Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top Chef:All Stars 3/30/11--"Finale" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: All Stars”: quite a good all-star season, as all-star seasons of reality shows go. Sadly, one by one the most well-liked chefs were eliminated, until only two were left. Mike and Richard. Guess I’m rooting for Richard. Last week the chefs had to revisit “classic” Quickfire twists, and then cook the last suppers of some celebrity chefs. Antonia got stuck with Morimoto, very far from what she normally makes, and then there was another twist where she had to cook an amuse bouche vs. Mike and then she lost. It was sad. (click for more)

They make us watch Antonia again, like I didn’t feel bad enough for her last week. Mike pretends he feels bad for her. He also pretends he’s better than Richard. Richard, for his part, says he already beat her once, which is true, so he’d rather be up against Antonia right now. Padma and Tom show up and tell them congratulations and then explain their last challenge, which is to…make the restaurant of their dreams? That’s different.

New intro, with all of Richard’s wins and Mike’s smirking. Richard knows Mike is running hot in the Bahamas, as he’s been winning. But Richard has won more overall, I think.

I was expecting the usual “meal of your lives” challenge. Richard says the kitchen was his first home for a while. They need to make a four course tasting menu. Padma will tell them the rest in the morning. Mike says he quit his job and missed his honeymoon.

In the morning the boys plan, and Richard says he’s the underdog and has an underdog mentality. Even though he’s won twice as many challenges as Mike and he always hates his food but is offended when he doesn’t win. Mike says everyone expects Richard to win, which is true. Richard doesn’t want the pressure of being the favorite because of his choking last time.

All of the eliminated contestants are waiting in the kitchen with Padma. She’s briefing them without Richard and Mike, because they are going to be assigned by challenge. They all have 30 minutes to make an amuse bouche for the two finalists to taste. Richard and Mike talk about who they will pick, because they of course know it’s very likely that eliminated contestants will show up to help them. They always do that.

When Richard and Mike show up, they find the dishes waiting for them. Why already made? Because it’s a BLIND tasting. Ha! Richard looks horrified while Mike looks irritated. I love it. Richard is trying to figure out who made what, but he can’t, so he just goes by taste. Mike really wants Jen, and not Marcel, but he also can’t figure out which dishes belong to who. Richard wants DaleT, Jen, and Angelo. Richard picks out Spike first. There’s a weird joke about jet ski reservations? I guess Spike didn’t think he’d be picked so he made jet ski reservations for an hour after the challenge? I’m not sure. I guess some people were looking forward to a Bahamas vacation. Mike picks Tiffani. He tried to pick Jen but failed. Richard manages to find Angelo next, and that is one of the people he wanted so he‘s happy. Mike gets stuck with Jamie. Love it. Richard’s final pick ends up being Antonia, which is great, but he wonders if she’s mentally OK since she just went home. Mike gets Carla. Mike has three girls, so he makes a Charlie’s Angels joke. Disgusting. Shut up, Mike.

1 hour to plan, 5 hours to cook tomorrow. There will be 70 customers, plus the judges. I think both the boys have a plan already, they’re just telling the sous chefs what’s going on. Richard’s assigning courses to his sous chefs. Tiffani and Carla are telling Mike what dishes he should do, but he’s sticking to his guns. Richard is calling his restaurant “Tongue & Cheek”. Sigh. Richard interviews that Mike’s strengths are his confidence and his swagger, but those are his weaknesses also.

Someone tell me if anything interesting happens on “Watch What Happens”. I refuse to support Andy Cohen, plus I know there’s a reunion next week so I’m sure they’ll save anything good for then.

I think they had options of what restaurant they can take over? The décor and things like that aren’t part of the challenge. Mike says he‘s matured and he couldn‘t have handled this back when he was on the show the first time. Richard has stopped being creative just to be creative. Mike gives instructions to the waiters and picks out wine and gives instructions to his sous chefs. Tiffani’s working fish, Jamie has the cold station, Carla on desserts and front of house. Richard’s got lots of proteins and an amuse bouche. Angelo has cold items, Antonia has vegetables, and Spike has dessert and front of house. Richard admits his dessert is the least thought out, mostly because he changed his idea just now from Cap’n Crunch to foie gras ice cream. Ew. He hopes his risk pays off.

Tom time! Mike is already in the weeds. Tom tells him that no one thought he’d be here. Heh. He goes to talk to Richard, and my cable decides now would be a good time to freeze up. Awesome. Screw you, Charter. I had to watch the replay to find out what happened. Anyway, Richard loves his team of sous chefs, and Tom asks him what could go wrong with his plan, sort of “Why don’t you think of all the ways you could choke again?” Tom interviews that organization is key, and this tests how well these two can be bosses. Richard says his sous chefs are making his dishes better. Mike is behind time-wise. Richard’s amuse bouche oysters might not be worth serving. People start showing up, and Richard says that he might be doomed to never win.

Richard has an amuse bouche, raw oyster with crème fraiche pearls and salsa verde. He debates serving it but decides it’s cool. Padma tells him the guest judges include Lidia Bastianich and Hubert Keller. Oh, Lidia isn’t judging. Weird. Alfred Portale, and the Terlato guy. He’s a sponsor so, eh. Richard says nice things about everyone but Terlato, I think. He tells the judges that his concept is whimsy and the spirit of things chefs like to eat. They like the oyster. Spike, in his asshat and a flannel shirt (…sigh) is hovering and pretending not to eavesdrop. Turns out Richard told him to do it. First course: raw hamachi with fried veal sweetbreads, garlic mayonnaise, and pickled celery. They like the way the flavors all work together. We see some eliminated chefs eating too.

Carla greets the other judges in Mike’s restaurant. She pretends to be happy to see Marcel. Mike gets Tom, Gail, Art Smith, and Curtis Stone. He’s named his restaurant “Iz”, for “Isabella” I guess. He describes his concept like this: “We’re an American style restaurant, kitchen and bar, very casual but elegant food, you know, good food, all the dishes are going to be reinspired with an Italian influence flavor profile that I grew up with as a kid”. Makes no sense. First course: spiced beets with mozzarella, truffle & chocolate vinaigrette. The chocolate is subtle and the whole dish is composed. His second course is slow coming out. Halibut with kumquat marmalade, cauliflower puree and pancetta crumbs. Curtis likes the presentation, and Tom says that this fish is the best cooked fish he’s had on this show. It’s making them forget the wait.

Back to Richard. Second course: pork belly, black cod cutlet, bone marrow, bets, Brussels sprouts and kumquat. He says it’s exactly what he wants to display, food you want to eat. Isn’t that what everyone wants to serve? I mean…it’s like a designer on “Project Runway” saying they want to make fashion. They really like it. Third course is beef short rib with mushrooms, red cabbage marmalade, and celery root horseradish puree. Yum. It’s not creative but it’s delicious, say the judges.

Mike made sure his braised pork shoulder is glazed because apparently Tom is always complaining that the meat isn’t glazed. Braised pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce, roasted cabbage and turnips. All the other judges talk about how great it is, and eventually Tom says this is better than most dishes in past finales. Fourth course: rosemary caramel custard and pine nuts with citrus, celery, and apple. The custard isn’t cooked properly, although the flavor goes over well.

Richard serves his dessert of cornbread with foie gras ice cream and whipped mango. He admits the ice cream might be gritty. Spike goes in the kitchen and says the ice cream is the problem, and maybe before the other judges show up he can rework it, which Richard takes as good advice. The judges think he did a good job. Both he and Mike relax briefly before the next round. The judges think Mike did a good job too.

Commercial interlude: the sous chefs talk about how they respect the people they’re working for. Everyone except Spike.

The judges get to eat at the other restaurant. They say the same stuff about Mike that the first round said. And they say the same things about Richard. Art does mention that Richard has served two complicated platings in a short amount of time, and he must have good helpers. I think the ice cream goes over better the second time around, though, as Richard and Spike messed with it between seatings.

Judges’ Table. Mike pretends he’d be OK with Richard winning. I mean…I’m not condemning him for that, most people wouldn’t be OK with losing. Padma and Tom tell them this was the best food in any finale, and they both did a great job. Richard is about to have a breakdown, while Mike says he’s happy. Mike’s restaurant was subtle and had finesse. His steamed fish was perfect, and the pepperoni sauce was “serious” according to Gail, and Hubert says he needs to serve it at his restaurant when he opens one. Tom does tell him the custard was not cooked properly. Richard had strong flavors that were “clean” and all blended well. Padma says the black cod was flawless. His beef dish was safe, says Tom, but was perfectly done. Tom then asks what the difference was with the ice cream, because he knows the two groups got different ice creams. He says he listened to what they were saying, and that the presentation was softer. Mike says he should win because this is who he is, and it would mean the world to him, and this is everything he wants in life. Richard says pretty much the same thing, except that his restaurant is about the guests. He then says this would mean his own restaurant…so did he not own the burger joint he opened?

Back in the Stew Room Richard says everyone loved Mike and he’s won. They argue about how they didn’t win. Mike admits he’ll feel like shit if he loses. Richard offers him some of his winnings. Heh. They hear people coming, and it turns out it’s family members. Richard’s wife couldn’t come (very pregnant) but his uncle is here, and Mike’s wife and parents, I think.

Richard’s amuse was great. First course goes to Richard, Tom says, because the hamachi beat the beet salad outright. Second course also goes to Richard, because of the black cod. Padma points out that Tom said Mike’s second course of fish was the best he’d ever tasted on Top Chef, and Tom says “That was before I tasted Richard’s.” Oh snap! They liked both third courses very much, but Richard’s dish was safer than pepperoni sauce, so Mike gets this round. They seem to be split on dessert, because they had different ice creams from Richard. Padma gets them to agree that in general, the guest “judges” were more receptive to Mike’s dessert. Gail says she’d eat at Mike’s on a weekday, but Richard’s on the weekends. Tom says they’re both really successful, but only one can win.

All the eliminated contestants plus family members are waiting to cheer and find out the winner. Padma reminds them of the prizes. Tom tells them that they both have great careers ahead of them, and they both are worthy of the title. But there is only one winner, and that winner is Richard! WOO! Everyone comes to mob him, but some people come to comfort Mike. Whatever! Mike lost! He’s so happy. Mike says “I feel like I beat him, but I didn’t get the prize”. Shut up Mike. Richard calls his wife in confessional, and she can’t believe it, and it’s so cute.

Actually, I’m watching stupid Andy Cohen while I edit, and Carla just won fan favorite. As told by Harold, who walked onto the set and drank Andy’s cocktail, which was funny.

Next week: reunion time.


David J Rust said...

Any idea what the heck was Jen Carrol's problem, throwing a hissy fit on Live TV during "Watch What Happens Live"?

Duabe said...

Thank you Toyouke for another season of great recaps! Loved all the explanations and your feelings on the meals and especially the participants - I agree completely.

I won't watch Andy Cohen anymore either - so tired of his bragging on himself for no apparent reason.