Recap: ‘Top Chef All-Stars’ – ‘Night at the Museum’

12.09.10 7 years ago 25 Comments


One thing I”ve learned watching “Top Chef” is you”ve really got to eat dinner before the show, because otherwise you open up your fridge, look around and get depressed. Just a thought. Anyway, this all-star season is especially tempting, as so far I haven”t seen anything gag inducing (not always a given in previous seasons) and tensions were already running high in the first week. So let”s get to it!

[Full recap of Wednesday’s (Dec. 8) “Top Chef All Stars,” after the break…]

The chefs are taken aback when that culinary genius Joe Jonas wanders into the kitchens with Padma. Antonia, having a daughter, knows exactly who he is, but I love that Dale T. has no clue who this dark-haired squirt is but thinks he might be a pastry chef. I also love that Joe Jonas is a fan of the show, because I”m trying to picture the Jonas brothers curled up in their touring van, watching “Top Chef” and wondering out if they can make that sous-vide chicken with wasabi aioli from ingredients from the nearest 7-11. I”m sure after a while on the road, any musician can fall prey to the appeal of food porn.
Anyway, Joe is going to make an appearance at the Natural History Museum”s Night at the Museum sleepover, which is an opportunity for small children to knock over priceless dinosaur bones. The chefs must compete for the chance to make a midnight snack for the kids, which fills with chefs with dread, as they do not have a burning desire to make cheese puffs and Ding-Dongs for little people.
Dale L. declares he”s making crack for small children, which just means lots of sugar, although I think he should secretly line his snack with espresso, as then the kids would definitely lose their minds and that big ol” T. Rex would not only hit the floor, they”d probably start chewing on it, too.
Mike says he”s blocked out his memories of bag lunches, but given that he”s making chocolate polenta, he may want to block that out, too. I know, he”ll probably make it incredible, but when I think polenta, I don”t really think, mmm, this needs some melted Hershey”s kisses in it.  
Tiffani admits that the last time around she was a complete a-hole when it came to cooking for kids” palates, and this time she”s just going to give in and give the little rugrats what they”ll like. And given that she”s combining the elements of a moon pie, a Sno-Ball and a Rice Crispy treat, she seems to know exactly what they like. Which is, again, sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. And we wonder why diabetes and obesity is a problem.
Overall, the chefs seem to be cooking for the judges and not the kids. But some of it looks pretty tasty. And some of it is chocolate lasagna.
She made a white chocolate and cherry muffin with cinnamon and allspice. This will go great with the kids” lattes. Seriously, this isn”t kid food.
He offers white bread with spiced apples, honey and chocolate. It may taste good, but it doesn”t look that hot, and it”s hard to get excited about white bread as a dessert.
His midnight snack is chips with mascarpone and marshmallow dip. Marshmallows always strike me as too sticky-sweet, but this might be a hit with the ankle biter set.
He makes a cracker with jam, bacon and basil. This is simple, but it doesn”t seem kid friendly or particularly impressive, either.
The concept of chocolate lasagna may be clever, but I can”t disagree with Mike when he says the idea makes him want to throw up.
Dale L.
He wants to get the kids jacked up on sugar with Sweetart nuggets and caveman boulders. I”m in diabetic shock just from the description, which probably means kids will luuuuuv it.
Cheddar biscuits and apple sauce seem a little sophisticated for wee ones, but after the cavalcade of sweet treats we”ve seen, this at least looks tasty.  
Tiffany D.
Coconut rice pudding does not seem paper bag friendly to me. Just saying.
Dale T.
Dale makes a corn cake with dried cherries. This might be a nice midnight snack for an adult, but I think a kid would rather throw it at you.
Apple slices with exotic coatings are still apple slices, I”m afraid.
Her kid-friendly sugar bombs look pretty tasty, actually, although you may need regular insulin shots if you eat one.
Fried dough. I like the carnival vibe, but these look like pretzel nuggets.
His snickerdoodle sandwich looks okay. But I”m always a little suspicious of Stephen”s talent level.
Bacon ginger taffy? I have to believe this tastes great, because it”s Jen, but sorry, it sounds like something you”d eat to get over a cold, like a Zicam chewy.  
A chocolate coconut corn bar. Hmm. Corn bar equals polenta. I”m still not sold on this.
Joe”s least favorites were Tiffany D. (too gooey), Mike (not chocolatey enough) and Stephen (not enough mint). Thumbs up went to Spike and Tiffani, but it didn”t matter, because it was up to the kids to decide between the two of them.
Unfortunately for Spike and Tiffani, this also means they”ll need help from their teammates, who could not give less of a crap about helping them get immunity for the next challenge, which Jamie states pretty plainly.
Tiffani and Spike pick teams, and with a few exceptions (Carla, Tre and Dale L.) pick all girls and all boys. The last to be picked (or rather, dumped on a team) is Fabio, who decides he wants to “help out” Spike just to piss him off.
I am remembering now why I loved Fabio the first time, because he”s just a funny guy. First, he says he flies under the radar, but it sounds like under the rudder, which seems like a really bad place to be. Then, he notes that all the little kids come flooding into the Museum of Natural History like cows and screaming Tasmanian devils, and that”s just a visual you have to appreciate.
After giving the kids enough sugar and fat to send them spiraling completely out of control or right to the doctor, they bring in Joe Jonas, at which point they come completely unglued. I am fearing for the dinosaur bones.
Unsurprisingly, Tiffani”s gooey sugar mess is the big winner with the kids. Spike is remembering all the times he was picked last in school. Poor Spike. But that”s what you get for giving the kids carrot chips.
Tom arrives to inform the chefs, hey, I know you”re tired, but the elimination challenge starts now. They”ll be staying in the museum to serve breakfast to the kids and their parents. Tiffani declares this crazy fun, which she can, because she has immunity. She can also declare this crazy fun because, as the winner of the last challenge, she gets to pick the ingredients her team will be using – either meat and dairy (Team T. Rex) or grains and fruit (Team Brontosaurus). And duh, she picks meat and dairy. It seems like the obvious choice, as you can”t go wrong with bacon and eggs, right?
But before they can worry about breakfast, it”s off to the Hall of Mammals for bedtime. Stephen is not thrilled with sleeping on a cot surrounded by his showmates, but Tre is even more less thrilled because he likes to sleep in the nude. Luckily, Tre decides not to do this on national television. Good thinking, Tre.
The teams are unleashed on the pantry, and Tiffani discovers, oops, herbs and acids are all brontosaurus food. Flour, also a brontosaurus food. Team T. Rex sees that the other team is knee deep in flour and tasty fruits and herbs and all sorts of wonderful things. Tiffani is now sad. But I can”t blame her – I would have gone for the proteins, too.  
More bad news for Team T. Rex. Jamie cuts herself and the medic says she”ll need stitches. Jamie is supposed to be working with Jen on a bacon-egg dish (they were going to do a Scotch egg until they discovered they didn”t get sausage), so Jen”s on her own. Plus, everyone else in the kitchen notes that they”ve never gotten stitches for their cuts and war wounds, but I would also say I bet most of them haven”t had health insurance before, either.
Dale T. and Mike
Their grits with stewed peppers look pretty tasty – I wouldn”t think of peppers for morning, but at least grits seems breakfasty.
Marcel, Richard and Angelo
The banana parfait looks like something I could make. I know with Richard behind it, there”s got to be a level of complication and sophistication I”m not seeing, but still.
Carla and Spike
Gazpacho is a good use of all the gorgeous fruit in the kitchen, but again, not so breakfasty.
Fabio and Stephan
Gnocchi for breakfast? Although honestly, I”d eat gnocchi anytime.
The judges dig the gnocchi and the grits, but I”m not sure if they liked the gazpacho. Gail thought the parfait was beautiful, but there”s no mention of how it tastes. Hmmm.
Antonia and Tiffany D.
Three different frittatas, all with cheese. Since they didn”t have herbs, I can see why they did bacon and cheddar and ham and cheese, but honestly, this seems boring.
Tre and Caset
The wild coho salmon looks amazing.
Jen and Jamie
Bacon and eggs. Boring, but I don”t really see what they could have done given the lack of choices except to throw another slab of meat on top of it, I guess.
Tiffani F. and Dale L.
Steak and eggs with hollandaise. Dale mentions that it got slopped on the plate by accident, but it still looks pretty good to me.
Jen and Jamie”s eggs and bacon is a wet, flavorless washout. Tom likes the salmon, mostly. The frittatas are undercooked, and the steak is a thumbs up. Things aren”t looking good for Team T. Rex.
And, yes, Team Brontosaurus wins. Fabio and Stephen get props for the gnocchi, and the parfait is praised. The winning dish is the banana parfait.
Team T. Rex slumps onto the block, fixing for a fight. Tiffani comes in bitching that the limitations of the challenge weren”t clear to her, which is completely surprising to Tom, as he did kind of mention Team T. Rex got meat, eggs and cheese, not meat, eggs, cheese and anything else that looks good.
But that isn”t all. Tiffany D. and Antonia blame the oven for their runny frittatas. Then Jen implies that the judges are nuts to like the other team”s food better than that of Team T. Rex. And once Jen opens the door, Tiffani piles on, pointing out that gnocchi isn”t breakfast food. Oh my, these women are ANGRY. And it”s getting worse.
When Tom asks why they dumped everything onto one plate, Jen asks why the judges weren”t smart enough to ask for individual plates. Tom, of course, shuts down that line of reasoning by pointing out someone on the team should have done that, not him. Wowza, this has to be the most argumentative bunch of chefs in the history of “TC.” Usually there”s a quibble here or there, but usually one sharp rebuke from the judges shuts it down. But Jen will not be stopped tonight.
Antonia then throws Jamie under the bus by noting everyone else would have duct taped their cut finger instead of being a big baby about it and getting stitches. Amazingly, this doesn”t blow up into a shrieking catfight. I”m not really sure whose side I”d take anyway, as Jen didn”t really seem to need Jamie or blame her, and she”s the one with the most to lose by her absence.

But back to the food. When the judges have the temerity to tell Jen her bacon was bland, she tells them no, it was perfect. I really want to grab Jen, shake her and say calm down, woman! She really isn”t doing herself any favors by defending a dish the judges hate. I really don”t understand why she”s fighting them so hard.
The loser is… yup, Jen. She doesn”t know why she”s going home, but I have some ideas. The judges chat amongst themselves, saying it”s about the food and not the attitude, but I think that must play a part, especially when Jen says she loves a dish they absolutely despite – it makes them doubt her palate, which is never good. And last week Jen”s dishes fell surprisingly short as well. But even if Jen”s skill level has dipped for some reason, this is still a surprise. Jen, not surprisingly, doesn”t take this well and has a mini-breakdown. I”m sorry to see her go, but it just goes to show you, the all-star season is going to be tough.
Do you think Jen deserved to go? Do you think gnocchi is breakfast food? How do you feel about celebrity judges?

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