I love it when “Top Chef: All Stars” kicks things off by showing that, as much as we hope it’s just one big happy family of chefs on this show, some of the culinary divas kind of quietly hate one another. Case in point: Mike and Antonia. Mike can’t bring himself to congratulate Antonia on winning last week’s challenge with mussels. It’s a French dish! Well, French or not, the judges clearly liked it a whole lot more than Mike’s underdone pasta. Mike, clearly, is a sore, pouty loser. So we get to see Antonia and Mike quietly snipe at one another while Fabio tries to lighten the mood in his distinctly happy, Fabio way. It’s kind of like sitting down at another family’s uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner or watching “The Real Housewives of Something Or Other.” Except I don’t think those women can cook. They’re too flammable.
Anyway, time for the Quickfire Challenge! Richard walks into the kitchen and sees fondue pots. He immediately starts thinking ‘70s bellbottoms, chunky soled shoes and nudity. Richard is sure his parents went to a nude fondue party. I’m hoping they didn’t, because fondue made up of cheese or hot oil and it can splatter. A party just isn’t fun with second and third degree burns on your private parts, no matter what decade it takes place in.
The chefs must make a modern fondue. And judge one another. No immunity, but they can win a three day trip to the Napa Valley. S’alright.
We watch the chefs whirl around the kitchen and occasionally explain their inspirations to the camera. Mike wants to tell us that he doesn’t remember no gay fondue parties from the ‘70s. Mike finds new and exciting ways to make himself more unlikable every week. Dale is making pho-ndue. Get it? Pho-ndue? That Dale! Richard is deconstructing the one thing Padma said not to do – chocolate dipped bananas. If anyone can get away with it, it’s Richard. But still, not a great idea, Richard. She isn’t judging, but you still might incur the wrath of Padma. Which sounds like a really fun comic book title.
The chefs slug back some white wine and taste away. Padma announces the losers first. The worst are Fabio (billini with caviar, crème fraiche, fromage blanc and bourdain wine), Tiffany (clunky apple ricotta fritters with chocolate) and Mike (icky spiced lamb kabobs with mint, chili and feta). On the top, Antonia (smoked salmon on toast, fromage blanc and crème fraiche fondue), Dale (pho with beef, bread, charred ginger, lime, Sriracha and broth) and Angelo (walnuts, endive with goat cheese fondue & beet juice shooter). No love for Richard? He says he scared his fellow chefs. He may be right.
The winner is… Dale. Because of his pho-ndue. It looked pretty good, but it looked like pho. Still, there must be something more exciting going on in there to get the win.
There’s no time for celebrations or scraping the fondue pots, as the chefs are ordered to go to Rockefeller Center. They immediately find themselves on stage. Surprise, surprise, they’re doing an edition of Cell Phone Shootout on Jimmy Fallon’s show, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” I guess there aren’t a lot of choices now that Conan’s in L.A.
The premise is simple – images of Jimmy’s favorite foods flash in front of the chefs, and they must shoot a picture using a cell phone. Whatever they photograph, they cook. Antonia shoots beef tongue. She’s never cooked beef tongue and I get the impression she doesn’t like beef tongue. Fabio gets hamburger with French fries. Better than beef tongue, right? No, Fabio has never made a hambooger before. For this I am greatful, because the way he says it makes me lose my appetitite. Carla gets chicken pot pie. She is SO excited! She loves chicken pot pie! She is jumping up and down and squealing! She’s been thinking about chicken pot pie all week! Carla needs sleep! Or less caffeine!
The chefs are warned to stay away from Jimmy’s least favorite foods: mushrooms, eggplant and mayo. C’mon, mushrooms? He just hasn’t had a good mushroom, sorry.
After Dale admires Angelo’s manly physique and preference for borderline girly clothes, the chefs hit the store and start cooking.
Angelo is making a sauce or something out of coffee, dill and some other stuff that sounds disgusting together. Oh honey, when you say “It sounds gross, I know, but I like it,” you make us worry. Richard tells Antonia how to cook her beef tongue. Mike thinks Richard is a little too helpful for his own good. I agree. Richard, if you have to tell her how to cook her dish and then she wins, she isn’t sharing her prize with you, FYI. It’s very nice of you, but cut it out!
Jimmy Fallon’s whole family arrives at the restaurant for Jimmy’s birthday lunch. Our judges are Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Jimmy Fallon.
First up, Antonia. She serves her beef tongue, pumpernickel rye, caramelized onions and dill slaw. Fabio made a hambooger with melted cheddar cheese sauce and fries. No one’s loving Fabio’s booger, which is kind of dry and meatloaf-y. Oh, and Tom thinks the cheese sauce is vomitous. Jimmy and Gail love the tongue. Insert suggestive joke here.
Richard goes for a traditional ramen. He thinks he can wow Jimmy without the bells and whistles. His dish is ramen noodles with seared pork belly, duck legs and a duck egg. Tiffany serves chicken, dumplings with poblano chiles, red peppers, cilantro and lime.
Jimmy, who’s a fan of Richards, was expecting a laser beam along with bells, whistles and a rocket to the moon. He is, of course, disappointed. He thought Tiffany’s soup was too spicy.
Carla runs squawking around the kitchen making her pot pie. But she delivers without having an embolism. She makes chicken pot pie with carrots, celery, pea salt & herbs. Dale does a Philly cheesesteak on a pretzel roll with hot sauce, onions and cheddar cheese sauce. Jimmy thinks Dale’s sandwich is too salty. Tom likes Carla’s pot pie too much to comment. Jimmy loves it, too. I smell a winner!
Angelo serves up a pulled pork sandwich with coffee, dill, allspice and chipotle rub and coleslaw. This has to taste better than it sounds, because it sounds like something you’d pull out of your garbage disposal. Mike made sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, fennel and paprika in what appears to be a microwave TV
dinner dish. Jimmy declares Angelo’s pork a home run. Gail loves Mike’s thin cut vegetables. At this point I realize that, in his attempts to comment on the dishes, Jimmy’s head writer only seems to tell poop and penis jokes. This does not make me want to watch Jimmy Fallon’s show. Ever. Especially because Jimmy seems to think everything he says is REALLY funny. Wow. It’s nice to know some people really can use everything they learned on the playground in fifth grade and make a living.
Jimmy reveals that he loves ice cream cake and the winner will get a cooking spot on his show. Which also means a trip to New York, and that’s really the better prize.
Padma calls back Carla, Antonia and Angelo. See, Richard? You helped Antonia right into the winner’s circle! Good karma but it won’t get you $200 grand! The judges swoon over Carla’s dish, but what’s interesting is how Tom gives Antonia a pat on the head for making tongue so quickly – and she NEVER MENTIONS THAT RICHARD TOLD HER HOW TO DO IT.
The winner is… Carla. And she gets a trip to Tokyo! Nice!
Next, the judges request Tiffany, Fabio and Dale. They declare that Tiffany’s dumplings were too thin, Fabio’s booger was too meatloaf-y and Dale’s sandwich was a salty nightmare. Jimmy seems appalled by the fact Dale clearly didn’t taste his food. I’m kind of appalled, too. Dale may be one of the stronger chefs, but he’s been screwing up – and this seems like a no brainer. Too salty? Seriously?
But Fabio, not Dale, will be going home. He tells Jimmy he will cook a booger for him in the future and make him beg for forgiveness, because that booger will be so darn good! Fabio, I’m sure that’s true, but please, never say hambooger again. Fabio is sad to leave, but being Fabio, he takes the bad news in stride and gives everyone big Italian hugs. I’m a little sad to see Fabio go, especially because I think his food this week was a little better than Dale’s and his food every week is better than Mike’s, but oh well.
I love that they’re cooking for Cookie Monster and Elmo next week. And they’re cooking at Target. It’s gonna be one crazy Top Chef!
Do you think Richard should have helped Antonia? Do you think Fabio deserved to pack his knives and go? And what do you think Elmo eats?