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Top Chef: All Stars Recap: New York's Finest


Only an hour long episode this time, Chef-heads.  What does it mean?  The chefs are pissed that Jen got sent home instead of Jamie, who Mike says is clearly the weaker of the two.  Ah, yes, but of the three of you who’s the weakest, Mike? *cough*youare*cough*

We go right into the Quickfire, with guest judge David Chang.  Mise-en-place relay race challenge!  Four teams of four, randomly selected compete in the old standby Quickfire with a twist.  The first team to finish their prep up to David Chang’s standards runs and starts a 15-minute timer, and that’s the start for all the teams.  Excellent twist on one of the great challenges.  No immunity for this challenge, but each member of the winning team gets a cool $5,000.  I wonder if Casey is having onion-chopping flashbacks.  Even if she isn’t, Dale L helpfully reminds the audience about her relay disgrace from Season Three.  The entire challenge goes by so fast it’s almost impossible to recap it; suffice it to say that the fact that no one lost a finger is a minor miracle.  The Blue Team (comprised of Spike, Richard, Tre and Stephen) wind up winning the Quickfire, and I’m hoping that they don’t continue with these teams because I don’t want to have to write out the rest of the breakdowns.

Elimination Challenge!  Dammit, they’re keeping the teams.  Okay, fine, Blue Team is explained above.  White Team is Tiffani, Carla, Dale T and Marcel, Green Team is Mike, Angelo, Tiffany and Fabio, Red Team is Jamie, Dale L, Antonia and Casey.  Happy, Bravo?  Each Team will dine at one of New York’s finest restaurants, and then create a dish that the chef would be proud to put on the menu.  Green Team gets Má Pêche (Asian fusion), which is actually owned by David Chang.  Red Team gets Townhouse (New American), Blue gets Marea (Italian) and White gets WD-50 (molecular gastronomy).  Padma then drops the bomb that they will be working as individuals…their team-mates are their direct competition, and the judges are sending two people home.

Green Team dines first, and Tiffany tells us that Angelo is annoying. Normally I’d make a Mistress of the Obvious joke here, but I like Tiffany and to be fair she’s had to spend a lot of time with him over the past year.  Blue Team heads over to Marea, and Tre tells us that Stephen is arrogant.  No need to fill us in Tre, we’re not headless.  White Team sits down at WD-50 and I realize for the first time that Carla is going to be asked to cook with molecular gastronomy…I’ll need a glass of red wine to calm my nerves.  She looks at it as an opportunity to marry classic and modern; that’s my girl, find that silver lining!  Then she looks at the menu and starts to get nervous.  I’ll need my wine in a Big Carl please (anyone get that?).  Finally we have Red Team at Townhouse, who eat some of the craziest things I’ve seen on this show…Angry Lobster anyone?  After seeing all the food, I want to eat at Marea more than anywhere else.

The chefs arrive at their restaurants and start prepping their dishes.  It must be an extremely low drama prep, because before you know it the judges arrive at Marea and it’s time for the Blue Team to serve.  Gail’s not there.  This is a huge issue for me, but luckily I already have my wine handy.  Richard and Tre get good reviews, Spike gets a so-so response and Anthony Bourdain says that Stephen’s salmon “tastes like a head shop.”  Vivid.  The judges head over to Má Pêche and the Green Team.  The whole team gets a pass from David Chang, who says that everything was something worthwhile…it seems like Angelo and Mike get the best reviews.  <sigh>  I really would like someone that I can’t stand to get the boot.  Off to Townhouse and the Red Team!  Casey gets high marks, while Dale L gets hit for his dish being too sweet and Jamie’s soup is too simple.  The judges head off to WD-50 and there’s a commercial break.  Oh, crap, what does this mean?  Does some sh*t go down in the last restaurant??  Carla FTW!!  I don’t know why I wrote that, I’m just panicking.  I’ll take a big gulp of malbec before I continue.

The judges sit down, and Tiffani immediately gets hit for being her dish being over-thought and over-complicated, while Dale T gets high marks for taking a lot of chances.  It’s the moment of truth and…Carla gets high marks!  The judges note the simplicity of her dish, but comment that she was smart to keep it simple.  Yeah she was!  I’ll take another gulp of wine to celebrate.  Marcel’s dish is bland and wasn’t improved by the advanced techniques he used.

Judge’s Table!  Dale T, Antonia, Angelo and Tre get called in first.  It’s probably safe to say Antonia won’t be winning, since the judges tasting her dish hit the cutting room floor.  The winner gets a 6-night trip to New Zealand…that’s kind of awesome.  Dale T takes the win, and I guess I’m okay with that…I don’t much like him all that much, but it seems that he deserved it and he hasn’t been as odious this season as he was previously.  Stephen, Tiffani, Fabio and Dale L get called in to face the wrath.  I’m sure Stephen is gone, but I’m not sure who will get the second axe.  After the discussion, I’m still not sure…no one, as Antonia puts it, “pulls a Jen.”  Even after the judges conference, I’m still in the dark…it doesn’t seem like any dish really just hit rock bottom on every level, which I suppose is one of the advantages of the All-Star season: even if these chefs miss in a big way, the judges still understand what they were aiming for.  Ultimately, Stephen and Dale L take the fall…I’m glad Stephen is out, but very sad about Dale L.  Ah well, at least I won’t have to put the surname initial after Dale T any longer.  And I have the rest of this malbec to comfort me.

And some final thoughts:

– “Fashion’s become a major obsession of mine.  Could be worse, could be like cocaine or heroin, so…”  Well, when you put it that way, Stephen…

– Tre’s laugh is winning me over to his side completely.  It’s really quite infectious and endearing.

– Padma hailing a cab in between restaurants…what?

– This week in Carla: “You shoulda seen me using a circulator, y’all…” and “Fight hard, but not too hard!  Be nice!”  She really is like the baby-sitter of all of these children, isn’t she?

– The whole little insert with Marcel talking about how he was once accused of stealing a dish from Wylie Dufresne made him seem even douchier than usual.  If that’s possible.

– The previews show that Gail’s back next week.  Not sure how I felt about Not-Gail as a judge.  To be fair, she didn’t really have a chance of winning me over, so I guess indifference is a ringing endorsement.