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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