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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