Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shirts Optional: The Top Chef All Stars recap

It’s morning in the boy’s hotel room, which I imagine smells of oregano, Axe Body Wash, and flop sweat.

Richard, who apparently sleeps in the latest from the K-Fed sleepwear collection, wakes up Mike, who, in a cruel twist of fate, sleeps topless. (I wish I could say that this will be the last time the words “Mike” and “topless” are used in the same sentence in this blog, but I just can’t lie like that.)

Mike is feeling pretty good about himself, after last week’s triumph.
“I feel like I’m finally getting back on track,” he announces.
(Was he ever actually on track?)

As the gang makes their way to the Quickfire Challenge, Bravo shows us some beautiful Bahamian scenery—beaches and exotic birds and the like—but it tells you a lot about me that I all I have in my notes is: “Ooooh, doggie!”

Padma, still fully clothed, is standing in the kitchen with chef Lorena Garcia. “You’ll get to see her on NBC’s new competition show, America’s Next Great Restaurant!” Padma gushes. (Yes, as a matter of fact, NBC does own Bravo.)

The challenge is to pair up and create 100 completely identical dishes for a luncheon. I fully support this. (I hate when someone at my table orders the same dish as me but mine has one anemic crab claw stuck on top and theirs looks like the heavenly bounty of the sea. Food jealousy is no laughing matter, people.)

Despite Antonia and Mike’s newfound blood relation, the boys team up (bros before cousins, I guess) and Antonia lies and says she wanted Tiffany all along.

Blais and Mike are making macaroni with pork ragu.
Antonia and Tiffany are making seared beef tenderloin salad with lentils.

Then everyone starts taking shots at each other. (I love chef trash talk. It’s so cute.)

Blais derisively calls what the girls are doing “slice and serve.” “Seared tuna, put a salad on it. Seared beef: mango salad.” (Not. . .mango salad!?! Words hurt you know, Blais.)

“Our plating was much more difficult than scooping Bolognese onto a plate,” counters Antonia. (Easy plating? You . . . bitch!)

Then Mike attempts some trash talk, but it gets lost in translation:
“If I had to do Antonia and Tiffany’s dish, I probably could’ve sent Richard to the store to celebrate the win because I could’ve done it by myself,” says Mike.
(Wait? Didn’t he just say the girls had the winning dish?

Lorena and Padma like both dishes a lot, but in the end, Mike’s prediction comes true. The girls win.

“Are you serious? The beef salad won?” groans Mike, ever the gracious loser.

“It was a bit of an in-your-face moment,” says Tiffany. Sweet.

Time for the Elimination Challenge: To make a dish for the Nassau Yacht Club anniversary party on a deserted island using the much-maligned mollusk, the conch.

A boat is waiting to pick them up and, ladies and gentlemen, the bikini has landed! I repeat, the bikini has landed! And it was worth the wait.

“Puttin’ us all to shame, Padma,” says Tiffany.
(“I am totally joining a gym tomorrow,” says maxthegirl, munching on a Munchos, because tomorrow is, like, hours away.)

Padma smiles and struts away like she’s on a Bahamian runway. Werk it, girl.

On the boat (and Mike is right, the captain does look like Sammy Haggar), the chefs speculate about what awaits them.

Blais expects a “Lord of the Flies” type scenario.

Mike is trying to “stay cool calm and collective [sic].”
“We’re not going to be cleaning our own conchs and breaking them apart. Everything’s going to be there, everything’s going to be fine.”
(Said the cast and crew of Two and a Half men.)

As they approach the island, they all decide to hop out of the boat and swim to shore, allegedly to get started as quickly as possible, but more likely because a producer thought it would look funny. (It does.)
“I feel like I’m storming the beaches at Normandy,” says Richard. (Oh Blais: Why so funny?)

Their work stations are all set up with their proteins and other classic ingredients including. . .snorkel equipment. You guessed it: no damn conch.

Time for the fun island game: Bobbing for conch.

And this requires all of them, including Mike, to wear bathing suits.

“I don’t want to see Mike Isabella topless,” says Blais. “And neither do you.” It’s like he can read my thoughts.

Off they all go, and Antonia, who was on the swim team in high school, is actually a pretty good diver, and Tiffany and Mike are doing okay, but Richard is having a heck of a time snagging one of those little suckers. He keeps grabbing for it and missing. Grab. Miss. Grab. Miss. I could watch this all day.

Finally, they all get a sufficient amount of conch and they’re back on shore, starting to cook.

Now the big issue is cracking open a conch, no easy task. Lots of hilarious banging and cursing ensues.

The other big concern? Not getting sand in the food. There are two places you definitely don’t want sand. In your food and in your crotch.
They try to be meticulous about it.

The yacht party comes and the guests, all dressed in pristine white, are like some bad cliché of what members of a yacht club would look like. One of the guests is a dead ringer for Roman Polanski so . . .hide the children.

Richard mulls over his prospects: “I think there’s an added pressure on me, because I lost my season so I know the gravity of this,” he says. He seems to have completely missed the concept behind this whole “All-Stars” thing.

He notices that everyone has done an island theme for their conch dish.
“I must’ve missed the memo,” he shrugs.
Well, it wasn’t so much a memo as this GIANT DESERTED ISLAND you boated to.
But to each his own.
Instead, he’s opted for a Long Island take on conch: Sweet potato “linguini” with conch sauce and lobster, pictured.

Everyone likes the dish, and Tom is even faked out by the pseudo linguini (psych!), but some of the lobster is undercooked.

Next up Antonia, who does a very “Antonia” dish—seared red snapper with conch tartar.
Apparently, the tartar is spicy, which the natives love. Wimpy Gail gulps water.
And Tom thinks the Antonia’s dish under-utilizes the conch.

Meanwhile, a storm is dramatically brewing overhead. And I’m pretty sure it’s real, not CGI.

It blows over, but not before wreaking havoc on Tiffany’s conch chowder, which comes out cold.

“Is it supposed to be cold?” is debated at the table.
Consensus: No.
Also, while the dish is well-received, Tom thinks the chowder is too sweet.

Finally, Mike comes out with his banana leaf wrapped grouper with conch vinaigrette and savory pineapple.

Again, largely well received. Tom thinks the dish has unnecessary butter, but Gail is in LURVE with the savory pineapple. She wants to mate with it.

Zany antics during the commercial break, as the cheftestants debate which Gilligan’s Island character they are.
Obvs, Mike is the Skipper and Blais is the Professor. Carla? Gilligan. (Check.) Not so sure about this Tiffany-as-Ginger theory. Clearly, Padma is Ginger. Both Antonia and Tiffany are duking it out for Mary-Anne.

Then I see something that perhaps burns my eyes more than the sight of Mike in a bathing suit: A commercial for Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen on the SyFy network.

(Who decided this? And why didn’t they consult with me first? There’s only one show Marcel should ever be on and that’s Tool Academy. )

As the chefs wait in the stew room, we have our weekly edition of “I Hate My Dish, I Suck, and Then I Die.”
Everyone is whining about how their dish failed until Tiffany chimes in with: “I was actually happy with my dish. I did exactly what I wanted to do and I liked it.”

There is a long, stunned, uncomprehending silence. They stare at her like she has three heads.

The judges want to see everybody.

Congrats all around. Delicious food and not one errant grain of sand (in their crotches). Huzzah!

Now the tough part:

Antonia’s dish good, but too predictable. (She gives a little speech about how she was GOING for predictable.)

Richard’s dish gets lots of praise—and Richard even manages to give a few constipated smiles—until Lorena Garcia tells him that her lobster was undercooked. He immediately looks suicidal.

Tiffany’s soup was done-in by a strong Caribbean wind.
And Tom keeps insisting it was too sweet. (My sister thinks he was harping on the sweetness because it was Tiffany’s time to go, and I tend to agree.)

Gail is still obsessing over Mike’s pineapple. “Exactly how did you make it?” she says, taking notes. (Opening Next Month: Gail’s Savory Pineapple Grill.)

And … Mike wins.
Richard, who should never, ever, under any circumstances play poker, visibly flinches.

Mike wanders back to the stew room, victorious yet alone.
“Hard to celebrate when I’m here by myself,” he notes. Then he raises a champagne glass and gives a sad little “cheers” to himself.

And it’s time for Tiffany to please pack her knives and go.
She takes it well.
“I thought the dish was a good dish but I was outcooked and that’s the bottom line,” she says.
It’s called self-esteem, folks. Look it up.

Then she adds, “Sometimes you don’t get where you want to go, but you get much further than you were before.”

Off to go make that my Facebook status. See ya next week, peeps.

1 comment:

KLB said...

I'm so glad you caught Mike's flub "stay calm and collective." I turned to Mick to ask if he'd heard it but he was busy chewing on a tennis ball.

I think your wrap up was (far) more entertaining than this episode.

Oh and I would rather watch Rachel Ray than Marcel's new show. Who the hell is their audience?