Recap: ‘Top Chef All-Stars’ – ‘Island Fever’

03.17.11 8 years ago 6 Comments

It”s down to the final four and, as expected, the chefs are becoming just as cranky and neurotic as you”d expect with the Top Chef title in such close proximity. Still, there”s a little time to mourn those recently ordered to pack their knives and go. Everyone liked Carla, although I”m pretty sure everyone is just glad she”s out of the game, as she was pretty stiff competition. Tiffany is sad Carla”s gone, and I”m sad that Carla”s gone instead of Tiffany. No offense, but I just don”t understand how Tiffany managed to outlast Carla, who was such a strong chef and seemed to be improving her game (at least until she got the ax). But Tiffany still has a shot at sticking around, since Antonia is second guessing herself. So, in short, the girls are falling apart and it looks like Mike and Richard are a lock for the final two. So much for girl power.

[Full recap of Wednesday’s (March 16) “Top Chef” after the break…]
Anyway, on to the challenge! Padma and Lorena Garcia welcome the chefs to the Quickfire Challenge at the Bahamian Club at the Atlantis. Did you know Lorena Garcia is one of the investors on NBC”s “The Next Great Restaurant”? No? Well, now you do, because they just plugged the crap out of it. Oh yes, there”s a challenge, now that you”ve had time to set your DVRs to “The Next Great Restaurant”! The mark of a great chef is being able to recreate a fabulous dish over and over again without any loss in quality, or at least that”s what Richard tells us. So, the chefs are divided into teams (Tiffany and “Black Hammer” Antonia, Richard and Mike) to make 100 identical dishes. In one hour. Winning team gets five grand. Losing team makes 100 dishes. And yes, immunity is off the table for good at this point in the competition.
The boys decide to make pasta from scratch, apparently assuming that this will impress the judges. The girls are doing a beef salad, apparently assuming that putting four components on a plate will impress the judges. Richard thinks the girls” dish shows a lack of imagination. So, pasta and Bolognese sauce, that”s innovative? Really?
During the tasting, Padma helpfully points out that each team has similar looking plates. Thank you, Padma! Irena says each team did well, but she gives it to the girls. Boo-yah! Richard and Mike are SO pissed. Tiffany relishes the in-your-faceness of the moment, and I”ve got to say, seeing Richard and Mike act like pouty little babies is pretty amusing. Yes, they made pasta. But it also looked like dog food, if we”re being honest here. I”m sure it was tasty, but get a hold of yourselves, boys.  
While the boys are kicking the floor and sucking their thumbs, Padma announces the Elimination Challenge. The Nassau Yacht Club is having an 80th anniversary party with the theme “deserted island.” Richard is ready to catch a wild boar and kill it. Calm down, Richard. Again, you”re getting scary. Lorena tells the chefs they”ll have to use conch. Mike says it”s a difficult product. Richard has 20 pounds of conch in his freezer. Tiffany can do anything she wants to do! I get the impression the girls did not use the break before the Bahamas to familiarize themselves with conch. Seriously, ladies? This is just depressing. At least pretend to make an effort to win this thing.
The next morning, the chefs go down to a dock where Padma greets them in a bikini and a carefully placed post-baby wrap. The little crappy boat she stands next to will take them to a deserted island. They will have to make a nice lunch. I repeat, on a deserted island. Sooooo, “Survivor” meets “Top Chef.” Really? I”m getting a little sick of the ridiculous challenges, to be honest. I don”t want to go to a restaurant at which a chef has done an admirable job with a live eel, a container of Sterno and fourteen toothpicks, so I”d like the winner of “Top Chef” to be someone who does impressive work in a kitchen with all the appropriate accessories.
The chefs get onto their deserted island and discover lots of great ingredients – and a bunch of snorkels. For the conch. Mike strips down to his shorts and gets into the water. Richard warns us we don”t want to see Mike Isabella topless, and he”s right, but there the producers go and show us Mike in all his loveliness anyway. Thanks, “Top Chef”! Everyone struggles to collect conch, which isn”t as interesting to watch as the producers seem to think it is.
Antonia has never worked with conch. Tiffany has never really worked with conch. I”m shocked. Oh, no, wait. I”m not shocked, because the girls aren”t trying that hard. But they”ll have to, because the island has no electricity. And no liquid nitrogen! Richard is probably ready to faint. Or kill a wild boar. You never know with Richard.  
The chefs cook and slave over an unreliable cooking fire with a few pans, some hammers for the conchs and lots and lots of sand. Richard hates his food. Richard always hates his food. He did a Hamptons dish instead of a Caribbean dish. Richard is probably a great chef but someone you wouldn”t want to hang out with for very long.
Padma, Tom, Gail, Lorena and a herd of people dressed in white arrive at the island. We meet the commodore of the yacht club. There”s lots of small talk about the yacht club. Which is just as boring as you”d think it would be. Really, producers, I”d be happier watching more of the conch fishing footage.
Sweet potato linguine with conch and spiny lobster
Tom and Gail love the sweet potato pasta. But one of the diners notes her lobster is undercooked and Gail takes notice. How could that happen? When the chefs are cooking over a flame that”s getting beaten to hell by an island wind, how could anything not be cooked perfectly? Groan.
More stupid boring yacht chatter by stupid boring yacht people! Tony is a sunfish champion! I so don”t care!
Red snapper with conch tartare & lobster nage
The natives LOVE Antonia”s dish because it”s explosively spicy. Gail doesn”t look too thrilled about the spicy thing and chugs a glass of white wine like it”s water. But Tom has to be the big bummer and note his fish was overcooked and the conch was cut too small. Tom seems to be in a bad mood. I blame the stupid boring yacht people.
Conch & coconut chowder with sweet potatoes & conch ceviche
Everyone is disappointed that the soup is cold and never seems to have been hot. We should note right here that Tiffany says this is INTENTIONAL. Remember this, people! Lorena likes the ceviche and the mango, so she”s a fan. Tom says it”s a nice dish, but the flavors haven”t developed enough.
Banana leaf wrapped grouper, braised pineapple & conch vinaigrette
The locals aren”t loving this. Tom doesn”t understand why Mike used butter when the natural ingredients are so rich. Gail loves, loves, LOVES it. So Mike isn”t going home.
The yacht people provide useless commentary. Shut up, yacht people! Gail is very proud of the chefs. Tom thinks they embraced the challenge. Really, Tom? Because you kind of acted like you were eating cat food.
Just so you know – if “Top Chef” were “Gilligan”s Island,” Richard would be the Professor, Mike would be the Skipper, Tiffany would be Ginger and Antonia would be Maryann. That is all.
Judges table! Tom tells the chefs they did a great job AND the dishes didn”t have a grain of sand in them! Which is remarkable. Gee, this will be an important skill if any of them get a job over the fryer at Gladstone”s or something.
First up is Antonia. Tom tells Antonia he wished the conch were cut bigger and adds that his fish was overcooked while the guy next to him said his fish was undercooked. Shocking! But again, what the hell do you expect when they”re one step away from cooking over a cigarette lighter, Tom? Padma thought Antonia”s dish was too conventional and predictable. Antonia is proud of that, because it”s her style of food. Antonia, take a note and don”t do the same stupid piece of fish with chopped up crap on top next time!
Richard wants to win. Richard is starting to look a little crazy eyed, if you ask me. Tom was amazed by the noodles. Gail says it was unexpected but really worked. Lorena says her lobster was undercooked. Lorena doesn”t seem to like Richard very much. It”s probably the hair. And the raw lobster, but also the hair.
Lorena tells Tiffany she loved her dish. Gail loved it too, but she didn”t understand why it was cold. Tiffany says the soup WAS hot before it was served, but a crazy island wind cooled it down. Wha? Tiffany, you are so lying! Regardless of the temperature, Tom thought it was on the sweet side. Tiffany doesn”t have an answer for that one.
Gail thought Mike”s pineapple was amazing. Tom thought the banana leaf gave the fish a mysterious flavor. But he wasn”t loving the butter.
Back in the stew room, which in this case isn”t a stew room but appears to be a hotel lobby, Mike feels he got a smack in the face. Really? Because Tom thought butter was unnecessary? Shut up, Mike.
I think one of the girls is going home. Tom thinks the cold ceviche and hot soup of Tiffany”s meal weird. Lorena thought Mike”s food was greasy. Hmmm.
The winner is… Michael? Wha? The greasy dish won? You know Richard is going to gut him like a fish if Mike wins another challenge.
Richard is on the block for undercooked lobster, Tiffany for her cold soup and Antonia for “inconsistencies.” Mm, I just ordered a plate of inconsistencies!  
The loser is… Tiffany. Tiffany cries. She says she was outcooked. She”s self taught and hasn”t worked with a big name chef, so I guess that”s either an excuse for not winning, a point of pride or a plea to a big name chef to hire her. And hey, maybe that will happen. Tiffany seemed to circle the drain for a very, very long time, but I have to hand it to her – she must be a pretty good chef if she lasted this long. But yeah, glad to see her pack her knives and go.
I don”t know what goes wrong next week, but it looks like something goes very, very wrong – and not because of the chefs. Spoiled food? Did another fridge/freezer get left open? Because you would think no one would make that mistake again. Eeek!
Do you think it was Tiffany”s time to go? Do you think it”s fair that the chefs have to cook in increasingly bizarre locations without proper tools? Do you think Mike is really the Skipper? 

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