t executed properly, but it tasted good. Carla’s noodles were bland, and Gail and Suser nail her for trying to make her dish pretty without making it taste good.

Tiffany, Angelo, Dale, and Fabio are the winners. Fabio jokes that he thought they were going to kick him out without bothering with Judges’ Table, and Tom jokes that they thought about it. Suser says it’s amazing that Fabio doesn’t have a lot of experience with Chinese culture. Tiffany’s pork buns were delicious and Gail calls them “savory marshmallows”. Dale’s rice was flavored well by the banana leaf, and Angelo was authentic. Suser says that the winner is Dale. Yay! He knows service sucked, but he’s not about to give up his win.

Jamie both had poor dumplings and cooked the long beans poorly. Antonia was also involved in the beans but her shrimp toast was so great that had she left the beans to Jamie she would have been in the top. Tom calls Tre’s dessert “hospital food”. Casey’s chicken feet were a disaster. Carla’s roll was bland.

Tom is harsh to everyone, and then Padma sends Casey home. Holy shit. Oh, everyone is going to be pissed Jamie’s still there. Even Casey says she expected Jamie to go home, everyone did, even Jamie. She left her dish to Antonia, so I guess she’s blaming her. Damn. Tom’s blog says her chicken feet were inedible, and Jamie’s dishes, while sucky, could still be eaten.

Next week: fishing, double elimination, Marcel is an asshat, Dale might beat his ass. Hey, it might be justified this time.
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