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Hey, Serious Eaters! Jillian Madison here, and I'm thrilled to be back talking Top Chef: All Stars with all of you! If you haven't been watching, it's been an amazing season so far. Richard Blaise has been using a bunch of liquid nitrogen (surprise!), Angelo has been messing with everyone's food, Fabio's been cooking a lot of pasta, and Jamie...well, Jamie hasn't been doing much of anything.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]
Five chefs—including one of my favorite Top Chef contestants of all time, Jennifer Caroll—have already been eliminated. Elia, Stephen, Dale, and Spike were also been eliminated from the show. 13 chefs still remain, and are competing for $500k in cash and prizes, and the title that's eluded them all: Top Chef.
This week's quickfire was all about speed in the kitchen. Padma told everyone that they'd be testing their speed against one of the nation's best chefs: Tom Colicchio! Cut to a shot of the contestants' panicked faces, followed by a several minutes of Tom feverishly slicing tomatoes and running through the kitchen carrying armfuls of stuff like a bald Rachael Ray. Yum-o!
Tom ended up completing his salmon and vegetables dish in 8 minutes, 37 seconds. The contestants then had to prepare a separate dish of their own in that time. For the most part, the food they turned out was simply awful. Apparently, the rules don't apply to Angelo, because he blatantly ignored Tom's instructions to not prepare raw food and made a crudo dish anyway.
Meanwhile, Jamie—bless her little heart—only managed to get ONE clam onto the plate:
Dale had the worst dish of the day, and actually had the cojones to serve this hot to the judges:
Mike Isabella's pan-roasted branzino with black olive and caper stew was the favorite of the day. He won immunity—and a Toyota Prius. Oh yeah. Top Chef's not messing around this year, people.
At the end of the day, though, this challenge didn't make much sense to me. The contestants didn't have to make the same dish as Tom, so how were they even competing against him in the first place? Also, Tom knew the dish he was going to make, and probably spent hours practicing it to get his time down. And Tom is a world class master chef! Are we supposed to be wowed that he made some salmon in 9 minutes? Please. If he wanted to impress us, he should have gotten in there and done something REALLY difficult...like 60 minutes on an elliptical.
The Elimination Challenge
The "speed" theme carried over into the elimination challenge this week as well. Padma told the chefs they'd be going to Chinatown to take over one of the most popular dim sum restaurants in the city, and would have to feed hundreds of Chinatown locals during the lunch rush. Fabio was the most nervous, and you could literally see the worry on his face as soon as he made the realization that Chinese people don't eat gnocchi.
Marcel—who may or may not be Wolverine's puny, adorable little brother—took the opportunity to enlighten us all on the locale. "Chinatown is like going to China," he explained. "Everyone there is Chinese." Wow, thank you, Marcel. What's your next observation? That men pee while standing?
The chefs went home to plan their dishes, drink a ton of booze, and get some rest. Dale disappeared into the living room to stare at pictures of his family and lovingly fondle his knife set. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Tiffani took the opportunity to share her boob size (36DD, in case you're taking notes) and wipe jalapeno juice out of Antonia's eye with her bra. I don't know, people. I just write the reviews.
The next day, back at the kitchen in Chinatown, Jamie started to panic. "I've never worked in a Chinese kitchen with all these steamers and wok stations, and all those other things." What other things, Jamie? OVENS? You've been skating your way through this whole competition! Act like a chef! Cook something!
For some reason, Casey thought it would be a good idea to cook chicken feet for the challenge. While she was slicing the nails off of every toe, she started talking about her "personal interest in the art of butchery" and mentioned she "collects art about butchering." Uhh, yeah. That sounds...normal. If she starts showing up wearing vials of animal blood around her neck, we all need to start worrying.
Next, Angelo told a heartwarming little tale from his youth, about how his parents used to make him spend his Saturdays sorting thousands of granules of rice to pick out the bad pieces. Yeah. I think that explains a lot about Angelo, actually.
This challenge ended up being a total disaster. Even with Mike Isabella as the expediter and Casey/Tiffany serving the customers, the chefs were ridiculously slow getting their food out. This naturally led to a dining room filled with 250 really hungry, really snarky Chinese people. It was like a war zone up in there—people were throwing elbows and desperately clawing at plates as the little cart went wheeling by. It wasn't pretty.
These are actual close-captioned screen-grabs from the show, which I've included here for your viewing pleasure:
Susur Lee, fresh off his Top Chef Masters appearance, was the guest judge for this week's show. Susur, Padma, Gail, and Tom were all underwhelmed and disappointed by the team's poor performance. The best dish of the night went to Dale. His sticky rice was perfectly cooked, and Susur felt the banana leaf gave it great flavor.
The bottom two chefs were Casey, and once again, Jamie. Jamie's long beans were overcooked and greasy, and Casey's chicken foot was just inedible.
In the end, though, Casey was the one eliminated from the show. She made the mistake of trusting Antonia to prepare her dish while she was upstairs serving food, and that ended up costing her. But really, though, would you eat this?
What did you think of the episode, Serious Eaters? Was the right person sent home last night? Are you as mad about Jen Carroll being eliminated in the 2nd episode as I am?