Recap: ‘Top Chef All-Stars’ – ‘Fit for a King’

03.10.11 7 years ago 12 Comments


It”s down to the final five, and the chefs are coming together in the Bahamas to duke it out, Caribbean style. Of course, it”s been a little while since the last challenge, as Richard has had time to slick down his hair and Mike appears to be shaped a little more like a Weeble.

Richard announces to the girls, who are the only ones who care, that is daughter is going to be named Embry Lotus. Lotus? Really? What kind of damn hippie are you, Richard? Anyway, Richard is going to be pissed if he loses AND misses the birth of his kid. If he wins, though, no big deal. Well, at least he can save some of his winnings for Embry Lotus” therapy sessions.
[Full recap of Wednesday’s (March 9) “Top Chef” after the break…]
All of our chefs are suitably fired up for the big cook-off. Richard wants the title. Antonia wants the title. Carla wants redemption. Mke swears a lot. And Tiffany is grateful just to be there. I think Tiffany should be grateful, because she is the last weak link still in the competition. Amazingly, someone else always seems to screw up more than she does, but that kind of luck can”t last forever.
The chefs are taken to Fort Charlotte, where they”re going to enjoy a Quickfire Challenge amidst the rusty old weaponry. Of course, it”s never just about the scenery, and the chefs find their old nemeses — Michael Voltaggio (season 6 winner), Kevin Sbraga (season 7 winner), Stephanie Izard (season 4 winner) and Hosea Rosenberg (season 5 winner). Mike is hoping he gets to pair up with Michael Voltaggio, who won his season, as he”s a great chef. Oh, come on, Mikey! That would be fun! You don”t get to have no stinkin” fun on “Top Chef: All Stars.”   
After Padma introduces guest judge is Eric Ripert, chef/owner of Le Bernardin, she unleashes the bad news – each chef will be facing off against the winner of their previous season. If they win, they get ten grand. If they lose, their rival gets the money. Oh, and Tom has picked their primary protein, which will probably be something disgusting, like horned toads and pickled walrus. See, Mikey? No fun for you!
Anyway, the chefs peek at their poteins. Richard and Antonia (who must both battle Stephanie) get veal. Mike gets a duck. Carla gets lamb. Tiffany gets pork. The chefs run around and cook in a surprisingly friendly way. Carla is sure she can beat Hosea. Unless she screws up. Note: unless she screws up. She said it, people. So, Carla promptly screws up her rice by tossing it into a pan which has no hope of reaching the right temperature. Oh, Carla! Antonia is also having temperature issues. Maybe the producers shouldn”t be so cutesy with locations, as it”s not really fair to lose a competition because your equipment blows.
Battle 1 – Kevin vs. Tiffany
Kevin Sbraga
Barbeque pork with cilantro, celery, shaved onion and citrus salad
Pork stew with potatoes, peppers, citrus and allspice
On looks alone, Kevin”s takes the prize, since Tiffany”s looks pre-chewed. But amazingly, Tom picks Tiffany”s. So does Eric. Tiffany wins! Okay, I”m probably too tough on the girl, but pork stew is not wowing me as a concept.
Battle 2 – Hosea vs. Carla
Braised lamb in red chili broth with olives & mint, goat cheese and rosemary polenta
Jollof rice & harissa lamb with peppers, onions & lime
Tom points out that Carla”s rice is undercooked. So, Carla loses to Hosea. Carla accepts this. She does not, unfortunately, pick up a pan and slam Hosea”s head with it, just because. Not that he deserves it, but I think Carla has to start bringing some feisty to the table, pronto.
Battle 3 – Stephanie vs. Antonia
Stephanie Izard
Veal scallopini with tapenade & poached egg
Roasted veal, leek & almonds puree with sautéed mushrooms, arugula & raisons
Tom pans Antonia for tough veal (stupid crappy burner!) and Stephanie for trying too hard. Tom picks Antonia and Eric picks Stephanie. Padma picks Stephanie. D”oh!
Battle 4 – Stephanie vs. Richard
Seared veal loin & braised veal cap with raisins, carrots, potatoes & mushrooms
Eric loves it. Tom loves it. Richard wins! Stephanie still gets Antonia”s ten grand, but at least she didn”t walk away with a ton of money for slopping an egg on a perfectly good piece of veal.
Battle 5 – Michael vs. Mike
Michael Voltaggio
Duck breast with duck leg in bacon vinaigrette, burnt leek & coffee pesto
Cashew dusted spiced duck breast with duck leg & mushroom jus
Surprisingly, this looks like a tough one, although you would think Michael, being the Super Chef, would wipe the floor with Mike. Padma picks Michael, but Eric likes Mike. Tom breaks the tie by noting Mike handled the duck better. Wha? Mike won? Against Michael? Well, color me shocked. 
Time for the Elimination Challenge! The chefs will be cooking for Bahamian royalty. But first, they get to relax in their enormous hotel suite and wish heart attacks on their competition.. Richard is ready to chase down a goat, kill it and cook it. Okay, Richard, we get it, you want to win. Now stop scaring us.
Next up, it”s prep time. Tiffany thinks she”s cooking for Bohemian royalty, which sounds better to me. Mike does not want to serve bullbleep and he is sweating into his food. Between Antonia calling him out on flinging boogers and him leaving saline deposits in his cooking, Mike is generally grossing me out. Meanwhile, Carla is psyching herself out. She wants to win for the underestimated, because she”s been underestimated. And she”s getting weepy. Hold it together, Carla! Mike is mad at the girls because he thinks they”re playing it safe. He says it”s an honor for them to be in the finals, but he deserves it. I want to smack the sweat right off Mike”s face.  
The chefs get a police escort to what looks like Mardi Gras. Tom introduces the chefs to Vola, the King of Junkanoo. Sooo… not really Bahamian royalty, but more like the crazy guy in your neighborhood who volunteers to be the organizer of the St. Patrick”s Day parade because he”s been unemployed so long it gives him a sense of purpose. Instead of doing it up in some ritzy presidential palace, the chefs will be cooking at Twin Brothers, which looks one step removed from a taco stand. Somewhere, Padma is giggling.
So, the chefs start cooking in this rinky dink dive, and lo and behold, the fryer catches fire. Carla lets out one of her trademark high-pitched yelps, which is what we”ve been seeing in the commercials for the show and which had led me to think that maybe an actual chef had caught fire, but no. Fire trucks come out, fire extinguishers are used, and the food is ruined. Zoinks!
This does not mean a break for the chefs, however. They”re going to have to prep their food and cook it in the rinky dink kitchen AGAIN. The same night. The only up side, if you can call it that, is that the chefs can change their dish if they want to. Antonia, who had thought she was cooking for fancy shmancy royalty, is thinking of changing her dish, Richard is encouraging her, because Richard is messing with Antonia”s head. Richard is playing to win. Don”t do it, Antonia!
Richard decides to change his dish just because he thinks it will be fun. Carla, who notes that the flame-free kitchen is now stocked with electric fryers, decides to fry her chips and toss her pork into the fryer, too. She notes that frying the pork is something SHE WOULD NEVER NORMALLY DO, but she hopes she”ll get better results. Carla? Hello? Even she remembers that doing something SHE WOULD NEVER NORMALLY DO is what got her sent home the last time. I feel sick. Carla is really her own worst enemy.
Mike is having a swell time and thinks his dish looks awesome. Richard is racked with anxiety. Antonia realizes too late that her crispy shrimp aren”t all that. I hate to say it, but I think Mike is going to win and Carla”s going to go home.
Fried pork medallion with sweet potato puree, apple sauce and apple chips
Hey, guess what? Carla doing something SHE WOULD NEVER NORMALLY DO has resulted in raw pork and too-sweet apple chips. Raw PORK? Yeah, pork is not one of those things you ever, ever want raw. There”s a reason why you can”t order pork sushi, people. Think trichinosis. Just saying.
Crispy shrimp & grits with cilantro & pickled vegetables
Antonia”s second guessing herself has also backfired. Eric says her shrimp are overcooked. Gail says there”s mystery meat in the dish. Tom thinks the garnish is Howard Johnson”s worthy. Hmm, maybe Antonia is getting the boot. But what a shame – her first dish sounded really good. Don”t listen to Richard, Antonia!
Sous vide chicken, mushrooms, yams, lobster sauce & lobster hash
Eric thinks the iodine flavor is disgusting. But Padma likes the sauce and Tom thinks there are good surprises in the dish. Gail thought the white meat was dry but the rest was delicious. I bet it”s between Mike and Richard for the win.
Roasted lamb loin & malted braised leg with pickled turnip and mustard
Eric thinks the mustard is delicate, but thinks the cannelloni is undercooked. Tom says it”s the best part of the dish. The judges seem pretty impressed overall.
Roasted spiced pork tenderloin, dirty rice, curried slaw & tomato jam
Gail liked it but wishes Tiffany had tried harder. Tom and Eric agree. Tiffany had thought she was ahead of the game for choosing to make a boring, run-of-the-mill soul food meal, but she shouldn”t have. Even if you”re cooking for the King of Junkanoo or whatever the hell, you”re still cooking for the judges.
At the end of the meal, Percy declares that he liked it. Gail nods at him like he”s stupid.
Time for a cute aside. Richard likes to compare nuts to music. He says peanuts are rock & roll, walnuts are British rock, almonds are classical, hazelnuts are hippie nuts and pistachios are pop. He and Carla agree that brazil nuts suck.
Time for judges” table. Tom tells the judges that yes, it sucked that they had to recook everything, but hey, life”s tough and so is this competition. Well, thanks for that, Tom. I”m sure it made everyone feel much better.
Overall, the judges thought the meal was pretty crappy. Padma tells Carla her chips were too sweet. Gail said her pork was pink, though Eric is quick to point out his was perfectly cooked.
Gail calls Antonia on her mystery meat. Antonia says she added pork shoulder to add flavor. Um, it didn”t work. And Tom thought it was odd. Oh, Antonia! And Eric thought his shrimp were overcooked. You know, I”m just going to point out that they were cooking one step up from a dorm hot plate. Just thought that might have something to do with under and over cooking.
Eric thought Tiffany”s dish was boring and dry. Tiffany admits she lost focus. Why is Tiffany still here?
Tom tells Mike he thought all the elements in his dish worked together. Gail thought it was rich but the breast meat was dry. Eric thought it all made sense. Mike”s competition, Richard, also scored points with the judges Tom thinks Richard did a good job with the lamb but he wanted another element. Gail loved the cannelloni. Eric thought the cannelloni was too soft. Tomato, tomahto.
Eric announces that the winner is… Mike. Well, it did sound like his dish was well executed on a night when the girls were screwing up left and right, but I thought Richard”s dish sounded more interesting. Anyway, Richard is safe. It”s one of the girls going home.
The judges toss the ball around then come to their conclusion. And the one going home is… Carla! Nooooo! She cries, but she accepts it. And she”s happy with her performance for the season. She”s a better cook now, blah blah blah. But man, she made almost the exact same mistake this time as last (the only element missing was the so-called helper chef whispering in her ear to try something she”d never done before). I”m sad to see her go, especially with Tiffany still in the game. But there”s always next week, which seems to involve conch fishing. And swimming. And sharks. Considering the chefs setting a kitchen on fire was oddly low on drama, though, I”m not holding my breath.
Do you think Tiffany is skating by? Who do you think will win? And do you think Carla was her own worst enemy?

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