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Top Chef: All-Stars: S01E12: Give Me Your Huddled Chefs Yearning To Be Eliminated

Last week’s elimination of Dale has hit everyone pretty hard, I’m sure. Everyone sits around with their Serious Face on saying “that hit us/me pretty hard, I’m sure.” So we are down to five contestants, and it is Richard Blais’s trophy to lose. I mean, seriously. I guess Mike Isabella might be able to put up a fight (sorry, ladies, I’m sure you are all very SWEET) but Dale was really the last of the “competition.” (Not to SPOILER ALERT anything, but in the preview for NEXT week’s episode, Blais interviews that he’s nervous because he already choked once before, and it’s true, he has. Careful, Richard Blais. Eye on the prize.) ANYWAY, in the morning, everyone is sitting around and they ask Antonia what she thinks they are going to be doing today because Antonia has the gift of the second sight when it comes to Top Chef challenges, or something, and she says, “I don’t know, is Padma coming over? It feels like Padma’s coming over” and then two seconds later PADMA COMES OVER. Oh my God. Antonia sees dead people. Padma just came over to tell them to meet her on the roof, and then on the roof she explains the Quickfire something something Ellis Island. Do you want any coffee or anything, Padma? Do you want to take your clothes I MEAN COAT off? Relax! Anyway, their challenge is to cook on a ferry using only what they find at the snack bar. And go.

Cook cook cook. Ferry ferry ferry. It is true that in the world of snack bars, this is a pretty miserably stocked snack bar. There is, like, a Big Grab bag of Funyons and an old apple. The only cooking appliances are a microwave and a hot dog roller. Blais gets real Blais about the whole thing with an MRE packet that he’s been hiding in his knife bag in the even that he was stuck in the bush and had to sous vide his own arm. Carla cuts up an orange? But the real prize goes to Mike, who mashes up a hot dog bun in some water with a little sour cream and says he is making soup. Gross. Probably the grossest thing I have ever seen? He explains that peasants used to thicken their soup with bread. Sure, although I’m not sure an old hot dog bun actually counts as bread. And also: the peasants all died by the age of 24.

The guest judge this week is Dan Barber of Blue Stone Barns, which are some of the most delicious barns around. Seriously, if you can get out to those barns go eat them up. Yum! His whole schtick is cooking with food that has literally just been pulled from the Earth, so serving him Cheeto stew is a bit of a nightmare, but he gamely tries all of the garbage food. What a sweetheart! Richard Blais is NOT impressed with his competition because everyone made hot dog bun soup and cut up orange while he made a take on a banh mi, and I get it, sort of, but also, Blais, I love you, but your banh mi is a hot dog served on a damp cracker with a slice of string cheese on top or some shit. It’s still VERY gross. In the end, Carla wins for her orange salad in a carrot papaya reduction with rosemary and you’re like wait a second, is this a Staten Island Ferry Snack Bar or a BOUNTIFUL HARVEST? Where did that girl get papaya juice and rosemary? Blais is mad.

For the Elimination Challenge, a group of shadow figures emerge from the darkness. LOOK OUT, IT’S A GANG OF MOMS! (It would be great if the chefs had to fight their way back to One Brooklyn Plaza from Ellis Island, The Warriors style, and the first gang they had to defeat was the Moms Gang.) Also: Richard’s wife and Carla’s husband. Moguls get emotional.

Everyone is given a book about their heritage compiled by the world’s foremost heritageist, or whatever, and they sit on separate park benches and learn about themselves. Their challenge will be to prepare a dish that really represents who they are on a genetic level, so, like, lots of plasma reductions and hereditary defect terrines. Someone in Richard Blais’s family was a chemist! That is why he likes molecular gastronomy! (No it isn’t.) Mike and Antonia are cousins! Wait, what? Yuck. And Carla and Tiffany are both from the south. Right.

Shop shop shop. Cook cook cook. Moms moms moms. Spouses spouses spouses.

Mike has never cooked Italian food because his grandmother cooked Italian food and he doesn’t want to be reminded of her. Wait, really? That’s kind of intense. Dr. Melfi would have a field day with that one.

We all grieve in our own way, I am just saying that it’s very intense to become a chef because of how much you loved your grandmother’s cooking, only to completely abandon that style even when you are just cooking at home for fear of dredging up important and not unpleasant memories. Also: we’re talking about Italian food, which it is very hard not to cook. I cook Italian food BY ACCIDENT a couple of times a week.

Cook cook cook. Moms moms moms. The meal is served at a restaurant under the Williamsburg bridge with a view of the Manhattan skyline, and I have got to tell you, it looks VERY pretty. (I have GOT to tell you that.) Look at this!

Look at THIS!

As the food is served, it is fun to watch the judges tiptoe around all of the chefs’ loved ones. They stumble over each other in an attempt to make each dish sound even better than the last in order not to offend a single mom. Which is correct. That is what they should be doing. These are moms we are talking about! Moms are the best! Oh: and also Blais’s wife, who, look, God bless the both of them and their family, and Richard Blais knows (he does not know) that I love him and that I want him to take home the Big Prize, but uh, we can use the term “battle axe” right? Because that lady is a BATTLE AXE. Blais is like “she was an athlete so if I am going to be let back in the house I need to win.” Yikes! But then also this:

Yays!

At the judges table, the judges want to see everyone. “BRING ME EVERYONE!” It is what you call a love festival. Everyone is showered with compliments. EVEN TIFFANY! When they go back to the Stew Room they all congratulate each other on the fact that the judges like their food. Aww. Right, Mike? Aww!

The cynical part of me, of course, feels like they are just getting compliments because it was the moms episode and the judges were so effusive in front of the moms so as not to upset the moms and they can’t turn around and look like liars at the Judges Table, and I do think there is an aspect of it that at the very least devalues the judges’ opinions, but the other truth is that everyone left on the show IS good at cooking, and all of them DID put a lot of thought into their dishes, and everything looked really good and probably was really good, so good job, everyone. But now it is time to go back in because the judges have made their decision and someone is definitely going to go home for sure.

Antonia wins for her braised veal, rapini leaf & fava bean risotto.

Whoa! I actually am surprised. Tom said that he was going to STEAL Richard Blais’s recipe, so I kind of thought Blais had it on lock, and if not Blais then Mike, because Mike’s dish brought TEARS to everyone’s eyes. But Antonia wins, so go figure. She is the recipient of a brand new car slash DVD player. (Which she will not shut up about for the rest of the episode, constantly shrieking it in people’s faces, as if they do not realize that she just beat them in the challenge AND got the car. They know, girl, they know.) Mike is safe. They can leave. OH MAN SO TENSE. Who will go home?! Padma tells Richard Blais that he should pack his knives and go….TO THE BAHAMAS FOR THE FINALE. Wait, seriously? That actually seems against the rules, to pull a prank like that. Richard Blais almost had a heart attack you MONSTERS!

It is down to Carla and Tiffany, both brave competitors, but someone really has to go home now, this is it. It was a tough decision and so the judges have decided…NOT TO DECIDE. Everyone’s going to the finale! Huh. Sure. Everyone is very happy, and that is nice to see (except Mike who says he would have preferred four people in the finale because what is he going to do, NOT be a dick about it for no reason?) but I’m a little nervous that this will go on forever. Each week the judges will decide that everyone was so good that they can’t decide and this show will go on forever and ever until our bleached-dry bones wash up on some beach somewhere and a Future Mecha telepathically tells another Future Mecha a joke about THE WORLD OF HUMANS.

Good luck, though, everyone. You are all winners in my book, which is called Richard Blais Is The Only Winner: The Book.