Top Chef All-Stars: Since When Do Puppets Have Palates?

Top Chef, you’ve changed, man.  It used to be about the food, man.  Now you have Muppets judging challenges?  I guess it’s not as bad as that Isaac Mizrahi Quickfire, but it’s still a departure from the cooking focus that made you so popular.  Oh well, let’s recap!

We start with some mourning for FabioBlais quickly professes his love for the amicable Italian, and then it’s off to the Top Chef kitchen, where Padma cryptically introduces three felt monsters, all of whom have fists up their asses: Telly, Cookie Monster, and the kids’ version of Oprah, Elmo (maybe that’s a stretch).  Clearly this is a cookie Quickfire, and the cheftestants immediately go into survival mode.  Isabella, Angelo, and Dale all admit to just wanting to get through the challenge (the winner of which will win $5,000), then Dale deals Isabella a low blow, ruminating on how a guy that big doesn’t know how to make cookies (newsflash Dale, you’re not as skinny as you used to be, either).  The ladies are much more comfortable, but The Black Hammer is the only one who winds up at the top.  Elmo says that her double chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips, caramel glaze and sprinkles (jimmies) looks like a cow chip but tastes delicious.  The other cookie in the running was Dale’s pretzel and potato chip shortbread cookie with salted caramel chocolate ganache (which isn’t technically a cookie), and he takes down another win, making his head almost too big for those fitted Dave’s Quality Meats caps that he keeps rocking.

The Elimination Challenge is another all-night affair, this time in an empty Target.  The chefs have to source everything from within the four walls of the superstore, including cookware, food, and tables.  Padma’s robotic voice reassures them that everything they need can be found in the store.  With only three hours to shop, prep, and cook, this would be great news if it weren’t for the fact that Target is ginormous.  Also, the cookware and food are located at opposite ends of the store.  Isabella and Angelo have the right idea by teaming up for the shopping (Isabella also has no friends so he latches on to Angelo because nobody really likes him either, and Angelo thrives on feeling needed).  Carla, on the other hand, gets too caught up in presentation and barely has enough time to cook.  The difficulty of using foreign cooking utensils coupled with the tight timeframe leads the majority of the cheftestants to make soup, but Antonia and Blais take the risk and get excellent results and reviews.  The Black Hammer’s parmesan cream eggs were a welcome sight for the diners forced to eat at 3 A.M., and guest judge Ming Tsai was impressed with Blais’ execution of pork two ways (even though Bourdain said it looked like parrot shit).

At Judges’ Table, these two were the also-rans to Dale “We Don’t Need to Keep Going ‘Cause I’m Clearly the Top Chef” Talde.  Channeling his poor and stoned inner college self, he uses a steaming iron to make a ribeye grilled cheese and serves it with a spicy tomato soup to bat for the cycle, leaving Blais to ask, “What the fuck do I have to do to beat this guy?”  For the win, Dale banks another $25,000, which probably buys a whole lotta doobie (I wouldn’t know).  Maybe Blais should do as his name says and start smoking tuff, because clearly these judges are over getting creative with the liquid nitrogen tank.

The bottom sees Carla, Tiffany, and Angelo.  Carla didn’t leave herself enough time to cook and also failed to add a protein to her curry apple soup.  The judges all thought it was better served as a sauce.  Tiffany used a pre-made creole mix for her jambalaya that the judges hated, causing her to burst into tears once again.  Her “Dream” speech was especially touching, and could have been what saved her from elimination.  With these two safe, we say goodbye to Angelo, who blamed his overly salty baked potato soup on palate fatigue, and now we’re down to the point where the other chefs come back to sabotage the finalists.  Let’s hope we get some better Quickfires and a little more drama.  These chefs are being way too nice to each other.