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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Episode 15 Recap: Last Supper


Padma Lakshmi and guest judge Wolfgang Puck
On this week’s Top Chef All Stars episode 15 (Last Supper): Only 3 chefs remain and this is the last episode before the Top Chef All Stars season finale. The kitchen heats up in this week’s episode – and in the most wonderful way ever!  My all-time favorite chef Wolfgang Puck chimes in as this week’s Top Chef guest judge!! I’m doing the happy dance.

And now here is the Top Chef All Stars Episode 15 recap:

The episode opens with Richard Blais, Antonia Lafaso and Mike Isabella lamenting the departure of Tiffany Derry. Richard Blaise says sadly “Tiffany is a warrior”. Mike Izzy almost says something nice with “She’s a great cook. She’s a great chef. She’s a great person…”, but then finishes with “Top three here we come!”… Awe, Izzy, you came soo close…

There definitely seems to be a boys club theme, as neither Richard nor Mike seem to regard Antonia as a competitor and all I can do is hope she pulls out the big guns on this round.

Mike Isabella
The Quickfire:
This is the last Quickfire of the season and it just wouldn’t be right unless there was a little extra heat added to this challenge. The chefs walk into the kitchen to find Padma Lakshmi and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The only chef who seems to be as excited as I am is Mike Isabella. Padma announces that the chefs will get to select a past Quickfire challenge to assign each other.  Mike Isabella assigns Antonia Lafaso the canned-goods challenge, Antonia assigns hot dogs to Richard Blais, and Richard assigns Mike to the one-pot challenge. Richard doesn’t seem to grasp that he’s not battling the old Mike Izzy – he’s battling the new and improved Mike Izzy (wish Mikey could have improved his mouth while improving his phat cooking skillz).

The chefs race off to prep their dishes. And just when they think they know what they’re up against, Padma pops in again to add another hurdle to their contest: the chefs get to assign each other a classic Top Chef twist. Richard assigns no utensils to Mike, Antonia assigns the one-hand challenge to Richard, and Mike assigns Antonia to the tag-team style challenge… And here’s where we get the best surprise: Antonia gets to tag-team with Carla Hall!! Hootie!
Antonia Lafaso and Carla Hall

  • Antonia serves a Curry Coconut Soup with Shrimp, Andouille Sausage, Peanuts and Fish Sauce.
  • Richard serves a Hot Dog on Handmade Roti Bread with Curry Ketchup, Mayo and Mint Leaves.
  • Mike serves a Pork Shoulder with Black Beans, Chili Paste, Ginger and Cabbage Salad.
And the winner is… Mike Isabella. He gets to take home the $5000 Quickfire win. I want to be happy for him – I know Izzy has a good heart, but this actually means that he’ll be cockier than ever throughout the rest of this episode and since I can’t follow what happens if I mute my TV, I’ll have to be tortured by his incessant yammering instead.  Buggers.

There’s stinging disappointment in the faces of Richard and Antonia. Richard looks like he’s about to topple over with utter shock. Padma informs the chefs that there are some special guests waiting for them in the Cloisters at the Ocean Club and the chefs must meet them there. When the chefs arrive, who do they see waiting for them? None other than Michelle Bernstein and Masaharu Morimoto – and of course Padma Lakshmi and the fabulous Wolfgang Puck.

Mike Isabella is immediately blown away by Michelle Bernstein, while Antonia seems completely bedazzled by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Masaharu Morimoto, Michelle Bernstein, Wolfgang & Padma
The Elimination Challenge
The chefs must prepare and serve a “Last Supper” to the three culinary icons. Each cheftestant is paired with a celebrity chef and since Mike Isabella won the Quickfire, he gets to go first. Mike picks Michelle Bernstein and then, to mess with Antonia, he assigns her to Iron Chef Morimoto. This leaves Richard with Wolfgang Puck.

And then Padma tells the chefs that there’ll be one more surprise, but they won't find out until later. Each chef meets with their celeb chef. Wolfgang tells Richard that he’d like Apple Strudel, Goulash and Spatzle for his last supper. Michelle Bernstein wants Mike Izzy to cook up fried chicken, biscuits and gravy. And Masaharu Morimoto wants Antonia to make miso soup, pickles and a Sashimi.

Back at their hotel room, Antonia calls Mike out for sticking her with bad challenges. And as the dirty rat bastard he is, he denies it all the way. Can’t wait to see them on the Top Chef All Stars reunion, after they’ve all watched the show. Then the show Antonia back in her room planning her big meal and worrying about being sent home. She gets a little teary – which makes me a little teary. I’ve never been Antonia’s biggest fan, but the girl’s got talent and she’s a strong woman. I’d love to see her smack Mike Izzy down a peg or two. Yeah, that’d be some good times...

Richard Blais
The next day the chefs arrive in the kitchen and begin prepping the “last suppers”. The chefs are about to burst under the pressure. Then Tom Colicchio (congrats daddy!) arrives in the kitchen and inspects the cheftestants’ progress. Tom thinks Mike definitely picked the easiest dish. Richard tells Tom that he feels like the underdog, but still thinks he’ll win on the last day. Tom thinks that Antonia has simplified her dish, but she could still win if she makes it the greatest dish ever.

Tom, Padma, Gail Simmons and the celebrity chefs arrive to the dining table, accompanied by award-winning portrait photographer and author Melanie Dunea. They toast to each other and then we see Antonia finishing up her dish, as she is the first to serve…
  • Antonia Lafaso creates Tuna Sashimi with Pickled Daikon, Mushrooms and Eggplant, Miso Soup and Rice. Iron Chef Morimoto says the miso soup is too salty, but he doesn’t hate it, while Gail Simmons got blasted by spicy tuna. The dish received a couple of compliments, but it doesn’t look too good for our girl.
  • Mike Isabella creates Fried Chicken with Pea Puree, Egg Yolk Empanada with Mustard Gravy. Michelle Bernstein was initially thrown by the empanada, but ended up really liking it. Nobody was “wowed” over Mike’s chicken.
  • Richard Blais creates Beef Goulash, Spaetzle with Sour Cream and Apple Strudel with Tarragon Cream. You pretty much know Richard has this one when the noise after the first bites are “Mmmm…”, but he did undercook the onion.

The judges deliberate while the chefs completely stress out. The chefs are called back to the table where Padma tells them that the “Judges Table is starting now”. And who’s the big winner?

Richard Blais is the big winner!! He instantly gets to move on to the Top Chef finale – but I think we all pretty much expected that.

Mike Isabella, Antonia Lafaso & Richard Blais
Now it’s down to Antonia Lafaso and Mike Isabella. Only one will be moving on to the Top Chef finale. And this is where Padma whips out that “surprise” that she had mentioned earlier. Mike says “Oh shit”. Antonia and Mike must go head to head in another challenge to cook one more bite for each dinner guest (7 in all) in 45 minutes – they need to make it perfect and the best bite wins.
  • Antonia Lafaso serves Seared Grouper in Coconut Lobster Broth with a Yam, Apple and Dill Pollen Relish.
  • Mike Isabella serves Tempura Lobster over Beef Tartare with Caramelized Olives and Chimichurri Sauce.
We see Mike sweating like a pig as the judges debate. Antonia’s dish was bold and Mike Izzy’s dish was subtle. It’s a tie between the judges (three and three) with Wolfgang Puck as the tie-breaker. Mike and Antonia are called back in. And the judges review what they liked and didn’t like about each bite. Then Padma says…

“Antonia, please pack your knives and go.”

Antonia Lafaso packs her knives...
Antonia Lafaso is sent home and Mike Isabella makes it to the finale?? I kind saw this coming, but was honestly hoping for some sort of miracle. Even Padma looks as if she’s about to cry (which never happens).

Antonia, you may not have made it to the finale, but you are a rock star Top Chef in my book. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you everywhere soon.

Next week on Top Chef All Stars Episode 16: It’s the Top Chef Finale and Mike and Richard have to create the restaurant of their dreams with the help of ALL of the eliminated chefs – including Jamie Lauren?? The rest of the cheftestants return as sous chefs to assist Richard Blais and Mike Isabella in the final culinary battle for the title of “Top Chef”. Aussie Chef Curtis Stone (the new host of Top Chef Masters Season 3) is a guest judge.

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