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Top Chef: All-Stars S01E13: Cowabunga, Dude, Eat Some Shorts!

We are now down to the final five. Wait, seriously? There are still five? That feels like so many. Do you guys remember what life was like before this show? So peaceful and blissfully unaware. It was probably paradise I bet, and none of us had ever been bored by or complained about anything before. This is all brand new territory. Hey, speaking of paradise: WELCOME TO THE BAHAMAS! Ja, mon! Right? Ja, mon! Aloha! LOL! It does look nice, though. The whole time this episode was on I was just like, GET OUT OF THE WAY, MIKE ISABELLA, your face is blocking my view of the Bahamas! Big old Mike Face. How much do you think his head weighs? 40 pounds? 80 POUNDS?! Anyway, as the chefs show up for their first challenge, we see some of the show’s previous winners already waiting for them, and it reminds us just how many DUDS have won this fucking show. I mean, sure, Michael Voltaggio is my king, and that is why his name is tattooed across my midsection (because that’s where the food goes! What am I even talking about at this point?!) but Kevin Sbraga? No. HOSEA?! Thumbhead. As Padma and Tom and guest judge Eric Ripert explain, everyone will be cooking a pre-selected protein in a head-to-head contest against their season’s champion in this quickfire, and whoever wins (each pairing) will get $10,000. It’s mildly confusing insofar as Hosea’s head really does look like a thumb is sprouting out from between his shoulderblades three different people will win $10,000 rather than the quickfire having one winner. Ja, mon!

Cook cook cook. Thumbs thumbs thumbs. Heads heads heads. Tiffany crushes Kevin, no doy, with her pork stew with potatoes, peppers, citrus & allspice. Congrats, Tiffany! We should all be so lucky as to go head-to-head with Kevin. In a real upset, Hosea beats Carla with his braised lamb in red chili broth with olives & mint, goat cheese & rosemary polenta, but mostly it’s because Carla’s rice is undercooked. C’MON, SON CARLA! Losing a challenge at this stage of the competition for undercooking your rice is a dealbreaker, ladies. Season whatever winner Stephanie Izard (more like Stephanie DUDZARD) narrowly beats Antonia with her veal scallopini with tapenade & poached egg, but it’s really only because the judges can’t decide which dish they hate MORE, and so Richard Blais handily wipes the Caribbean floor with both of their shiny faces with his seared veal loin & braised veal cap with raisins, carrots, potatoes & mushrooms. THEN, in yet another upset, Mike Isabella takes the win from Michael Voltaggio with cashew dusted spiced duck breast with duck leg & mushroom jus. Really? Because Voltaggio’s dish (duck breast with duck leg in bacon vinaigrette, burnt leek & coffee pesto) looked like CLASSIC VOLTAGGIO. Since everyone except Carla beat their season’s winner, and she lost on a technicality, I think this whole segment was just cooked up to make us be impressed with these “All-Stars.” Sure. Wow.

For the Elimination Challenge, all of the chefs will be cooking for Bahamanian royalty (which Tiffany pronounces rowellty). Simple enough, right? WRONG! After everyone does their shopping and their prepping, they learn that what Tom actually meant was that they would be cooking for the cast of Treme or something. I don’t really understand what’s happening, other than that there are a lot of feather costumes involved. And the part that I REALLY don’t understand is that all of the chefs are like “Oh, shoot, I should have known” (should you have?) and then start complaining about how they miscalculated their dish. Wait, WHY? Excuse me, but as someone who is not the king of an island (yet) I can promise you that I would still LOVE TO EAT LIKE ONE! I don’t understand why their delicious foods fit for kings and queens are not going to be suitable for people who are not kings and queens. Do you really think that your dishes are so sophisticated that they’re too good for a bunch of “poor” “assholes”? Weird. Of course, what they could be talking about when they say they mis-planned their dishes is the fact that the kitchen only has deep fryers and a flat-top and so it will be almost impossible for them to prepare the “royal” dishes properly, but I prefer to see it as ELITISM and CLASSICISM. Yuck!

Fryer fire. High drama. Big snores. I do like when Tom walks into assess the damage like he’s fucking Donald ‘Shadow’ Rimgale in Backdraft.

Everyone’s food is “contaminated” and everyone is “upset.” Mike Isabella just “hopes [they] get to cook tonight.” Haha. Ease up, tiger. So, back to the drawing board. Everyone has to re-prep their dishes, but this also means that everyone can completely reconfigure their dishes, which pretty much everyone does, taking away Tiffany’s lead because she was already planning on making garbage food. So! Prep prep prep. Cook cook cook. Fry fry fry. Serve serve serve. Eat eat eat. Judge judge judge. Is it just me, or does it look like Eric Ripert owns a mansion just down the street and had himself rolled into the restaurant?

Total boss.

Because we are down to the final five, everyone is called in to the Judges’ Table. Can I tell you one of the things that I like about Richard Blais besides the fact that he is the best and that he should have won his season and that he should and hopefully will win this season and that every morning he dips his hair in liquid nitrogen to get the degree of hold that he needs for the rest of the day? The thing that I like about him is that he sweats it out every week at this time, just so nerve-wracked that he’s not good enough when clearly he is BETTER than good enough, and it seems very genuine and I appreciate it. He has a certain arrogance and self-assurance too, obviously, which he gets from his incredible talent and success, but he doesn’t have, like, the false bravado of a Mike Isabella, who, incidentally, won’t shut up all episode about how hard he is working, which I’m pretty sure he did in his original season, too? Everyone is working hard, Mike. You’re being a real bitch right now. Stop being such a bitch. Although, in his defense, the bitch wins the challenge with his sous vide chicken, mushrooms, yams, lobster sauce & lobster hash. Meanwhile, after Mike is named as the winner, both he and Richard just kind of disappear. Like, the judges don’t specifically tell Richard he is safe on camera because EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

So now we are down to Antonia, with overly-sloppy crispy shrimp & grits with cilantro & pickled vegetables, Tiffany for her overly-simple roasted spiced pork tenderloin, dirty rice, curried slaw & tomato jam, and Carla for her overly-sweet fried pork medallion with sweet potato puree, apple sauce & apple chip. Whatever. Flip a coin. I mean, Carla’s dish was the one with real problems (Gail’s pork was practically raw! What does Carla think pork is, rice?) but both of these women seem out of their depth at this point, no offense. I’m sure they are very nice! And I am sure dinner at their house would be better than dinner at my house (although I make really good burritos, so…) but this is not Top Dinner At Someone’s House, this is Top Scallop.

Goodbye, Carla. Hootie-bye.