Top Chef All-Stars: Shut Up Angelo

Fidel Gastro recaps episode 3 of Top Chef All-Stars.

I can tell you from personal experience that David Chang’s food is nothing short of phenomenal, but he definitely needs to do something with the new hairdo.  He looks like the kids I studied with during engineering school, one of whom smelled so bad that I still blame him for failing an exam because I was forced to sit next to him (Chang, if we ever meet, you can punch me in the face).  I hope for the cheftestants that this was not the case as they quadded off for the Quickfire, a mise-en-place race followed by a 15-minute window to create dish with the prepped ingredients: lamb, garlic, and artichokes.  Teams were randomly chosen by the order that the cheftestants walked into the kitchen, and without a preppin’ weapon anywhere in sight, it was hard to place a bet on the winner.  Marcel was really excited about a lamb-beating technique he could employ, while Fabio took out some aggression on unsuspecting garlic cloves with a giant cutting board.  His team pulled way ahead early on, so they were able to use the entire 15 minutes to cook.  Marcel’s team, on the other hand, was painfully slow, and by the time they had their mise-en-place sorted, they had less than half the time to put something together (the 15-minute window started as soon as the first team finished), so carpaccio was a natural choice.  In a classic reality twist, their lamb carpaccio with artichoke chips, artichoke salad & garlic oil was one of Chang’s favorites.  The other favorite—made by Blais, Spike, Tre, and Stephen—was a crispy lamb chop with artichokes three ways.  I’m a fan of carpaccio, but I definitely prefer lamb chops, and Chang agreed, choosing Team Blais for the win, netting them $5,000 each, but no immunity.  On the other end, the typical reality show irony of the fastest team (Angelo, Fabio, Texas Tiff, and Fat Mike) losing by putting too much dill and thyme (ha!) into their lamb with garlic, tandoori spiced yogurt, slivers of artichoke & dill salad.  It should be noted that the other loser, a lamb carpaccio with capers, garlic, parmigiano reggiano & artichoke salad, was also heavy handed with the herbs, so by deduction, we can infer that David Chang does not like herbs, even though some of his milk bar creations would make an excellent pairing with a few bong rips.

The teams remain intact for the Elimination Challenge, an homage to four of New York’s altars of gastronomy, Chang’s Ma Peche, Wylie Dufrense’s WD-50, David Burke’s Townhouse, and Michael White’s Marea.  This time, however, the competition is within teams, and each cheftestant must create a dish that would be appropriate for each resto’s menu.  In order to do so, each team is treated to a tasting menu for some inspiration, an opportunity for Angelo to run his stupid mouth and annoy everyone within earshot, including Tiffany, who clearly was not enjoying the commentary.  Ass-pirino, another mouth-runner, almost takes a fist to the face from self-styled “Black Italian” Tre, who is neither a fan of him nor sea urchin (I’m not much for it, either, Tre).  His commentary about the menu at Marea was even more annoying than Angelo’s.  We get it dude, you’ve eaten here before.  Over at Townhouse and WD-50, things were a little more muted, probably because the cheftestants were too busy shitting their pants over what to make.  Carla, who normally cooks with love and not maltodextrin, was definitely fucked as a member of the WD-50 team, but she recovered nicely with a poached shrimp and grits dish with okra chips.  Another bad marriage was poor Fabio, who wound up on team Ma Peche, and his approach to French-Vietnamese cooking was to throw some lemongrass into his goat cheese and some hoisin sauce onto his lamb.  I understand that a Top Chef needs to be versatile, but I also like to play favorites, and because of this fact, I think Fabio keeps getting shafted.  Then again, there’s an aloofness about him in this competition that leads me to believe he’s on some pretty awesome painkillers.

Some of the more inspired dishes came from Angelo (unfortunately), who decided to put his nuts on the table with a last-minute dusting of white chocolate on his turmeric marinated fish with salmon roe & chorizo (guest judge Kate Krader called the move innovative, but I’m convinced she just wants to bed him); Antonia, who might have retroactively stolen Regular Guy Ed’s pea puree and used it in her pea and carrot puree, seared scallop, and pickled carrot dish; Tre, whose grilled swordfish, braised artichoke, mushroom panna cotta & basil oil featured a perfectly cooked fish and the elegantly simple presentation that is typical of Marea; and finally, Fat Dale (Talde), who leveraged Wylie Dufresne’s reputation as an “egg slut” to earn extra points with his sunny-side up egg dumpling, braised pork belly, and milk ramen.  Egg fetishes aside, the dish looked amazing, and it netted him the win and 6 nights in New Zealand.  Whether or not he’ll get to hang out with Bret and Jemaine is still TBD.

On the bottom along with poor Fabio, Tiffani F. did herself a disservice by freezing her melons (as if she wasn’t frigid enough).  It was a much-too-forced attempt to cook like Dufresne, but the cut-rate imitation was still better than both Ass-pirino, who suffocated his coho salmon with too much fennel pollen, and Fat Dale (Levitski), who somehow thought veal would pair well with peanuts and popcorn, two mistakes that were deemed unforgivable, making them the prime candidates for this week’s double elimination.  We’ll miss Dale’s one-liners, but certainly not Ass-pirino’s squeaky voice and mid-2000s tie knots.  With the two of them gone, I predict Jamie as the next to go, but mostly because she’s a hater.  Place your bets.