Before we begin, if any of you are wondering why your DVR suddenly stopped recording “Top Chef,” it’s because the title of the show was suddenly changed from “Top Chef: All Stars” to plain, old “Top Chef.” But hey, this show is in constant reruns, so you’ll probably catch it in real time anyway. In other “Top Chef” news, if you live in Southern California and are a Fabio fan, you can watch the show on Wednesday nights at his Toluca Lake restaurant, Firenze Osteria. He’ll even be there, I’m told. And if you’re not a Fabio fan, hey, free hors d’oeuvres. I can’t attest to it being a big hootenanny, as I’m busy blogging for you guys, but if you’ve gone, do tell. If you know of the other chefs on the show doing anything similar, by the way, please post about it. And by all means, tell us about the food!
Anyway, let’s get back to the actual show, shall we? We open with a quick fire that is really, really quick. Tom Colicchio takes on his own quick fire challenge, whipping up a delightful fish dish in eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds – which is exactly how much time the chefs will have to make their own dish. I can barely put together a bowl of cereal in eight minutes, so this seems like one hell of a rough quick fire. But the winner gets a Prius! And immunity. But a Prius!
Apparently all the chefs are eco-conscious or just want any new car they can get, because the melee in the pantry looks like something out of an earthquake video. Marcel, sneaky devil, avoids the whole mess by taking Tom’s leftover fish. Even Tom has to admit that’s a pretty smart move. I’m not sure I would like Marcel as a person, but I kinda admire him.
The eight minute aspect causes a few chefs to completely freak out, which isn’t surprising. Even though the chefs are specifically instructed not to make a raw dish, Angelo does a crudo because he thinks it’s going to be so good, the judges will toss out the rules just for him. Angelo, Angelo, Angelo. This is not how this show works, but nice try. Still, Dale T. is the one who really blows it by trying to make noodles in eight minutes. I don’t think that’s even physically possible, although he claims he just needs a wok. Um, okay. His pad thai is so pathetic that the cameraman can’t even turn make it look appetizing with slow-mo camera work and a forgiving lens. Jamie makes clams that don’t pop, so she serves one clam. One. Why is Jamie still on the show at this point?
Tom declares that Dale T. is on the bottom with Jamie and Angelo. On top are Mike’s pan roasted branzino with black olive and caper stew; Richard’s foie gras roasted with aromatics, corn, fresh coriander and port and Marcel’s sea bass with dashi broth, bok choy and chili oil. The winner is… Mike Isabella! His sea bass looks pretty tasty, and I think he made the choice to go for simple and delicious over clever. If anything is going to bring down Richard, that would be it.
There isn’t much time for Mike to revel in victory or for his castmates to silently loathe him, because it’s already time for the elimination challenge. This week, the chefs must serve dim sum to customers in the Chinatown Grand Harmony restaurant.
Even before the chefs go shopping, you can see this is going to be a car wreck. The chefs have to work together to come up with a menu and figure out who will push carts on the floor, who will expedite and who will artfully sidestep any responsibility beyond their own dish. Jamie wants to make scallops because she always makes scallops. Worse, she volunteers to make a second dish, long beans, with Antonia. As Marcel points out, Jamie is the slowest chef in the kitchen, so this is simply stupid of her. Or, she just wants to go home.
Mike is going to expedite, which seems like a thankless job, while Casey and Carla will be pushing carts, which is an equally thankless job. Then, the squabbling starts. Angelo tries to get Mike to take on a second dish, which Mike wisely refuses to do. Dale T. and Angelo decide to team up and take on a second dish, because Dale T. actually works in a dim sum café, so this challenge is cake for him.
Then, for reasons that are still unclear, the girls start running around with Tiffani’s bra, squealing with laughter. The guys get out of the room in a hurry, as the girls seem a little unhinged. This is exactly why I would never, ever want to do a reality TV
competition, because what you do when you’re sleep deprived and stressed out should not be recorded for posterity.
Finally, the gang gets to go shopping in a Chinese market, which is upsetting to the chefs for many reasons. One, most of them don’t speak Chinese and most of the staff doesn’t speak English, and two, Fabio has a turtle. He loves his pet turtle. He takes his little turtle for walks. And the market sells turtles. To eat. Fabio’s heart is breaking. Tell that to the cows you eat, Fabio. Just saying.
Casey decides to make chicken feet. This seems both very authentic and very poorly thought out on her part. Then again, I don’t know what constitutes a tasty chicken foot. The problem is, I’m not sure Casey does, either.
Susur Lee, owner of Shang, Zentan, Chinois and Lee is the guest chef, joining Gail, Tom and Padma at the restaurant.
The dishes start coming out from the kitchen, but very slooooowly. Tiffani F. has made a cabbage, cilantro and sesame salad with crispy curry chicken which the judges declare poorly blended. Fabio’s soy glazed spicy pork rib is a big hit. Carla has made summer rolls which look good but taste bland. Angelo has made a shrimp and pork spring roll, while Marcel cooked up a boneless chicken wing which is, like Carla’s dish, bland. Richard’s pork foot is too booze-y.
But none of that matters. No one other than the judges is eating any of these dishes because nothing is coming out of the kitchen. Tiffany D. is pissed, because she’s trying to get food out to the diners, which is nice of her but hey, you can’t serve what doesn’t exist. Of course, I’m guessing no one in the dining room is paying for their meal, so maybe they shouldn’t be so impatient.
Jamie and Antonia deliver greasy, gross long beans. Dale and Angelo make cheung fung with shrimp which makes the judges swoon. Dale makes tasty sticky rice, while Tre’s orange dessert is mushy and bland. Tiffany’s steamed pork buns are declared authentic, so she’s not going home.
Even though the judges seem to find plenty to like, if not love, the diners are pickier. One diner calls it Caucasian dim sum. To which I say, free food, buddy.
Casey’s chicken feet are a bad idea that rapidly gets worse. Casey’s biggest mistake is trusting Antonia to cook her feet for her while Casey runs around the dining room. Uh, bad idea. I can’t believe Casey is actually surprised when she discovers Antonia is spending all of her time on her own dish.
Things melt down so completely Tom has to go into the kitchen to yell at the chefs for being pokey. This is baaaaaaad.
Mike’s pork and prawn dumpling is declared too salty, Jamie’s scallop dumpling is too scallop-y (Jamie, step away from the scallops!) and Casey’s chicken feet, as expected, bomb. Jamie stands out, though, for delivering not one, but two crappy dishes. I think she needs to pack her knives and go, honestly. She’s been serving up stinkers for a few weeks now. But this week, it’s really a race to the bottom for everyone. As Mike puts it, everyone sucked and everything sucked.
Casey, Antonia, Carla, Jamie and Tre are called back to judges’ table, and this week, the first up are not the winners. Padma calls them all out for being as slow as molasses. Oh, and their food sucked, which is really the greater crime.
Jamie then admits she had never made scallop dumplings before. So why do it this week? Was there really nothing else you could serve up for dim sum that you’d made before? Antonia’s only on the block because of the greasy long beans she made with Jamie, because her shrimp toast was a hit. And it should be, because she screwed over Casey to make it. Casey’s chicken feet were undercooked and chewy, while the pancakes they were placed on were leaden. Maybe Casey needs to pack her knives and go, although she should be allowed to use one of those knives to stab Antonia on the way out the door.
Backstage, Antonia declares that she’s going to be responsible for Casey’s food – then just tears up and babbles in front of the judges. This is not what I call being responsible. Tre explains that his orange dessert was too liquidy because the kitchen was hot as hell. Carla admits her noodles were oversoaked, but she’s devastated when chef Lee tells her she cooked with her eyes and not her stomach. Still, the obvious losers here are Casey and Jamie, though I’m putting my money on Jamie going home.
Tiffany D., Angelo, Dale and Fabio are next to see the judges. Tiffany’s pork buns are a savory marshmallow, according to Gail. Angelo’s dish had textural integrity. The winner is… Dale. He admits the whole challenge was a mess, but hey, he won and that’s the important thing. And his food did look pretty darn good.
Back to the losers. Everyone hated Jamie’s dumplings and long beans. Antonia gets a pass thanks to the shrimp toast. Tom calls Tre’s tangerine dessert hospital food. Casey’s feet were a disaster. And Carla’s roll wasn’t worth the calories. My money’s on Jamie.
But the loser is… Casey! Huh? Even Jamie seems shocked that she’s not going home. Granted, I think Jamie’s number is about to come up, and Casey wasn’t exactly hitting it out of the park the last few weeks, either. But it does seem a shame that she’s getting the boot when she trusted someone else to help her out and was royally screwed over. But then again, there’s a lesson in that, too. Besides, she made chicken feet.
Next week, the kids go fishing. Which looks more exciting than you’d think it would be. We can only hope Jamie scoops up some scallops.
Do you think Casey deserved to go home? Do you think Antonia should have spoken up about how she helped with the chicken feet? Do you think Dale deserved to win?