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Top Chef All Stars Recap: Advantage Chef


Hootie hoo, Chef-heads!  Since this is essentially the only TV show on the planet airing new episodes this week, I look forward to an extra-fevered debate over who got eliminated in the AM.   All that pent up energy’s gotta go somewhere, right?  Anyway, the remaining chefs head over to a “bar,” which I put in quotes because they’re the only people in it, which means it’s just a set that Bravo dumped a bunch of liquor onto and told them to go to town.  It’s like Jersey Shore. On with the show!

Quickfire!  Tony Mantuano is our guest judge this week; he owns Spiagga in Chicago.  Tony cooks Italian food, which means I want to be Tony’s friend.  The Quickfire this week is the Swanson Broth Quickfire; I guess if you’re giving away fourteen gazillion dollars in prizes, some product placement is necessary.  The chefs have to create a delicious stuffing, without any knives or kitchen tools.  The winning chef gets immunity and $20,000 which gets the blood pumping nicely in the kitchen.  I can’t wait to see what these people are about to do to, say, dice an onion.

Oh, and they don’t disappoint.  Fabio grates cheese on a metal shelf (he calls it “genius”…one man’s genius is another’s health violation).  Carla bangs an onion with a pot.  Tiffani butchers a quail with a pepper grinder.  Various things are used to stir sauces including the handle of a pot, a celery stick and an ear of corn.  The chefs actually seem to be having a fantastic time and frankly so am I.  Carla has an issue with her under-done quinoa stuffing, and handles it with her usual grace and humor, openly saying it’s not even a twenty-cent dish let alone a $20,000 one.  She winds up in the bottom, along with Tiffani and Casey…sad moment for the ladies again.  Marcel and Tre wind up in the top, and man I hope Tre wins.  I’ve really warmed to him over the first three episodes; his laugh is one the great sounds in this world.  Win he does, and Marcel is vanquished for another week.

Elimination challenge!  The chefs are divided into two teams and are told to create healthy, high energy dishes to be served head-to-head against the opposing team.  The team that wins gets a point, first team to four points wins; people who served losing dishes on the losing team are up for elimination.  This will be served at “the home of the US Open” or  Arthur Ashe Stadium to use it’s real name.  The final twist is that the chefs don’t know who they’ll be serving against, so must strategize the roll-out of their menu.  These challenges are so complicated I have to re-watch Padma explaining them twice in order to get it down.  All I can focus on is that Carla is getting a lot of screen-time this episode and I’m getting scared she’s receiving a Loser Edit; she’s stated she wants to make a stew, and her teammates don’t love the idea, but she carries on anyway.  I’m going to choose to believe it’s a Winner Edit and move on.  Fly free, Hootie.

The chefs have three hours to prep at the stadium kitchen and I come to realize that I think I hate Fabio.  He’s doing gnocchi again; I love Italian food more than anything, but gnocchi for an athlete?  Antonia rightly points out that this is not a good choice.  Then he starts squawking about how he’s the man if he can make gnocchi in this kitchen, and all I can think about is that his voice makes me want to rip off my ears and his hair makes my hands itch for some pruning shears.  Hey, that rhymed.  Meanwhile, Angelo’s mackerel isn’t up to snuff and he borrows some tuna from Tiffany after Tre turns him down when he asks for salmon.  Team Yellow (Angelo, Tiffani, Casey, Jamie, Tre, Tiffany and Spike) are extremely excited about their strategy of sending their worst dish out first, because they’re sure that Team Orange (Mike, Fabio, Dale, Carla, Antonia, Richard and Marcel) will be sending out their best dish first.  Cue the evil laughter over their nefarious plot.  I feel like this really only comes into play if one of the chefs really serves up a stinker.

CARLA DOWN!!  CARLA’S BEEN INJURED!!  DISASTER!!  Sorry, deep breath.  Carla cuts “literallly half of her fingernail off.”  And she scoffs at the medic who tells her to go to the hospital.  Dale and Antonia both praise her for being a professional, because my girl bandages her finger up and before you can say “Jamie looks like a complete wuss right now,” she’s back on her prep.  ‘Cause that’s how she rolls.

Service!  The chefs are set up on opposite sides of a tennis court; the judges strut out and Padma’s wearing hot pants, while Gail looks fantastic.  The first match up is Fabio versus…well, ultimately Casey who steps up and volunteers when Jamie refuses to go because her chick peas aren’t ready yet.  Fabio wins and starts jumping around like he was just told gnocchi is the food of the gods.  He then says that he’s Italian, and hence can’t help it.  I’ve dated Italians, Fabio, take it from me…you should try to help it.  Round 2!  Dale (who supplants Marcel, much to his irritation, because he’s “losing his dumplings”) versus Tiffani…Tiffani wins and evens the score, 15-all.  Round 3 is Angelo versus Marcel…Angelo wins decisively and make it 15-30 Team Yellow.  Round 4!  Antonia versus Tiffany…Tiffani makes the excellent point that Angelo’s hands are in everyone’s dish and he should butt out.  In a nail-biter, Antonia squeaks out a win, evening the score again.  Jamie then testifies that she hopes that one team will win before she even has to serve her dish…there’s game playing and then there’s just outright not playing at all.  Boo to this strategy.

Round 5 <ding>!  Richard versus Spike, and Angelo again has his fingers in another’s dish, adding a yuzu gelee to Spike’s finished product.  In an ironic twist, it seems Tiffani is interfering as well, approximately 4 seconds after she complained about Angelo doing it.  Neither dish gets a good reception, but Richard wins, making it 40-30 Team Orange.  Round 6 is my girl Carla against Tre…Carla testifies that she’s nervous because Tre has been in the zone the past few weeks.  Angelo again is “helping” his teammate, and it’s noted that some of Tre’s salmon is slightly burned after Angelo cooks it for him.  The judge’s unanimously vote Carla the win, which means that Team Orange has won the day!  I’m slightly confused…does this mean that Jamie doesn’t have to serve her under-cooked chick peas and gets a pass?  Apparently so…there’s going to be a LOT of Jamie hate on the blogs tomorrow.

Judge’s Table!  Fabio, Carla, Richard and Antonia, the winning Orange team members, get called in.  The winner gets a trip to Italy and Carla wins it!  Suck it, haters!  I don’t even know who I’m yelling at, because I believe Carla is universally loved.  So happy for my girl!  Casey, Tiffany, Tre and Spike are called in and we can be pretty sure Tiffany is safe as the judges mostly adored her dish; she only lost out to Antonia by one vote.  Tre has immunity, which leaves Casey and Spike on the block.  Spike immediately implies that Angelo sabotaged his dish; Tom asks Tiffany what she thinks of this accusation towards her season-mate.  She gives a non-answer and says that the chefs are responsible for what winds up on their plate.  Tre winds up thankful for his immunity, as he’s told his dish was the least favorite.  Casey’s dish is deemed to protein heavy…she comes close to pulling a Jen and openly disagrees with the judges.

They head back to the Stew Room, and the judges are left to deliberate.  Man, I hope Spike goes home, but this whole thing seems unfair since the two worst dishes are apparently Tre’s (immunity) and Jamie’s (coward).  Spike gets the axe, which seems to be the third worst dish on the losing team so…okay I guess.  Whatever, I can’t get a good head of steam going about Spike’s elimination, cause I’m just glad I don’t have to listen to him anymore…oh, and did I mention CARLA WON!!

Some final Hoos for your Hooties:

– Did Angelo call Marcel “Marcie?”

– This week in Carla: I noticed for the first time the clip of her ripping something open with her teeth during the opening credits.  Girl looks cray-cray in the extreme.  Love it.

– Further this week in Carla: the calm stroll into the kitchen, the quote “Whatever is meant to be, will be,” the closed eyes.  Perfection.

– Still further this week in Carla: “I said undone-tay…need some floss?”

– “I never played sports in high school.  I smoked a lot of pot and…did nothing else.”  I think those two things tend to go hand-in-hand, Antonia.

– There appeared to be an impromptu dance party going on in the Stew Room while waiting for the judges.  Inspired by Mike, of all people.  Hmmph, I’m focused on disliking Fabio right now, so I can’t work up any indignation for Mike appearing fun.

– Enough with the team challenges.