Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef All Stars Episode 13 Recap: Top Chef Finale Part 1

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Episode 13 Recap: Top Chef Finale Part 1

The 5 remaining chefs return for the Top Chef Finale, Part 1
How juiced were you about this week’s Top Chef All Stars, episode 13?? It made me laugh, it made me cry (that might have been the onions in my salad), but best of all: It had a serious Quickfire! So happy that Bravo TV made retribution for last week’s Top Chef slowdown. It's the first part of the Top Chef All Stars finale, so we all know this episode ain’t gonna end pretty.

And now, here’s the recap for Top Chef All Stars Episode 13: Fit for a King

A few months have passed since the previous episode and we see the five chefs arrive, looking tanned and relaxed (and Richard Blais sporting some new facial hair). While the chefs wait for their Quickfire, they take a moment to reflect on their previous seasons/finales:
  • Antonia Lafaso says she wants the title more than the money.
  • Richard Blais remembers choking in his Puerto Rico-based Top Chef finale and doesn’t want a repeat.
  • Carla Hall remembers losing her finale because she didn’t follow her own instincts – clearly, she didn’t make that mistake this season (hootie!).
  • Mike Isabella spent his break in Washington D.C., training for the finale.
  • Tiffany Derry acknowledges her “underdog” position and is grateful that she wasn’t cut at #5 again.
Then Padma Lakshmi and guest judge Eric Ripert pop in to take the chefs to their Quickfire challenge. The chefs walk into the ruins of an old fort and set eyes upon (pause – wait for it…) the Top Chef Winners from their original seasons: Hosea Rosenberg, Michael Voltaggio, Kevin Sbraga and Stephanie Izard.

Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard & Antonia Lafaso
Quickfire Challenge:  The remaining chefs are matched against the Top Chef of their respective season for an opportunity to beat their season’s winner. The winner for each table gets $10,000. Each table is also sporting  a mystery meat that will be used as their main ingredient. The teams and meat are as follows:
Carla Hall and Hosea Rosenberg get lamb.
Richard Blais, Antonia Lafaso and Stephanie Izard get rack of veal.
Mike Isabella and Michael Voltaggio get a whole duck.
Tiffany Derry and Kevin Sbraga get pork.

Kevin Sbraga makes Barbeque Pork with Cilantro, Celery, Shaved Onions and Citrus.
Tiffany Derry makes a Pork Stew with Potatoes, Peppers, Citrus and Allspice.
Winner: Tiffany wins! You go girl!

Hosea Rosenberg makes Braised Leg of Lamb in Red Chili Broth with Olives and Mint, Goat Cheese and Rosemary Polenta.
Carla Hall makes Rice and Harissa Lamb with Peppers, Onions and Lime.
Winner: Hosea wins… Carla’s lamb was undercooked…

Stephanie Izard makes Veal Scallopini with Tapenade and Poached Egg.
Antonia Lafaso makes a Roasted Veal, Leek and Almonds Puree with Sautéed Mushrooms, Arugula and Raisins.
Winner:  Stephanie wins over Antonia in a split judges' vote! But neither dish was anything to write home about.

Richard Blais makes a Seared Veal Loin and Braised Veal Cap with Raisins, Carrots, Potatoes and Mushrooms.
Stephanie is competing with the same dish that beat Antonia.
Winner:  Richard wins! Kinda saw that one coming…

Michael Voltaggio butchers a duck in the Quickfire
Michael Voltaggio makes a Duck Breast and Duck Leg in Bacon Vinaigrette, Burnt Leek and Coffee Pesto.
Mike Isabella makes a Cashew Dusted Spiced Duck Breast with Duck Leg and Mushroom Jus.
Winner: Mike Izzy wins over Michael V?? It was another split judges' decision, but I never saw that coming. Probably didn’t help that Michael V. did all the butchering…

With Richard, Tiffany and Mike Isabella all $10k richer, the chefs move on to the Elimination Challenge.

The Elimination Challenge: The chefs have to be on top of their game as they cook for Bahamian royalty. They have 2 ½ hours to prep in the kitchen of the hotel they’re staying at and then they’ll have 1 hour to cook at the serving location. The kitchen is fully stocked so they won’t need to do any shopping this time around.

Carla Hall prepping her Elimination dish
The chef prep in the hotel kitchen with the usual chaos we see every week. It’s sad to see Carla lose her confidence, but we’ve seen this before and she always makes it through with flying colors. Mike Isabella goes off on a girl-hating rant, claiming that they’re playing it safe. I was a Mike Izzy fan until he stole Richard Blais’s chicken oysters. Since then, he’s embraced the exact obnoxiousness that made him so unlikable in his original Top Chef season.

The chefs finish prep and head to their elimination challenge local – making a pit stop at a Marde Gras-like parade, where the chefs take a moment to party with the locals. When they arrive at their cooking destination, they find out that the kitchen they have to work with is micro-sized in comparison to the one they just came from. But the chefs suck it up and get to work cooking for fifty people.

Antonia begins using one of the deep fryers and notices that the one next to it is beginning to smoke. Then the burner bursts into flames and the chefs are evacuated from the kitchen – all of them more concerned about the safety of their food over the idea of being burned alive. As the chefs wait to return to the kitchen, we see an uglier side of Richard as he tries to psych out Antonia, who is already freaking from the fiery setback.

Tom inspects the kitchen and reports back to the chefs – and it’s not good. The chemicals from the fire extinguisher contaminated their food. The chefs will have to start their meals from scratch (again). This is where I shed a tear, though it was probably from the red onion in my salad. The chefs remake their dishes, but Carla’s pork medallions are undercooked and Antonia doesn’t feel right about her dish. It’s clear that the pressure has gotten to both of them.

Eric Ripert, Gail Simmons & Tom Colicchio
The chefs serve up their dishes to the judges, the King of Junkanoo and the other guests.
  • Carla serves up Fried Pork Medallion with Sweet Potato Puree, Apple Sauce and Apple Chip.
  • Antonia serves up Crispy Shrimp and Grits with Cilantro and Pickled Vegetables.
  • Mike Isabella serves up a Sous Vide Chicken, Mushrooms, Yams, Lobster Sauce and Lobster Hash.
  • Richard serves up Roasted Lamb Loin and Malted Braised Leg with Pickled Turnip and Mustard.
  • Tiffany serves up Roasted Spiced Pork Tenderloin, Dirty Rice, Curried Slaw and Tomato Jam.

Nobody seems blown away by the dishes they’re served. But what do they expect?? If there were a fire at a “real” restaurant, the entire place would have been shut down for at least a day. To get smacked with a fiery catastrophe, just to be tossed back in, an hour or so later just isn’t fair. The chef that wouldn’t be impacted by that is someone I would love to meet.

The Elimination:
All five chefs are sent to the Judges table, where they’re told that the entire meal was a miss (owch). Carla’s pork was undercooked and her apples were too sweet, Tiffany’s dish lacked complexity, Richard’s lamb was cooked well, but it was still missing something and his cannelloni didn’t impress everyone. The only chef who didn’t get the smackdown is Mike Isabella. His dish wasn’t amazing, but it didn’t suck.

Which is why we’re not surprised when Mikey wins. Are you wondering if he was the one who started the fire? I didn’t mean that. Just the lingering bitterness of chicken oysters…

Chef Carla Hall departed with grace and we'll miss her.
And then they select the chef to send home. Padma says…

“Carla, please pack your knives a go.”

Wow… Really?? Carla takes the blow, like a champ. And she should – for most of the season, she was the champ. This was only a single episode with a single loss after many, many wins. We love you Hootie Girl!

Next week, on Top Chef All Stars Episode 14: It’s a very hot Top Chef finale! Padma sports a bikini, the chefs have to fish for their ingredients (not on a boat this time), and they’ll be cooking up one of their meals on the beach…

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