Top Chef All Stars: Night At the Museum

E: Well, once again, I loved the challenge, and hated the result.  I saw it coming from a mile away, but man, it hurt.  Our chefs are first instructed to make desserts suitable for kids staying over night at the incredibly awesome Museum of Natural History in New York City.

M: Um, the kids…  and the amazingly awesome Joe Jonas.  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

E: I know my eldest niece is the right age (shudder) , but do you actually like the JoBro’s?

M: There really, REALLY needs to be a sarcasm font.

E: That makes me feel better.  Anyway, yes, Joe Jonas and the kids.  Continuing, the cheftestants…

M: Hate you.

E: … are divided into teams to mass produce the top two desserts and bring them to the museum so the kids can choose a favorite.  Then they’re told they’ll be staying overnight in the museum as well, and will cook breakfast for the kids, the staff and various parents using either the diet of a T. Rex or a Brontosaurus!  Come on, that’s pretty awesome.

M: The concept, and the museum stuff, yes.  The execution, not as much.

I thought the quickfire was actually kind of lame. It should have been supercool, but didn’t hook me.  maybe they just didn’t spend enough time on it.

E: I won’t say that the idea itself was lame, but yeah, it would have been better if we saw more of what they were making.  I swear we didn’t even see what everyone made in the end!  That always irks me. I don’t feel like they ever spend enough time with the Quickfires in the early episodes of the show.

M: It’s hard, because there are so many of them.  It’s a little better this season because we already know everyone or just about everyone, but it’s still tough to get into it when they show you about 60 seconds of prep.

E: But the idea of just making a snack for kids that was easy to eat with their hands?  That’s fun.  There could be a ton of creativity there.  Probably the best part of it for me was Tiffani understanding what an ass she’d been in the first season, getting snotty about how children don’t have refined palates and it’s useless to cook for them.

M: I agree, good idea, and seeing Tiffani grow was really nice.

E: So Tiffani’s rice crispy treat whoopie pie squared off against Spike’s chips and yogurt dip for the win.  Tiffani picks a prep team of the girls, Tre and Dale L; Spike gets all the boys and Carla.

M: Tiffani took the challenge, but it was really no contest, Spike’s dish was more “foody”, which is how he got into the top 2, but hers was MUCH more kid oriented.

E: As a “reward”, she got to pick which items her team got to choose from for the elimination challenge, which was breakfast for the kids and their parents.  On a fun note, before their 45 minutes of sleep, the teams decide to pair up to cook meals.  Then a bunch of the boys went on a flash light tour of the Museum.    I was torn about that; on the one hand, sleep, but on the other, when would you ever get the chance to wander amidst fossils in the dark?  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I have to go with Marcel on that one.

M: I was totally with him, too.  You’ll be able to sleep all day after breakfast, take the once in a lifetime experience while you can!

E: Ok, enough of us agreeing.

M: Sorry.  Let’s see if I can spark something off… Tiffani was an idiot assuming (after Tom very specifically said “only meat and meat by-product) that they would have anything else.

E: I think she probably just assumed they would have basic staples like flour, with which to make crepes, say, or biscuits.  But yes.  It’s funny.  Meat and eggs really seem like a no-brainer, but it’s hard to do that without any kind of side dish, even when you’re making breakfast.

M: I expected a lot more from the T-Rex team, even without the use of veggies and grains, in terms of what they did.  I mean, how about omlets, crepes, sausages, anything creative.

E: I’m with you – I was stunned that there weren’t omelets or scrambled or something better than the frittattas.  Which, frittattas can be awesome.  I’d love to know what they were supposed to do about the ovens not cooking evenly, though. Should they have kept turning the pans, to ensure even heat application?

M: Yes, but let’s cut to the chase…  Jen should not have gotten the boot.  Boo!

E: Thanks from heading straight into the un-awesome, M.  I have to grudgingly admit, it did sound like she had the worst dish, but that makes me crazy.  I mean, she’s a genius.  How could she be so wrong? I will say, I had no problem with her defending herself – nor do I think the judges sent her home because of it – but the crack about them being smart enough to take a new plate if they needed it was a little mean.

M: I loved seeing her stand up for her dish, like I loved Fabio standing up to Tony Bourdain last week, but the plate comment was a bit much.  The thing I found odd was that they thought the pork/bacon was seasoned well, but the egg wasn’t.  Her response was that the egg was supposed to be almost non-existent to take the flavor of the pork, but they clearly didn’t agree.

And the comment she made about having to cook for the judges was right, but kind of came back to bite her in a way, since she cooked something SHE liked, but they didn’t.

E: That’s true, but it’s a toss up.  You have to cook for the judges, but you also have to cook to the challenge.  I thought Blais had a point about not knowing what Joe Jonas’s taste level would be, and whether to cook for him or for the kids. Tiffani catered to kid taste, and won handily for doing so.

M: True, but that was for the quickfire, which is a little different.

E: In this case, yes.  Also, it matters how you come across.  You can’t say stone cold things like that on tv, like the plate comment (or Tiffani’s orginal kid crack).  Speaking of which, I did kind of laugh at Jamie saying she never wants kids,  when intercut with that insane, hyper little boy making faces and jumping up and down.

M: Jamie was a wuss.  Boo!

E: Yeah.  That kind of bit when she totally abandoned Jen to get two stitches in her thumb.  But here’s the question; if she had been there, could she have saved Jen’s dish?  Would another person tasting it and making sure it wasn’t soggy – I mean, you have to feel like that’s the part that would have made the difference, right?  Because the problem with Jen’s pork belly wasn’t so much the execution as the concept.

M: I think she absolutely would have been able to save it.  The two of them together, one focusing on the pork, the other on the egg, and keeping each other’s flavors in check?  All the difference in the world.  But alas.  Speaking of pairings, but at the other end of the spectrum, seriously, Blais and Angelo combining on a dish?  Did anyone else even have a shot?

E: That would be no.  Of course, they tried to confuse us with the whole chopping of the plums drama, but all that really did was result in Marcel’s outstanding motto: “Dude, you don’t eff with somebody’s mis en place.”

M: Loved that.  But his teammates?  They look like the early favorites to me.  Of course, it’s early, and I would have had Jen as one of the favorites, so what do I know.

E: I thought the same about Jen.  Also, Entertainment Weekly picked her to win it.  So it wasn’t just you.  I’d still love love love to try her food, bad pork belly or not.

M: I also knew when she said “Say hello to all-stars Jen” that we’d be saying goodbye to all-stars Jen.

E: Oh, I figured she was a goner when Casey asked what the point of soggy bacon was.  When the little kids starting dissing on her food, I knew it was all over.

M: That wasn’t a good sign.

E: In less distressing news, how hard did you laugh when Dale T delivered this bon mot: “I didn’t know who the Jonas Brothers were.  I thought he was a pastry chef.”

M: Pretty hard.

E: That was just Awesome, with a capital A. I was also a fan of the other Dale’s witticism about his Quickfire dish: “I’m making crack for small children.”

M: I liked that, but his comment to Padma and JoBro #2 about it being a “rave” for kids… we had to rewind, it sounded like he said “rape”, and we were all thrown off and confused as to how that could be good.

E: Oh, ouch.  And we found out that Marcel’s mom, like Tom’s, used to run a school kitchen.  And Katie Lee, former Mrs Billy Joel and host of the first season, showed back up as a guest judge.  Yay, nostalgia!  (Ironically, it turns out that the public view of the Lee/Joel marriage debacle began with a party Lee attended with another man at – you guessed it – the Museum of Natural History.)

M: I thought it was weird having her.  It’d be like American Idol bringing back for one episode that guy that co-hosted with Seacrest during the first season.  I mean, how harsh would that be.

E: I don’t remotely think she’s a Dunkleman!  She’s published cookbooks and is still pretty high profile.  And I think she’s still technically married to her much older (and much more famous and talented) husband, while Padma has dumped Salmon Rushdie.

M: Regardless, one of our favorites is gone, amazingly Angelo has gone a full two episodes without annoying me (he didn’t do that all last season), and it looks like two people will be going home next week, which means twice the odds that Stephen gets the boot.  Woo-hoo!

E: We can agree on that much, anyway.   Down with Stephen, no matter how pillowy his tie-knots and gnocchi might be!

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4 comments on “Top Chef All Stars: Night At the Museum

  1. Krizzzz says:

    “using either the diet of a T. Rex or a Brontosaurus! ”

    “Carrion!”

    “What’s that?”

    “DEAD MEAT!”

  2. Krizzzz says:

    Must watch the rest when it comes back around next week!

    The egg thing is intriguing: I wonder if the judges felt about it the way they often feel about inedible garnishes: why put something on your plate if it’s not meant to be eaten? Or, in this case, if it’s meant to be a non-entity? Or maybe Jen just needed to phrase that differently: I wanted it to be MILD so as to not compete with the pork, etc.

    • E says:

      All good points. You definitely have to watch. And I think I need to make a pilgrimage to that museum with the kids next summer.

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