Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top Chef All Stars Episode Four Recap

This week's guest judge is former Top Chef Masters competitor Tony Mantuano, of Chicago's Spiaggia. I guess he just happened to be in town and desperate for a television appearance, because the episode has nothing to do with Italian food or Chicago.

Anyhoo(tie hoo)...the Quickfire is a bit of craziness - the chefs must create a dish without using normal utensils. No knives, no food processors, no spoons. And that dish would be...stuffing. This is the Swanson Broth Quickfire to test the contestants' imagination and resourcefulness; the one who excels will win not only immunity from Elimination in the next challenge but also $20K. And possibly a lifetime supply of Swanson Broth.

Damn good thing that shizz comes in a paper carton! I would have loved to see the recheftestants attempt to open cans without a can opener. Now that takes ingenuity!

Speaking of which, after telling us that "a chef useeng no tools ees like a sorgon dooeeng a-sorgery a-weeth hees a-fingers," Fabio used the top rack of a metal shelving unit to grate Parmesan cheese. He theenks he's hot sheet now.

Meanwhile, Jamie still thinks everything is funny. I swear, she's laughing in just about every shot Bravo has of her. What is so fucking funny?

Tiffani goes on about how stuffing is so specific to regions and even households. I can attest to that. While I think  my stuffing is pretty good (and basic), my brother-in-law can take a similarly basic recipe and completely ruin it by adding far too much stock (but probably not Swanson). So much liquid that one can take a handful of stuffing and wring it out. Yeah, that's wet. And not in a good way.

Time's up, utensils down! Wait...scratch that...

Padma and Tony go around tasting the food and seem to be happy with the majority of dishes. Carla unfortunately has chosen to work with black quinoa, a grain that requires more than 45 minutes of cooking. She tells the judges that she made "un-done-tay" quinoa; when Mantuano corrects her pronunciation, "you mean al dente," she says "I said un-done-tay" and that's exactly what she meant. She ends up on the bottom, as does Tiffani with her too-sweet maple stuffing and Casey with her Asian-esque stuffing.

On top are Tre and Marcel, and while it looks close, Tre wins it with his Southwestern bread pudding. Yes, I said "bread pudding." Who knew it was a dish that could make or break a chef?

Next came the announcement about the Elimination Challenge, which will involve competing at the US Open. But rather than playing tennis, the chefs will be cooking. I tell you, this was one of the more convoluted contests in all of Top Chef. First, the recheftestants had to choose cans of tennis balls. They were then instructed to remove one ball from their can; the color of the ball would reveal the team on which each would be playing. Are they getting sick of the knife block, too?

Before we get any further, here are the teams:

Team Orange Balls: Blais, Carla, Fabio, Mike, Dale, Marcel, and Antonia
Team Yellow Balls: Spike, Tre, Tiffani, Tiffany, Jamie, Angelo, and Casey

Now for the rules: the recheftestants must compete head-to-head in rounds, one Orange Teamer against one Yellow Teamer. The winning dish in each round will score a point for that team, tennis-style (15, 30, love, nonsense shit like that). The team with the most points wins the match, with all of the point-scoring members of that team eligible for the win. The point-losing members of the opposing team would be eligible for elimination. Got that?

Also, the teams need to take into account that they wwill be cooking for tennis players, who are on a strict diet. And because of the whole head-to-head thing, there is an element of strategy involved.

The teams get fifteen minutes to do menu planning then are sent home where they work on strategery. Spike thinks that his team should send their weakest dish out first because he's sure the other team would send out their best and that way would waste their strongest dish. His teammates pretend to agree, but they're all off making sure they can save their own asses.

Carla wants to make a groundnut soup, but Dale shoots her down by saying that the US Open crowd is high end. But she knows better than to listen to someone else and stands her ground.

The next day, after shopping at Whole Foods, the recheftestants have three hours to prep their dishes at the US Open kitchen.

Fabio is making gnocchi yet again, and he's really acting cocky about it. It's as if he's channeling Stefan or something.

Fabs - you're almost not cute anymore. Cut it out.

Angelo finds that his fish is slimy (there's a joke in there somewhere) and begs for fresher fish from Tre who refuses and sends him to Tiffany who does give him some of her tuna. (And there's another joke in there, too.) Tom comes in to ask about strategy. Team Orange is mum on the subject, but Spike reveals his plot to send out the weakest dish while everyone else on his team rolls their eyes and shakes their heads.

While preparing her dish, Carla becomes momentarily distracted and lops off the top of her finger. Blood ensues. The set medic bandages her up and suggests a trip to the hospital, but Carla is a team player, not a...well, you know.

And Spike, so busy plotting, fucks up the shrimp component of his dish and is forced to prepare another batch which he realizes too late is not properly seasoned.

Out on the court, the teams set up tables on opposite sides so they can't see what their opponents are planning. Jamie's dish of chick peas is undercooked, which according to Spike's plan makes it the weakest dish. However, she's refusing to plate so Casey volunteers to go first against Fabio. Team Yellow speculates that if Fabio has the strongest dish, then every dish on the Orange Team must be great. (Shows what they all think of Fabio's abilities, eh?)

Round One: Fabio vs Casey - Fabio wins a point for Team Orange
Round Two: Dale vs Tiffani - Tiffani wins a point for Team Yellow
Round Three: Marcel vs Angelo - Angelo wins a point for Team Yellow
Round Four: Antonia vs Tiffany - Antonia wins a point for Team Orange
Round Five: Blais vs Spike - Blais wins a point for Team Orange
Round Six: Carla vs Tre - Carla wins a point for Team Orange

That makes four points for Orange and two for Yellow, so the last two competitors, Mike Isabella and Jamie, don't need to compete at all, much to Jamie's relief.

During the competition, Angelo is "helpful" to his teammates by sabotaging them. He adds some completely unnecessary lemongrass gelee to Spike's shrimp and soup dish, when it really just needs more seasoning on the shrimp. And he "helps" Tre by overcooking his salmon (perhaps to pay him back for refusing to let him use some in his own dish).

Back at the Stew Room, nobody is surprised to see Fabio, Antonia, Blais, and Carla called out to Judges' Table first, because they were the winners of their round for Team Orange. Gail tells them these were some of the strongest dishes in the past seven seasons, everything was so good. But the best of all was Carla's groundnut soup. For the win, Carla not only gets bragging rights but also a giant bottle of wine and a trip to Italy, courtesy of Terlato Wines.

The bottom four then face the judges: Spike, Casey, Tiffany, and Tre. Tre clearly has the worst dish of the evening with his overcooked salmon, but because he has immunity, he's safe. Spike tells the judges that Angelo tinkered with his food, but they weren't buying it. He's responsible for his dish, and because the shrimp were underseasoned, he's getting the boot.

And Jamie, who didn't present her dish at all, is safe for another week. But I'm sure she'll get her comeuppance fairly soon. I hope so. And then I'll be the one laughing. 

And on that note - Merry Christmas to all! (But not to Jamie. Bah.)


JoyY said...

Thanks for the recaps! Merry Christmas!

bernal_vernal said...

Someone needs to tell Fabio "eets not Top Gnocchi".

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this limed in NYC during the US Open?

Los Gatos Girl said...

I wish they'd show more of Blais confronting Jamie telling her she'd have to cook eventually.

And I guess Elia did spill the beans, didn't she.

Anonymous said...

Ugh Jamie, lame lame lame, never liked her, she whines sooo much.

David Dust said...

OMG - your two Jamie/Carla screen caps made me pee myself!!!! Remind me never to look for sympathy from Miss Jamie ...

Great recap.


RH said...

Yet more canards about Angelo's supposed sabotage from yet another blogger keen on showing her wit. Angelo did NOT "sabotage" Spike's dish, it wasn't lemongrass gelee, TIFFANI was there alongside Angelo directly adding stuff to Spike's dish, Spike was standing there while they both did it in front of him and he didn't stop them, the judges didn't mind the soup - which A & T was augmenting - but did mind the shrimp, which A & T had nothing to do with. Enough with the Angelo conspiracies.

theminx said...

You must be Angelo if you know so much, eh, RH? Actually, I'll bet you know as little as I do, and your opinion is worth as much.

Grow a sense of humor. :)

RH said...

Oh, I have a sense of humor - but this is def not humorous here.

I really don't care if you think little of my opinion - if it were my opinion - but all the stuff I cited is readily seen from the episode as shown, in the tape as presented to the public. All one has to do is pay attention and not be blindsided by a desire to do Angelo in.

theminx said...

Oh, get your panties out of a wad. Nobody here has any desire to do anyone in. (As if *I* have any clout or any say in the outcome of the show - HA!)

If you bothered to watch Top Chef over the past several seasons, you'd know that "sabotage" has been a recurring theme, one I echo here on my recaps. Last season there was TONS of speculation that Angelo was only helping himself when he "helped" his fellow competitors. Whether that makes him a saboteur or a control freak is not my concern. However, there is humor in the fact that he seems to be doing the same thing again this season.

If you can't see that, that's also not my problem. Read elsewhere if you want cold hard facts. BTW - if you believe Bravo's editing is telling the truth about anything other than the outcomes of the challenges, I have a bridge to sell you.

Hotpockets! said...

Nice work!
No new ep this week but I blobbed anyway...