Top Chef: All-Stars S01E03: Imitation Is the Sincerest Form Of Cookery?

First of all, let me apologize to all of the contestants on Top Chef: All-Stars except for Jamie for my digression last week about the inexplicable pride chefs place on working through severe injury and illness. While I still think that it is weird how intense chefs will be about the importance of plating a dish in the midst of having an arm amputated Civil War bonesaw style during a full-on Ebola outbreak bleed out, I did not realize just how bullshit Jamie’s injury was last week and how badly she did NOT need to leave the challenge and go to the hospital. Obviously, knowing that Jamie is the worst and that everything that she says and does are terrible, I should have at least anticipated that this, too, would be awful. No duh. This week we begin in the Crocs Stew Room Sponsored by Crocs where everyone is just reeling (REELING!) from Jen’s elimination, and we get a close up of Jamie’s Emergency Room finger and that shit is hilarious. That is why you had to leave the competition, you Olsen triplet? (“I am the executive chef at Wearing Scarves and Buying Starbucks.” — Jamie) Such garbage. Look at this garbage!

So, my apologies. To the other chefs, and to MY READERS. Trust that I will never again forget the fact that Jamie stinks.

Quickfire Challenge: this week’s guest judge is Treme’s David Chang. Everyone is very excited to be in the presence of a TRUE BALLER 4 REAL.

Hate the player and the game, but LOVE David Chang. People are just shitting their black and white checked parachute pants. Fair enough. David Chang is very good at cooking and he is also very good at making cameos on Treme. Do you think David Chang’s business card is just a steamed pork bun with his name written on it in hot sauce? I hope so! Anyway, the chefs are split up into “random” teams of four, and each team must do mise-en-place preparation of garlic, lamb, and artichokes to David Chang’s rigorous specifications. Whichever team finishes all three preparations first will hit a comically large red button, which will start a 15-minute countdown clock, which is all the time remaining to wrap up the prep work AND cook a dish. Tough stuff!

Chop chop chop. Prep prep prep. The green team (Angelo, Fabio, Tiffany, and MIke) just crushes. Fabio finishes prepping the garlic so quickly that it is almost embarrassing. Mama mia that’s a spicy fast preparation of so much garlic. They hit the buzzer. The other chefs are all like “fuuuuuuuuck.” But as someone points out, just because you finished first doesn’t mean you are going to come up with the best dish. Whoa. Hey. SPOILER ALERT! And then more chop chop chop, prep prep prep. This is one of those reality TV scenarios where it seems insanely difficult and the tension is very high, but then you also realize that every single team was able to both finish their prep work AND create a dish in the allotted time, so maybe it’s not actually AS hard or AS dramatic as the jumpcuts and the knife-chinging sound effects would suggest.

Two teams make lamb carpaccio because it is raw. Smart thinking, those teams. Two teams make cooked lamb chops. Also smart thinking. Lamb chops are delicious, especially when they are cooked. Blais (BLAISSSSS) knows that there is no time for a democracy, so he just takes charge. Ha. Classic Blais. Kim Jung Blais over here.

David Chang’s least favorite teams are Team Casey, Bad Dale, Jamie, and Antonia, with their lamb carpaccio with capers, garlic, reggiano & salad with artichoke, and Team Fabio, Tiffany, Angelo, and Mike with their lamb with garlic, tandoori spiced yogurt, slivers of artichoke, and dill salad. YOOOPS! It just stands as a powerful reminder that this is Top Chef, not Top Smash Garlic Between Two Cutting Boards. The winning teams are Team Marcel, Tiffani, Carla, and Good Dale with their lamb carpaccio, artichoke chips, artichoke salad, & garlic oil, and Team Stephen, Tre, Blais, and Spike with their crispy lamb chop with artichoke three ways. Team Blais wins. They don’t get immunity, but each chef gets $5,000. Hooty-hoo, indeed. Marcel wasn’t on the winning team, but he is just loving the whole thing.



Elimination Challenge: the chefs will get an insider’s look at some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan: Townhouse, Ma Peche, Marea, and wd50. Then they will each prepare a dish that the chefs of those restaurants would be proud to put on their menu. Uh, no they won’t? I mean, they will each prepare a dish. Let’s leave it at that. Tre realizes that they aren’t playing around. Haha. Man, Tre, you are lucky that you made it this far. “Good one, guys” — Tre. What is he even talking about?

Then this happens:

Tiffany says that there is something about Angelo that irritates her. Yes. That makes ALL OF US. Meanwhile, Stephen is trying to teach Tre a lesson about sea urchin crostini. There is something about Stephen that irritates Tre. Again, yes. We are all annoyed with both Stephen and Angelo. Over at wd50, Carla says that this will be an opportunity for her to mix classic and modern culinary styles. Guys, why have you been stopping Carla from mixing classic and modern culinary styles? That seems like something that she could have been doing the whole time, and it’s ridiculous of you to have stood in her way. Oh well, at least she has the chance now.

Back at the house (so they do have a house!) Stephen talks about how good he is feeling about this challenge because he eats at Marea all the time and also because of something to do with fashion, which has become an obsession of his lately, and somehow, in his hair product soaked mind is meaningful in this competition. Ugh. Fine, you started it, Stephen, can we talk about your fashion? You don’t even LOOK GOOD EVER! Your suits are so stupid, and I say that as a big fan of suits. You seriously look like a child at a wedding.


Anyway: cook cook cook. Tickle tickle tickle.

Tom Colicchio and Padma Delahaye are joined by guest judges Anthony Bourdain (Earrings & Leather Jackets) and Kate Krader (Food & Wine), as well as the proprietor chefs of each restaurant. First stop: Marea! You guys, Marea is a really good restaurant. You should eat there. Like, just in case some of you were saying to yourselves “I don’t think I should ever eat there,” I’m letting you know that sentiment is incorrect. Fix it. Everyone likes Blais’s dish, OF COURSE. They think Stephen’s dish “tastes like a head shop.” Haha. Oh, Anthony Bourdain. Does anyone even say “head shop” anymore? WE’RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER EARRINGS AND LEATHER JACKET. So young. Almost too young, that guy.

At Ma Peche, David Chang says that none of the dishes are anything that he would be embarrassed about. The highest praise. “Not very embarrassing.” Congrats, guys.

Other chefs. Other stuff. Wylie Dufresne should fire his hairdresser. He looks like he’s about to go to an open casting call for The Sandlot 3. Can we just get to the Judges’ Table? The winners are Angelo, for his David Chang-inspired turmeric marinated fish, dill, cilantro, salmon roe, chorizo & white chocolate, Tre for his Michael White-inspired grilled swordfish, braised artichoke, mushroom panna cotta, and basil oil, Antonia for her David Burke-inspired pea and carrot puree, seared scallop & pickled carrot, and Good Dale for his Wylie Dufresne-inspired sunny side up egg dumpling, braised pork belly, milk ramen with bacon, beef & pork. Yum! The winner will get a six-night (they are very specific about it being a night-based trip) to New Zealand. Huh? Why? “The winning dish will be featured on the craft services table of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.” It should be pointed out that for all the talk about creating a dish that the famous chefs would be proud to put on their menu, no one is proudly putting any of these dishes on their menus.

Good Dale wins! And for wd50 no less, which seems like the hardest of the four. Good job, Good Dale.

Send in the fucking losers. Stephen for his Michael White-uninspired coho salmon, black mission figs, broccoli rapini, and fennel pollen, Fabio for his David Chang-uninspired roasted lamb, hoisin plum BBQ sauce, corn tomato salad, and lemongrass chevre ricotta, Bad Dale for his David Burke-uninspired roasted veal loin, peanuts, popcorn, french toast, corn & thyme caramel (BARF BARF BARF THE BARF ALARM IS GOING OFF), and Tiffani for her Wylie Dufresne-uninspired broken summer heirloom melons with powdered ham & taleggio. Two people are going to be sent home. Eek.

Wait, what?

Anyway, the chefs are told to go away, the judges deliberate, the chefs are told to come back in. Tom starts busting mad quips. Like, something about Led Zepplin? Good one, Tom. He straight up calls Bad Dale a circus clown, basically. Should have worn your formal shorts if you wanted to be taken more seriously, Bad Dale.

So, Stephen and Bad Dale are sent home. I bet Stephen will be so glad to get back into his comfort zone of a “giant loft in downtown Manhattan.” He points out that in season 1 he was cooking a lot more, and that it was fun to cook again. Wait, so he’s not even a chef? Way to bury the lede on that one, Top Chef: All-Stars. Stephen says that if he had been able to make it through a couple more challenges and get his kitchen sea legs back, who knows what would have happened. Uh, everyone knows? You would have just gotten eliminated later? Dale says that being told to go home is going to take some time to process. Let me help you along: go home, Dale. Now you have heard it two (three, actually, if you count THE FIRST TIME YOU WERE ON TOP CHEF) times, does it get any easier?

Next week: tennis food.