Top Chef All Stars Recap
By David Mumpower
March 16, 2011
No punches are pulled during the first Quickfire of the finals. The contestants walk into the outdoor cooking area and immediately recognize Hosea Rosenberg, Michael Voltaggio, Kevin Sbraga and Stephanie Izard. These are the Top Chef champions who beat each of the remaining All Stars during their original competitions. While Mike instantly presumes that he will be cooking on the same team as his buddy, Michael Voltaggio, the reverse is the case. In another clever challenge during a season of strong ideas, the All-Stars must prove their worth by attempting to defeat the chef who originally bested them. In the particular case of Stephanie Izard, this means that she faces off against Antonia and Richard. Seriously, how great was season four?
The challenge itself is something of a bust. Several chefs have trouble with their haphazardly thrown together cooking appliances. This leads to a few truly terrible dishes. No one even wants to taste Carla’s raw rice, which means Hosea wins $10,000 in addition to his free trip to the Bahamas. Hosea also reveals that he has a chip on his shoulder toward the haters who claimed he was an unworthy champion during his season. Carla’s tribulations in presenting her dish will not aid his reputation any in this regard, which is unfortunate. Hosea is a great chef and a worthy champion. His only real mistake during season five was flirting too much with Leah.
Antonia and Stephanie both share Carla’s struggle in preparing their meals. This leads to a split decision wherein Stephanie’s food is declared slightly more palatable than Antonia’s. Neither lady is pleased by the judges’ critique of their dishes. Stephanie sardonically declares, “I win with a crappy dish.” Needless to say, Richard wins his half of the round, which means that he gets $10,000, Stephanie gets $10,000 and Antonia gets to feel especially bad about her cooking.
The strong legs of the Quickfire involve seasons six and seven. As Tom states, always consistent Kevin and Tiffany both offer strong dishes, but Tiffany is declared the winner. This marks her first victory during the entire season of Top Chef All Stars, meaning that I have to retire the joke that you the reader have won as many times as she has. Goodbye factually accurate joke, I will miss you. The shocker is that while Michael Voltaggio delivers a delicious dish that impresses Padma, Tom Colicchio and Eric Ripert agree that Mike Isabella has edged him. While the other chefs spent the past few months doubting themselves, Mike showed up with a “nothing to lose” attitude that serves him well. Beating a Voltaggio in a cooking competition indicates that I should start taking Mike Isabella seriously as a contender. Rats. I really didn’t want to do that.
The Elimination Challenge’s announcement creates further doubt among the female competitors. They will be creating dishes for “Bahamian royalty”. Immediately, most of the contestants plan the finest haute cuisine in their arsenal. Carla’s downward spiral has her on the verge of tears in the kitchen, something Antonia discovers when an innocuous question is met with a tortured response. After asking “how you doin’” (I don’t think it was intended Joey Tribbiani style, but that was the phrasing), Carla breaks down with a series of strained replies. Antonia’s face says everything about her desire to parachute out of the conversation right then and there. Composure and Carla are no longer friends.