Top Chef All-Stars - Restaurant Wars
By the way, the fishing post from the week before Restaurant Wars is here.
Carla is proud to have won last week’s challenge and she’s happy to be one of three women left.
They call Antonia the hammer, because on her season her teammates kept getting sent home, while she was safe. The same thing is happening this time too! It’s actually kind of funny. She says it’s a coincidence. I say there ARE no coincidences…
This is cool. The chefs arrive at Le Bernardin and Tony is there directing their Quickfire this week. He tells the chefs that he devoted an entire chapter in his book Medium Raw to Justo Thomas, Le Bernardin’s fish butcher. Tony says that between 7 am and noon, Justo butchers between SEVEN HUNDRED and a THOUSAND pounds of fish!!! Holy mother of cleavers!!! Tony continues to say that when Justo goes on vacation, “it takes three trained sous chefs to do his job”. Amazing.
This is one of the great things about Top Chef - that it’s a place to highlight chefs and food professionals who perhaps would only be known to their peers.
Mike says (to us), “I think I know where this is going.”
“Saving fish, quality and equal portions” is what Justo says is the key to what he does.
“Seeing Justo clean fish gives me tears,” says Fabio, “It’s amazing.”
Tony reminds them that even if one scale gets in someone’s dish, Le Bernardin could become a “used-to-be-good” restaurant.
“Chefs,” says Tony, “I think we know what comes next.”
Each of them has to fillet and portion one cod and one fluke into Le Bernardin quality portions and they have “the relatively luxurious time of “ 10 minutes to do it.
We learn that Tiffany is the Executive Chef of Go Fish restaurant, except that THIS is a shame. Marcel tells us that the first time he handled fish he got a terrible rash and “being the chef that (he) is” he just kept on doing it and it went away. (Marcel gives ME a rash.)
Mike tells us that Carla is struggling. Fabio’s knife goes right through his thumbnail. OY! He says he’s not going to be like Jamie and stop the challenge for that. It looks like he’s bleeding all over the fish. Uck!
Dale’s “looks good”; Angelo’s “looking good”. Antonia starts apologizing before Justo can say anything.
Marcel’s fish - “It’s not bad at all.” Carla was going too carefully, so she didn’t finish. “What can I say, because I don’t see no portions there?” says Justo.
About Mike, “You got a lot of fish. Not too much waste there.” Richard – “A little bit of scale, but that’s fine.” (It is?!!)
Tre - I see a little bit of waste on the bone.
Tiffany’s: “I think you cut it the wrong way. Supposed to cut it in the center.“ She’s completely mortified.
Tony says he loves challenges like this where the chefs already know how well or poorly they did.
The worst: Fabio, Carla, Tiffany and Antonia. The best: Dale, Richard, Marcel and Mike. Those four now have to cook a dish from the garbage of the fish: the head, tails, fins etc. The winner will get immunity.
Dale is happy with the challenge because he says his family “was doing nose to tail cooking, before it was even cool.” He’s making TWO dishes. What a chef!!!
Mike says the best flavor is the meat from the bone and from the head.
Richard says his first job was at a place called McDonald’s “I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.” He was the fish cook, which at McDonald’s was “very prestigious”. He says he sent out his first fish filet sandwich without the top bun and that he was being avant garde, before he even knew that was his calling.
Richard is so different on this season. He seems to have calmed down a bit and he’s actually kind of charming. I couldn’t STAND him before, but now I really appreciate him.
All four do well, but my money is on MY Dale. What a stud…to do TWO dishes, and one has fish guts, actually the liver.
I DO like it when Marcel says he uses all parts of the fish, because “to throw away a life is wasteful”.
The verdict: Richard’s is “good”, says Justo. Mike’s - ”Nice work,” says Tony. Dale’s – “Flavor’s good,” says Justo. “Nice touch, the liver,” says Tony. Justo likes Marcel’s broth, but Marcel doesn’t think Tony gets enough of it in his taste.
While they wait, Mike and Richard say everyone’s dish looked “tight”. Mike just hopes that Marcel doesn’t win immunity.
Justo and Tony come out into the dining room to announce the decision. Justo thanks them all and Tony says they ate well, but “too little” says Justo. The winner is…Dale. YES! He gets immunity.
Back at the Top Chef kitchen, there’s Ludo with Padma. And the challenge is Restaurant Wars!!! They’re all excited. They have to make a pop-up restaurant in 24 hours.
Remember when my Dale (unfairly) got sent home from his season’s Restaurant Wars? Thank goodness, that can’t happen here. Because he has immunity, Dale is captain of one team and he gets to pick the other captain. He is so shrewd and, of course, picks Marcel, because no one wants to work with Marcel and now Dale can be guaranteed that he won’t have to. Smart.
Marcel is such a nitwit he feels “honored” that Dale picked him to be the other captain. Doesn’t he get it? Obviously, not.
Dale picks Richard, Tre, Carla and Fabio. (Dale says Fabio is “the front of the house master” and “the steal of the draft”.)
Marcel picks Angelo (who is the only one who can stand working with him), Mike, Antonia, and Tiffany.
The big difference this season is that the diners will decide who wins. That’s great.
Marcel’s team wants Tiffany to be front of the house. She agrees reluctantly.
Dale wants to call his restaurant Bodega. Marcel, on the other team, doesn’t want to decide anything until they’ve agreed on a concept. He gets frustrated that no one wants to listen to him. Fabio tells us that Dale picked a team of marathoners and that Marcel picked a team of sprinters.
Back at the house, Dale’s team works well together. Marcel’s is still fighting over stuff. He wants the restaurant to be called Medi for
They arrive at the Foundry (I think it’s this one) to set up their restaurants outside. We didn’t see all the shopping, which is fine with me. And did I read somewhere that they weren’t responsible for the whole décor part anymore. Am I making that up? Luckily I don’t think they had to waste their time on that.
Antonia is happy that the diners are voting.
The dishes are here.
Tom shows up and talks to Marcel, who gets a little testy when Tom questions him further about something. He says he really has to get back to work. Dale is happy to chat with him or, at least, pretends to be. Before he leaves, Tom says there will be one winner who will get $10,000.
Fabio says he’s owned his own restaurants since he was 18. We see him taking charge of the serving staff beautifully. He goes over the menu and service and tells us that food will be worth 50% and he will deliver the other 50%.
Marcel is directing Tiffany on how to peel an egg and she still hasn’t made it out to the dining room. The eggs aren’t cooked all the way, Marcel thinks. He says to us that he’s disappointed and that he was expecting more from the chefs and that now they have to come up with a different egg dish.
Tiffany is frustrated because she says she should have just cooked the freakin’ egg the freakin way she knew how to cook them.
Marcel says (to us) “If you can’t cook a six minute egg, I don’t know what to tell you.” Mike says to cure the egg yolk.
Uh-oh. There is NO question. Tiffany is going home. Tiffany is going home. Tiffany is SO going home. She screwed up the eggs because she listened to Marcel. She’s thinking of finishing the dish the way Mike wants AND she’s letting Angelo finish her dish. It’s absolutely going to be Tiffany. They’re trying to cast a little shadow of a doubt, though, by showing Richard say that things are perhaps a little TOO quiet on his team.
The rest of them don’t want Marcel to put foam on his dish, which is what he always does.
Carla is sweet and tells everyone to have a good service.
The diners arrive and Fabio is really selling it to the crowd in his restaurant. Dana Cowin comes into Tiffany’s side. Tiffany isn’t happy, because now they have to worry about “Miss VIP”.
There’s a bit of drama in the kitchen when Dale doesn’t speak nicely to Fabio’s servers. Fabio cools him down.
Tiffany’s side has folks who send back their undercooked lamb. And, uh-oh, Dana kind of lets Tiffany have it. She says, “I thought that’s not a well-cooked egg. It’s not balanced in the way that it’s composed.”
Also sitting at her table is Amanda Hesser, who for some reason is not identified, I don’t think. She’s also not happy. She says, “It was also too salty. You sort of lost the beauty of that kind of salad.” Tiffany says, “I’m sorry that you had to experience it this way.” What an odd way to put something. Plus she’s lucky their criticism is only worth two votes.
Meanwhile, Fabio is giving great service. Dana’s group has moved to the other side. “Dana,” Fabio says to us, “you’re about to have a date with me tonight.” She immediately says that Bodega is a big improvement conceptually over the last meal. Dana says a pop-up restaurant should be modern and fun and “there’s modern and fun, all over this menu.”
The judges arrive at Bodega. Fabio immediately greets them. At the table, Tom asks Ludo how long he his pop up restaurants last. Ludo says he does what he wants. He’s kind of brusque.
Tony likes Dale’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese with homemade focaccia. He says that if you put a runny egg on anything, he likes it. ME too! Tom agrees.
Ludo likes the tuna dish. Tom admires that Fabio is actually directing the staff. He says he’s doing great. Meanwhile, Tiffany is chatting with people and not directing the staff at all.
Fabio tells Richard that the judges love the food. Richard doesn’t initially believe him.
Padma loves Tre’s pork shoulder with corona sauce. Tom thinks Richard’s cod batter is great and he loves the whole concept of his dish. Tony says he would be very happy to have his place pop up in his neighborhood.
Fabio is worried when he see that Padma hasn’t finished the pork shoulder. She says she’s just trying to pace herself.
Tony laughs as he says he bleepin’ LOVES Fabio’s cheesecake. Tom giggles in agreement. Tony says he’s been waiting for this dish _ an amaretto cheesecake with cappuccino mousse – from Fabio.
Ludo likes Carla’s blueberry pie, even though it’s not his favorite thing to eat. Padma says, “THAT was delicious. Let’s see what Etch has to offer.”
The judges arrive at Etch and we see Tiffany talking and laughing way too loudly. The judges wait way too long for a table. Padma looks put out that no one’s there to greet them. I don’t blame her. I hate that!
Oy, it gets worse. Tiffany is talking really loudly. I like her, but her laugh is really too raucous. Ludo immediately notices that the wait staff isn’t organized properly and there’s more laughing. Padma says that Tiffany thinks that “working the front of the house is just schmoozing.”
Tom says he thinks she had a great personality, but outside her element “it’s forced”. That’s what that laugh sounds like. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think of my chant. Tiffany is going home, Tiffany is going...well, you get the idea.
Padma says that it’s “disconcerting” that she hears the host’s laughter over everyone else’s. Tiffany finally comes back to the judges table and Padma says “we’re hungry.” Tiffany scurries into the kitchen to report that.
The food arrives, which doesn’t improve the judges’ opinions much. Tony needs more smokey flavor in Tiffany’s egg and chorizo dish. Tom says her asparagus is way underseasoned and he doesn’t love Angelo’s fluke crudo.
A diner tells Tiffany that if the food is cold, the plate should be cold, but if the food is hot the plate should be hot and everything on the lamb dish was cold. That’s pretty bad. Things don’t seem to be going Tiffany’s way tonight.
Mike and Marcel start to fight about the best way to heat up the plates. Angelo says if it were his restaurant he would send Mike home.
Ludo says Marcel’s monkfish is mushy. Some diners love it. Tom likes Mike’s pork belly and octopus. Padma thinks Antonia’s gnudi are too salty. Tony thinks they’re perfect. Tony and Tom like Mike and Angelo’s lamb chops.
Tiffany brings out a steaming bowl (from dry ice) of Marcel’s dessert of peaches with coconut foam. It is universally panned by the judges AND diners. “This was like a perfect storm of awfulness,” says Tony. There was actually one nitwit guest who liked it.
Dana says the Bodega meal was head and shoulders about the Etch meal. Fabio kisses many women’s hands as they leave. Fabio is super happy with the results. Richard is still nervous.
On the other side, Antonia is super negative about their results.
Back in the stew room, they all agree that Fabio is the greatest. Dale says he thought he would pull out a white truffle and start shaving it on top of dish and saying, “Just for you.”
Padma calls in Etch first, which makes Richard even more nervous. He says, “Talk to me now, Maestro,” to Fabio.
Mike wants to know how much money Fabio made in tips. He says he got some phone numbers instead.
Padma tells them they’re the losing team. Only 17 out of 76 diners preferred them. Tom says the Etch team obviously didn’t have a plan. Angelo says someone should have organized the kitchen. Tom asks who should have done that and no one answers.
Angelo says his dish had pink peppercorns, which you find in the south of
Tony questions why Marcel’s dish had to have foam. Marcel says he wanted to reinforce the parsley flavor. Tom says that not the best way to get parsley flavor into a dish. Ludo says Marcel’s monkfish “was missing texture. Everything was mushy.”
About the dessert, Tony says it was “ a thumb in the eye” at the end of the meal. As if they were saying, “Thanks for coming. POW!”
Okay, so they clearly didn’t like Tiffany’s asparagus dish OR the way she carried out her front of the house duties. Bye-bye Tiffany. They didn’t like anyone else’s dish that much, but they HATED Tiffany’s cackling in the restaurant. Tom tells her that at some points there were NO waiters on the floor. She says when you’re having arguments on the line it’s hard to control, which opens the whole subject of Marcel not being a good captain and no one listening to him. At least she didn’t say, “I’m sorry that you had to experience it this way.”
Finally Mike says to Marcel, “You did a poor job and no one wants to say anything, because you’re like time bomb.” Marcel goes through all the things he told them to do which they didn’t and which was why their dishes didn’t succeed. Antonia says Marcel was the team captain and “he needed to step up” and he didn’t.
This all shows how brilliant Dale was to pick someone who couldn’t lead as the other team’s leader. The judges have them send in the other team.
Ludo tells Dales team that in 24 hours they did an amazing job. They loved Richard’s idea of the potato chips. Tom tells Fabio he loved his personality on the floor and the way he directed the staff AND his dessert.
Tony tells Dale he thought his egg dish was great stoner food at it finest and he meant that as a huge compliment. The judges liked Tre’s dish and thought Carla’s dessert worked perfectly with the menu. And the winner is…Richard. I’m not unhappy about that. He’s okay. He says he thought he was going home an hour ago.
The judges dismiss team Bodega and then talk about the losing team. Tony says they failed at concept, teamwork and service. Ludo says there was no excuse for Antonia’s salty dish. Okay, let’s hear them say Tiffany is going home.
They call them back in and it’s…Marcel. Not that I’m sorry, but I am surprised. I was so sure Tiffany was going home. I am glad, though, that this week’s episode wasn’t our last impression of her.
Marcel is “shocked” to be eliminated. He says to us that the only mistake he made was picking the wrong team. He says he’s known as the “most notorious” contestant of all time, but that he’s a likable guy and that he didn’t do anything he wouldn’t do again.
This episode was a study in contrasts. It had great food and awful food; conflict and wonderful camaraderie; unhappy tasters and also tasters reveling in the food; plus plenty of drama AND humor. Best line of the night was from Tony: "A prison break is better organized than Marcel’s team."