The 5’2″ Curly Haired Blonde Gorilla in the Room

Fidel Gastro recaps an action packed episode 5 of Top Chef: All-Stars.

Welcome back, readers!  This week’s episode was more hectic than a bunch of cheftestants trying to make dim sum for the entirety of New York City’s Chinatown.  Oh wait, that’s what actually happened, or was supposed to happen, but first, a Quickfire that renders all other Quickfires up to this point into a smoldering pile of embers: make a dish in the time it takes Tom “I can’t hear you. Let me turn the volume down on my Beard Award” Colicchio to prepare his.  This gives the cheftestants a collective boner (“Ooh, he’s so organized!” and “Thees guy ees reelee fast.”), but I’m calling bullshit right here and now.  All due respect to Creaky Coleeky, but my man probably came up with the challenge himself before shooting even began, giving him ample time to create a dish AND practice making it.  Yes, he banged out a respectable dish in an astonishing amount of time (8 minutes, 37 seconds), but the whole thing’s suspect.  Anyhoo, the cheftestants snap to it in a major way because the winner of this Quickfire not only gets immunity, but also a brand new Prius courtesy of the marketing department at Toyota.  Also, they’ve got less than 9 minutes to make a hot dish.  Angelo decides the rules don’t apply to him and makes a crudo that puts him on the bottom along with Jamie’s “half a clam on a half-shell” and Dale’s failed-before-he-even-started egg noodle pad thai, while Blais, Marcel, and Isabella somehow alter the space-time continuum to make three great dishes.  Colicchio was impressed with Blais’ sauce and Marcel’s ability to make dashi in the allotted time, but Isabella’s pan-roasted branzino with black olive and caper stew was the most flavorful, putting him behind the wheel and, according to Marcel, “Fist pumping and screaming, ‘Can I get a cup of cawfee for a quawta at the cawna?’” Not bad, Marcel, but I still hate you.

This week’s elimination continues with the speedy theme (sort of) by having the cheftestants take over dim sum service at Harmony Garden, but before doing so, we get a glimpse of some out-of-kitchen antics courtesy of the liquor cabinet and the cabin fever associated with competing on reality TV.  Highlights include bras, bleeped out words, and permission for the gals to discuss their upper lady parts because boys can talk about “fiddling with their diddlys.”  A diddly?  Really?  And now back to the food.  To make it a truly authentic Chinese experience (and to ensure availability of ingredients), shopping happens at an Asian supermarket instead of Whole Foods.  Conveniently, nobody speaks English, but everyone manages to get what they need, including Casey, who makes the risk of attempting to cook chicken feet even riskier by assuming the front-of-house role and leaving them for someone else to cook.  Dale and Angelo have a leg up because of previous dim sum experience, but everybody else blows it.  Without any sense of urgency and too much attention to detail, a major bottleneck develops.  The diners get restless, grabbing whatever they can from half-empty dim sum carts and talking a bunch of shit in Chinese.  Some people even walked out.  It got so bad that Colicchio’s pimp hand had to make an appearance.  It was awesome.

For the first time that I can recall, Judges’ Table called out the losers first: Carla’s summer roll was good looking but bland; Jamie steamed her (top) scallop dumplings instead of boiling them and also failed on a long bean collaboration with Antonia; Tre’s dessert dish couldn’t take the heat from the kitchen; and Casey’s chicken feet were literally inedible.  Guest judge Susur Lee (another chef who has probably killed a man) said that it would take a day on the couch to finish just one of them.  Ouch.  It was then on to the best of the cart creations, made by Fabio, Texas Tiffany, Angelo, and Dale.  Fabio made amazing-looking ribs, something he called a “Top Chef myragle” after having oven troubles; Tiffany made a Chifa-worthy pork bun; Angelo made a shrimp egg roll that didn’t even need sauce; and Dale made a sweet sticky rice with Chinese bacon that Tom lost his shit over, giving him another win on the season.  As hectic as this challenge was, I’m surprised that there wasn’t anything attached to it.  Maybe since he already won, Dale’s not eligible for more prizes?  That wasn’t the case previously, was it?  Also suspect, this is the second consecutive episode where Blais’ elimination challenge dishes were not shown.  I’m sure there’s a lot of footage to edit, but it ain’t right to just leave him out of the episode.  After muted praise (the challenge was a failure, after all), the basement dwellers are sent back in.  Tom erases any lingering self-esteem any of them may have with a dish-specific thrashing, then Padma surprises everybody by telling Casey to pack her knives and go.  Inedible chicken feet aside, Casey got hosed.  Mrs. Gastro was quick to point out that karma’s a bitch (if you remember, she was responsible for sending Carla home with the sous vide suggestion back in Season 5), but Jamie threw out two miserable dishes (after not cooking in two previous challenges), and she’s just all-around awful.  If she doesn’t go home next week, we know she’s got someone at Bravo on the take, and I’ll give up watching.  I urge you all to do the same, even though we’re all curious about Dale’s new role as the villain.