Top Chef: All-Stars Recap
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
January 25, 2011
Dear Marcel: Wouldn’t you like to be Antonia’s teammate? We would sure like that to happen!
With eight chefs out of 18 eliminated, today’s episode marks the halfway point, and the show’s producers are pulling out all the stops. Eric Ripert’s Le Bernadin is the setting for the Quickfire, and the host is TV’s Anthony Bourdain. The No Reservations host introduces Justo Thomas, the fish butcher whose legendary skill is chronicled in a chapter of Medium Raw, Bourdain’s latest book. We’re told that Justo’s work is so impressive that he can do in four hours what it takes three chefs eight hours to do (meaning that they struggle when he goes on vacation). Even Hung would be impressed by this guy.
After a brief demonstration of his skill, what happens next is predictable. Tonight’s Quickfire challenge requires that the chefs imitate Justo’s cutting to the best of their abilities. The results are not pretty. Almost immediately we can tell who the skilled fish carvers are, as opposed to the people who look like you or me. Carla doesn’t even produce a single edible portion, and she’s at peace with this because she knows it’s just not in her skill set. Carla, we learned from The Simpsons that the strategy goes, “Knife goes in, fish guts come out.”
Joining Carla on the bottom are Fabio, Tiffany and Antonia, and Fabio even cuts his thumb for good measure. Dale, Richard, Mike and Marcel are not done yet. These finalists will have to cook the icky fish heads, the wings, the collars – all of the worst parts of the fish. While they’re preparing their food, Mike and Marcel have a slap fight. Newly Zen Dale continues his peaceful preparations. Everyone’s dish is satisfying, but Dale, who claims he was raised on fishheads, maximizes his childhood advantage by creating a fluke back fin sashimi with cucumber & fluke liver sauce along with a bacon dashi with salt roasted cod collar. That’s right. Not only does he do two dishes, he does them really, really well. Dale is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Oh yeah, and he can fish, too.
What does Dale win? Immunity, of course. Also, he is a team captain in everyone’s favorite challenge, Restaurant Wars. Best of all, he gets to pick the other team captain, or as we call it, the “Marcel’s on the other team award.” This is theoretically an unofficial title, but Dale barely lets Padma finish her sentence before he selects Marcel as the captain of the other team. Marcel deludes himself into believing that this is an honor (it’s not). He is then given the first pick in the draft. Marcel being Marcel, he eschews the “best player available” draft strategy and selects Angelo. Yes, we mean the same Angelo who single-handedly lost the US Open challenge for his team due to his constant meddling. The same Angelo who Tiffany has warned others not to let touch their dishes. This will end in tears.
Of course, this means that Dale cannot wait to select Richard. We’re one pick in and this draft is already perfect for Dale because Richard is on his team, and Marcel is on the other team. In fact, we are impressed with every pick Dale makes, because each one has a purpose. After Marcel next selects mortal enemy Mike Isabella (free advice for Marcel: google “team chemistry”), Dale selects prep animal Tre. Then, after Antonia is taken off the board, Dale selects the person he describes as the steal of the draft, schmoozer extraordinaire Faio to work the front of the house. Amusingly, Marcel awkwardly asks Tiffany to join his team, and her reaction is only marginally warmer than if he’d asked her out on a date. That leaves Dale with Carlo (oh no! His undrafted free agent is the hottest chef in the competition not named Dale!).