An Italian challenge brings some unexpected winners â€“ and losers â€“ to the table
Lorraine Bracco and the diners on Wednesday's Top Chef: All-Stars.
Nine chefs left!Whoo!
Isaac Mizrahi is in the house for some reason. Because he designs clothes have good taste? Oh, no, because Padma is showing her jewelry line at Fashion Week, so we needed a tie-in. Nice plug, Padma! Subtle! And she’s wearing one of her own necklaces! Which looks like something I beaded at summer camp! Isaac’s new collection was inspired by his Xerox machine. Whaaaa? For the Quickfire Challenge, the judges will be going off of aesthetic beauty and will not be tasting the dishes. Mmm, sounds… pretty not tasty?
[Full recap of Wednesday's (Feb. 2) "Top Chef: All-Stars" after the break...]
We must get inside the minds of the chefs. Carla was a runway model in Paris. Fabio is inspired by the thought of a beautiful woman walking in the rain trying not to get wet. Okay. That translates to… nothing I’d want to eat. Antonia is making a tree. Tiffany is making flowers and dirt. Richard is making black ice cream. Angelo is making a bag of vomit, according to Fabio. I don’t think any of this sounds like it will either look OR taste good.
Isaac is kind of a bitch and I love it. He thinks Dale’s dish looks like table scraps, he thinks Tre’s dish is too simplistic and he give Angelo a thumbs down for writing on the table (and spelling “crocodile” wrong, I’m assuming). Fabio gets a thumbs up for his little tuna people, Carla’s food is a classic dress (this is a good thing) and Richard’s black ice cream is sophisticated. Isaac declares Richard the winner. I love Carla, but neurotic little Richard really is the one to beat.
For the elimination challenge, I’m sure they’re cooking at Rao’s. Where else do tables get passed down through family connections? Nice try at building suspense, Padma. Anyway, Frank Pelligrino, Frank Jr. and chef Dino Gatto will be the judges. Yup, Rao’s. It’s an Italian challenge. Fabio’s so psyched he’s doing the “gotta go now” dance. But, ugh, it’s a team challenge. I’m wondering if this might be a little smoother, though, since troublemakers like Marcel and Jamie are gone.
Lorraine Bracco and a guy in a god awful ugly vest will be joining the judges. Oh, he’s the bartender. Okay, you can wear sequins, pal. Oh, Anthony Bourdain is back! Let the games begin!
Carla, Tiffany and Antonia are first up.
Carla – minestrone soup with basil oil, tomatoes and homemade focaccia
Antonia – mussels with fennel, white wine, garlic and parsley ciabatta
Tiffany – polenta terrine with Italian sausage, roasted peppers and kale
Anthony likes Carla’s soup, but one of the Rao’s guys thinks he could have gotten it in Wisconsin. Lorraine wants to beat him with her spoon, because she loved it. Tiffany’s polenta is a hit with the table. Anthony thinks Antonia’s mussels are confident. You go, girls!
Mike, Dale and Trent are going to have a hard time following up with the pasta course.
Mike – spicy calamari, fresh rigatoni and tomato sauce
Dale – fresh pasta, pancetta, Brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, pecorino romano
Tre – grilled vegetable risotto, marinated tomatoes and fresh basil
Just looking at this, I think these guys are in trouble. You can tell Mike’s pasta isn’t fully cooked, Dale’s food looks fussy and Tre’s looks… well, home cooked in a bad way. Anthony declares that Dale’s dish is being eaten by someone in the witness protection program at that moment. Tom doesn’t think the flavors come together. And Lorraine says if her boyfriend made it for her, he wouldn’t get any that night. Oof! Everyone seems to think Tre did bad things to risotto. Mike’s pasta is, of course, hard. Anthony says the whole thing is like something you’d find at a steam table at your worst enemy’s wedding. Okay, that doesn’t completely make sense, as you probably wouldn’t be invited to or go to your worst enemy’s wedding, but Anthony, but we love you for trying.
Fabio – pollo alla cacciatora, polenta al pecorino
Angelo – sautéed pork chop, cherry peppers, green olives, tomatoes and pancetta
Richard – fresh pancetta cutlet, broccolini, pickled cherry tomatoes
Anthony condemns Angelo’s dish for breaking the cardinal rule of Italian cooking – keep it simple. That’s just not in Angelo’s vocabulary, sorry. Fabio’s dish made him feel better about the world, though. And Richard’s food seems solid enough. Yup, someone from that second group is going home.
Mike gripes about how Tiffany didn’t make an antipasti. Shut up, Mike. You know you’re in trouble and you’re just made because you made bad pasta.
Antonia, Carla, Fabio and Tiffani are called in. Mike is sure they’re in the bottom, because they made simple dishes. One made friggin’ muscles! Mike’s off his rocker. The one real Italian is getting called in – they’re the top four, dummy.
As expected, they’re the top dishes. Tiffany cries she’s so happy. The winner is… Antonia. Mike is going to CRAP himself. I have to say, Antonia really got the message of good, simple food, which is definitely Rao’s. Fabio, of course, is a little bummed out, too. But at least he performed well. Mike’s an Italian-American from Jersey and he blew it. But I will say – I thought it was a little hypocritical for the judges to tell Mike he could have used packaged pasta, as so many chefs have been raked over the coals for that in previous seasons.
Mike, Dale and Tre are called in as the losers. I thought Mike might fight the verdict, but he admits straight up his pasta sucked. Tre tries to defend his risotto. Tom tells him, um, no. Bad risotto, bad, bad! Anthony questions whether Tre has ever had really good risotto. At least Tre didn’t tell them that some people call him the black Italian.
I love that Lorraine has no problem dishing up her opinion right along with the chefs at the judges table. You go, Lorraine!
Tre gets the boot for the crime of stiff risotto. But it’s alright, as he made new friends, learned lots of stuff, got $25, 000 and goes home a better chef. Tre seems like a decent guy. I wouldn’t eat his risotto, but nice guy. I’m almost a little sad Mike isn’t getting the boot because he’s SUCH a pompous ass in this episode. Yes, we realize you’re Italian, Mike, but that doesn’t mean you can serve the judges UNCOOKED PASTA, you noodle head. But I think his sauce saved him – he was just overly ambitious in making his own pasta. I am wondering why Dale didn’t get the boot, as his dish seemed like a much bigger flop, but I suspect the judges felt he delivered superior dishes so many other weeks they didn’t want to eliminate a finals contender this early in the season. Poor Tre.
Next week, Jimmy Fallon and beef tongue. No, I didn’t make that up.
Do you think Tre deserved to go home? Do you think it’s fair that Antonia won for steamed mussels? And do you think Mike should have used packaged pasta?