Thursday, February 03, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Episode Eight Recap

I feel all out-of-sorts when Top Chef skips a week, don't you? In any case, this week's new episode starts with Antonia, the Black Hammer, saying that Mike Isabella is a jerk and needs to go. I think a lot of people agree with her; hopefully they'll end up on the same team this week.

The recheftestants meet up at the Top Chef kitchen with Padma and special guest judge, fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. It is, in the fantasy world of Top Chef, Fashion Week in NY, despite the show being filmed in the summer and actual Fashion Week not starting until Feb 10th. Anyhoo...the challenge is to create something aesthetically pleasing, and Isaac tells us that "food and clothing are related." Sure they are. If you eat too much, you need to go out and buy new clothes! Simple math, actually. Anyhoo...the chefs are tasked to make a pretty plate that will not be judged on its flavor in any way.

The chefs scurry and seem to have a bit of trouble working only on the visual and not on flavors. Fabio, however, gets a concept and runs with it.

He makes this with tuna ladies and mushroom umbrellas with lemon juice rain, and embellishes his plate with the words "style for me is not to wear a cool dress or own pieces out of the newest collection of a gread [sic] style is the way I'm living my life every day." I wonder what was in his coffee that morning?

Angelo, too, has an idea. He tells us, girl, he loooooves fashion, and his favorite designer is Roberto Cavalli who is famous for his crocodile prints(?) And of course crocodile can be mimicked with pineapple skin and an egg sealed in a plastic bag.

Blais, always clever, makes black chocolate ice cream because he notices that Isaac always wears black.

Time's up!

Doing the rounds, Isaac makes lots of amusing comments about the chefs' plating. Angelo has graffiti'd his table with the word "crocadile" and Isaac notes that not only has he has spelled it wrong, but it looks a bit like something Charles Manson might do. Isaac also raises an eyebrow at the mention of Cavalli being Angelo's favorite designer when of course he should have said Isaac Mizrahi. He seems to like Antonia's depiction of the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which apparently is his favorite.

Dale, Tre, and Angelo are the least impressive; Fabio and Carla are favorites, but Blais nails it and wins immunity for the next challenge.

Exit Isaac, enter Frank Pellegrino, Frank Pellegrino, Jr., and Chef Dino from famous, tiny, and hard-to-get-into NY Italian restaurant, Rao's. The cheftestants first draw knives bearing the names of these three wise guys to find out which of three traditional courses they must prepare for an Italian dinner at the restaurant.

Chef Dino/Antipasti: Antonia, Carla, Tiffany
Junior/Primi: Tre, Dale, Mike
Frankie No/Secondi: Blais, Angelo, Fabio

The recheftestants pow-wow a bit with the leader of their team, which means Fabio starts taking old-school Italian chow with his paisan, taking valuable time from Blais and Angelo who look a little confused. Especially Angelo. Notice how he's looking more and more lost as the competition goes on.

After a trip to Whole Foods, there's 2 hours of prep in the Top Chef Kitchen. All three Italian chefs think they have it in the bag, Fabio because he's Fabio, Antonia because her dad is 100% Sicilian, and Mike because he's from Joisey.

Don't worry - you're not the favorite. Ok, perhaps your wife would disagree, but she's not here. Anyway...Mike's making fresh rigatoni, which involves a special press and dies. I'm impressed that the Top Chef kitchen is equipped with such things, unless of course he picked them up at Whole Foods.

After two hours are up, the recheftestants pack up and head to Rao's, where they have an additional hour to cook.

The antipasti gals present their dishes first to a large table of mostly-Italian diners. Besides Padma and Bourdain, we have actress Lorraine Bracco, the Pellegrino boys, a dude in a tacky sequined vest called "Nicky the Vest" who happens to be the restaurant's long-time bartender, Ron Straci, a co-owner, and Joe, the restaurant manager.

All three of the ladies' dishes - Carla's minestrone, Antonia's mussels, and Tiffany's polenta with sausage - please the judges. Despite cooking at the same time with Antonia, it seems that Carla and Tiffany are both safe from the Black Hammer. This week.

The primi boys go next and present overly al dente rigatoni (Mike), undersauced pasta (Dale), and clumpy risotto (Tre), all of which garner disappointment from the diners.

Between each course, the chefs who have finished their cooking wait in a storage room. Mike, all full of himself yet pissed-off at the way his pasta turned out, decides to take it out on Tiffany by insulting her polenta and sausage dish, saying that to him it wasn't an antipasto.

Finally, the secondi boys present their wares. Fabio's chicken cacciatore with polenta gets raves, the diners seem to enjoy Blais' pancetta cutlet, and there are mixed comments about Angelo's pork chop. All three seem pretty safe.

Later, the antipasti girls plus Fabio are called to Judges' Table first. They have created the evening's best dishes, which makes Tiffany cry tears of relief (and Mike grind his teeth in frustration). Alas, hers was not the favorite - those honors went to Antonia, for her mussels with fennel. This irritates Fabio who thought he should have won.

When they get back to the Stew Room and Antonia announces her win to the remaining recheftestants, for a few seconds there is only shock. Mike actually sits gape-mouthed. Eventually someone is polite and congratulates Antonia and she gets some weak applause. Then the primi boys are told it's their turn to face the judges. All three are excoriated for the mistakes in their dishes. Although Mike's pasta was tough - something Tom attributes to using too many eggs - his sauce was good. Dale's dish had no redeeming qualities, but Tre's missteps were far worse. His risotto was not the loose consistency of a proper risotto, and his vegetable garnish was too clunky and detracted from the rice. Bourdain said it seemed like he was trying to hide a body.

Sorry, one of his teeth has a shadow on it and it
immediately reminded me of Alfred E. Neumann.

Buh-bye Tre. He was one of my two choices to win (the other was Blais...still my favorite) and I'm so sorry to see him go so early, especially before Mike I. :(

So what did you think?


Deb said...

Totally agree with your assessment. It was sad to see Tre depart--but alas! I am not Italian nor a judge and the "people" I know have no influence. :)

Anonymous said...

What a great blog! I shall return! kh

khintx said...

What a great blog! Very clever. Better than the Bravo recaps that's fer sure! I shall return! kh

bernal_vernal said...

I'm glad Antonia finally won something! Last night's episode made me want to have a big bowl of my Mom's pasta!

Kristine said...

But once again, Antonia gets screwed. Throughout season 4 and now All Stars, every time she wins, she gets NOTHING. Nada. Not even a giant bottle of wine or some shilling celebrity chef's cookbook. I thought the way the boys treated her when she won was horrible. She took it well, even wishing the spoiled brats good luck as they went to the gallows.

David Dust said...

Tee-hee. I get such a giggle when you and I make some of the same points in our recaps.

Great job, my darling.

Don't forget to check out MY RECAP.


Miss Ginger Grant said...

I really wanted DouchbagMike to get auf'd!

And Angelo's mincing and prancing at the mention of a fashion challenge was just painful!

I wanta to say: "Gurl: Itsa Top Chefa, notta Top Faggella!!"

Cliff O'Neill said...

Totally rooting for Antonia now. That Fabio is one-a sore-a losa.