Top Chef All-Stars Recap: Pasta La Vista, Baby

Hey, Antonia, why don’t you kick off this week’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars by describing your innermost feelings in 20 words or less? “Mike is abrasive. He’s annoying. I’ve got a list of people that need to go home, and he’s on top.” Well said, sister! Let’s get the cooking started and see what we can do about getting the insecure little rooster out of the kitchen.

But first, the nine remaining chefs must participate in a totally jank Quickfire Challenge that will help promote the show Bravo launched to try to make use forget that Project Runway moved to Lifetime. Padma arrives with guest Isaac Mizrahi, and guess what they want the cheftestants to do? Fabio’s got a theory. He’s expecting to hear something along the lines of “Chef, you have to make a great dish and then I’m gonna wear it.” Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad idea, provided the judges nibbled on said frocks before donning ‘em. Instead, Padma and Isaac announce that not a morsel of food will pass their lips for this Fashion Week test (somewhere, a contestant of Models of the Runway tosses her celery stick into the trash and lethargically claps in approval); dishes will instead be judges on aesthetic properties alone. What?

The edict yields wildly uneven results. Tre makes a polka-dotted plate. Tiffany uses magic to turn rye bread into potting soil. And Angelo, apparently inspired by Roberto Cavalli, whips up a crocodile-skin homage that Fabio thinks looks “like a bag of vomit.” As always, Fabio is right! And turns out Angelo is wrong when he paints the nonexistent word “crocadile” across the stainless steel table. Isaac decides his scrawling is a little too Charles Manson, but lavishes praise on Richard’s ice cream (black is the new black!), Carla’s cucumber sculpture (work the culinary runway, former model!), and Fabio’s tuna woman with mushroom umbrella and lemon rain (note how the nonsensical gets upgraded to the adorable when swathed in a charming Italian accent). The winner? Of course, it’s Richard. Black is slimming, people! Do you need Nina Garcia to come to your house and school you?

And now it’s time for an elimination contest that limits the chefs to making very traditional Italian food that would fit on the menu at New York institution Rao’s and pair nicely with guest judge Lorraine Bracco’s delicious glasses of vino. I’ve got to admit I’m not a big fan of challenges with such a narrow focus: I’d have preferred if the judges had asked for food inspired by Rao’s, which would’ve allowed each of our combatants to put their own unique twists on the dishes. But hey, if you’re seeking creativity this week, look no further than the shimmering pile of sequins known as Nicky the Vest.

And now it’s time for one chef to take a culinary dirt nap. In the positive column, the three totally likable female contestants all score rave reviews for their anitpasti plates, a minor miracle considering the first tray of Tiffany’s polenta roulade flamed harder than an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Joining them at the judges’ table for best in show is Fabio, who succeeded in his goal of triggering the “best memory [the diners] ever had about food.” But wait. We need some delicious gravy. And there it is in the form of chauvinistic Mik’s insults for his female competitors’ plates. “How much work do you have to do in the kitchen?” he huffs about the antipasti course. Making mussels is “really easy,” he adds, trying to denigrate Antonia’s victory for her mussels with fennel, white wine, garlic and parsley ciabatta.

Maybe Mike is right, seeing how Antonia’s competitors greet her with applause so polite, it’s downright rude. But you know what else is kind of easy? Boiling pasta, which nonetheless proves to be too much for Mike, who keeps tossing around variations on the term “al dente” to describe his undercooked rigatoni. “I really can’t see us being in the bottom,” he whimpers, right before Padma asks to see all three pasta perpetrators back at judges’ table.

Anthony Bourdain, clearly reveling in the awfulness of Dale, Tre, and Mike’s dishes, breaks out some hilarious descriptive terms. Mike’s rigatoni is like something you’d find on a “steam table at your worst enemy’s wedding,” he declares. Tre’s improperly cooked risotto is covered with giant veggies, as if he was hiding a body. And Dale’s food reminds him of something straight out of the witness protection program. (“Do those people not get to eat well?” I wonder to myself.) Lorraine offers an assist: Dale wouldn’t be getting any sugar for dessert if he’d tried to woo her with that bland pasta with pancetta, Brussels sprouts and chanterelles.

Back in the storage closet with the other chefs, Mike admits his hard outer shell was just masking his realization that he’d failed to execute his dish. But in the battle between Mike’s crunchy rigatoni and Tre’s failure to understand that his risotto should not be standing up, Tre’s offense is deemed worse, and he’s sent packing. He exits on a classy note, insisting the experience has made him a better chef. And Mike Isabella lives to annoy Antonia (and me) for another episode.

What did you think of this week’s Top Chef? Did the right person go home? Is Carla emerging as the possible spoiler to Richard’s perceived dominance? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality TV coverage, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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21 Comments
  1. oriharakaoru says:

    So happy for the women this week! They really deserved to be on top. Fabio continues to be adorable, and Dale and Mike continue to be annoying. The one thing I don’t like about Richard is that I get the impression that it’s inconceivable in his mind that he does not deserve to win this. Like, if he doesn’t, a great injustice will have been committed (which, honestly, is how he came off after his 2nd place finish during his season). ANYWAY, he IS a good chef, and will probably make it to the end, so.

    But: TEAM CARLA ALL THE WAY! :D

    • daisyj says:

      I don’t get that impression of Richard at all– if anything he seems completely paranoid about screwing up and losing, even when he does a good job.

      On a separate note; I thought for sure they were setting Mike up with the loser edit with his whole “I’m so Italian, there’s no way I don’t win this” shtick. But I guess Tre claiming that “people call me the black Italian” (what does that even mean?) should have been a clue too.

      And does anyone else suspect that this whole challenge was a setup to sell more Butoni supermarket pastas?

      • Pamela says:

        I’m with you. I think Richard is SO SCARED of doing what he did his season that he’s on edge. I think he’s getting a little more cocky (easy to do when even your competitors are saying you deserve to win a challenge) but I think he’s just trying to hold it together.

        And Mike totally got the loser edit. I mean, the whole B3 did, but especially Mike. We shoulda seen it though, with the whole comparison to Tre’s prior risotto (I didn’t miss that, did I? Tre said his last risotto on the show was awesome? I was reading email, lol)

  2. Pamela says:

    If the final four ends up being Carla, Blais, Antonia, and Fabio, I will be very happy. I think that, with the way those four have been performing, it’d be a good battle. Carla is definitely doing what she did in her season – slowly and quietly pulling close – and Antonia has been performing amazingly. Several times, she’s been the best of her team, and has been told that, but for her team, she’d have been in the top. She deserves serious credit. And of course Fabio. He’s doing what he does best – give us flair in the kitchen, but cook good solid food.

    Also, I’d like to point out that, with yesterday’s top 4, the Curse of Antonia the Black Hammer is broken!

  3. Sarah P. says:

    @Pamela – I’m hoping for the same final four and good call on the curse!

    Mike was SO lucky this week. I really thought they would save Tre since the discussion turned to “maybe he really never had a good risotto?” It wasn’t undercooked like Mike’s dish…was it really that offensive? (What was offensive was saying “No, that’s not really antipast.” in his Italian “accent” to Tiffany!) Dale was lucky, too, because there was an insane amount of egg in his pasta…it was NEON yellow for crying out loud!

    • Pamela says:

      Mike needs to go away. Followed rapidly by Angelo and his smug ass self. Mike last night was so disgusting and rude, more than the other guys. I don’t like Marcel, but after Mike’s whole thing last week with Marcel? Ugh.

  4. Holly says:

    Isabella is annoying. If Tre’s food was worse, then it’s right that he’s gone, but I can’t wait for Isabella to be gone. I thought I disliked Dale, but when it came down to the bottom three, I was really rooting against Mike. Dale is less grating; I almost don’t notice him one way or the other.

    I agree that the best Top 4 would be Carla, Blais, Antonia and Fabio. I wish Jen were still around, too.

  5. Anne says:

    I know it’s bad, but Angelo’s spelling mistake just made me want to hug him more. He’s so bad at everything but food! (Mike, I’ll win you over to my side eventually…)

  6. Bobbi says:

    I was so happy for the women. Honestly, I was surprised by Antonia’s win too but I thought the other cheftestants’ reaction stunk.

    Tre going home made me sad. Obviously, I couldn’t taste the food, but Mike serving seriously undercooked pasta seems like a much more egregious error to me than the risotto being a bit firm. Tre was also a good presence on the show. I’ll miss his laugh!

    Blais bugs me. He may very well be the most well trained chef there but I don’t like his sense of entitlement. He also works himself into a frenzy if he doesn’t have immunity. He choked during the fourth season – his loss was no one’s fault but his own. This time, to me, he looks as if he’s ready to have a nervous breakdown!

    It would tickle me if Carla took it all. She is joy personified and has the ability, I think.

  7. coco says:

    Team Fabio all the way! His commentary is the best part of the show.

    • Sue says:

      Exactly. His comment about the Mizrahi challenge, “Chef, you have to make a great dish and then I’m gonna wear it” made me laugh out loud. I love Fabio and hope he makes it to the finals.

    • Debbie says:

      CoCO, I totally agree about Fabio, I absolutely love him and live for his commentary about everything. Has anyone noticed that he is not wearing a wedding ring? He wore one in his season and spoke about his wife all the time. During restaurant wars, he commented on how many “digits” he got, is he now divorced? I hope he makes it to the finals just for pure entertainment.

  8. allie says:

    My current Top 3 – Antonia, Blaise and Carla. Hated how rude the guys were to Antonia when she won. If they had cooked their food well and paid attention to the description of the challenge they would have known the judges WANTED tradtional, straight forward Italian. Mike was so busy yapping away at one of the Rao guys that no one on his team could possibly have heard what they were supposed to do. It would have been awesome to see Italian Mike from Jersey get sent packing for this challenge. But when Tre committed the major sin of not acknowledging that he made a mistake with his risotto right up front, I know he was a goner. I liked his attitude and the smooth way he delivered his insults – I’ll miss him. :)

  9. Clio says:

    I thought the witness protection comment was a reference to the end of Goodfellas, when Henry is in witness protection in Arizona and says he can’t get good Italian food because all the tomato sauce tastes like ketchup.

    Anyway I’m really hoping for Carla and Blais at the end, joined by either Antonia or Dale, but with Fabio sticking around as long as possible merely to entertain me. Not that he isn’t cooking fantastic food but I don’t see him having the creativity to make up an interesting menu for the finale.

  10. Jen says:

    My favs are Angelo, Richard and Fabio. But I do like the women too.

    I really wanted either Mike or Dale to go home. I think it was a toss up between them and and Tre (as to who would leave).

    But I will say this. People say that Mike cannot boil pasta. That’s not true. He knew it was undercooked. The problem is the time limit. When the buzzer rings you must stop no matter what. He didn’t want to cook it too early. But he ended up not having enough time. In the real world it wouldn’t usually matter if you sent something out 5 minutes later!

  11. Ryan says:

    The quickfire was the worst quickfire of all time and I’ve seen every show except season 1 and 2.

  12. Buffy Freak says:

    I was so happy to see the bottom three that I was hoping for a Triple Elimination…I would have been thrilled with any one of them leaving though I was slightly leaning towards Dale…

  13. MK says:

    I happen to like Angelo but he’s never going to win if he doesn’t step it up. I’m waiting for Tiffany to pack her knives up. I can’t stand the back stabbing and she’s one of the biggest whiney ones there. She should have gone last week. As for Mike Isabella..eh. Never liked him much on TC and not wild about him now.

    The only one who seems to stay out of the gossip and whiney stuff is Angelo which is why I like him. And I like Fabio because he knows how to work a room.

  14. ChristineOH says:

    I thought the quickfire was a dumb idea too, but I was shocked at how UNattractive most of the dishes were. Even Fabio’s wasn’t that appetizing-looking. Carla’s was by far the best, but only her and Richard’s were passable.

  15. Anne says:

    Hey-

    Why doesn’t Antonia EVER win a prize when she’s the challenge winner?? So unfair and it’s happened in this season as well as her first time around. The girl has mad skills and I feel so badly for her when everyone else is winning cars, money, and trips. Why is this happening????

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