Thursday, January 06, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Episode Five Recap

I'm not sure I like the way each episode starts with a snippet from the end of the previous episode - it feels a bit like padding to me. In any case, I did find it amusing when Blais compared Jamie to an octopus. At first I thought he was going to say she had eight arms or suction cups on her hands, but he was referring to her emulation of the octopus' primary defense - hiding.

At least she doesn't squirt ink on everyone.

We then see the recheftestants assemble in the Top Chef kitchen, where Padma is sporting some sort of stripey, overly-snug top with puffy shoulders that make her look like a linebacker for the prison football team. She's alone, with no guest judge, so something's probably up. She delivers the Quickfire Challenge:

Tom will create a dish as quickly as he can, and then the recheftestants must create their own dish in the same amount of time. As Tom tells them, timing can be everything in the restaurant business. Not only do customers expect good food, but also good service. And when the show is over and the recheftestants return to their fast-food jobs, they're going to have to know how to cook quickly.

After much running around while balancing a cutting board full of bowls and ingredients, Tom manages to crank out a respectable fish dish in 8 minutes and 37 seconds. The recheftestants then try their hands at creating a dish in the same brief time period. Tom tells them the difficulty of their dishes will be considered, so it's not a good idea to avoid cooking by making a raw fish dish.

When Padma gives the high sign, most of the chefs run into the pantry to get ingredients, except the wily Marcel who grabs the unused portion of Tom's fish, which is sitting there in the kitchen area. While he - and everyone else - cooks his fish, Angelo gets the brilliant idea to make a raw fish dish.

Chaos cooking ensues, and all too quickly time is called. Tom and Padma do the tasting rounds and find that Dale's and Jamie's dishes are both on the skimpy side, while Angelo just plain didn't listen. This earns them spots on the bottom of the heap.

On top are Mike, Blais, and Marcel, with Mike coaxing out the most flavor from his ingredients. He wins the Quickfire which gains him immunity in the next challenge plus...a brand new Prius. Nice.

Next up, Padma gives the recheftestants their orders for the Elimination Challenge, one of the most cracktastical in Top Chef history. This bunch of chefs, mostly classically trained in the cuisines of Western Europe, have to serve dim sum to a bunch of ravenous Chinese folks. Take it from me - I go to dim sum fairly regularly - if the flavors and textures of my favorite dishes aren't right, it really ruins the experience. And you know these Top Cheftestants will be doing weird shit. Because they can, and because they're clueless.

Eww and eww.

Fabio is annoyed at the challenge, since he's never made Chinese food before. Dale, on the other hand, is very confident because he works at Buddakan, a NY restaurant that serves dim sum. He also tells us that Angelo was one of the first consulting chefs at the same restaurant, so we can probably figure out who's going to end up on top in this challenge.

Or not. Back at Chef House, Dale pulls out a bunch of photos of his girlfriend and baby and tells us that he needs to win so he can make his girlfriend an honest woman and buy her a nice engagement ring. I half expect him to whip out a Sprint phone and make a tearful phone call, which we all know is a time-honored sign of doom in the Bravo reality show world, but I am disappointed.

As the chefs determine who will prepare what dishes and who will take what role, Jamie announces that she wants to make scallops. This cues up a montage of her many scallop dishes from Season 5 and Fabio's now-famous comment....

I always thought he was a bit like Dr McCoy that time around, with his own special Fabio version of "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a...."

Mike Isabella, with immunity and a new car, volunteers to be expediter, while Casey and Carla agree to push carts around the floor. Tiffany will load the carts and send food down in the dumb waiter.

The next day, during a 45-minute shopping trip in Chinatown where the recheftestants have to deal with fun things like unfamiliar ingredients and language barriers, Fabio becomes upset at the sight of tanks of turtles being sold for food. Anyone who is a Facebook friend of his can attest to the fact that he has a pet turtle and he might just love it more than his wife. He certainly talks more about his precious turtle, anyway. (Maybe the turtle is his wife? Or maybe just a euphemism for something else entirely.)

(Ah, no. In a clip we see Fabs with an actual turtle, which is led around on a leash. WTF?)

The recheftestants head to Grand Harmony to take over the kitchen. 3.5 hours doesn't seem like enough time to cook, and Fabio agrees. He's making pork ribs and says the oven won't go above 300F so he's worried. Jamie is making dumplings with her escallops and is not pleased with the way they are turning out. For once, she's not laughing.

Casey has chosen to make a dish with chicken feet, obviously having never cooked them before in her life.

Eventually she must leave her station and get ready to push around her cart of sub-standard, vaguely-Asian-ethnic dishes. I get excited because I really can't stand Casey and hope that the hungry hoards might trample her, or at least pull her hair. She puts Antonia in charge of plating her dish while she's on the floor.


A strip and a foot? WTF? Chicken feet should be served en masse in a bowl. They are mostly bones with a bit of fatty skin and gelatinous connective tissue, and you don't eat just one. (Unless, like Mr Minx, you are just eating it to be polite. And then how polite can you be while spitting out metatarsal bones?)

Meanwhile, Antonia is working on her own dish of shrimp toast, plus assisting Jamie in a dish of long beans with Chinese sausage. Why she chooses to stretch herself in this way is a bit baffling, considering that Tre is making a single lame-ass dessert and doesn't seem to be doing anything else to help the rest of the team.

Fabio has a religious experience when he removes his ribs from the not-hot-enough ovens:

Ah, Genius, but you made pork ribs; "short ribs" are beef.

While the recheftestants are running around in slow motion, trying to plate their dishes and get them out onto carts, hungry customers start flooding into the restaurant. They all want food and they want it NOW, so they start getting grabby and serve themselves off the carts. The perfect opportunity to push Casey down and run her over with her own cart is, sadly, not taken.

Just as things get rolling (or not), the judges take a table. The dimpled-and-ponytailed Top Chef Masters' finalist Susur Lee is among them, along with the usual suspects Gail, Tom, and Padma.

While they do get one of each dish to try, they can see that the mob around them is going hungry and getting angry. Before they can stage a riot, Tom goes to the kitchen to tell the pokey chefs to get the lead out.

After lunch service, as they flee for their lives from the angry and unsatisified diners, the recheftestants realize their attempt at dim sum was, for the most part, a big fat fail. Back at the Curiously Unsponsored Stew Room, Padma comes in to request the presence of Casey, Antonia, Jamie, Tre, and Carla. Carla is called out for her bland summer rolls, and Tre for his bland and un-set dessert (as if Chinese desserts aren't typically bland and wobbly - they are, very much so). Antonia's shrimpy toast was good, but she was guilty by association for working on Jamie's overly-oily bean dish. Finally, Casey's pancake was called "leaden" and her chicken foot was undercooked. It was so bad, even the hungry customers couldn't stomach it.

The bottom feeders were then sent back to the Stew and instructed to send out Tiffany, Angelo, Dale, and Fabio. Fabio seems surprised to be on top and tells the judges that he figured this time he'd be eliminated straight off, without the befit of a trial in front of Judges' Table. Tom joked that he was considering it, but Fabio's pork ribs were one of the best dishes of the afternoon.  Also good were Tiffany's steamed bun, Angelo's spring roll, and Dale's sticky rice dish, which Susur especially seemed to enjoy. So much so, he was awarded the win.

Unfortunately, this challenge didn't involve a special cash prize for Dale to put towards that ring for his lady.

When the loser chefs were brought out again, signs were pointing that Jamie would be eliminated, since she took credit for two dishes, neither of which the judges liked. Overall, however, Casey's dish was egregiously bad. Even though Antonia was responsible for heating and plating, Casey had to take full responsibility, and with that was sent home.

Hopefully Jamie will go next week. Fingers crossed!

10 comments:

  1. Miss Ginger would only eat chicken feet if chickens wore shoes.. which they don't.. so she won't. She knows what those nasty birds have been standing in all day!

    Good catch on the short ribs! I missed that!!

    I'm ready for Jaimie to go back to ugly-bitter-short lesbian scallopland!

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  2. No - I will definitely NOT be having the chicken feet (manicured or otherwise) when we do Dim Sum :)

    Great recap! Wish I'd have thought about the squid ink thing.

    XOXOXOXO

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  3. Anonymous4:21 PM

    That was a thrilling episode because it was such a disaster. That is one cool thing about this season, how off their game the chefs are.

    Also, it proves it that if you shrink away, such as Jamie does, you can ride it for while. Ugh.

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  4. Kristine7:44 PM

    Casey made such a storm about not being responsible for Carla's loss, but insinuated that the failure of the chicken feet was Antonia's, since she left them in her hands. Karma's a bitch.

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  5. Kristine - good point!

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  6. I don't think you frequent the Bravo boards, but here's my unqualified amateur psychologist take on why Casey does what she does:

    Casey has a tendency to try to wow the judges by overreaching to impress with her out-of-the box thinking and risk-taking, and it always comes back to bite her in the tuchas. It happened in the season 3 finale in Aspen; it's at the root of her advising Carla to sous-vide the beef and eschew the cheese plate in season 5; and it happened again in her choice of chicken feet as her dim sum entrée. In its way, Casey's "do something outré to make the judges' jaws drop" approach is not so different from Spike's gamesmanship and "stategery." She often chooses different and risky over good.

    If she were an ice skater with a good triple jump but no quadruple, you can bet she'd fall flat on her face doing a quadruple rather than execute a really good triple. She's all about the gimmicks.

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  7. You're certainly right about my not frequenting the Bravo boards - I don't have the patience to read a bunch of "first!" posts and having to scroll past huge signature gifs gives me a headache. I don't even bother with TWOP which has lots of nice rules and no sigs. :)

    You're probably right about Casey. I still don't like her.

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  8. Well, I never said I liked Casey. In fact, I've always been puzzled by the gushing viewer love for Sam, Casey, Antonia, and even Jen Carroll. Never liked any of them much and found them to be conniving and controlling.

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  9. Sam = hotness. 'nuff said.

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  10. I have mixed feelings about Casey. She seems like a complex person.

    But a damn hot one.

    And that blinds me.

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