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Top Chef: All Stars Preview


All right, Chef-heads, we’re less than a week away from the premiere of Top Chef: All Stars!  While the DC edition was about as inspiring as listening to politicians lie through their teeth, the Just Desserts spin-off was a delicious ice-cream sundae of drama and pastry expertise and just the right thing to whet my appetite for another season of kitchen smack-downs.

And what a season it’s already looking to be!  An All-Star edition of Top Chef is a no-brainer, and the producers were smart enough to hold off on it for seven seasons; this means that they have a huge pool of talent to draw from for their eighth edition.  It also means that, unlike in most prior outings, there’s no need to wait for the 5 or 6 chefs that are simply not up to snuff to get the axe for things to get interesting.  These are 18 people who know their way around a kitchen and a reality show, and the producers were smart to cast no previous winners; everybody has something to prove.  Let’s (re)meet them:

Tiffani is the runner-up in Season One.  Season One was not my favorite, perhaps because the host was Katie Lee Joel.  That’s right, can we all remember the time before Padma Lakshmi’s chilly, Bond villainess-esque (say that three times fast) monotone ruled supreme in the Top Chef kitchen?  Tiffani can, because she lost out to Harold by a hair.

Stephen is the guy who always was talking about wine during the first season.  I haven’t seen Season One in a while, but I remember thinking he wasn’t quite up to the level of some of his competitors.  I would have rather seen Lee Anne Wong or Dave Martin back for another go.

Elia shaved her head during the final episodes of Season Two and promptly got eliminated, coming in fourth overall.   Her hair has since grown back.

Marcel is the contestant that everyone hated so much they tried to shave his head during the final episodes of Season Two, and Cliff got disqualified for his part in it.  He’s also the guy who was so generally despised by the public that he got attacked by a fan with a bottle in Las Vegas while his season was airing.  I also seem to remember that he made a lot of foam to top off his dishes, which simply doesn’t sound appetizing on any level.

Casey is well known for sun-bathing in her bikini and generally giving straight men a reason to watch Bravo.  Also, she can cook, as she finished third in Season Three.

Tre is “the biggest upset in Top Chef history,”  at least according to Bravo.  He finished 8th in Season Three, which makes him the lowest original finisher in this All-Star edition.

Dale L. is the runner up of Season Three, the first member of Team Gay on this edition and the first person that I’m really excited to see again.  He’s not my choice for the win, but I hope he does well.

Richard is the runner-up from Season Four.  He cooks with a lot of molecular gastronomy, i.e. he’s a mad scientist in the kitchen.  I do, however, remember him to be charming and not at all an egotistical moron like many of his compatriots.

Antonia was another enjoyable presence in the kitchen from Season Four.  A fourth place finisher, I remember that her nickname was  “The Black Hammer.”  Apparently, getting called into Judge’s Table with Antonia was a kiss-of-death.

Spike always wears a hat.

Dale T. is definitely one of the egotistical morons that Richard isn’t.  When he wasn’t punching lockers during Season Four, he was busy singing his own praises and coming in sixth.

Carla is completely, totally and unequivocally my favorite contestant in Top Chef history.  Hootie??  Hoo!  She gives great interviews, she can make a pastry crust and she discovered her love for cooking while modeling in Europe.  How has she not guest-judged on one of those ubiquitous model shows yet?  Carla FTW!!

Jamie is the chef who prepared scallops so many times that she inspired a fellow contestant to remark “It’s Top Chef, not Top Scallop!”  She’s our second member of Team Gay and came in seventh in Season Five, which puts her just one spot above Tre.

Fabio is the chef who remarked that Jamie made scallops too often.  A huge fan favorite (he won this distinction in Season Five over my beloved Carla), he’s a native Italian who has no issue charming his way into the top if his food won’t get him there.  He wound up fourth in his season.

Mike is the chef  from Season Six who kept telling you that he was one of the best chefs in the competition but never produced the food to back it up.  Kind of like Kenny from Top Chef: DC.  He was wonderfully shot down in seventh place, when he couldn’t produce an edible vegetarian meal.

Jenn is another favorite of mine, and a chef who most definitely let the competition get the better of her.  Hopefully she’ll pull out another strong season, as she ultimately finished fourth in Season Six.

Tiffany is the chef who was robbed of a spot in the finals of Season Seven, pulling off a pretty impressive record of six straight weeks in the top (with two wins) leading up to her abrupt elimination in a challenge about making food for astronauts.  She also has the distinction of never appearing in the bottom until she got the axe, ultimately giving her a fifth place finish.  After Carla, Tiffany FTW!!

Angelo has not been off of my television screen for a long enough period.  Between claiming to have made love to the food he’s cooking and a truly odd relationship with a long-distance girlfriend in Russia, Angelo is not someone I feel the need to spend more time watching; I’ve already spent a whole season, since he was a runner-up in Season Seven.

And there you have it, your 18 Top Chef All-Stars.  For those of you that followed my Top Chef: Just Desserts recaps, you’ll know that I can’t stand having to place a last initial after a first name to identify who I’m talking about, so I’m hoping Dale T. gets the first one-way ticket home on December 1st.  However, the first challenge is reportedly having the chefs make the dish that got them eliminated, which means my money is on Mike getting the boot for his second attempt at making Whole Roasted Leeks with Onion Jus, Baby Carrot Puree and Fingerling Potato not only edible but appetizing.  Best of luck with that.

Season 8 – Top Chef: All-Stars premieres on Bravo Wednesday, December 1 at 10/9c