Tag Archives: Top Chef All Stars

Top Chef: All-Stars: Weaksauce Season, Bitchin’ Finale

31 Mar

How can someone be an All-Star when they begin the finale bitching about which one of the final two cheftestants is the underdog? Get in the right position and get on top, boys. Mike and Richard― this is the end.

At the beginning of last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars finale, it was clear that Richard needed some balls ― confidence, tiger blood, whatever you want to call it. “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” he said about himself.

Cheftestants of All-Stars past were reinstated, flown to the Bahamas to try once again to be part of the finale. Each had to create an amuse bouche, and the two finalists had to choose his favorite, and the (wo)man behind the winning one-bite dishes would play spouses for the finalists as they created their dream restaurant menu.

Mike ended up with not quite the dream team. He went on and on about how he didn’t want Jamie, not just because she’s Jamie but because she’s slow in the kitchen. Guess what? He unknowingly picked her plate. She was on his team along with Carla and Tiffani.

Richard got the better team: Antonia, Angelo, and Spike, though Spike looked annoyed that his amuse was picked first. He’d have to cook, when he really just wanted to make it to his jet-ski reservation.

The judges and guests of honor were split up in different seatings. The Padma group (Lidia Bastianich, Hubert Keller, Alfred Portale, and Bill Terlato) sampled Richard’s restaurant first. The Gail and Tom group (Art Smith and Curtis Stone) started their dinner at Mike’s concept restaurant.

Richard
Restaurant: Tongue and Cheek
Concept: A bit of whimsy, and what chefs like to eat in the kitchen
Menu:
Amuse: Raw oyster with crème fraiche pearls and salsa verde
First: Raw hamachi with fried veal sweetbreads, garlic mayonnaise, and pickled celery
Second: Pork belly, black cod cutlet, bone marrow, beets, Brussels sprouts, and kumquats
Third: Beef short rib with mushrooms, red cabbage marmalade, and celery root-horseradish puree
Fourth: Cornbread with foie gras ice cream and whipped mango

Mike
Restaurant: Iz
Concept: Casual but with elegant food inspired by the Italian flavors Mike Isabella (get it? “Iz”) grew up with
Menu:
First: Spiced beets with mozzarella, truffle and chocolate vinaigrette
Second: Halibut with kumquat marmalade, cauliflower puree, and pancetta crumbs
Third: Braised pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce, roasted cabbage, and turnips
Fourth: Rosemary caramel custard and pine nuts with citrus, celery, and apple

The only big last minute change was that Richard changed his Cap’n Crunch ice cream to foie gras. It was the wild card dish, and the one the judges liked least. He even sent Spike to be his ears at the judges’ table, and after learning that Hubert Keller didn’t like the consistency of the foie ice cream he tweaked the recipe for the second group of judges.

The judges loved Richard’s amuse, first, and second courses, but food freaks like us were yelling at our TVs that no one mentioned that his Oyster and Pearl course was a play on the famous French Laundry dish created by Thomas Keller. Although instead of oysters with white caviar it was nitrogen- (duh, it’s Richard) blasted crème fraiche balls.

The second course was so close that Tom first declared Mike’s steamed halibut as the best cooked fish he’d ever had on Top Chef, then later said he’d only declared that because he hadn’t yet tasted Richard’s cod.

Mike’s third course was clearly the favorite. It should have been, since he cooked it exactly the way Tom likes his meat: braised but still glazed, and, oh, what a glaze it was! Mike showed his Italian flavors by whippin’ out his pepperoni sauce and putting it over pork shoulder. Hot, original, and it took this main dish ’round.

Desserts are always weaksauce for chefs, and the finale was no exception. Mike narrowly took this dish-off.

The food was all quite impressive, and by the end we thought Gail’s observation perfectly described the differences: She said she’d rather go to Mike’s place on weeknights and Richard’s on weekends.

By the end, Richard was a wreck and all but surrendered, until the moment he was proclaimed Top Chef: All-Star‘s winner! He gets $200,000, redemption, and breath … we aren’t sure he would have survived not winning.

His final line, with tears in his eyes: “I didn’t think I could do it. You don’t know. And I don’t wanna be cliché, but where there is a will there’s a way. I willed this.”

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Bring On the Finale Already: Top Chef: All-Stars Is Down to the Final Two

24 Mar

We are still in it, and the real season finale for Top Chef: All-Stars is still not even upon us. Let the torture stopand the recap begin!

Last night’s Quickfire Challenge was the Quickfire of all Quickfires. The cheftestants each got to assign a Top Chef Quickfire classic to their competition. Antonia made Richard do hot dogs, which he was excited about because the guest judge was Wolfgang Puck. According to Richard, Austrians love hot dogs. Smart Richard also gave Mike, the guy on the winning streak, a one-pot challenge. Antonia pointed out that was stupid because now Mike had access to the whole kitchen. She dissed him by saying, “Blais, not the sharpest one in the drawer.” There is nothing that we love more than the irony of an unfinished putdown.

Antonia was stuck having to make a dish using canned food, thanks to Mike. After the cooking began, Padma came in and the cheftestants got to assign each other a Quickfire twist: one hand, no utensils, or the double-apron twist. Once again, Richard choked on his assignment and gave Mike no utensils after his cooking prep was already done.

The result: Wolfgang thought Richard’s hot dogs were too ketchupy, and Mike won on the strength of a single dish. The beauty of winning was that Mike was now the guy who got to orchestrate the Elimination, which was the celebrity chef last supper: Each cheftestant would have to make a famous chef’s dream meal.

Mike picked Michelle Bernstein for himself; she wanted fried chicken with biscuits and gravy. Richard got paired with Wolfgang Puck — his last supper was goulash, spaetzle, and strudel. And Mike stuck it to Antonia with a Morimoto pairing. He craved a bento box.

​ Michelle (my fella Jewtina, whoop-whoop!) was the only one who didn’t choose a dish her mother made, and that gave Mike a bit more creative license. Richard and Antonia bitched about how they had to understand an entire culture with their dishes while Mike got to make fried chicken. BFD!

Oh, it was on. Richard couldn’t open his pressure cooker and was scared of choking again. Antonia had to deal with rancid hamachi and got into some sexy talk regarding Mike giving it to her twice.

Here’s what it looked like:
Antonia: tuna with pickled daikon, mushrooms, and eggplant served with miso soup and rice
Mike: fried chicken with pea puree, and egg yolk empanadas with mustard gravy.
Richard: beef goulash, spaetzle with (liquid nitrogen) sour cream, and apple strudel with tarragon cream

Morimoto complained about salty miso, Michelle applauded empanada creativity, Wolfgang loved his dish, and Google search engines were blowing up looking for “Scotch bonnets” after Gail Simmons said she choked on one in Antonia’s sashimi. It’s a pepper, BTW.

Richard won on the spot in the dining room and the remaining two cheftestants had yet another challenge before them: They were given 45 minutes to make one last bite.

The result: one bang and one subtle. Wolfgang was the tie-breaking vote. Richard described it as sudden death at sea, where both chefs threw down. Padma had the dumbest line of the night, which made us choke on our grapes: “You came into this as competitors, you leave as cousins!” (Remember, from that pinche Ellis Island episode?)

So who went home? Antonia. The Top Chef boys’ club lived on, as Richard and Mike secured places in the finale.

We can’t tell what we’re more excited about: the imminent finale, or the fact that this weak season is almost over. Probably the latter, although our prayers for an injection of tiger blood in this series might finally be getting heard. Either way, we are pumped. Put on your Scotch bonnet, slip into the pressure cooker, and bring on the finale!

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Last Night’s Top Chef: All-Stars Was All Conch, No Balls

17 Mar

​We thought we were out, but we got reeled back with a determination to finish what we started ― i.e., this awfully boring season of Top Chef: All-Stars. Last night’s episode was titled “Island Fever,” and it was fitting. There are four remaining cheftestants, meaning this shitshow still ain’t over. We’re stuck, sweating it out like we’ve got dengue. Last week we asked the question, “Is Top Chef: All-Stars the worst series ever?” The Washington Post responded with one repeated letter that got the point across loud and clear: ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz.

Last night’s Quickfire was all about consistency ― consistent suckage. The chefs had to pair up and make 100 plates that were all the same in taste and appearance. With two boys and two girls left, they paired off like they were at an elementary school dance or gay club.

Tiffany and Antonia: Beef tenderloin salad with cilantro, mint, basil, and chimichurri sauce

Richard and Mike: Pork Bolognese with fresh macaroni and Pecorino cheese

Like the saying goes, girls rule, boys drool. Those trash-talking boys ate their words.

The Elimination was called Deserted Island and ironically, for once, we weren’t totally alone. Top Chef finally delivered via two flotation devices: Padma’s lakashmis in a bikini and a Sammy Hagar lookalike. (Note: The fact that we are mentioning this is a sign of our desperation.)

The cheftestants were put on island with boxes of shellfish and produce, but the all-important conch box just had snorkels inside. It was time to dive, since each dish had to contain the large sea snail. It was all so Survivor-like, which was a great idea seeing how that brand is going so strong. Not!

There was beach cooking, conch cracking, and sandy worries. Richard said he felt like a 7-year-old and, believe us, he was bitching like one. He continued his self-deprecating mantra. This time he was worried he was doing a Hamptons dish instead of a Caribbean one. He may have been in the Bahamas, but this was a white party in more ways than one ― they were celebrating a yacht club!

The ever-creative Richard knocked out a variation on linguine and clams featuring blanched sweet-potato strips standing in for the pasta, with lobster and conch. But Antonia’s red snapper (giggle) with conch tartare (double giggle) had overcooked fish and conch cut too small. Mike had the winning dish: banana leaf-wrapped grouper with braised pineapple and conch vinaigrette. Gail couldn’t get over the fact that the curry seasoning he used for the braised pineapple took the fruit from sweet to savory.

This was the second win in a row for Mike, causing him to say that maybe it wasn’t a fluke that he beat Voltaggio last week. We doubt it; we just think Richard chokes under finale pressure.

Tiffany was the one packing her knives ― her ceviche-over-chowder was all kinds of wrong, temperature-wise, and Tom didn’t like the sweetness. She left in tears. Relax, Tiffany, you’re the lucky one. We’re the ones still stuck in this Top Chef: All-Suckiness.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Is Top Chef: All-Stars the Worst Series Ever?

10 Mar

Pack up your knives: Not even Padma can save this series from sucking.

The Bahamas, Eric Ripert, the promise of Padma in a bikini: What could bad about the finale of Top Chef: All-Stars? Well, everything. Last night’s show was the most boring episode to date.

Things began with a head-to-head Quickfire against the Top Chef who won that cheftestant’s particular season. Tom hand-selected a meat for each group, and everyone had something to prove. The competition was fierce, but not exciting. Each loser-turned-All-Star won the face-off, except Antonia and Carla, that is. The biggest upset was that Mike beat out Michael Voltaggio in Battle Duck.

Duck, duck, and we were on to the next challenge, cooking for Bahamian royalty. The chefs were escorted by the police, landing smack-dab in the middle of a festival with elaborate costumes and dancing. But it wasn’t a typical king they’d be cooking for, it was the king of the Junkanoo festival! And the kitchen they were shown wasn’t in a palace, but a collection of fryers, microwaves, and a flat top. Tiffany was confident her dish would work anyway, but the other cheftestants were scared.

The chefs pulled a Tim Gunn and attempted to make it work, but when a fryer caught fire everything changed. Rather than worrying about their own safety, they put towels over the food and didn’t leave until a fire truck arrived. The damage was done. All of their food ended up in containment and they were back to square one.

The chefs no longer had to make it work; now they could change up their dishes. Antonia moved to the more pedestrian dish of shrimp and grits, but when she went to plate it she knew she’d made a bad move.

Jersey Mike Isabella shocked everyone, again, with his winning surf-and-turf-like dish: sous-vide chicken, mushrooms, yams, lobster sauce, and lobster hash.

Carla’s last-minute change from pork medallions to a whole fried loin resulted in raw meat. Her unevenly cooked medallion with sweet potato puree, applesauce, and an apple chip – coupled with her uncooked rice in the Quickfire — sent her packing.

Finales are supposed to be entertaining: Last night’s was not. Everyone was dripping sweat and looked awful; getting through the episode proved torturous. No memorable quotes to report, no exciting food, and nothing particularly Top Chef-worthy, let alone of All-Star caliber fit for a king.

Even Richard, the favorite, said, “Honestly, I hate everything I do”. Um, those ain’t no fightin’ words. This show needs an injection of tiger blood stat, or we are out.

 

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 12: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Muddled Dishes…

3 Mar

Last night’s episode of Top Chef: All-Starsmarked the end of the New York challenges. Why not leave New York the same way so many came in? We’re talking Ellis Island. For the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants had to make a dish from ingredients in a ferry’s snack bar. Time limit: the ferry ride from Manhattan to Ellis Island, foghorn to foghorn.

The guest judge was Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill. That’s right, the man known for local and organic would be tasting creations based on processed snack-bar food. Richard had these military MRE bags to cook his hot dogs and turned them into banh mi, complete with beef jerky, jalapenos (from the nacho station!), pork rinds, lettuce, and apple. Damn, that guy is clever. He mocked Carla for slicing oranges and Antonia for switching the bread and cheese from two pre-packaged sandwiches and then ― wait for it ― toasting it. Too bad life, like Top Chef, just isn’t fair. Carla’s sliced oranges won the challenge for their carrot and rosemary juice. We’re just glad it wasn’t Mike‘s disgusting hot-dog-bun-and-sour-cream soup that he said he wouldn’t even feed to his cat.

The Elimination Challenge yanked on every heartstring, as the cheftestants created a dish based on their ancestry. Cue Ellis Island in the background, a leather-bound book with each chef’s family history compiled by a genealogist, and a visit from the tired cheftestants’ families. Add your own waterworks, and voila. (Sshhh, don’t tell, but we heard it made SFoodie’s favorite punk domestic, Sean Timberlake, cry.)

Richard found out that his family is from Worcestershire, and he loves Worcestershire sauce. His conclusion: It’s in his DNA. He, the molecular gastronomist and pork fiend, also found out he has chemists and meat-market workers in his blood.

Antonia and Mike discovered they might be related, which, according to them, explains their karma. They went from archnemeses to Mike saying, “Me and my cousin being in the finals, how cool is that?”

The judges’ table dinner was awkward, since no one seemed to want to say anything bad about the food in the presence of the cheftestants’ families. Tiffany used okra to embrace her Southern heritage, even though she knew Tom hates okra. Luckily, she made him an okra convert. Richard was nervous to serve his ultracompetitive wife (she shot Tom “the look” when he said Richard’s dish was alright…)

In fact, there wasn’t really a black-sheep dish in the flock. The only tears were Mike’s, after he explained he hadn’t cooked his grandmother’s gnocchi and gravy since she died.

Antonia’s risotto was the winner ― she has a place in the finale, which will be in the Bahamas! Her new-found cousin Mike made it as well. Richard was given more wordage problems from the judges. Padma’s monotone voice said, “Richard, please pack your knives,” and then after what felt like a million beats she added, “You are going to the Bahamas!”

The other girls, Tiffany and Carla, are also in the finale. So who went home? No one. Letdown? Ya mon!

 

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 11: Deep-Fried Paula

24 Feb

​Last night’s Top Chef: All-Starswas deep ― like, deep-fryer and Deep South deep. Paula Deen, in full hair and cackle, was the guest judge, and the Quickfire Challenge was to create a deep-fried dish. According to Paula, “If you can eat it, you can fry it!” She then went down her hefty resume of fried-up macaroni and cheese, lasagna, and goodness-gracious great balls of fried butter. She had one warning for the chefs: no calamari on top of salad. Wimpy.

It was a simple challenge but things got supercomplicated with the cheftestants. Paula’s favorite dish was Antonia‘s fried avocado, shrimp, and jalapeño over grilled corn, tomato, and fried herbs. However, that dish couldn’t be the winner because Antonia made a huge mistake and only plated one dish instead of two, and was disqualified. The runners-up who were suddenly back in the running for winner were Richard and Mike, although if you asked Richard he’d say he was competing with his own dish.

Allow us to explain: Richard ― aka Mr. Nitrogen, the molecular gastronomy madman ― has notebooks filled with his wild culinary plans, dishes detailed with pictures and ingredients. For this challenge, Richard created fried bacon with fried mayonnaise over tomato and cucumber, while Mike made fried chicken “oysters” with mustard gravy and oyster liquor. The “oysters” (nuggets of flesh that attach the thigh to the chicken body) were fried and placed inside oyster shells.

Richard called culinary plagiarism, since he’d jotted down the same dish in his notebook, which Mike had looked at. No offense to Jersey Mike, but this dish was way too high concept. it had “Richard” written all over it.

Despite all that, Mike won the challenge, saying he’d give Richard a big fat thank-you for the inspiration, then added, “It’s not your dish, it’s my dish, because I won the five Gs.”

Whoa ― we were scared to see what the Elimination Challenge had in store. John Besh joined Paula for this Southern-themed episode. The Challenge was to make Gulf Coast seafood for 300 people at a charity event. Recently eliminated chefs were brought back to play sous chefs.

Tiffany got stuck with the white shrimp (we were going to say she got stuck with Marcel, too, but that would be redundant). Carla picked Tre, then realized he’s a city boy who knows nothing about Southern cuisine.

The top three from the Quickfire were the top three in the Elimination, but this time Richard properly won for a variation on surf and turf: crispy Gulf snapper with pulled pork and citrus grits.

Dale, who was Mr. Confident last week, had to pack up his knives. His potatoes were raw and his amberjack was as undetectable in his stew as it was scarce after the Gulf oil spill. Last week he spewed, “Who ever said losing is okay? In what country is that cool?” Last night he was reduced to tears.

Summing up in our best Paula Deen accent: Well, throw a ham at us, it’s just another week in Top Chef viewin’.

 

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 10: Ironing Chef

17 Feb

Cookie Monster: "C" is for "kooky."

Last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars began with Dale mouthing off. “I’m not like these new-school parents who are like ‘we’re all winners’ ― f@ck that. That’s bullshit, man! Who ever said losing is okay? In what country is that cool?”

In the Quickfire, the culprits of that mentality ― the Sesame Street gang ― emerged. Their mantra: Everything is A-okay. Richard, who has an alliance with Dale, is obviously one of those parents. In his house, he said, Elmo is like Elvis.

As Padma explained the challenge, Cookie Monster couldn’t stop blurting out his favorite word. That’s right ― the cheftestants had to create a cookie for him, Elmo, and Telly in 45 minutes. Health-conscious Elmo requested cookies with zucchini, but Cookie Monster, a traditionalist, wanted chocolate “chippies.”

In an ironic outcome, Dale was actually the winner of this childish challenge for his pretzel and potato-chip shortbread with salted caramel chocolate ganache. The authority, Cookie Monster, loved the sweet and salty mix. When it comes to Dale, we can’t seem to get beyond salty.

Padma sweetened things up by announcing that the winner of the Elimination Challenge would receive $25,000. All the cheftestants would have to do is raid a Target in the middle of the night and make a dish for 100 employees. A Greatland Target, mind you, so there was produce and lots of food, but they’d also have to grab appliances, utensils, and tables.

Dale was straight-up ironing grilled cheeses, while Carla was only interested in her table display. Guest judge Ming Tsai said that perhaps Dale was trying to be an Iron Chef? But Bourdain called it stoner food and started asking for a urine test. The strangest thing about the challenge was how many soups emerged.

Sorry for focusing on Dale, but he was, once again, the winner, taking home 25 grand for a grilled cheese, tomato soup, and an iron.

All the soup people were at the bottom, where they joined Tiffany‘s jambalaya. In the end, Angelo went home for a too-salty baked potato soup. Angelo had gone from the finale of last season’s Top Chef straight to All-Stars ― the exhaustion finally got to him. We were sad to see him go, but not as sad his biggest fan, Mike. Total mancrush.

Next episode we’ll have Paula Deen and cheftestants of eliminations past. We’ll be watching to see if anyone gets hit with a ham.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 9: We Can’t Believe It’s Fabio!

10 Feb


Last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars began with an odd Quickfire Challenge: Create a unique fondue. According to Padma, this wasn’t the ’70s and they weren’t looking for bananas dipped in chocolate.

This challenge was all kinds of crazy and the cheftestants would be their own judges. Mike said he was born in the ’70s, so he never knew too many people who went to those gay fondue parties. Ahem, rude. Our favorite moment was when Dale called Angelo a stunning man and complimented his manicured five-o’-clock shadow. Comfortable-with-his-sexuality Dale made a pho-ndue, Antonia had a Jewish deli-themed fondue, and Richard had an interesting/nitrogen take on chocolate and bananas. Of course, they called one another’s food pedestrian and Dale straight-up said, “I am going to be like a New York Times reviewer up in this bitch.”

According to the ballots it was Dale who was the winner ― un-pho-king-believable!

Speaking of New York, the cheftestants went to Rockefeller Center to be led onto the set of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, just in time for Cell Phone Shootout. They grabbed their cell phones and had to shoot (photos of) quickly displayed food items. Antonia got stuck with beef tongue, and Carla was so excited that her phone captured chicken pot pie, a dish she’d been fantasizing about cooking. For the Elimination Challenge they had to cook the things they’d photographed. We learned later that it would be for Jimmy’s birthday party, and that he hates mushrooms, mayonnaise, and eggplant.

Carla was the winner for her pot pie, and won a special segment on Late Night, plus a trip to Tokyo.

Everyone’s favorite Italian import, Fabio, was the one sent home. He got stuck with a burger and fries; he couldn’t even say burger, let alone make one. He used short-rib and brisket, which left his burger too meatloaf-y. He also had the idea to melt cheddar separately so people could add it if they wanted a cheeseburger. But Tom said the cheese sauce had turned green and granular and made an eek face.

Fabio left with this pearl of wisdom: You really are the only shadow standing in your own sunshine.

We were sad to see Fabio go, but this is All-Stars and we can still read his blog (he’s still so pissed that Antonia’s French mussel dish won the Italian challenge last week), his YouTube videos, and his awesome tweets.

We can’t believe it’s Fabio, but we’ll keep on watching. Especially since next week promises muppets, and Bourdain calling for urine testing.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 8: Somebody Gets Whacked

3 Feb

Bravo is the best TV network ― every show manages some kind of family reunion. Whether that means Uncle Bravo Andy hosting a reunion show for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or Isaac Mizrahi, host of The Fashion Show, judging the Quickfire on last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars, it’s all a family affair.

Speaking of relations, Isaac introduced the challenge by explaining that he starts with textiles in the same way chefs began with going to the market. Padma continued this dumb metaphor: “Just as a runway show is used to attract the buyer, a plate’s presentation is used to attract the palate.” Do you follow? Neither did we. Quickfire Challenge: Make a plate that will be judged on presentation and aesthetics only.

The plates were the biggest loads of bullshit. Fabio‘s concept was a beautiful woman trying to stay composed after being stuck in the rain. There were tuna ladies, mushroom umbrellas, and acid (lemon juice) rain. Angelo produced a head-scratcher by writing “crocadile” (yes, he spelled it wrong) on the table and talking about his love for Cavalli (a no-no in front of a competing designer). He attempted to make croc skin using pineapple peels, curry salted egg, and dill. There were also The Giving Tree- and graffiti-inspired plates. The winner was Richard for his black chocolate ice cream with menthol crystals, herbal salad, and mint ice cream dots.

The Elimination Challenge was just as puzzling. The cheftestants drew knives for three different teams with the names Frankie No, Junior, and Dino the Chef. Resident Italian import Fabio said it was like a scene from The Godfather and set viewers straight on who these three goodfellas were and what the teams meant. Frank “Frank No” Pellegrino is the co-owner of Rao’s, his son, Frankie Pellegrino Jr. (“Junior”) is co-owner of Rao’s Las Vegas, and “Dino the Chef” is, well, the executive chef at Rao’s.

To quote Fabio, “Get your guns ready, it’s an Italian challenge.”

Elimination Challenge: Create a dish inspired by the Rao family. The Dino folks had to make an antipasto, the Juniors made a primo, and the Frankie No group had to make a secondo. The pressure on the three Italian cheftestants rose as Fabio, Antonia, and Mike felt the heat.

Just when we were getting nostalgic for Artie Bucco, everyone’s favorite Italian psychiatrist, Lorraine Bracco arrived for dinner. She rehashed her first time at Rao’s with Joe Pesci and Ray Liota when they were filming Goodfellas.

The girls all presented antipasti that were praised, the pasta/primi group were all panned, and the secondi guys killed. That mobster language was all over dinner, from jokes about getting the food in the witness protection program to risotto that was presented like it was trying to conceal a body. “Frankie No” loved being near Colicchio and Bourdain and across from Bracco. Each Italian last name was over-pronounced like crazy.

The winner was Antonia for her steamed mussels with white wine, fennel, and garlic bread. Fabio was annoyed; he called it French. He thought his chicken dish was far more authentically Italian.

The entire primo-course cast was at the bottom, which killed Jersey Italian Mike, who served his rigatoni far too al dente. Tre, the black Italian, got whacked for risotto that was too stiff and too garnished. He left vowing that the next time he serves risotto it’ll spread as soon as it hits the plate.

Lessons learned from last night’s episode: Blood is thicker than al dente rigatoni, and stiff risotto sleeps with the fishes.

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 7: Foam? Really?

20 Jan

Smoked: Marcel.

​They started last night’s very exciting “Restaurant Wars” episode by stating that there were only three female cheftestants left. Then they brought out the hot boys. For the Quickfire we had Bourdain at Le Bernardin introducing the Top Chefhopefuls to Justo Thomas, the seafood master, who fillets 700-1,000 pounds of seafood a night. Justo is a god with a knife and a fish, and for the challenge the contestants had to fillet and portion a cod and a fluke in 10 minutes. No biggie, Justo can do it in just 8 minutes.

The girls were on the bottom with Fabio and Angelo, and the top four guys (Richard, Marcel, Tre, and Dale) had the challenge continue when they had to make a dish with the leftover fish carcasses. During the challenge continuation, Richard told the most awesome story about working at McDonald’s and making the Filet-O-Fish avant-garde by leaving off the top bun.

Dale took the challenge and immunity with his impressive two dishes: fluke back-fin sashimi with cucumber and fluke liver sauce, and then a bacon dashi with salt-roasted cod collar.

The parade of hotties continued with guest judge Ludo. (Full disclosure: I am one of Ludo’s Bitches.) In case you didn’t know, Ludo is the king of pop-ups (no, I’m not talking about my girl boner for him), so it was only fitting that he was there for the infamous “Restaurant Wars.”

Since Dale was the winner of the last challenge he was team captain and got to pick the opposing team’s leader. Applying good logic, he chose the person who he had the hardest time working with, Marcel. Oh man, our hearts ached for Marcel’s teammates who had to explain that if only one person (Marcel) liked one idea and the other four teammates liked another idea, then majority should win. Marcel criticized how Tiffany made her six-minute egg and added foam to his dish even though he promised his teammates that he wouldn’t. The judges couldn’t knock him for his foam overuse because the diners were the ones picking the winner of this war.
Bodega: The quiet team headed by Dale. Inventive menu that had potato chips, tuna in a can, two desserts, and Fabio with his accent working the front of the house.

Etch: Marcel’s team, which no one wanted to be on. The concept was Mediterranean influences: frisée salad, mushy monkfish, lamb, octopus, and pork belly. Tiffany worked front of the house with a nervous laugh while the kitchen yelled.

Best line of the night came from Antonia: “Marcel was like, ‘Guys, we did such a great job’, but I’m like, ‘You … are …. on drugs.’”

Bodega won by a landslide ― only 17 out of 76 diners preferred Etch. Bourdain was calm and cool when he asked Marcel, “Why foam? Why now?” at the judges’ table. After that, Marcel threw everyone under the bus. Then they hit reverse and gave it right back to him.

Richard was the winner who conceived of the potato chips, tuna in a can, and gave himself the title of technical adviser. His teammates all said that he elevated each one of their dishes; we call that throwing someone on top of the bus so they can surf the waves.

Last week we hoped for a shark week on Marcel’s ass and we got it. Even while packing his knives he was as big of an ass as ever. According to Marcel, he didn’t make any mistakes per se, except for picking the wrong team. With a chuckle and some dumb line about being misunderstood, he was out. Good riddance!

Original published on sfweekly.com – Original Post

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