Top Chef All-Stars Recap: Pot Pie in the Sky

I’ve got an idea: With only a few weeks left to the Top Chef All-Stars season, why not end every challenge and activity with some kind of victory — competitive, moral, chance drawing — for wacky/effervescent Carla? Seriously, a win for the lanky, ululating chef is a win for the audience. Who doesn’t love watching her leap up and down like an excitable, animated ostrich, grinning broadly and spreading the love to the judges and even her fellow competitors? Okay, maybe Richard isn’t ready to buy a ticket for the Carla FTMFW Express, but with adorable Fabio out of the running, I’m now completely on board, with my bags stowed in the overhead compartment, looking for the dining car. (On the menu: Chicken pot pie, African peanut soup, and lettuce wraps with smoked bluefish and bagel croutons. Mmmm.)

Okay, okay…we’ve still got miles to go before we sleep. So let’s recount the highlights from this week’s episode:

The Quickfire Challenge centered on fondue pots, not exactly a win for members of the TV viewing audience, who must rely solely on the visual elements of the dishes to judge them. This was my brain watching the end results: “Melted stuff in a pot.” “Melted stuff in a pot.” “Melted stuff in a pot.” “A pickled beet-juice shooter? Oh Angelo!” “Melted stuff in a pot.” The cheftestants were asked to judge each other’s creations — wonder if some cheese-loving celeb dropped out at the last minute — and Fabio, Tiffany, and Mike wound up on the bottom. Meanwhile, Antonia and Angelo — both of whom seem to be hitting their strides at just the right time — wound up in the top along with Dale, who won for some kind of rare beef in broth that may not really have been a fondue at all.

With the heat turned up in the competition, Richard’s bitch sauce got reduced down to a bitter gravy. He hurled the word “pedestrian” at Tiffany’s apple fritters, then started spouting off that his competitors fear him because they realize he knows “how to do things other people don’t.” Granted, Richard is a whiz kid in the kitchen, and he’s been pretty generous advising his rivals on newfangled techniques, but dude needs to realize that bravado is a little like a jar of red pepper flakes: It’s got to be used with caution, and once you’ve dumped too much into a dish, there’s no salvaging it.

The Elimination Challenge was an extended product-placement segment for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but the comedian turned out to be a lively, opinionated guest judge, so I wasn’t mad at him. The chefs were forced to play a game of Cellphone Shootout to determine which dish they had to cook for Jimmy’s birthday, and when Carla drew chicken pot pie, it was like she’d won the Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right. “I acted like a complete fool and idiot,” she confessionalized. Okay, sure, but the best kind of complete fool and idiot!

You could see who was headed for trouble almost immediately. Fabio couldn’t even say the word “burger” (it sounded more like “bou-gwa”) and decided to treat his dish like a meatball, served with a pot of melted congealed cheese. Tiffany said something vague about how her idea of chicken and dumplings deviates from the traditional notion of chicken and dumplings. And Dale lamented his lack of experience with the Philly cheese steak, then lost a battle with what Jimmy referred to as “The Salt Monster.”

My favorite moment in the kitchen came when Mike started griping to the camera that too many chefs were benefitting from Richard’s help, followed immediately by a shot of Mike asking Angelo for feedback about his own sausage and pepper dish. Burn! Runner-up: Carla finishing her dish and declaring “No one can tell me that this is not a bomb-diggy chicken pot pie!” I wasn’t sure what to make of Angelo’s pulled pork spice rub of coffee, dill, allspice, and chipotle — as Tom noted, the combination should not have made sense, and probably should’ve come with a “don’t try this at home” warning — but the judges went bananas for it, along with Carla’s food and Antonia’s beef tongue. I really thought Angelo would get top honors, but when Padma announced the winner would also get to do a cooking segment on Jimmy’s show, and Carla engaged in some hilarious interplay with the comic about the pleasures of a crust along the bottom of a pot pie, I totally understood why she prevailed.

It was also pretty clear from deliberations that either Tiffany or Fabio was headed home, but the charming Italian ultimately paid the price for putting the ‘urg’ in burger and making it taste like dry meatloaf. “You really are the only shadow standing in your own sunshine,” he quipped as he left the building. Seriously, seriously, seriously, Food Network needs to greenlight a show for this guy. He may not be the All-Starriest of Top Chef All-Stars, but he’s certainly the most telegenic. Plus, he’s already got a concept for the pilot episode: Making a “bou-gwa” for Jimmy Fallon that will have the host on his knees and begging for forgiveness!

What did you think of Top Chef this week? Did the right person go home? Are you as utterly amused/delighted with Carla as I am? And are you hoping Richard dials back on the cocky? Sound off below, 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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16 Comments
  1. Designermusings says:

    Carla is awesome. Loved her since day one and she should DEFINITELY win this season.

  2. lisasp says:

    I do love Carla, but I also love Richard and always have. I did find him slightly cocky last night but I think he is just very very worried about choking in the finale like he did in his season. I would be very happy to have the final 2 be Richard and Carla. If there is a final 3, I would root for Antonia or Dale to be the 3rd finalist.

  3. Crissy says:

    My fav. is gone don’t know if I have the heart to watch any more.

  4. Marie says:

    I’m sad to see Fabio out. He was really entertaining. Happy for Carla. Hope she makes it to the top 2, she makes good TV. Dale may be talented but he turns most viewers off with his arrogance.

  5. Nicole says:

    I LOVE me some Blais, but I agree his THs did not make him look good this week. I forgive him because he’s awesome, but I do hope he “dials back on the cocky,” as you say. I don’t want everyone else to hate him! lol

    Carla was adorable. And she and Jimmy were clearly made for each other. I can’t wait to see her segment on his show tonight. Will you be watching? You ought to recap that! ;)

    I honestly thought Dale was a goner. The way the judges said that his heavy hand with the salt “ruined” his dish, I was convinced he was going home. For the first time this season, I actually felt sorry for him. He looked like he was ready to off himself! I hope he recovers, because I’ve really grown to like him this season. He seems to have suffered from a serious shake in confidence. I’d be thrilled to see him in the finale, along w/any combo of Carla, Blais & Angelo.

    I definitely think Fabio was the right one to go home, as sad as his elimination made me. It sounded to me like Tiffany’s biggest flaw was that her dish bore no resemblance to chicken & dumplings, while Fabio’s “hamboorger” was dry & his cheese was disgusting.

    Will I miss him? Of course. We got more amazing soundbites & hilarity out of him than anyone else, and I hope his ouster won’t leave the remainder of the season humor-free. Fabio brought the fun, and he’ll be missed.

  6. Mike says:

    Why are the pictures on the recaps so grainy? Do you literally take a picture of your tv and post it? Can this site not get clearer screen shots? It just annoys me for some reason.

    And I am still IN on Blais.

  7. Scooter says:

    Best Top Chef episode ever! The ‘spicy’ conversation during lunch with Jimmy, Higgins, and Miles was hilarious! Of course, Carla’s reaction at both the Cellphone Shootout and her win was absolutely priceless! Sad to see Fabio go. I’ll miss his accent and amusing confessionals.

  8. Blakie says:

    It really was a fun episode. I’m so hurt to see sweet Fabio go, I hoped he’d stay forever just for fun.
    Ahh and pot pie wins! That’s reassuring, that comfort food isn’t dead. I hope the trend lasts a long time. Get it Carla! She thinks winning is in the cards, but I’m not so sure. http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/02/top-chef-all-stars-episode-9-recap.html

  9. SaraK says:

    Carla is a hoot (as she would say) and Fabio certainly brought the entertainment factor way up. I would love a final 2 of Richard and Antonia.

  10. Sarah P. says:

    Does FTMFW Express mean what I think it does, Mr. Slezak? I’m really torn between Antonia and Carla at this point. I think Blais is bitter because he wants to win…he’s silently lurking and I’m just not sure how that’s going to play out. PS – Besides being on the bottom two weeks in a row, did anyone catch Dale giggling like a 10 year-old boy after Padma’s comment during the quick fire challenge?

  11. Angel says:

    I have alway loved Carla “hootie hoo” and I think people continue to underestimate her talent. However she is amazing…

    With that Most of the top of the Top Chef’s are cocky and arrogant and they need to see being good at what you do doesn’t mean diminishing another person’s talent.

    I love Dale even if he is cocky. Richard is talented but he is one who thinks his technology is best there is and there is no room for failure. He is his own worst judge and it will be his downfall.

  12. darclyte says:

    Top Chef/Bravo has used Fabio for things almost immediately after his original season. He might be under some sort of talent/development contract with them, so I doubt we’ll see him on FN at least until that runs out. Now that they’ve had an All Stars season, it MAY be that he’ll be a free agent, but I think Bravo would probably get first crack at giving him some kind of show. I would love to see him have a show somewhere be it Food Network, their “sister station” the Cooking Channel, Bravo, PBS…Syfy (just kidding.)

  13. LF says:

    It has been mentioned over and over that it takes a long time to cook tongue, but what about pulled pork? In my experience true pulled pork entails barbecuing (i.e. smoking) a pork shoulder for over five hours! Is it just me who’s wondering how Angelo pulled (pun intended) that off?

  14. melodious says:

    Yes, raw meat cooked in a hot broth is definately a fondue.
    Carla is a hoot and a half.
    I really had hoped that Angelo would win, but I will bet that personality was also a factor and Carla and Jimmy together are something else.
    QQ I will miss you so much, Fabio!

  15. the real wendy says:

    TV executives everywhere need to be hunting down cute Italian guys with charming accents… I could watch Fabio all day long. Hope he brings his pet turtle to his new show when he gets one.