Top Chef All Stars: Advantage Chef

E: I just have to say it: Carla Carla Carla!!!!!!  Hootie hoo, baby!  Also – best food of any challenge?  Good job, All Stars!

M: I second that, and will add a resounding “Boooo!!” to Jamie, for the second time this season.  Not good.

E: See, this is what I mean about Jamie.  I would love to try her food.  But would I want to work with her?  Her attitude kind of sucks.

M: I liked her well enough in her season, but seriously, it’s a cooking competition…  cook already!  Ok, enough, on to the episode…

E: So, okay, for the mechanics of the episode, first we have stuffing and then we have “tennis”.  (It made me think back to Social Studies baseball in junior high, really.)  And here I was thinking that last week’s Quickfire was as brutal as they come.  Making stuffing without using any utensils?  Youch!

M: I thought that was fantastic!  Loved seeing that as part of the challenge.

E: Oh, no, I agree.  Brutal, but awesome.

M: The old adage is you’re only as good as your tools/instruments, but this challenged helped to prove that the instrument that is most important to these chefs is their mind, not their knives.  As an example, I thought Fabio’s makeshift cheese grater was “fantastico”.

E: Oh, totally – he rose to the challenge, even though he was horrified by the idea. “What, should I smash de potato with my head?  It’s a like asking a surgeon to operate with his bare hands!”)   I loved Tiffani’s use of the peppermill to break down her quail, and so many of the other chef’s ingenious tricks. Marcel and Tre are tops, and Tre gets immunity and $20k to help pay for his two expensive daughters.

M: With five daughters between us, I know we can both appreciate that!

E: Well,  I won’t say that my daughters are individually more expensive than my son, but it’d be the rare parent who could laugh off a 20K bonus.  Now, for the team challenge.  Tre and Marcel have teams which will go head to head at Flushing Meadows.  This was a rather complicated set up, but an interesting one.  Each team would field a player; the player would contend for a “point.”  The team first team to reach 4 “points” wins.  This may or may not mean that each team will have to play all of its players.   Tom tells the teams that they should consider who they send up for which point, but only Tre’s (though really Spike’s) team has any kind of plan.  They decide to send up their worst dish first, on the assumption that the other team will field their strongest first (presumably Richard’s) and just cede them the point.

M: As we’ll get to, that didn’t work out, but I actually thought it was a decent strategy.

E: Agreed.  Hard to pull off, but it seems smart.  Meanwhile, Angelo had his sticky little fingers all over the team loss.  Interesting.

M: Yeah, he was back to making us question if he’s intentionally trying to sabotage his “teammates”.  Based on watching his season, I tend to think he is.

E: I dunno, I think it’s really hard to tell.  He doesn’t seem intentionally devious, like Spike.  And he got Tiffany to go along with adding the gelee to Spike’s soup and I don’t think she’d ever sabotage anyone.

M: He’s too good a chef to screw up someone else’s dish every time he helps them, and he seems to screw up peoples dishes EVERY time he helps.

E: I can’t argue with that.  Bad luck follows his hands.

M: That said…  really helping people in this challenge would have guaranteed him a team win and immunity, so I’m not 100% sold on it.  Maybe about 87.5%

E: Where as I might admit that it’s possible, but can’t believe it.  Like you said, it goes against his self interest, and we know the guy is pretty competitive.

M: See, I can see his train of thought (right after it leaves Arrogant Station) being “I know I’ll win my point, if I screw with the good competitors dishes on my team, we lose and one of them goes home.  If I don’t someone weak will go, which doesn’t help me”.  That’s why I’m still heavily leaning to him intentionally screwing it up.

E: I wonder if we’ll ever know?  On a happier note, can I tell you how pleased I was for Tiffani that she finally did well?  (MMGF adored the menu she made for his work party, by the way; he’s spoken so highly of the butterscotch budino that just thinking about it makes me drool a little.  On the other hand, Rocca was dark when he went into work this morning; let’s cross our fingers it hasn’t closed before we have time to try it!)  I loved seeing all the competitors leap around like they’d won the U.S. Open when they won a point for their team.  It added this whole adorable element I really enjoyed.

M: Agreed, their excitement and enthusiasm was infectious.  You know what annoyed me with the set up of the challenge, though?  They were told they’d be cooking for tennis players.  They got all worried about making things that were packed with energy, but still very healthy.  Then the challenge rolls around and the only people they’re cooking for are the usual judges plus a retired tennis player, Taylor Dent, that I’d never heard of.  That was a serious case of over-selling and under-delivering, which is usually the opposite of what they do on Top Chef.

E: I agree, that was puzzling.  I suppose the judges took the needs of tennis players/athletes into account while picking a winner.  I still liked the challenge, even if wasn’t as clear as it could have been.  I think the location, if nothing else, was very New York.

M: Oh, I still liked the challenge, I was just disappointed by that, and by Antonia’s revelation that her sport of choice growing up was “smoking pot”.  First of all, you’re not setting a good example.  Second of all, pot smoking is SOOOOO not competitive.  I mean, if she’d said “selling pot”….  no, wait, that’s not actually better.

E: No, that’s not better at all.  I was really surprised by that revelation; I hadn’t pegged her as a pot head at all. Right up there with things I can’t believe: we’ve had four elimination challenges, and Fabio has made gnocchi for two of them?  I thought he was a goner for lack of creativity for sure, but no.  His gnocchi were so light, the judges floated away with pleasure; I thought it was a terrible idea for athletes, but I was wrong.

M: That’s just proving my point!  It was a terrible idea for athletes, at least for right before competition.  The only problem is there were no athletes, or at least no competitors, there!

E: Dude, you need to stop over using that phrase.  Everything in the world does not prove your point.  Gail pointedly insists (was it on the show or in her blog?  I don’t remember) that the gnocchi weren’t heavy or hard for an athlete to cope with all.

M: Hmmm, if by “over using” you mean “using once”, then I over used it, my apologies!  However, if by “over using” you meant, oh, “over using”, then you need to roll back the tape and check for other uses, since you will not find any.

E: I didn’t mean at this very moment, I mean in general.  Go back and look at other posts.  You’ll see what I mean.

M: As for the gnocchi not being heavy… they’re still gnocchi.  You could make bread pudding that wasn’t too heavy, that still wouldn’t make it good to eat before a tennis match!

E: Heh.  I can’t even believe these words are coming out of my -fingers?- but I’m almost sorry to see Spike go. Way sorrier than I would have expected, anyway.

M: I agree.  I didn’t mind him the way you did during his season, but he definitely struck me as a lot more mature this time.  He actually appears to have his head on pretty straight now.

E: Like probably everyone in the audience, I knew it was going to be the newly matured Spike. Tre had immunity.  The judges laughed at the notion that Casey (who was forced to go first when Jamie refused) had the worst dish. Really their only problem with her work was the proportion of pork to faro.  Nobody was hating on Tiffany’s tuna, either.  It was hardly the most splendid thing ever, but it sounds like they genuinely liked it.   Those were two strong dishes that simply got beaten by stronger dishes. Spike’s soup was too sweet (thanks, Angelo) and his shrimp were overcooked (all on Spike himself).  How did he overcook the shrimp twice?  I’m baffled.

M: He was doing too much.  He took on sort of the role of team leader, or in restaurant terms, executive chef, and his own dish suffered for it.  Not the first time we’ve seen that happen.

E: That’s for sure.  And can you think of an instance where someone was so lucky to get immunity?   The judges flat out told Tre he had the worst dish they tasted and he would have gone home.  Mother of God, man, what were you thinking letting someone else cook your protein?  What in heaven’s name was he doing while he wasn’t cooking the salmon?  My jaw hit the floor.

M: That was classic “I’ve got immunity, I’m mailing it in” performance.  Hate that.  That’s why I loved seeing Tiffany win when she had immunity last season, it shows a mentality that I appreciate and admire.  You know what I didn’t admire?  I know you do know, but I’ll say it before you jump in.  Jamie being a wuss and not serving her chickpeas.  She should have gone home.

E: Well, yes and no.  Can you really blame her for not wanting to serve her dish?

M: To “over use” your phase, yes and no.  I can’t blame her for wanting to give her dish the best chance of being successful, but to keep stonewalling in the hopes that your team loses before you have to actually compete, thus saving yourself when you CLEARLY have the worst dish?  That’s low.  That said, I ‘m not just mad at her about it.  Her whole team let her slide.

E: I have more of a problem with them than her not sacrificing herself – I mean, it’s not unreasonable that she have some self interest, and want her food to actually, you know, cook.  But as Tom says in his blog, they should have just called out her name and forced her to do it.

M: So she said she wasn’t ready to go up when it started?  Fine, ask her how many minutes she needs, tell her she’s going up third or fourth or whatever.  You can’t let her keep cowering in the corner, and you absolutely can’t send up the guy with immunity who’s been clearly on cruise control for the entire challenge.  Poor job all around!

On the other hand, hoo-rah to Carla!  The same finger injury that Jamie couldn’t overcome that ultimately got Jen sent home?  No problem for Carla!  The masses trying to get her to change her mind about the dish she was preparing?  Not even a bit of a waver!  Loved that, and loved that she knocked her African Grountnut Soup out of the park.

E: Well, it wasn’t exactly the same injury (she sliced off her fingernail).

M: Mere technicality, it was basically the same thing.

E: Fine, Carla kicks butt and Jaime is not a team player, happy?

M: Yes.

E: Clearly, Carla has learned from her season to trust her vision.

M: And she’s damn entertaining!

E: I’ll say she is!  And even better, she seems like a genuinely good person.  I also think this is evidence that the judges were looking for athletic food.  We love you, Carla!

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One comment on “Top Chef All Stars: Advantage Chef

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicole Williams. Nicole Williams said: Top Chef All Stars: Advantage Chef « Relatively Entertaining: Top Chef All Stars: Advantage Chef. E: I just have… http://bit.ly/gFrzyv […]

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