Top Chef All Stars: Finale Part 2; Island Fever

M: Ok, we’re back to having everyone on their game again, and when it comes down to it the right person went home, so all in all I’m please heading into the finale.  Again, I would have been much happier were Carla there with Richard and Antonia, but this will do.

E: The right chef went home.  I won’t go so far as to say the right person left.

M: Yes, Miss Semantics, because I was trying to say Tiffany was the fourth best person left in the competition. Right.

E: As long as you’re willing to admit that.

M: Moving on, let me state off the top, I was not a fan of the guest judge, Lorena Garcia.  She seemed out of sync with the rest of the judges, was clearly there so NBC/Universal, who owns Bravo, could plug America’s Next Great Restaurant, and just rubbed me the wrong way.

E: Well, she certainly liked more than our regular panel of judges, but I suspect we would too.  She didn’t bother me – corporate synergy aside, which was a little annoying.  I’ve heard it snarked that this would be a far better gig for her than the food she has to suffer through on that other show, so perhaps that’s the source of her enthusiasm.

M: I don’t know, I didn’t see enthusiasm, she seemed crabby to me. While we’re on things I didn’t like, I wasn’t crazy about the quickfire.  At this point in the competition I don’t want to see any challenge that has the contestants working in teams.  Sorry, there aren’t enough people (or episodes!) left to waste time with that.  I want to see as many top notch dishes from them as I can before the season ends. Plus, to judge them at this point on consistency, especially when they have to be consistent at a speed they would not normally work at?  Blah.

E: I don’t know.  It tested them in an aspect that the show doesn’t usually do, and is also more practical – more of a real world application – than, say, trying to make real food out of snack bar ingredients.

M: Yes and no. When, in their professional careers, are they ever only going to work with another top notch chef, and only have 45 minutes to conceptualize, prepare and plate 100 dishes that have to all be identical? I think it has merit as a challenge, just not at this stage. That said, it was fun to once again see Mike getting all uppity about not winning because of the lack of complexity of the winner’s dish.  He clearly hasn’t learned that it’s all about the taste.

E: Oh yes.  Both boys were in quite a huff.  And hey, Antonia wins money!  I still think it’s crazy bad luck that she could win so many challenges with no prizes.

M: The elimination challenge was a beast of a challenge, but unlike last week’s, I thought this one was a good beast.  I LOVED that they had to go swimming and “catch” their own conch.  Plus, watching them all try to open the shells and get the slug things out?  High comedy!

E: So fantastic.  (Although seeing them destroy those beautiful shells… Ugh.)  How much did you love Richard? “I don’t want to see Mike Isabella without his shirt on.  And neither do you.”  Although actually, Richard flopping around like a fish was pretty entertaining, too.

M: I couldn’t help thinking that Richard in water was like a fish on dry land. Maybe it’s because we grew up near the ocean, and also had a pool, but it always seems strange to me when I see adults who struggle to swim.

E: Yes, exactly.

M: In the end, though, everyone “caught” enough conch, which, as an aside I always thought was pronounced phonetically, not like “conk”.

E: Mr. E has actually ordered it when we’ve gone out for Caribbean food, which is the only reason I did know that.  I have to say, though, I was a little disappointed. Now, come on ladies.  That is preposterous.  How can you not have practiced with conch?  Are they kidding?   I mean, sure, none of them was going to have experience pulling it out of the shell what with Carla gone, but they could have researched it, don’t you think?  Ridiculous.  It certainly put them at a disadvantage when going up against the boys, including over-prepared Blais with 20 pounds of conch in his freezer.

M: I agree, that was bad.  I felt it was especially egregious of Tiffany, who comes from the season where Kevin really set the bar for studying for the finale location with his Singapore Sling dessert.

E: I admit it.  I’m gobsmacked. I did not expect Mike to win, not with the way that Tom seemed to dislike his conch butter.  Especially not when Tom objected to the lack of conch flavor in Antonia’s dish – and not based on the way the other dinners reacted to his food, either.

M: Not following you there, sis.

E: Well, Tom objected to the one bit of Mike’s dish which included the conch, so I thought that would be as much of a problem as Antonia’s conch pieces being too small, if not more of one. The diners generally seemed to be much more positive about Richard and Antonia (not withstanding Gail falling in love with the savory pineapple).  But then again, I guess they largely liked everything except the temperature of Tiffany’s soup.

M: I think that they played with the editing to make it seem closer than it was.  We know they do that and Tom, who appeared to be the most critical of Mike’s dish with his comments about the butter, in his blog said that it was one of the most successful dishes of the season.  That’s some serious misleading!

E: I’ll say it was.  Tom seemed so disapproving at the dinner table!  I genuinely thought it was either Richard or Antonia for the win, and that Mike was the only person other than Tiffany who could have gone home.

M: As for Tiffany, the minute she said she was putting the ceviche INTO her chowder I knew she was gone.

E: Oh, God.  I know, right?  What was she thinking?

M: I know she was aiming for dish that was hot in one bite and cold in the next, but to me that seems like something that would be technically difficult to pull off under the most pristine conditions, never mind being on a beach with the wind whipping and your chowder having finished cooking too early.

E: Well, exactly.  You’d have to add it at the very last second – probably at the table.  And even then I’m not sure it’d work.

M: But as the saying goes, water finds its level. This is where Tiffany deserved to get to.  Near the end, but not quite the best.  She was consistent, steady, solid and at times very good. But she was never the best.

E: No, she wasn’t.  I like her tremendously, but she wasn’t.  And I am starting to get paranoid that booger-flicking Mike Isabella is going to take it all home.

M: Well, he’s certainly on top of his game. He’s won the two elimination challenges so far in the Bahamas, so he’s got to be the favorite going in, but I think that all three of the remaining chefs are so close. Also, cooking for the finale isn’t like cooking for an normal challenge.  The finale has multiple courses, and I can’t explain why, but I get the feeling that Mike might be able to beat Antonia or Richard when focusing entirely on one dish, but can’t over a whole three or four course meal.  Maybe that’s just wishful thinking, though.

E:  Ooooh, but it’s clever thinking, too.  He can get overwhelmed, cousin Mikey.  I’m going to cross my fingers and hope you’re right!

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2 comments on “Top Chef All Stars: Finale Part 2; Island Fever

  1. Krizzzz says:

    I would prefer to see Richard or Antonia win (and of course, am mourning Carla!) — but I have to grudgingly admit that I was impressed to hear that Mike spent his break basically working his tail off in kitchens all over D.C.. Hmph.

  2. the presidentrix says:

    I’m worried that Mike will win as well. Overconfidence actually seems to increase Mike’s effectiveness, while it makes Richard look like he’s going to vibrate so furiously he’ll snap into a thousand pieces.

    But I can’t stand either of their attitudes right now. One thing I haven’t seen a single one of the female contestants doing in the finale rounds (which, granted, could be editing) is explaining to the camera why other contestants don’t deserve to be there or had the easiest challenge or made an insufficiently complicated dish. Whenever Mike and Richard talk like that, all I can think is, ‘You’re just embarrassing yourselves.’ This season has been excellent precisely because the vast majority of the chefs have consistently been coming up with amazing food. If you’re complaining about everybody coasting (with the exception of your recipe-stealing self?) you don’t have a leg to stand on.

    And I’m sick and tired of Richard’s talk about how he has to win, he must win, he deserves to win.

    E. FREAKING. GAD.

    I started watching this season thrilled for Richard and actively hoping he’d take it this time. I really respond to his style of cooking. Like Jimmy Fallon, I enjoy liquid nitrogen and lasers! (Especially since the viewing audience doesn’t get to taste the food, so consistent excellence of tastes doesn’t always come through as persuasively as pure flash). But the more that Richard *tells* me he ought to win – not just because he’s the best this year, but because he deserved to win his year, too – the more I want anyone other than Richard to win.

    Well, except Mike, who is also insufferable (and probably was all along, which is Richard’s one advantage over him).

    Ugh. Where’s Carla? I want Carla! Whenever the cheftestants start to act arrogant and ludicrous, I need a dose of Carla to make the world seem sane again!

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