Top Chef All Stars: This Thing’s Fixed

Fidel Gastro recaps this week’s Top Chef: All-Stars and he isn’t happy.

The ice beneath Tiffany’s feet is getting thinner and thinner. I assume that most viewers expected her to go instead of Angelo last week.  Hell, even she thought she was a goner.  I’m starting to smell a rat. A certain Southern chef with an affinity for liquid nitrogen was mysteriously absent from many of the early episodes, and now it seems that his biggest competition is being systematically removed from play.  Strange, no?

This week’s Quickfire is hosted by Southern superstar Paula Deen. I don’t have much against her (in fact, she makes irresistible death food that keeps me in husky pants), but the producers could have booked someone a little less mainstream and a little more gourmet, even if the Quickfire happens to be a deep fryer challenge.  Still, it’s better than Muppets, and fried food kicks ass.  Thinking this will be a slam dunk for Dale and his winning stoner strategy, his concept of beef wrapped around an oyster was not well received.  Also shitting the bed was Carla, whose hush puppies weren’t light and airy enough for Ms. Deen and whose fish was fried too soon, and Tiffany, who made boring-looking fried chicken and fried pickles with a cumin salad.  The better news goes to Antonia, who would have actually been the winner with her fried avocado and shrimp were it not for a technicality; Blais, who stole Wylie Dufresne’s fried mayonnaise and served it with fried bacon over a cucumber and tomato salad; and Isabella, who stole Blais’ playful idea of frying the chicken’s “oyster” meat and putting it in an actual oyster shell.  Shady Mike, real shady.  And what’s worse?  He wins the Quickfire and five thousand bucks.  This prompts some ice grilling from Blais, but he just doesn’t have that hard ass look, so Isabella simply responds with a wink.  Later in the evening, there’s a little more passive aggressiveness, but unfortunately no fistfighting.

For the elimination challenge, John Besh joins the Paula and the judges for a Gulf seafood showdown.  Also showing up are six previously eliminated cheftestants with nothing better to do: Spike, Marcel, Angelo, Tre, and Tiffani F, and Fabio, each of them tethered to an edible sea creature.  Most of the cheftestants base their teaming on personalities, but Tiffany makes her choice based on the white shrimp Marcel is holding, essentially sealing her fate, or, at a minimum, ensuring that her dish is fucked.  Carla decides to try again with her Quickfire dish, forcing a square peg into a round hole in more ways than one.  It turns out Tre knows shit about shit when it comes to Southern cooking, and thus she also seals her fate.  Antonia picks Spike, nervous that his weird facial hair will be distracting, but the two of them have worked together in the past, so at least there’s a history.  Dale picks Angelo, although Blais warns that his head can’t be right after just getting eliminated, and Blais picks Fabio, because if Fabio were a girl, he’d probably sleep with him.  The real difficulty of this challenge isn’t the also-rans, but the volume of service (300 people), and the cheftestants all struggle with getting their food out.  This is most damaging to Dale, who served undercooked potatoes to the judges, and Tiffany, who let Marcel re-up (and fuck up) her honey glaze for the shrimp he overcooked (not sure what Tiff did, here), and both her and Dale wind up on the bottom alongside Carla.

Before we get to losers, however, let’s talk about the good news at Judges’ Table.  Antonia’s crab cake was perfectly balanced and respectful of the main ingredient, and Isabella’s grit-crusted gulf shrimp was at least better than the people on the bottom.  But this time around, it’s finally Blais at the top.  The judges loved his Southern surf & turf of pulled pork and crispy gulf snapper with citrus grits, even though at first glance they thought it wouldn’t work.

Back at the bottom, my expectation is that Tiffany—a regular at this point—will finally be eliminated.  Carla’s a close second, but I really wouldn’t have put Dale in last place.  I understand that it’s all about the challenge dish, but cutting Dale at this point is basically handing the competition to Blais, but I think that’s exactly what Bravo has in mind, which is a total load of shit and makes me want to turn off the TV.