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Top Chef: All-Stars S01E01: The Gang’s All Here (And Also Marcel)

Whoa. After all of these years of watching Top Chef, and especially in the middle of the past two middling seasons, because let’s be honest, that shit was middling, I never realized that it was all leading up to a PERFECT TELEVISION SHOW in which all of our FAVORITE CHARACTERS from all the previous seasons would BATTLE TO THE DEATH. Everyone dies at the end, yes? Everyone dies and is buried in Gladdware, except for the winner, who is interviewed in Food & Wine magazine about PTSD. As you know, I love inside jokes and coded references and basically anything that is obnoxiously difficult to enjoy. Cool. I’m super cool. But so you can imagine how exciting it is to watch a show that is basically just one long inside joke. It’s so much more fun when you already know who everyone is! Of course, I suppose the same thing has been happening for years on Real World Road Rules Inferno Island Challenge, or whatever. This isn’t an entirely new concept. But that being said, while I’ve only ever watched one episode of the Real World Road Rules All Stars, I saw some girl take another girl’s clothes and throw them in the swimming pool while everyone else just sat around staring into their tequila, and I am pretty sure I turned to the person next to me and said “this show is amazing,” so the idea has always been sound. And now the idea is with talented Top Chef contestants instead of a bunch of STD-infested haircuts. (With the possible exception of Marcel. Cool Members Only jacket, Marcel. I’m just kidding. It’s not cool!)

The old gang!

Season 1: Tiffani & Stephen
Season 2: Elia & Marcel
Season 3: Casey & Tre & Dale L.
Season 4: BLAISSSSS & Antonia & Spike & Dale T.
Season 5: Carla & Fabio & Jamie
Season 6: Mike Isabella & Jennifer
Season 7: Tiffay & Angelo

Yay! HELLO, FRIENDS! Well, some of them are our friends. And some of them are our ENEMIES! They’ve obviously brought back some villains to spice things up (get it? Spice? Cooking!) but there are also just some straight up losers on this show that I forgot about. Like, Jamie from season 5? Whoops, I forgot how much I disliked watching your chipmunk Olsen Twin face complain about whatever it is you are always complaining about. Go get a Starbucks. (Olsen Twins joke. Those girls love Starbucks!) That’s not nice. Oh well. This is Top Chef All Stars, not Top Be Nice to Jamie. “People came from all over the world to meet me,” Jamie says. Right. One drunk dude on holiday from Australia recognized her at the bar and now she’s fucking Jamie Bieber. As everyone enters the house they all just give their excuses for why they didn’t win their seasons. It’s kind of depressing, but even more depressing is imagining the line producer sitting in the interview room with them cajoling these sadnesses from them. “Can you do that again, and this time really act cocky, like you were robbed.” Oof.

Wait, no, even more depressing is everyone’s boasts of how they’re going to win this time. Eek! It’s one thing on a new season when everyone is boasting at the top of the show and you’re like, maybe, who knows! But we know for a fact that everyone on this show’s record currently stands at 0-1. It’s basically like the Bad News Bears being forced to live in a house and cook amuse bouches with vending machines or whatever. You’re literally ALL failures. So your boasts are bunk.

In the Top Chef kitchen before their first Quickfire, Padma explains that this season there is “much more at stake than ever before.” See! I told you they were all going to die! Oh, wait, no, there’s just, like, a little bit more prize money? You know, prize money doesn’t really count as stakes. It’s kind of just a bonus. It’s not like they literally LOSE something if they lose. That would be stakes. “We will remove one body part from each of the losing contestants, and the final challenge will be to cook using your colleagues limbs as your protein.” That’s stakes. AND ALSO STEAKS. I’m sorry. This is going to be a long season!

For the Quickfire: the chefs need to team up according to their respective seasons and cook a dish that represents the city in which their season was filmed. Fair enough. People run around. There’s some cooking? I don’t know. The truth is that I’ve always kind of checked out during the actual cheffing parts of Top Chef. It’s like, I’d probably watch a show called Top Blog, but I wouldn’t want to watch 10 minutes of smash cuts between different people typing, you know? Although I do love the fact that 30 seconds into their first challenge, Dr. Blais is already making mad beats in his laboratory.

Anyway, the worst dishes are Marcel & Elia’s shrimp and apple tacos, Stephen and Tiffani’s cioppino gazpacho, and season 5’s trio of New York themed dishes including curried apple soup, apple pasta, and rib eye with apple. Tom says that the dishes didn’t go together although he did like the soup, but that means they’re only “batting .333, not in this competition.” Oy. Good sports metaphor. Definitely related to whatever else you were talking about and the theme of the challenge and this show, which is a show about sports. HUH? Of course, Jamie points out that she knows her soup is damned good. GO TO BED, JAMIE. Tom also did not like Tiffany and Angelo’s rockfish with crabcake essence because too much salt. Fair enough. So pretty much everyone lost right out of the gate? SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT.

The winning dishes are Team Miami’s habanero pork and Team Chicago’s pork sausage with mustard ice cream (BLAISSSSSSSSSSSSSS) and Team Las Vegas’s lobster pasta carbonara (because mobsters, which, LOL). But in the end there can be only one winning team, and that winning team is Team Chicago, who all get immunity. BOOM. Team Blais 4EVER. This also means Spike and Antonia have immunity, which, whatever, but also Dale T. has immunity. Hi Dale T.! I’m a Dale T. supporter.

Elimination Challenge: everyone is presented with a metal-domed serving tray. OOOOH. I wonder if the Elimination Challenge is to see who can be the best PRINCESS. Antonia says, “All I’m thinking to myself is what is inside of that tray?” Haha. Very cool glimpse inside the mind of Antonia! The domes are lifted and inside are the ingredients to everyone’s losing dishes. TOTAL SLAMMER!

That’s pretty great, you guys. Haha. Ouch. Hahah. Ouchie! Everyone starts cooking. Oh no! What? We don’t get to see a 15-minute montage of the chefs shopping at Whole Foods? But that’s the best part of the show! JK. Worst part. What’s up with that part? We know what grocery shopping is like. It is boring. With or without time and budget limits. “They didn’t have the red snapper I wanted.” SHIVERS.

Cook cook cook. Blah blah blah. When it is time for the eating, Tom informs them that while they know each other pretty well, they haven’t really had a chance to taste each other’s food (no cooko) so the chefs will be split into two services, and the opposing service will eat and judge the other’s food with the judges. “This is huge,” someone says. Haha. Sure. “I took one bite of Angelo’s dish and I knew instantly how to destroy him for the next 11 weeks.” What the chefs don’t know, at least the first round, is that they’re being watched on a closed circuit television in the kitchen. Yoops. So many Hate Lists getting rewritten back there. Weirdly, when given the opportunity, no one says shit about Spike’s hats. You’d think that would be a go to. “Since no one is watching this on a secret TV in the kitchen, can we all talk about what the fuck with the hats, Spike? How bald IS he? Like scary “space virus” bald?” Anthony Bourdain is like: “Oh girl, I know. I feel like you could put a bag of shit on Spike’s head and it would look better,” or whatever. Anthony Bourdain makes stupid insults. Cork it, Bourdain.

Stuff is said. Feelings are hurt. Elia can’t even watch. She doesn’t want to hear anyone say anything bad about anyone’s dish. Grow up, Elia. You’re on a competitive reality show FOR THE SECOND TIME. You can watch Tom Colicchio say that Tiffani’s dish is over-salted. Fabio does not like it when Anthony Bourdain talks about how much he HATES Fabio’s dish. Haha, fair enough! Maybe you should have put more scorpion dicks in it! (Anthony Bourdain loves scorpion dicks.)

At judges table, the winners are Blais (BLAISSSSSSSS) for his pork belly with bread & butter radishes, mirin & cheddar, Angelo for his homemade ramen with sweet glazed pork belly & watermelon, Spike for his pickled mushrooms, scallops, and lime dressing with hearts of palm salad, and Jamie’s pan-seared black bass, celery, green peppercorn sauce & herb salad. But wait. Tom watched the tapes and Blais was still plating his food a few seconds after the timer went off. That disqualifies Blais from being eligible to win the challenge. Aww. He was clearly going to win the challenge. Back in the Stew Room, Good Dale says that he thinks it’s bullshit. I don’t agree. Rules are rules. Blais is doing fine. But also, let’s be clear on something: Tom didn’t watch any fucking tapes. Also, Blais needs to act less surprised.

He is not Taylor Swift at all awards show.

Angelo wins. He gets $10,000. That will certainly come in handy with all the Visa paperwork for his Russian bride. Hey guys, remember how weird Angelo’s life is? So weird! He goes back to the Stew Room and offers everyone a brand new reason to hate him. “Sup guys. Yeah, I won this one.” It’s so weird that everyone else isn’t smirking. Why aren’t you guys smirking for Angelo! It’s a smirkabration!

The losing chefs are Elia with her red snapper steamed in ti leaf with snapper jus, Fabio and his homemade caserecci, crawfish & crab stew, and Stephen’s deconstructed crab soup dumplings, poached egg & tograshi. Let’s be honest, Fabio’s still the best and we ALL want to have his baby, even those of us who through a cruel twist of fate are biologically incapable of doing something. (Pretty sure the movie Extraordinary Measures is about Harrison Ford’s race to find a way for Brendan Fraser to carry Fabio’s baby, right?) But the other two can maybe both go home together? Split a cab? Stephen is just as unctuous as ever, and to quote my friend Max Silvestri: “who could forget Elia. Oops, already did. AGAIN.” Before the judges make their final decision, Elia urges them not to eliminate her. Oh BROTHER. The other chefs look at her like they want to make a carpaccio out of her face. “This carpaccio isn’t thin enough. We have to throw out the whole head. What a waste.” Also: cool strategy, Elia. “If you do not like my cooking, perhaps you will be impressed with my desperate begging?”

Elia is eliminated. It must be hard to be the first person eliminated from a show you’ve already been eliminated from. But you know what is not hard: seeing Elia go.

Goodbye! See? Easy.