Top Chef: All-Stars Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
December 2, 2010
The decision making process is smooth for most of the teams. With less than a half hour, choices are made almost immediately with the first idea usually the one chosen. The cooking process is smooth with a few exceptions. Stephen is clearly out of practice and Tiffani, who is always in a bad mood anyway, gets quite frustrated with him. Richard Blais cannot resist the opportunity to break out the Nitrogen tank, which we’re not even sure was on the set. He may have the mutant power to produce a tank out of thin air. The unluckiest group is Angelo and Tiffany. Stephen is in a mad scramble to get his dish completed and just runs through Angelo, causing him to spill a lot of their protein. To her credit, Tiffany keeps Angelo focused with her attitude of “It happened. Move on. Let’s go.” They wind up plating a good looking dish, albeit one with a lot less fish than planned.
The judges have their poker faces on when they taste each of the meals. We are not joking when we say that the most descriptive evaluation given to any of the seven meals is “interesting flavors”. When they reveal their choices for best dishes, we largely fall back to our preconceived notions about the overall skill of the various seasons. We expect Chicago and Miami (due to their easy cuisine options), along with Las Vegas (due to their ingenuity) to be at the top and San Francisco and Los Angeles to be at the bottom with Washington D.C. also there due to the clumsiness of a competing chef. To our surprise, this is almost exactly what happens. The three teams mentioned above plus New York with their “interesting flavors” finish on the bottom. Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas finish on top, with the winner coming down to a decision between Las Vegas’ Bucatini with Bacon Lobster Carbonara against Chicago’s bravely simple hot dog (albeit one with mustard gelato).
The Chicago team of Dale T., Spike, Antonia and Richard Blais wins in a tight race and while Las Vegas contestants Jen and Mike vent their frustration with the result, the fact is this. The other team had twice as many chefs and while there may be a maxim about too many cooks in the kitchen, more of them is a huge advantage with such a short time limit in effect. The fact that Jen and Mike made this Quickfire close speaks volumes about their overall skill. This is also the first shot off the bow in the Jen Carroll vs. Richard Blais that we hope will define Top Chef All-Stars.
With regards to the elimination challenge itself, the producers of the show have produced a masterstroke. A series of plates are placed in front of the various contestants. When they see the contents within, all of their faces register shock. Each All-Star is being asked to recreate the dish for which they were eliminated. For several of them, this borders on being a death sentence already. Jamie will be asked to make the fish dish from Eric Ripert’s restaurant that she didn’t even like in the first place. Dale T. will be forced to take a second attempt at what was described as an innately failed concept that could never work, a meal Anthony Bourdain described as “Worst. Dish. Ever.” Stephen was knocked out of the competition largely for his front of the house performance. He has never even cooked the meal he will be asked to reproduce. The other members of his restaurant wars team did it for him the first time. Best of all, Spike will be required to make the dreaded frozen scallops meal that led to one of the most heated arguments in the history of the show, the one where Spike insulted a guest judge for the contents of his freezer. And just to prove that the show’s producers have a great sense of humor, the scallops they provide are once again frozen in order to make the situation identical. That’s what you get for talking smack to one of the judges, dude.