Top Chef All-Stars Recap
By David Mumpower
March 28, 2011
At the start, eight previous Quickfire rules are placed before the chefs. The All Stars are asked to assign one another a particular one. Mike gets dibs since he won the previous elimination challenge, and he saddles Antonia with canned foods, widely considered one of the worst constraints. Fresh ingredients are an imperative for topflight cuisine, which means Antonia is already screwed and probably a non-factor. Antonia gets to pick next, and she assigns hot dogs to Richard, presumably because such an entrée limits his creativity. Richard assigns the one pot restraint to Mike, a move that aggravates Antonia. She points out that in doing so, Mike is given access to everything he needs. Effectively, Antonia is taken out of the competition while Mike and Richard should be all right.
Wait a moment. I spoke too soon. There is another twist in a season overly full of twists. A further constraint is given to each competitor after they have begun their preparations. “Any time Padma walks into the kitchen before time is up, you know that something is wrong,” says Antonia. She is not wrong. Padma informs the chefs that they may choose between three classic twists, yet again arbitrarily confining the competitors. The choices are cooking with one hand, the second is the disqualification of utensils for the duration of the challenge, and the final one is the double apron twist, the Top Chef equivalent of a three-legged race. Mike winds up without utensils, Richard is stuck cooking (not typing) with one hand and Antonia picks up an awesome teammate in Carla Hall. Suddenly, Antonia’s chances are looking up.
Alas, Carla doesn’t comprehend the restraints of the challenge very well, causing Antonia to have to waste time explaining them. Meanwhile, Mike looks just as silly as Fabio did in trying to smash open his ingredients. All Blais has to do is finish his dish with one hand and he should win in a walk. Unfortunately for him, Wolfgang Puck finds his hot dog “too ketchup-y” (as if that’s even possible). Then again, he isn’t particularly pleased with the other two dishes as well. This is what happens when you turn the creation of a dish into a series of random punishments. In the end, Mike wins largely because his dish looks the best. Let us never speak of this Quickfire again.
The final elimination challenge is a great one. The chefs walk out to a garden area where they come face to face with an Iron Chef, the king of all Iron Chefs, and a winning challenger from Iron Chef. Wolfgang Puck, Masaharu Morimoto and (Sweet Onion Battle winner) Michelle Bernstein are the guest judges tonight. The remaining contestants will be required to cook a last meal for one of them that reminds the established culinary superstar of a meal from their youth. This is the Anton Ego in Ratatouille stratagem, one I personally adore. This is the type of challenge we should see at the end of a season of Top Chef in that the competitors are given the opportunity to cook to the best of their ability sans artificial, arbitrary impediments. Right on cue, Padma informs the contestants that she holds an envelope with a surprise twist that will not be revealed until later. DAMMIT!