Top Chef All-Stars Recap: Takeover Target!

I can’t believe the way Bravo preempted last night’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars and ran an extended infomercial for Target in its place. “Target has an expanded store, with a varied selection of fresh produce and groceries. You can find anything you need to cook and prepare a delicious meal for an entire family,” cooed Padma Lakshmi, in her best “sexy robot gonna hypnotize you” tone. And just like that, I had an overwhelming urge to spend a minimum of $100 on breakfast cereal, flannel shirts, and cheap but durable kitchenware emblazoned with geometric patterns and/or hummingbirds.

Okay, okay…in all seriousness, while last night’s elimination challenge most certainly extolled the virtues of America’s trendiest discount-store operator, it also presented an interesting obstacle course for our “magnificent seven”: Whip up a meal in three hours, in the middle of the night, with no sleep, using only the ingredients and equipment available in Target. Yowza!

Carla, possibly crumbling under the pressure of emerging as a true front-runner (or possibly just loopier than a rhythmic gymnastics routine), spent a good chunk of the first hour of the challenge wandering the aisles looking for tablecloths and accessories to dress up her work station. “Oh my God, I actually have to shop for my food,” she exclaimed after waking up from the siren spell of the Target linens aisle. (Hey, it can happen to the best of us.)

The prospect of Carla not cracking the final three — on the heels of dishy Fabio’s ouster last week — was almost more than I could endure, but the producers spent so much time on the “Carla’s backslide” edit that it seemed too obvious for her to have to pack her knives and go. So who would end up on the chopping block this week?

When in doubt, I like to blame Mike Isabella, whose swagger-to-talent ratio is perpetually imbalanced, and his advice to Angelo that his soup was “missing something” marked the beginning of the latter contestant’s unexpected demise. (Actually, scratch that: Angelo’s ridiculous knee socks marked the beginning of his unexpected demise. Why the face?) Suddenly, Angelo was adding both salt and bacon to his pot, resulting in an end product that had Tom setting down his spoon after just one bite. “You do not need to pass the salt. If you eat a whole bowl of this…” said guest judge Ming Tsai, tailing off. “You’d die,” said Tom, completing the thought.

I really felt for Angelo, who explained that with the way he’d filmed consecutive Top Chef seasons, he’d “made over 40 dishes almost back-to-back, and that’s a lot. I think I’m just mentally fried.” The same can probably be said for Tiffany, who fought back tears when the judges asked her, Angelo, and Carla why each one deserved to stay another week. I’m not ashamed to say I was moved by Tiffany’s humble/philosophical stance: She’s from the small city of Beaumont, TX, where it can be hard to dream extra big, she explained, and no matter the outcome, she was honored to have worked alongside her fellow chefs and the esteemed judges. Aww, Tiffany, just be sure to dream bigger than the store-bought Cajun seasoning that seemed to offend Tom and Tony’s palates.

I thought for sure Mike would join his new BFF Angelo in the bottom two, especially after boasting that his spicy soup with mushrooms, scallions and limes contained “some fresh coconut milk.” Cut to my favorite exchange of the Top Chef season…

Padma (incredulously): “You found fresh coconuts here?”
Mike: “No, I found coconut milk.”
Padma (witheringly): “Then it’s not fresh coconut milk.”
Mike: “You’re right.”

And then, as if horrified by the packaged ingredients set in front of her refined self, The Lady Lakshmi stopped eating after just one teaspoon.

On the positive side, Richard managed to produce a tasty dish of pork two ways (neither involving a tank of nitrogen), Antonia made the “ballsy” (Tony’s description) decision to prepare runny eggs and garlic crostini, and Dale used an iron (the kind you use to get the wrinkles out of shirts!) to add color to his ribeye grilled cheese sandwich and spicy tomato soup. Ming took the bullet and made the obligatory “iron chef” joke, while Tony declared the dish a “surreal mix of goofy and devious.” Ka-ching! A win (and a whopping $25,000 prize) to Dale.

I’d have been happier for Dale had he not engaged in the not-so-subtle sexism that seems to be a matter of course on Top Chef. Offended by the fact that his female competitors had taken a moment to spruce up their stations, he huffed that “I didn’t know this was Suzy Homemaker’s challenge.” Chauvinistic Mike got in on the action, too. Sitting in the “Stew Room,” he high-fived Angelo while the judges deliberated, erroneously (and publicly) assuming it would either be Carla or Tiffany who went home, and not the contestant with a penis. All I can say is this: When you’ve earned a side-eye from lovely, centered Carla, you know you’re some kind of d-bag.

What did you think of this week’s Top Chef? Were you shocked to see Angelo get booted? Were you moved by his exit speech? And which three cheftestants do you see making the finale? Sound off below, and for all my reality TV recaps, 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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19 Comments
  1. Nicole says:

    Slezak, I have to pick a bone with you. Why did you say not a single word about the Muppets Quickfire??? Love it, hate it, wonder what the heck Muppets were doing judging cookies… anything??

    So onward: That exchange between Padma & Mike was definitely among my favorites this season, too. Anytime Mike gets a smackdown, I’m a happy camper.

    I don’t think I was *shocked* to see Angelo get the boot, so much as surprised that he got cut at this juncture and was very saddened. He was probably my 3rd-favorite chef this season, and I was convinced he was finale-bound. When there are lesser-talents like Tiffany and Mike left in the final 6, as a fan of chefs one can’t help feeling disappointed.

    With Angelo out, I’d say Blais, Dale, and Carla are the favorites for the top 3 – though you have to give Antonia the nod for dark horse. I would be utterly shocked to see either Tiffany or Mike in the finale, that’s for sure.

  2. Silveryj says:

    I wasn’t shocked. He is a delicate, delicate flower. He showed that in Asia. I also agree with my fellow commenter that to ignore the Muppets, who brought some much-needed humor and giggles to the show, is odd. Were you late for a date or something?

    I felt this Elimination challenge was mean-spirited. It just was too much to send them to a place the size of an airplane hangar, give them NO time, and make them shop, set up, and cook for 100, all in the middle of the night. It wasn’t fun watching them race around a sleep-deprived stupor. I was concerned someone would hurt themselves.

    Finally, I was petrified Carla would be sent home. Why Tiffany and that asshole Isabella are still there mystifies me. I don’t care that much about losing Angelo, but I do wonder what Richard Blais has to do to win a challenge…I mean, everyone in college uses an iron to make grilled cheese, and Richard cooked pork TWO WAYS. Overall verdict: thank god Carla lived to cook another day, and Mike Isabella is too stupid to live.

  3. Seconding Nicole: I clicked through to read the recap specifically because I was looking for commentary on the Muppet Quickfire, and was absolutely astonished not to see any mention whatsoever. Bad recapper, no cookie.

  4. 4F says:

    I was so glad Angelo got booted. Mike The Neck was just disappointed that his “sweetie” (did you hear him call Angelo sweetie at Target??) is now gone.

  5. Kaiulani says:

    The Muppets were the best part. When Elmo told Padma “TMI” and said that Anotnia cookies looked like cow chips, I fell off my couch laughing. As soon as Mike told Angelo that his soup was missing something, I knew he was a goner. Who adds more salt and bacon to potato soup and not expect it to be salty?!?!

  6. Reena says:

    I dont get it either the quickfire had me laughing so hard…espicially when Padma was telling Telly that cardomin and cinnamon ( i know grammar police i cant spell) come from the same region and elmo says TMI..and then just walked away he did not care it was HILARIOUS! or when elmo said that Antonia’s cookies looked like cow chips! I vote for Padma to be replaced by Elmo! lol I was shocked to see Angelo go I love Tiffany but thought this wasnt going to be a good week for her and then my jaw dropped everyone had Angelo for the top 3 but now no more…i am thinking a dale, richard…(fingers crosssed) Anotnia/or Carla for the final 3..Mike is a DBAG the look on his face when Angelo said he was going home was like he wanted to slap Tiffany oh well next weeks will be good when all the other chefs come back I hope someone bitch slaps Marcel!!

  7. Bridget says:

    “I’d have been happier for Dale had he not engaged in the not-so-subtle sexism that seems to be a matter of course on Top Chef.”

    Couldn’t agree more!

  8. paula ray says:

    Antonia needs to pack her knives and go .. she is a snake and don’t know how she keeps coming up in the top 3. She is clever and strategizes better than the rest .. but better cook? steamed mussels I could make and I don’t even like mussels? come on … who is she sleeping with? Fabio gone? Tom is jealous of the attention Fabio gets and Richard needs to cook his own dishes. If he had let Antonia alone she would be gone for the tongue. Smugly she stood there and didn’t give any credit and we watched him do everything to pressure cook the tongue. Isn’t that cheating? Richard won’t win on generosity. Kindness is one thing but cooking the dish for someone is another. It IS a competition for cooking not for Miss Congeniality.

  9. Sarah P. says:

    I’m with everyone on the Sesame quick-fire. Dale totally deserved the win…total stoner ingenuity. I was falling apart with Carla and off my couch as the time ticked down. Still, I couldn’t help rooting on Antonia because her dish was so smart and she knows the judges. She’s not a snake…she’s an observant competitor. Salt is indeed the hard-core eliminator and I hope Mike Isabella uses too much of it next week. PS – Elmo was genius! I’d love a Blais and Elmo show.

  10. Anne says:

    Devastated. Angelo needs a hug, stat.

  11. oriharakaoru says:

    Cookie Monster tho. :(

    Also, I’m convinced that Angelo is, in fact, David Archuleta from 15 years in the future.

  12. Franko Phile says:

    No mention of the Muppets? Big fail.

  13. Linda says:

    I really really want Carla to win the whole thing. She was my favorite in her season and, if she hadn’t allowed Casey to change her plans, might have won that. Her cooking, her personality, her sense of humor …. I just LOVE her.

    I am so, so tired of both Dale and Mike …. they may cook well, but as human beings they are way too arrogant. I’d like to see them both go as a matter of principle.

    So, for the final three … I’d love to see Blaise, Carla and Antonia. I think all three of them are great chefs and great humans.

  14. joeyp says:

    Mike I and Dale need to leave next. I don’t get why the judges were so impressed by Dale using an iron. Haven’t any of them seen “Mr. Mom” or “Benny and Joon”?

  15. lace says:

    So sad to see Angelo go! He was the reason I decided to watch all-stars and now that he’s gone I won’t be watching anymore.

  16. Vale says:

    I’m gonna say top 3: Richard, Carla and Antonia.. And my man Blais taking the title!

  17. Wendy Wilson says:

    No matter the winner, I am always amazed at what financial losers all the chefs appear to be. They cry over a lose of $5000. Are they all in bankruptcy. If they can’t manage their money, how do they suppose they will manage a restaurant. Obviously, Chef-Owners must be the reason 99% of restaurants fail with the first 2 years!