Top Chef All Stars: New York’s Finest

E: Okay, I’m not so broken up about this past week’s losers.  And I thought the challenges were brutal.  Impressive effort from the cheftestants!

M: First and foremost, I would like to apologize to all our readers.  It originally looked like I would be penning this piece alone, which would have guaranteed you all a week free of the repulsive term that my sister just uttered.  As it happened, late nights and a busy weekend conspired against me, thus you are stuck reading that.  Again, my deepest apologies.

E: Blah blah blah.  You need to just give it up and acknowledge that this is the accepted term.

M: At one point it was “accepted” that the Earth passed through the sky on the back of a large turtle.  Just because it’s accepted doesn’t mean it’s right.  That said, this week’s challenges were pretty brutal.

E: I agree.  That’s why I already said it.

M: If that’s the way you’re going to react when I agree with you, don’t expect more of it.  Now, really moving on to the challenges, it started with a Quickfire where they combined a mis-en-place relay with a timed team cooking competition.  The contestants…

E: Cheftestant.  Hee hee!

M: Grrrr.  Anyway, the CONtestants were split into four teams of four based on the order they walked into the kitchen.  Loved that!  The first team to finish the relay started the 15 minute clock by the end of which everyone had to have a dish prepared.  That was totally was crazy, since it meant most groups had less time than that (I think one group only had about 8 minutes) to create a dish.

E: I think it was significantly less than 8 minutes, actually.  But that team came in second (despite making lamb carpaccio, the thought of which makes me want to yak).

M: I tend to be a big opponent of raw meat, but recently had an excellent beef carpaccio, so I wasn’t as disgusted.  And, well, you might just be a wimp.

E: Beef carpaccio does get a pass on my no-raw meat rule, too, but lamb?  I dunno.  No one could beat Richard Blais’ team, though, who earned themselves a cool $5K each.

M: As for the elimination, it was fun to watch, but was Brutal with capital B.  The contestants…

E: Cheftestants!

M: To quote Count Rugen in The Princess Bride, “STOP SAYING THAT!”.  Anyway, the, um, “competitors” remained with their teams, and each group of four was sent to one of the top restaurants in NYC; Ma Peche, Townhouse, Marea and wd~50.  The contestants were fed, then given the task of creating something that their host would consider putting on the menu.

E: That’s a tricky little assignment, isn’t it?  Made harder by the fact that they were assign restaurants by the luck of the draw, and the restaurants were all so different: Ma Peche is French/Vietnamese, Townhouse is sort of whimsical comfort food, Marea is super up-scale Italian, and wd-50 is molecular gastronomy.

M: They did an excellent job of making your mouth water by highlighting some of the best dishes from each restaurant, but for my money nothing looked anywhere near as amazing as the rack of lamb with roast octopus on top at Townhouse.  Not sure I’d want to it it, but it was pure art.

E: I’ll give you that – it was a look and a half.  I don’t know about you, but I was surprised Antonia won from the the Townhouse grouping: I thought it was going to be Casey with her scallibut for sure.  It’s always interesting when listening to the judges discuss the food doesn’t fully prepare you for judges table.  I love the playful idea of Antonia’s peas and carrots soups, though, and it just looked gorgeous.

M: Oh, the peas and carrots dish made the part of me that loves Forrest Gump jump for joy!  However, I agree, I thought that Casey was going to take that group, as her halibut shaped to look like a scallop seemed to fit right in with things like the “lobster fire cracker”.  I also that Blais was going to take the top spot from the group that ate at Marea.  Apparently I wasn’t far off, as Tom Colicchio blogged that he liked Richard’s fare better than Tre’s, but the other judges disagreed.

E: Moving to the bottom, I found it interesting that in the double elimination, we could conceivably gone down to one Tiffani/y and one Dale.

M: Ohhh, I didn’t think of that, but that would have been kind of funny.  Neither would have been inappropriate.

E: I was convinced that Tiffani was going to go home rather than Dale.

M: I wasn’t convinced, but I was leaning that way.

E: The broken melons seemed like the more grevious sin.  And, I don’t know.  As a personality, I prefer Dale.  But I also want more girls to stay in the competition, and of course Tiffani is cooking in Boston right now, so that makes me root for her more.  (In fact, she’s catering My Movie Going Friend’s work Christmas party; how awesome is that? I’m so jealous!)

M: Ok, while my company Christmas party is amazing, it’s not catered by a Top Chef All-Star.  To quote Peter Griffin, that’s freakin’ sweet.  I expect a full review from MMGF!  Oh, and by the way sis, way to announce to everyone that you’re sexist.

E: You know, it’s funny.  I kind of expect Blais to win, and I’ll be very happy about that. But I wish the talented women who come on this show did better, this season and in general.  I don’t want affirmative action; I just want them to succeed.  You can think it’s wrong for me to root for them if you want.

M: Ok, I will continue to think it is wrong of you to root for them solely based on gender.

E: I won’t say I’m gutted by Dale leaving, because while I do think he’s a fantastic chef, I don’t know that I ever thought he could win the All Stars.  Jen going home was a much bigger hit to the competition.  Still, I like him, and I’m sorry he’s not there. Of course, I’m not at all sorry to see Stephen go home, but I will say, he left graciously.

M: Initially I felt a little bad about Dale L (we really should specify, you know) leaving, but then I realized that I like just about everyone this season, and there are only a few people (Stephen was one) that I won’t mind seeing leave.  So every week’s going to be tough that way, but few will be as tough as watching Jen go so early.

E: True: Jen’s ouster still stings.  I’m pleased that Dale T (happy now?) won, and I’ll tell you why.  Of the entire All Star cast, he was the chef I looked at and thought, really?  There wasn’t anyone better that they could have gotten?  They must have just kept him for his, erm, colorful attitude.  He didn’t get all that far in his season,  and was more notable for his temper than even his bbq.  But he redeemed himself in my eyes.  Anyone who can cook an egg that impresses Wylie Dufresne is okay in my book.

M: Really, he was the only one you were questioning?  Not Stephen, who’s not even cooking any more?  Not Spike?  Not Mike I (who, like you, is sexist)?  Just Dale T?

E: I don’t mean that he was the only one I questioned.  Stephen is an obvious choice from his season; if he wants to embarrass himself when he’s been out of the kitchen for so long, well, that’s on him.  Tre went home earliest, but he was someone I really felt went home far too, well, early.  I’m no fan of Mike Isabella, and would far rather have seen Kevin Gillespie or Brian Voltaggio or even Eli Kirshtein, but I grudgingly acknowledge that the guy’s food has the respect of his peers.  Spike, say what you will, went quite far in a really good season and has been super successful since the show.  And for whatever reason, neither of those boys is as irritating as they were the first time around.  I also questioned Jamie; she’s someone whose food I would love to try, but seems, I don’t know, not so good at bending herself to the challenges?  All I meant is that Dale T was the choice I questioned the most.

M: Well, that makes more sense.  I liked him in his season, and thought that he put a really good spin on his dish.

E: I am happy to be proven wrong.  And I’m even happier that Angelo didn’t win.

M: No argument there, however I will note that once again he didn’t annoy me too much.

E: Indeed – he’s hasn’t made a food-sex comment once.

M: Yes, his tendency toward bestiality has not been missed.  You know what I did think during this episode, though?  How much the restaurant that each contestant ended up at impacted their outcome.

E: That’s brilliantly insightful, bro.

M: Yes, I thought so.  Jerk.  Specifically, it was really interesting to see it both positively and negatively impact based on the contestant.  Some of the contestants were put in their area of expertise and ran with it, like Angelo and Marcel.  Some were thrown outside their comfort zone, but used it brilliantly as an opportunity, like Dale T did.  But, especially when you look at the bottom four, you see the two ends of the spectrum.  Tiffani and Fabio were thrown out of their element and struggled mightily, thought for different reasons, Fabio for not really stretching, Tiffani for stretching too far and losing herself.  Meanwhile, Stephen and Dale L both got the boot after being put into their area of expertise.  I think they both got overconfident because of it.

E: I will certainly agree that people responded – and failed – in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

M: As for Stephen, could Tom’s Led Zeppelin comment have been any more entertainingly harsh?

E: Tom is gifted that way.  Look at the way he slams Marcel (for plagiarism) and Fabio (for his lack of curiosity and flexibility) in his blog.  Youch!

M: It seems harsher in the blog, probably because you don’t see him smiling and laughing while delivering the zing.  I think that’s how he’s so good at it, he insults, but makes it jovial while doing it, so you almost can’t get upset.

E: Almost being the key word there.

M: Finishing up, without Stephen to kick around, I don’t really have anyone I’m all that invested in getting off the show.  Which, while it means I’ll probably like the person that leaves, also means I should like everyone that does well.

E: Oh, I suspect the remaining cheftestants will find a way to irk us. Don’t forget – there is still Angelo.  He could start doing unspeakable things to his food.  Marcel could mouth off.  Fabio could mouth off more.  And Spike could go into sabotage mode.

M: Actually, with the exception of Angelo, I’d look forward to any of those things happening!  We shall see, and because of how slow we were with this, we’ll start to see tomorrow!


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