Top Chef All-Stars - History Never Repeats
The great thing about Top Chef All-Stars is that we don’t have to get to know a whole new cast of characters. We already know who we hate.
Who would have thought that I would be relieved to see the likes of Tiffany F. from the first season or Mike Isabella? But after the disaster of Top Chef Just Desserts, it’s nice to feel like you’re coming home to chefs you know. I’m familiar with enough of the chefs on the All Stars version that it doesn’t feel like a brand new show…thank goodness…about which to be disappointed.
They’ve lost weight, maybe done a bit of tanning and have learned the importance of the sound bite. Does that make them boring to watch? No, it’s fine. They all seem more self-assured, more experienced, more ready to BRING IT, which makes sense since this time they know what they’re in for.
I have to laugh at one thing. Angelo, in Top Chef 7 had Chef/Owner XIE XIE in the title under his name. (GREAT sandwiches, by the way.) NOW it says Sosa Consulting Group, President. Funny.
Everything is the same this time around, except that this time they’re competing for $200.000! I’m not sure why they deserve more than other Top Chef winners, especially since they have the benefit of having been to this rodeo before, but whatever. Maybe they wanted to make the chefs more cutthroat with that much money at stake.
Here are all the folks that are coming back.
Each chef is introduced with a little scene of them in action in their past season. The most noteworthy is hearing from Fabio and, unfortunately, we get reminded of that dreadful Reunion Show, where Marcel and Fabio definitely do not get along. And who’s the first person Fabio sees as he opens the door to the Top Chef house? Yup! Marcel.
As Fabio goes down the stairs, it sounds like he says something profane about Marcel. Let me hear that again. Oh, he says, “I’m not going to take a bunk bed ever again. I squashed my balls on season five and that is NOT going to happen.”
Just an aside. WHY would Marcel ever subject himself to this again? I didn’t see his season, but as I found out on that reunion show, he was basically tortured by some of his housemates. I don’t know if the people that did that are on All-Stars, I would be appalled if they were. Of course, I know WHY Marcel is here – publicity - but he’s insane to put himself through this again, especially if he’s the same pissant he was before.
My favs are Dale and Jen. Elia, whose season I didn’t watch, is completely, gorgeously beautiful. Would it be wrong to say who cares how she cooks?
Tom and Padma greet them. Padma looks stunning. Tom is grinning in a puckish way. The Quickfire is kind of interesting. They divide the chefs up by season, so some teams have two people, others three or four. They have to cook a signature dish representing the city they competed in. There are seven seasons, so there will be seven dishes. Members of the winning team will get immunity.
I hate Richard Blais (season 4) who is back with Dale and Spike and from season 4. They decide to represent
Marcel is with Elia, so I guess no bullies came back. Stephen bumps Angelo (by accident) and he drops his fish on the floor. Luckily, he only needs two portions and he has that. Angelo CAN be such a cry baby, though.
Okay, here are the dishes.
I hate to say that Stephen and Tiffany’s dish of a cioppino gazpacho with a sourdough fettunta looks AWESOME. Fettunta SOUNDS awful, but looks fantastic. Oh, it’s basically a garlic bread from
There’s a funny exchange between Tom and Marcel. Marcel and Elia used thinly sliced apple instead of a tortilla to encase a fish taco. Tom asks why they used that. Marcel says it was light, “Do you like it?” Tom says (with a cackle), “You’ll find out later.” I think the chefs have forgotten that the judges don’t give anything away when they taste things. Tiffany F. looked so expectantly at them and they gave away nothing.
(My) Dale actually made the sausage with pork and bacon in the time they had. How is that even possible? Richard talked about making a mustard concoction. Nasty.
Season Five’s Fabio, Jamie and Carla each made a separate dish, which they served all together. How will Tom and Padma take that?
The losers -
Marcel and Elia – their shrimp needed more seasoning and the apple was just “a hair too thin” to be able to pick it up as a taco.
Tiffany and Stephen. Too much raw garlic.
Season Five – only Jamie’s soup was good and the dishes weren’t tied together well.
Angelo and Tiffany – too much salt.
Best dishes – They liked Tre, Casey and Dale’s (not MY Dale) pork dish. That mustard ice cream from Richard got a special shoutout from Tom for being inventive. He liked Mike Isabella and Jen’s dish as well. The team that competed in
Servers come out and place domed, covered plates in front of each chef. They lift them up. The chefs have the ingredients of the dish that sent them home. For the Elimination Challenge, they have to recreate them into a successful dish this time. That’s a drag.
Spike is particularly unhappy with his FROZEN scallops and we’re reminded when he scolded Chef (and Judge) Rick Tramonto for having them in his walk-in refrigerator. Rick scolded him right back for USING them. Spike has a good approach, though. He’s going to try to mask their flavor as much as he can. Tom says they can’t stray too far from the original dish.
They’re serving their dishes at the Russian Tea Room the next day.
Poor Dale has to remake his miso butterscotch scallops. That’s a tough one. He agrees with Tony Bourdain’s assessment that that was one of the worst dishes of all time on Top Chef.
Tre is funny talking about Stephen. “Stephen is a great front of the house guy. He’s a great dresser. But I don’t think he came out of the trenches. I think he just came out of Macy’s Day parade or something.“
Elia has a terrible challenge of making a really boring fish, steamed in tea leaves.
Richard is impressed by Angelo. Spike is impressed by Richard. Angelo is impressed by Dale. Jen is impressed by herself. (That’s okay, I’m impressed by her too.)
Carla reminds us of Casey telling her to cook her meat sous vide in the finale, which was not her style of cooking.
They get to the kitchen the next day. Tom comes in and tells them they’ll be cooking in shifts. The first half of the chefs will cook, while the other half tastes their food in the dining room.
He takes them “right” in, which is fine, but how did the chefs who were dining know to get into their party clothes…and so fast? Obviously, they must have known. This is weird. Also, if they were busy prepping their dishes, how could half the chefs just have left what they were doing?
Out in the dining room, we get introduced to Anthony Bourdain and Gail.
The food gets served. Everyone tastes while the cooks in the kitchen can see AND hear the food getting eaten, while watching a big screen tv in the kitchen.
The chefs at the table have no idea that the chefs in the dining room can hear and see them. Oy! Elia walks away, because it feels too awkward to listen to them.
Jen (in the dining room) says no other dish comes close to Richard’s. Mike and Jen both love Angelo’s pork belly. Tony: “Very tasty…I liked it a lot.”
Tony liked (my) Dale’s scallops and says Dale found a way out of the horrible dish from before. Actually, he says “Dale un-$%&*ed this dish” pretty well.” Hmm, that’s my favorite part of his cooking, when he $%&*s the food.
Several of them dislike Tiffany D’s halibut. Uh-oh. Jen doesn't like Tre’s dish. Mike disses the kimchee appetizer of Tiffany’s dish.
Many of them hate Stephen’s dish, but not as much as Tony Bourdain hates Fabio’s dish. “I hated the whole dish. I keep tasting it. I keep poking it just to make sure that I actually hate it as much as I think I do and I really, really, really hate it. It looks like an inside-out animal." Fabio is NOT amused. “It’s appalling,” Tony continues.
Elia’s dish also gets blasted. Dale (the other one) says it feels like a dish that someone gave up on. Antonia thinks that’s a bit harsh.
The dining chefs go back to the kitchen and the first group (now in THEIR party clothes) goes into the dining room.
Fabio calls out Tony for hating his dish. 11 times he said it, Fabio recounts. Red-headed Tiffany says it just right when she says, “This is like the beginning of the most uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner ever.”
Tony says nothing back…that WE hear anyway.
It’s weird how they’re tasting the food. The dishes are in the center of the table and they all eat off the same plates. Strange. Plus how can they get enough to really taste each dish? They never said how many portions they told the chefs to make.
After they finish cooking, the second group of cooking chefs realizes that the first group could hear everything they said at the table. Oy! I wonder if that will make their second group’s remarks kinder or snarkier than they would have been.
Richard and Tre loved Antonia’s sausage dish. Tiffany says it wasn’t one of her favorites. Antonia grimaces.
Tony realizes how sneaky Spike is (the craftiest mother f-er, he actually says) to hide the taste of the scallops. Jamie’s dish goes over well. Richard says Mike Isabella’s leek dish is visually the prettiest dish.
(My) Dale doesn’t like Dale L’s “pasty” dumpling. Neither does Stephen. Red-headed Tiffany likes Carla’s dish a lot, but Angelo says he got a bite of the meat at the nerve endings. Huh?
Gail says Casey redeemed herself with her pork belly dish. Marcel’s uni had way too much vanilla according to Tre. Fabio says, ”He’s got balls to put something like this out.” Marcel takes that as a compliment. He’s really not the sharpest skewer in the drawer, is he?
The big surprise? Everyone criticizes the mighty Jen’s dish. Tony says the only thing wrong with her duck dish was the duck. Tiffany was shocked by the “technical errors” in the dish. JEN is shocked that they feel this way.
Back in the stew room, Fabio explains that he put paper under the food (on top of the plate, which got commented on), because it looked nicer than a dirty plate. Well, clean the plate then. Various chefs are also talking about how Richard had continued to plate after the time ran out.
Padma calls in Richard, Jamie, Spike and Angelo.
Tom tells Richard his dish was good, but he’s disqualified from the win because he outran the clock. Tom looked at the tapes and told him he saw him continuing to work after the time was up and so he wasn’t eligible for the win. Some chefs are shocked, but others had said that before.
The remaining three had the best dishes. Tom asks Jamie if she would serve braised celery now, which she detested the first time around. She says absolutely not. The winner is Angelo. He gets $10,000… (furnished by Buitoni).
They send back in Elia, Fabio and Stephen.
Stephen doesn’t defend himself terribly well. They hated all three elements of his dish. Tom says the proportions on different things were off.
Gail tells Elia HER piece of fish was raw. Elia questions that. Tom asks her if she thought it was cooked properly. It turns out she never looked to see exactly how much it was cooked. Elia says some pieces were thicker than other and she steamed it.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Gail screams, really, she was several decibels louder than the others, “You didn’t HAVE to steam it.” Gail says that as if she has a real problem with steaming. Did hosting TCJD put her in a bad mood? They must have edited what went on just before, because that came out of left field.
“I got a sense of a talented chef who saw an obstacle and never got off the ground. You were your own worst enemy,” says Tony.
Fabio says the only criticism they gave to him in New Orleans about that dish was that it was too light, so he tried to fix that. Gail said it was overdressed and overdone. Tony: “The presentation? What were you thinking? It was brown, it was wet, it was horrifying looking.”
Fabio gives it to Tony. He says criticizing his food is one thing, but insulting him is another and he’s not going to take it. Oy.
“SIR!” says Fabio. Uh-oh…are we going to hear about someone’s balls now? “I’m telling you something. I agree to be criticized in a constructive way. I don’t like to be made fun of and that’s what you did through the meal.”
Tom keeps his hand closely over his mouth. Laughing? Or is he being thoughtful? I don’t understand what Fabio means as he ends his rant, “If we were in a different situation, we would have a different problem.” Huh? Does he mean he would beat him up if Tony weren't judging him? Dunno.
Tony says if the dish had been in a humble, chipped china bowl, he would have been happier with that than the paper. Fabio: “That wouldn’t make any sense.” That’s not the only thing. “It’s a peasant food. It’s not meant to be fine dining,“ Fabio continues. Tom goes back to the flavor and says the individual nuances weren’t there.
As they leave, Elia says, “Don’t eliminate me. I have a lot more to do.” Then she adds, “I MEAN IT.” She was scary and semi-threatening, although she’s still stunning.
The judges’ thoughts: Elia’s dish wasn’t well made; Fabio made huge mistakes and Stephen’s dish reminds Tony of his last colonoscopy.
They come back in and guess what? It’s Elia. Elia looks the judges right in the eye and says after a huge lapse, “Okay.” Then she doesn’t move a muscle for a long minute.
She says going home first makes it almost not worth coming. I can understand her feeling that way.
The front-runners seem to be Richard Blais (hate) and Jen (love). I do love Dale, but I think he’s such a wild man that he may get in his own way, which, incidentally, Jen did before. Let’s hope she’s toughened up.