Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 3/16/11--"Island Fever" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: the finalists went to the Bahamas and battled the people who won their seasons. It wasn’t that exciting. Then everyone was told they were making dinner for “royalty” but instead of actual royalty it was the King of Junkanoo. Oops. Then someone set the deep fryer on fire and they had to start their dishes over from scratch. Fun stuff. Mike won, and I guess he’s become a better cook but he’s still been a huge jerk. Carla second-guessed herself, again, and was sent home because her pork was raw. Sad times. (click for more)

Everyone’s sad to see Carla go, because everyone loves Carla. Antonia reminds us she was in the final 4 in her season, and she’s still figuring out what she’s doing. Mike brags that he’s on track.
At the hotel, someone says “let’s go see what’s in store”. Someone else says “probably cooking with not enough time or equipment.” Indeed.

Lorena Garcia is waiting for the contestants with Padma. I’ve been watching her on “Next Best Restaurant”, or whatever it’s called. See, and then Padma plugs the show. For the Quickfire, they must be consistent. Like a real chef, who has to make the same dish over and over again. They must divide themselves in pairs (Mike refuses to be paired with Antonia “The Black Hammer”) and serve 100 identical dishes in 1 hour. Padma and Lorena will randomly pick numbers to see what particular plate they get served.

The girls vs. the boys. Mike brags. Shut up, Mike. The boys are making pasta from scratch and pork. Richard says he’s been winning Quickfires and wants to win this one for momentum and intimidation. The girls are making seared beef tenderloin salad. Tiffany says they’re cooking everything in one batch so it will all taste the same. She is already starting to plate. Richard rolls his eyes at the girls and their “slice and serve” dish. I hope he and Mike are screwing themselves with their bragging. Antonia insists her plating is more difficult than the boys. They seem to have several components.

Richard and Mike: pork Bolognese with fresh macaroni and pecorino cheese. The plates look similar to each other. The pasta is good. Antonia and Tiffany: beef tenderloin salad with cilantro, mint, basil and chimichurri sauce. Their plates also look similar. Lorena praises their meat slicing. Mike says something, shut up Mike. It IS possible to express your confidence in your own food without rolling your eyes at everyone else’s food.

Lorena praises everyone, and then says that the winners are Tiffany and Antonia. Awesome. Antonia calls the boys “sour grapes salty losers”. Hee. They each get $5000.

For the Elimination challenge, the contestants will be making lunch for the yacht club. The theme for the party is “Deserted Island”. Which is where they are cooking. Richard thinks they will have nothing. But no, they will have to have to cook conch, so they‘ll at least have that. Mike complains that conch is difficult to work with, even though of course he’s been practicing with it.
In the morning, the boys primp. Richard says something about growing a beard in preparation for the finale. It‘s kind of scraggly, dude. Mike also is ready to go. Tiffany feels she can do anything. Antonia does not get a sound bite.

The contestants find Padma in a bikini top on a boat. Mike leers in a disgusting manner. Their time will start when their feet hit the beach on their deserted island. All they know is that they will have to use conch. Once they approach the island, it’s clear they’re probably cooking on the beach.

3 ½ hours to cook. On the beach are some crates with great fresh products, lobster, fish…and a crate labeled “Conch” which contains snorkels and fins. Ha! They have to go diving for their own conch. The boys strip off their shirts, with Richard interviewing the deep thought of “I don’t want to see Mike Isabella topless. And you don’t either.” True fact. So it looks like you can just dive down and the conch are just sitting around on the sand. Is that how it really is? Or did the producers plant them? Whatever, it’s entertaining to watch. The girls are pretty good at surface diving, although Richard is failing. He can’t get deep enough. Tiffany gives up on her snorkel and just holds her breath. Mike somehow gets a net full. Each chef has a wood grill and a table, and that‘s pretty much it. Antonia thinks everything will have sand in it. Apparently getting conch out of the shells involves a small pickaxe. Scary! Mike is boiling them first, he says that helps. Tiffany has never worked with conch. Uh oh. She’s behind time-wise. Antonia is going for conch tartare, I think, as is Tiffany. Tiffany has given herself the extra challenge of fresh coconut. Mike is using the conch as sauce, for grouper and pineapple. Richard is making noodles out of sweet potatoes. Suddenly everyone finds their chef’s jackets and puts them on over their swimsuits and shorts. Mike claims that he doesn’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing because he doesn’t care, and then promptly talks about Antonia‘s food and how it‘s not up to his food. Richard does not want to choke. Again. Everyone has trouble with the wood grills, I think. Mike says he is not having trouble but he complained his butter wasn’t melting. The guests are arriving and Antonia’s fire has gone out, or is about to. The yacht club told everyone to wear white to their party so they all match. Boo. Tiffany likes dishes with two different temperatures. Richard tells everyone he loves them, and then interviews to us that he hates whatever he does as soon as it’s on the plate. He hasn’t made anything “tropical”; he says it’s Hamptons instead.

Richard: sweet potato linguine with conch and spiny lobster. Lorena’s lobster is undercooked. Richard’s sweet potato is so much like pasta he fools Tom. Seriously? That’s pretty impressive. Tom says something about making pasta and Gail has to point out to him that it’s just raw sweet potato because hers was a little crunchy. Antonia gets her fire lit finally and hopes she was successful. Antonia: seared red snapper with conch tartare and lobster nage. Nage is sauce I think. The conch is very spicy. Lorena loves it, as do the guests, although Gail finds it spicy. Tom points out that the conch is cut up so small you can’t tell it’s there. Plus some fish is overcooked and some is undercooked. Tiffany is getting nervous because everyone is crowding her. She discovers she has finished plating with a couple of minutes left, and she’s concerned the flavors will be different. Tiffany: conch and coconut chowder with sweet potatoes and conch ceviche. The chowder is cold, which I’m pretty sure it was not supposed to be. Tom’s not impressed, but some of the guests like the flavors. Mike compares his dish to Elia’s, because of course HIS leaf-wrapped fish is far more sophisticated and better. Mike: banana leaf wrapped grouper, braised pineapple and conch vinaigrette. The fish is overwhelmed by the other flavors, and Tom doesn’t like the butter. Gail is impressed by his risk-taking. Richard says if he doesn’t win he’ll be devastated. Really? If you don’t win? If you still make it to the finals but aren‘t praised as the winner that‘s a horrible outcome?

Commercial interlude: for some reason “Gilligan’s Island” comes up. Mike is the Skipper, Richard is the Professor, and Mike thinks Tiffany is Ginger because “she kind of reminds me of a Ginger”. Whatever. Tiffany just rolls her eyes at the whole thing.

Oh look, a commercial for “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen”. Shut up, Marcel.

The chefs sit around and talk about their dishes, and no one seems particularly confident. Tom starts by telling them that there was not one grain of sand in any of the dishes. Nicely done. Antonia had a good balance of sweetness and spiciness, and she says she was working to feel more “island-like”, for lack of a better term. Tom points out the problems he saw during service, the inconsistent cooking and the conch cut too small, and then Padma says Antonia’s dish was the most predictable and conventional in terms of presentation. Antonia says that’s a complement for her, because she wants them to be able to look at a plate and know it’s hers. Richard immediately says he hopes he’s showing uniqueness. Tom praises him for fooling him with the sweet potato pasta. He didn’t use “island” ingredients, but it worked anyway. But the lobster was undercooked. Tiffany says everything made sense to her today. They liked the idea, and the combinations of the ingredients, but the chowder was supposed to be hot and she admits it. Tom thinks it was a little sweet. Mike says he braised the pineapple in curry mix, I think, and Gail loved it. Tom did too, but he did not like the butter in the dish.

Mike thinks he had a good dish, but now he’s not so sure. All the dishes did what they were supposed to, in using the conch. Richard’s dish made a good connection between where he’s from and where he is now, and they really liked the sweet potato, but there is the random raw lobster. Antonia’s conch had the least impact, but it was very well done considering the conditions and Gail says there’s something to be said for pleasing your customers. The whole table liked it. They know Tiffany had a great idea, but the fact that it was too cold changed the entire dish. Tom doesn’t even understand why she was going to put cold ceviche on hot chowder. Gail loved Mike’s flavor combination, but the butter was really unnecessary.

Tom says it was very hard to pick a winner, but one person showcased the conch in a really unique way, and that is Mike. Ugh. Whatever. The choice of loser was also very hard, but one dish was just a bit less successful. And that dish is Tiffany’s. Oo. She says she was out cooked, bottom line. Aww, she’s upset. She is self taught and hasn’t cooked for any big-name chefs. She’s going to keep going because you will get further than you were before.

Next week: famous chefs’ “last supper”, something is rancid, Mike is still an arrogant jerk, something about an envelope.

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