Top Chef: All-Stars Recap
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
December 2, 2010
The genius of this challenge is that almost all of the chefs have obsessed over the dish that got them eliminated. This is either their chance at redemption or their re-living of their worst nightmare, depending on if you are an optimist or a pessimist. There is a second twist to the first elimination challenge. The 18 contestants are divided into two groups. The people who are not plating will sit with the judges and offer their critiques of the dishes served by their competition. What none of them realizes at first is that all of the judges’ comments will be shown on a television in the kitchen. Yes, people will hear the comments about their food in real time. Elia all but curls up in the fetal position and cries when this is announced. She never took criticism well during Season 2 and we are disappointed to see that she has not developed thicker skin in the interim.
The general opinions of all of the contestants from the first group not named Fabio are as follows. Richard Blais quickly reminds the judges why they loved him so much in the first place. His dish makes their eyes light up. We should note, however, that Angelo, Tre and Tiffani all pointed out that he plated beyond the allotted time, and we aren’t sure if the judges will take issue with that. In terms of taste, however, he has created a sublime meal. Similarly, Angelo dazzles people with his glazed pork belly. Casey redeems herself according to Gayle by making an impressive dish. Anthony Bourdain gives Dale T. one of the best compliments of his professional career by stating that “There is this great expression in the Marine corp. Get yourself un-bleeped. He un-bleeped this dish.” Bravo provided the bleeps, not us, but you get the point. That’s quite the improvement from Worst. Dish. Ever. Tiffany, Tiffani and Tre’s meals are somewhere in the middle, garnering some praise and some minor quibbles. Stephen’s food is poorly received with the judges universally agreeing his food lacks focus. Elia suffers the worst fate as one of the other All-Stars notes there is a scale on his food and multiple others say the fish isn’t cooked properly.
The opinions of the dish from Fabio are largely espoused by Anthony Bourdain. “I hated the whole dish. I keep tasting it. I keep poking it just to make sure that I actually hate it as much as I think I do. I really, really, really hate it. It looks like an inside out animal. It’s appalling.” Bourdain is correct in this regard, as even though Kim has Fabio on her reality television laminated list, we still agree that the meal looks like desecrated animal guts. Several others mirror this opinion, with some of them wondering if the superfluous paper included with the meal is supposed to be rolled up and smoked. Fabio stews as he watches this on the closed circuit television. When the All-Stars change places and he sits across from Bourdain, he glares as the No Reservations host attempts to laugh it off. Eventually, the judge realizes just how hurt Fabio is by his commentary. This circles back to our earlier statement that the judges having personal relationships and prior awareness of the contestants will impact the game in more personal ways this season. Anthony Bourdain is one of the legends of modern cooking and he just mercilessly mocked Fabio on national television. Tiffani summarizes the entire situation aptly when she states, “This is like the beginning of the most uncomfortable Thanksgiving ever.”