Top Chef All Stars: Lock Down

M: We’re a full week behind, but here’s our take on “Lock Down”, the episode in which the Muppets visit and then the chefs go to Target.

E: Was this a crazy episode or what?  I loved the quickfire maybe more than I’ve ever loved a quickfire, but the elimination challenge was totally brutal.  Also, one of our favorites dodged a huge bullet, and I am so relieved.

M: I have to start out by saying that for the entire elimination challenge I kept saying “Come on Carla.  Move Carla.  Hurry up Carla.  Please don’t get booted over this, Carla.”  She didn’t just dodge a bullet, she dodged a heat seeking missile.  As for the quickfire, I thought it was fantastically entertaining, but kind of underwhelming as a challenge.

E: Oh, I don’t know.  Mike and Angelo had never made cookies before, and baking can go spectacularly wrong whenDid that look like fun or what?  Like Dale says, there’s nothing like being heckled by a muppet.  There were so many funny and adorable moments I can’t even count them all, but I’ve never laughed so much watching this show, from Padma slowly reciting the Sesame Street theme, to Elmo waving off her spice trivia with a lofty “TMI!.” Or Cookie Monster asking if coconut milk would be good for his fur.  Or Elmo telling Antonia her cookies looked like cow patties.

M: The cow patties comment was the best, but the whole thing was hilarious.  I just felt like, as a challenge, it really didn’t hold up.  I don’t want to see these chefs struggle to make so-so cookies, I want to see them challenged to make frickin’ awesome food.

E: Dale was an odd choice for the winner, I thought.  They dinged Richard for not really making a cookie;  Dale made a pressed bar with a ganache.  I don’t doubt that it tasted good, but if you’re going to get snitty about whether something is or is not a cookie…

M: I felt the same way.  According to the dictionary, a cookie is “A small cake made from stiff, sweet dough rolled and sliced or dropped by spoonfuls on a large, flat pan (cookie sheet) and baked.”  I don’t know about you, but I think that a lot of the cookies I’ve had over the years throw that definition out the window.  I mean, I’ve had lemon meringue cookies, and there’s nothing cake-like about them.  There was nothing cake-like about either Dale or Richard’s cookies, but one won and one was tossed out.  I call shenanigans, and not just because I predicted last week that Dale would be the next to go, and instead he won both challenges this week!

E: I thought it was interesting – especially after the monster drama over the mussels – that we didn’t see one chef call him out on it.

M: That didn’t surprise me, I think that the quickfires are not nearly as contentious as the elimination challenges, and Angelo was pissy because of the Italian aspect that week.  Of course, they might have and it could have just been edited out.

E: Right.  It’s hard to know what people might or might have said.  We heard Carla rank on the ice cream discs; maybe that was all the trash talking they had time for?

M: Perhaps, or maybe they are trying to guide people’s feelings to or away from certain contestants.  Either way, let’s move on to the elimination challenge, which was grueling.  The same night as the quickfire, with apparently no time to rest, they took them to a giant Target and told them to make a dish for 100 people with only things they found in the store.  That included cooking and serving it in the store.  Oh, and they’d be serving at 3:00 am!  Our exhausted contestants had to run up and down the football field length aisles of a Super-Target, find all the ingredients, utensils, appliances, flatware, dinnerware, tables and decorations, then get to a spot and put together their dish.  Brutal with a capital B.

E: I’d like to know why they implied that it’d matter what their tables looked like?  They clearly were not judged on it, and none of the contestants (read: Carla) would have spent time on it to their detriment if that’d been the case.

M: As much as I’d like to side with Carla here, she had to know that presentation of her station was the LEAST important aspect of the challenge.  I mean, it’s a cooking competition!  Focus on the food.

E: Yes, you’re right, but Padma did make a point about using linens and things, and I’m sure that’s why Carla got sidetracked.

M: True, but she could have done a grilled cheese sandwich with no decoration on her station and if it tasted good enough she would have won.  Oh, wait, that’s exactly what Dale did to win!

E: Indeed.  Poor Richard, busting his butt to cook a real protein two ways, only to lose the 25 grand because pork’s too heavy to eat at 3am.  What does a genius have to do to get noticed?  On a lighter note, how great were Mike and Angelo as a team?  Weirdly cute, no?

M: They were really funny, like the proverbial old married couple.  It was another step in Angelo rehabilitating his image after the damage he did in his own season.  I ended up not only not minding him this season, but at times even rooting for him to do well.

E: Poor Angelo. I love baked potato soup, and his looked gorgeous (peasant food though it may be).  When he said “so I added salt and bacon” I knew he was in big trouble, and when they called his soup inedible, well, I knew that was it.  Although it was hilarious to see the tubby Target employee say it was flavorless.

M: Seriously, how funny was that!  Although, “salty” really isn’t a flavor, so I suppose it could have been…  from a certain point of view.

E: Dale wins both the the quickfire and the elimination challenges…

M: Again, so much for my prediction!

E: …and $30,000.  Wow. That’s just huge. I’m almost surprised that no one snarked about Dale winning with tomato soup and a cheese sandwhich.  I’m really enjoying him this season, though.  His smile warms my heart.

M: Yeah, I was glad to see him win.  I thought there was a serious lack of creativity in this challenge.  Maybe it wasn’t creativity, maybe it was just guts.  It felt like only three people went for it.  Not coincidentally, those three, Dale, Richard and Antonia, ended up in the top.  At this point I expect them all to go for it.

E: Well, I’m not sure I’d say what Dale did was so out of the box; I just think he had better stoner food in his pocket than anyone else.

M: Ok, apparently Anthony Bourdain is a big stoner, but just because you can make it cheaply at 3am doesn’t make it stoner food.  I ate all kinds of strange things at all hours when I was in college without being stoned.  Anyway, my prudish rant is over, back to the episode….

E: Antonia and Richard on the other hand did really impress me, with his aforementioned pork and her super cool Parmesan eggs.   They looked awesome, and cooking 100 eggs perfectly at 3am?  That took serious chutzpah, and she pulled it off.

M: She continues to really come on strong, and has to be considered one of the favorites.  I think Carla might have done as well if she’d been able to find a suitable protein, but she didn’t, and just went with the half-assed version of her intended dish.

E: Yeah.  They sell chicken in Target, even if they don’t sell salmon (which, I’ve no idea why she was expecting to find fish – shudder!).  I mean, I understand her fearing her soup would burn if she left it to go back to the look at the proteins, but seriously.  She ought to have figured that out first!

M: You know what else surprised me?  The way they went about the challenge.  Think of all the other challenges…  the contestants figured out what food they were going to cook, then went and made it with whatever instruments they had available to them.  In this one they all charged in to find appliances to cook with, then figured out food from there.  It can’t be just me that thinks they would have been better off going to the food section first.  I know Carla would have been!

E: That’s just what Tom said, and I agree with you both.  Maybe the cheftestants…

M: Knock it off with that word!

E: …just don’t believe sufficiently in the power of Target.

M: Well, Target toppled Angelo, I certainly believe in its power.  And we’ll be back soon with our take on “For The Gulf”.  Later!

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One comment on “Top Chef All Stars: Lock Down

  1. […] After the Jimmy Fallon challenge I predicted that Dale would be the next to go. However, in the Muppets/Target episode he made me look bad, by winning both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. In the end, though, […]

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