Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recap Roundup - Top Chef All-Stars Episode 4

Minxeats on the Quickfire: "This is the Swanson Broth Quickfire to test the contestants' imagination and resourcefulness; the one who excels will win not only immunity from Elimination in the next challenge but also $20K. And possibly a lifetime supply of Swanson Broth."

Jordan Baker on this week's "fakeout" scene: "Fakeback! It seems to involve some kind of cheerleading challenge, where Mike says “you cheer, she dances, and Angelo will be like the male dancer.” Then they all dance and talk about how Mike brings out the goofier side of them."

After Ellen on smooth moves: "Guest Judge Tony calls out Carla, Tiffani and Casey’s dishes as his least favorite. His favorites then are Tre and Marcel. But then who took home immunity and big bucks? Tre. Thrilled with his win he runs out to shake Tony’s hand and give Padma a hug. Smooth move, man – you’ve got to take your opportunities to get a little mmm, Padma, mmm action whenever you can."

Monkeys as Critics on a Zen attitude: "The chefs go raring into the pantry like shoppers at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Carla being Carla, she decides to walk in after the melee has died down. Thus, Carla ends up with black quinoa. Black quinoa actually could be wonderful if it didn’t take forever and a day to cook, and while this que sera, sera attitude is awfully zen by way of Doris Day of her, I wish she’d fight a little harder."

Fork in the Road on Antonia's athletic prowess: " But the very best line of the night, and possibly Top Chef's entire history to date, came from Antonia, who shrugged and said, 'I never played sports in high school. I smoked a lot of pot and didn't do anything else.' For that, we would like to declare this season finished, with Antonia as its de-facto champion."

Max the Girl on guest judges: "Also, not to be ungrateful, but of all the hot, high-profile tennis stars they could’ve gotten—Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokavich, Andy Roddick—they go with...Taylor Dent? (Cue the 'you lose' game show music.) Nothing against Mr. Dent, boy has a wicked serve. But still...."

Carol Blymire on team dynamics: "Tre goes next even though he has immunity, and Angelo "helps" Tre by overcooking his fish. Stitch [Jamie] just hides her sorry ass in the background, saying she really doesn't want to go at all because her dish is terrible and she'll lose. My question is: Why does no one stand up to her? Why does her team let her pull this crap?"

Creative Loafing on Taylor Dent: "As for the Elimination Challenge, they were once again on teams and competing at the US Open (the famous tennis venue), creating healthy dishes for tennis players. I’m not quite sure who the pro tennis player guest judge was, but I do know that they could’ve picked someone a bit more articulate to judge — someone who gave us more than, 'That tasted good.'"

EW on Dale's judgement of Carla's decision to make soup: "Dale shows poor psychic abilities. 'Has anyone been to the U.S. Open?' he asks, a distinct tone of judgment in his voice. 'It’s a very upscale event.' He explains via confessional that vegetarian soups are not upscale, using 'vegetarian' in the same vaguely sinister way some people say, 'Barack Hussein Obama.'"

Eater on alleged nutritional supplements: "As anyone who follows tennis knows, tennis players are high-performance athletes, and they follow a very strict diet: it's all about healthy and high energy food, and also recreational cocaine use. The chefs first split into teams using the very normal colored-tennis-ball ethos."

Food and More on strategy gone awry: "So, it is up to Tre to keep them from the loser’s table. That sounds great, in theory, until Tre decides that Angelo should be trusted to cook his fish. Perhaps Tre didn’t remember shafting him out of his extra salmon earlier, but I’m pretty sure that Angelo did. Creepy Mc-graphic tees proceeds to over baste the crap out of Tre’s salmon."

Cliffieland on hair don'ts: "Poor Spike. As much as I hated him in his season, I'd become quite fond of him this time around. Plus, we finally saw why he always wears the stupid hats: The all-powerful and world-encompassing Jewfro"

If you have a recap that I've missed, let me know and I'll do a part deux. I know the holidays caused a hiccup in blogging. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

TC News and Information 12.27.10

Mike Isabella reveals more about last week's tennis-themed Elimination Challenge, talks about his upcoming pizza restaurant, and claims there was less drinking during the All-Stars season than previous seasons in this video interview from the Washington Post.

Atlanta Magazine catches up with Kevin Gillespie here and gets an update on his plans "to create an old-fashioned, old timey-style barbecue joint meant to emulate the original roots of barbecue" - mmmmmmmmmmm.

You can catch Tre Wilcox doing cooking demos in Brandon, Florida Jan. 13 and 14.

And here's a look at the Magical Elves' newest food-related TV show.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Episode 4

Check out Rick Moonen preparing Carla's recipe for African Groundnut Soup here.

You can find the printable recipe here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Spike Mendelsohn

Top Chef All Stars competitor, Spike Mendelsohn talks about his experience on the Bravo Show.

Click here for the podcast.

Spike has written a cookbook and plans to open several new restaurants.

Click here to learn more about Good Stuff Eatery, and click here for We The Pizza.

Thank you Chef Spike!

ATC Love to Chef Spike Mendelsohn

Team challenges are always the dodgy obstacles of early elimination rounds, and even the best chefs can be tripped up by the group dynamic. That appears to have been the problem for Spike Mendelsohn, whose tomato tamarind soup, olive oil poached shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes, and dill was judged to be the worst dish of the Elimination Challenge. The downfall of the dish could have been the overcooked shrimp, which was clearly on Spike, or it could have been the components added by his teammates at the last second before serving. Either way, Spike had to take responsibility for the dish and its shortcomings.

Each elimination in this All-Star competition seems particularly sad since we are seeing many of the brightest stars from the previous seven seasons. It's difficult to see any of them go, but go they must, so we bid a regretful farewell to Spike. Of course, with a successful restaurant business and a cookbook in the bookstores, we certainly have not heard the last from this talented chef.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Spike. If you  have anything negative to say about him or his competition, please do so here.

Congratulation Chef Carla Hall!

Carla has often shown herself to be the calm, cool professional and her zen-like composure stood her in good stead for this week's episode. After seriously cutting her finger during the Elimination Challenge, Carla had her finger bandaged up and she kept on cooking. Good thing too, because her African ground nut soup with baked sweet potatoes, adzuki beans, and peanuts not only helped Team Orange clinch the win, but it was also deemed the best dish of the evening.

This season of Top Chef is super-charged with highly vocal, dominating chefs, but Carla finds a way to quietly rise to top. It will be interesting to see if her cool demeanor helps or hurts her as the competition heats up.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Carla. If you  have anything negative to say about her or her competition, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Episode 4

Feeling stunned by the double elimination of Chefs Stephen and Dale L., the cheftestants retreat to a bar for the usual second guessing and vows to do better next time. But soon a new day dawns and the chefs are back in the Top Chef Kitchen where they meet Padma and guest judge, Chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago. Their Quickfire Challenge is to create what they consider to be the world's best stuffing in 45 minutes, but the catch is they can't use any knives or kitchen utensils. The winner not only gets immunity but $20,000.

For the next 45 minutes, the chefs scramble around the kitchen bashing and scraping with anything they find available. Fabio grates his parmesan cheese on the webbed surface of a metal shelf. Tiffani F. rips apart a quail with a pepper grinder.

When time is called, Padma and Chef Mantuano make the rounds and pass judgment. The least favored are Carla, for her undonete quinoa, Tiffani F. for her too sweet soy maple stuffing with quartered grapes, and Casey for her mushroom, chicken liver, and miso cake. The top two were Tre's Southwestern inspired bread pudding with apple-smoked bacon,cheddar, bell pepper, and chilli powder, and Marcel's whole squab, stuffing with raisin brioche, cherries, currants, and Ras El Hanout gravy. While one bread pudding got Tre eliminated the first time on Top Chef, this new bread pudding gave him the win.

The Elimination Challenge is set at the U.S. Open where the chefs are asked to make healthy dishes befitting a professional tennis player. The chefs are broken out into two teams. In the spirit of a tennis match, a chef from each team will go head-to-head, each offering a dish from which the winning dish will be chosen. The first team to receive four wins will be declared the winning team of the challenge. The teams broke out like this:

Team Orange - Mike, Fabio, Marcel, Carla, Dale, Richard, and Antonia
Team Yellow - Angelo, Spike, Tiffani F., Jamie, Casey, Tre, and Tiffany D.

That night, the groups go into private areas to menu plan and strategize. While the Orange team decides to just make the best dishes they can and figure out who goes first when they get to the event, Team Yellow believes the best strategy is to send out the worst dishes first and finish strong.

The next morning is shopping at Whole Foods and prep work. Carla cuts her finger, but gets bandaged up and goes back to cooking. Angelo is not happy with the condition of his fish and goes begging other chefs for some of theirs. Spike overcooks his shrimp and doesn't have time to cook new ones.

Next they move to the tennis court where they set up for the game. Joining Padma, Tom, Gail, and Chef Mantuano is guest Taylor Dent, a professional tennis player. For the first round, Team Yellow wants to send out Jamie because she clearly has the weakest dish, but because her beans are not fully cooked, she refuses and Casey volunteers to go first. So its Fabio versus Casey and Fabio's gnocchi wins, putting Team Orange ahead 15-0. Next is Dale versus Tiffani F. Tiffani's sashimi wins, so it's 15 all. Angelo and Marcel go head-to-head, and Angelo wins, so Team Yellow is ahead. Antonia and Tiffany D. are next, and Antonia's scallop ties the game. Richard beats Spike, whose tomato tamarind soup was modified by Angelo, and the Orange team moves ahead. When Carla goes up against Tre, her African ground nut soup beats out Tre's salmon and Team Orange wins!

The four winners of Team Orange go to the Judges' Table first for compliments, and then Chef Mantuano declares Carla's African ground nut soup with sweet potatoes, adzuki beans, and peanuts the winner. Next, the losers from Team Yellow are brought out. Casey's pork tenderloin was considered too heavy for a healthy dish, Tiffany D. salad was overdressed and her tuna was underseasoned, Tre's salmon was deemed overcooked (Angelo cooked the salmon), and Spike's soup was a mess of ingredients. While Spike called out his teammates for messing around with his original concept, Tre kept quiet about Angelo cooking his salmon, probably because he had immunity. Finally, it was Spike who was asked to leave.

So what did you think about last night's episode? Was it Spike's time to go? Should Jamie have gone first in the challenge? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Chef All Stars Episode Four Previews

The remaining All-Stars must step up their game in this week’s Quickfire when all of the tools & utensils in the kitchen are taken away, and for $20,000, the chef’testants must create a delicious holiday stuffing dish using only their two hands – will they prove their skills without their toys? And the game has only just started as the chef’testants must cater a launch party for the US Open, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. Will the All-Stars find themselves at an “advantage” for this Elimination Challenge? Or will their dishes end in a “fault”? Find out TONIGHT 12/22 @ 10/9c TOP CHEF ALL-STARS!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TC News and Information 12.21.10

Which guest judge, living or dead, would Tom Colicchio most like to snag for Top Chef? Mario Batali is one name Tom mentions in this interview. Although Colicchio hasn't talked Batali into it yet, I'm betting Amy Sedaris is likely to appear in an upcoming season. And the All-Stars finale still hasn't been filmed . . .

If you're looking for a wild and wacky holiday dish, check out the video of Richard Blais's scrambled eggnog here, accompanied by an interesting interview that talks more about his new show, Blais Off, plus All-Stars.
And a hearty congratulations to Yigit Pura, who now has an official "day" named in his honor!

Recap Roundup: Top Chef All Stars Episode 3

Minxeats on the Quickfire: "For the Quickfire Challenge, our numerous re-cheftestants have to team up and compete in a relay race, but not just any relay race! Yes, it is a three-legged race, complete with burlap bags and rope! No, only kidding - but wouldn't that have been fun? Imagine Fabio and Marcel as partners...or Marcel and just about anyone."

Jordan Baker is no longer enchanted by Fabio: "Fabio is baffled by the idea of cooking French and Vietnamese food, but Fabio being baffled by the prospect of making something other than Italian is nothing new, and since I no longer find him thoroughly charming, I can’t be bothered to pound out each laborious syllable of his comments."

Monkeys as Critics on Antonia: "I love that Antonia and Jamie are on the same team. Maybe Antonia can cut herself and wrap the wound in duct tape, just to show us how it’s done. But what really kills me is that Antonia doesn’t know how to peel more than one garlic clove at a time. I’m not a professional chef and even I know that you smash ‘em. I have lost all respect for Antonia, honestly. That’s just a special level of dumb."

Fork in the Road on Stephen: "After dinner, Stephen informed us that fashion 'has become a MAJOR obsession of mine, but it could be cocaine or heroin, so it could always be worse.' And that's so true, because with Stephen, it could always be worse."

Max the Girl on Carla: "Back in the kitchen, Carla, who doesn’t like anything fancy or newfangled, is standing over a cauldron of liquid nitrogen, looking like some sort of culinary Wicca. She’s going to really need to evoke the Power of the Hootie if she’s going to pull this one off."

Reality TV Calendar on the Quickfire: "All teams now have 15 minutes to complete their mis en place and prepare one amazing dish using the ingredients they just prepped. If a team is still prepping when the clock starts, oh well, tough tomatoes."

What'ere Jane Eyre on Too Many Cheftestants: "Even though each individual elimination is momentous in an All-Star season, there are still an awful lot of people running around the Kitchen. So, in order to get this season done before Easter, there's a double elimination tonight."

Cliffieland breaks down the teams and their assigned restaurants: "Angelo, Fabio, EverExpandingDoucheyMike and Tiffany get David Chang's French-Vietnamese Má Pêche. Richard, Spike, Stephen, and Tre go to Chef Michael White's Italian-themed Marea (Italian for 'tide,' Spanish for 'it annoys' or 'it makes me dizzy/seasick'). Carla, Dale T., Marcel, and Tiffani head off to Chef Wylie Dufresne's molecular gastronomy-and-chest-to-neck-whiskers-themed wd~50. Antonia, Casey, Dale L., and Jamie get Chef David Burke's Townhouse, a 'New American' dining experience."

Carol Blymire on Angelo: "After being greeted at Má Pêche by David Chang in chef whites (hot!), Angelo becomes "that guy" about the food. You know the type: the socially retarded guy with culinary verbal diarrhea who over-analyzes and talks about every single ingredient, technique and nuance as he's eating something. It's clearly giving Tiffany D. the stabby thoughts."

Best Week Ever on Bourdain's critique of Stephen's dish: "Stephen was certainly the favorite to get voted off coming into this episode, and that became even more apparent after Bourdain said his food “tasted like a head shop.” Like nothing Bourdain has ever said, I don’t entirely grasp this critique; some would argue that pot tastes delicious, though if you’re arguing that the food tasted like glass and metal instruments for smoking said pot, then it’d clearly be terrible, but also huh?"

My Monkey Could Do That on Padma's powers of observation: " The red team (Antonia, Casey, Jamie, and DaleL) get a greeting of “Hello, ladies” from Padma, as DaleL slowly raises his hand in the back."

Creative Loafing on the luck of the draw: "Angelo thought he was lucky for getting to cook Chang’s cuisine and Stephen thought he had it made getting to cook at Marea. Meanwhile, the chefs who had to cook the wacky and/or molecular gastronomy delights at WD-50 and Townhouse thought they were screwed (and they kind of were, I think)."

Procrastiblog's stray thought of the week: "Angelo: If an Italian thinks your pants are too tight, your pants are too tight."

Monday, December 20, 2010

TC News and Information 12.20.10

Spike Mendelsohn was out playing Santa last week, for his favorite charity and MasterCard, and blogger HowChow caught up with him for an interview that reveals he's looking to expand his restaurant empire further, and shares some behind-the-scenes Top Chef dish, including the fact that often dishes get cold during filming, but apparently that is not a factor in the judging.

Did you catch the two-part pilot Friday night of Richard Blais's new show, "Blais Off," on the Science Channel? Professor Blais learns from old-school restaurants, then fashions his own spin on their favorite dishes with his modern techniques, letting customers vote for their favorite in this "Throwdown"-style program that is also a vehicle for him to explain in detail about so-called molecular gastronomy. You can read more about it here, here and here.

Meanwhile, Fabio Viviani was in Houston recently filming cooking demonstrations for his new iPhone/iPad app for Bertolli. You can find interviews with him here, where he talks about being a private chef for William Shatner, and here, where he takes about whatever became of that Bravo show he was supposed to star in.

Dale Levitski may have been eliminated during last week's All-Stars episode, but he maintains a sense of humor about it. He's reworked the veal dish that got him auf'd, this time with peanut, corn, honey and celery and is offering it at his Chicago restaurant, Sprout.

Here's a sweet interview with Top Chef: Just Desserts' winner Yigit Pura, and All-Star Tiffani Faison gets a great write-up about what she's doing at Boston's Rocca here.

Finally, Bravo may have a new food show in the works. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Episode 3

Check out the video of Rick Moonen cooking Dale Talde's egg dish here.

Find a printable version here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bravo Exit Interview - Stephen Asprinio

Bravo Exit Interview - Dale Levitski

All Top Chef Interview with Stephen Asprinio

Chef Stephen Asprinio talks about his experience on Top Chef All-Stars.

A highlight: Stephen plans to open a new restaurant in Chelsea called Pizza Vino. Please stay tuned to ATC for updates.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here for Stephen's website.

Thank you Chef Stephen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Dale Levitski

Photo: Eric Futran

Chef Dale talks about his experience on Top Chef All Stars.

A highlight: Dale has opened a restaurant with Sara Nguyen.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here to learn more about Dale's Chicago restaurant, Sprout.

Thank you Chef Dale!

ATC Love to Stephen Asprinio

Chef Stephen became the second rather surprising elimination this week. Cooking at Marea, an Italian restaurant where he had dined frequently, and being Italian himself, he seemed to have a great advantage in this challenge. Unfortunately, his dish - despite having nicely-cooked salmon, contained too many herbal elements which gave it an unpleasant perfumy quality.

Stephen, we're sorry to see you leave so early. You did well in season one, and we would have loved to see you do at least as well in this competition. We wish you much success with your endeavors in the future.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Stephen. If you  have anything negative to say about him or his competition, please do so here.

ATC Love to Chef Dale Levitski

The promos said this would be a shocking elimination, and it was indeed...particularly since Casey noted that Dale was probably the chef best equipped to win the challenge. He cooked American food, as does David Burke at Townhouse, albeit with more than a touch of whimsey. Unfortunately, Dale took his whimsy a bit too far, creating a dish that was more like breakfast, but with veal, which lost him the competition.

Dale, we're so sorry to see you leave this contest so soon, and we hope that we will see you again, perhaps as you suggested in Top Chef 16!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Dale. If you  have anything negative to say about him or his competition, please do so here.

Congratulations, Chef Dale Talde!

A hearty ATC congratulations to Chef Dale Talde for winning this week's Elimination Challenge and a bonus six-night trip to New Zealand!

Dale prepared a dish that would make WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne proud without compromising his own technique or losing himself in molecular gastronomy - marks of a true Top Chef.

Congrats Dale! We hope to see you in the winner's circle yet again before this competition is over.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Dale. If you  have anything negative to say about him or his competition, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Episode 3

This week, the sixteen remaining Season 8 cheftestants met up at the Top Chef kitchen to find Padma with David Chang, renowned chef/owner of the Momofuku empire. He is there to judge the Quickfire, which is a race. Not a relay race as in past seasons, because this time everyone works at the same time in order to chop a butt-load of garlic, cut lamb into chops, and turn artichokes. The first team to complete all three tasks then has fifteen minutes to cook a dish with those ingredients while the other teams continue to struggle with their mise en place. Consequently, each team that finishes after the first team will have less time to complete their dish.

Padma decided the teams would be formed by the way the chefs stood next to each other when they filed into the room. It panned out like this:

Green Team: Angelo, Fabio, Tiffany, Mike
White Team: Dale T, Carla, Marcel, Tiffani
Red Team: Antonio, Casey, Dale L., Jamie
Blue Team: Stephen, Spike, Blais, Tre

After many minutes of simultaneous frenzy, the Green Team finishes first and starts the fifteen minute timer. Blue finishes next, then red, then white who ends up with only about 8 minutes of cooking time. Padma and David come in to taste; despite their first place finish, the Green Team produces one of the two worst dishes, as does Red Team. Blue and White are favorites, with Blue getting the win for their dish. They do not get immunity from elimination in the next challenge, but they do get a cool $5000 each.

For the Elimination Challenge, the teams draw knives to pick one of four hot New York restaurants in which they will first dine and then cook. Team Green gets David Chang's newest restaurant Ma Peche, Team Red draws David Burke's Townhouse, Team Blue gets Marea, and Team White has WD-50. They will not work as a team, but will compete against each other.

That evening, each team has dinner at their restaurant to get a feel of the kind of food it serves. Part of the challenge is to create a dish that the restaurant would be proud to put on their menu. The next day, they have two hours to cook. Needless to say, Fabio and Carla are a bit outside of their comfort zone cooking in Ma Peche and WD-50, respectively, while Stephen and Angelo seem to have advantages with Marea and Ma Peche.

The judges go around the city in a cab, dining first at Marea, then Ma Peche, Townhouse, and WD-50. Along for the ride with Padma, Tom, and Bourdain is Food & Wine's Kate Krader, and the chef/owner of each restaurant acts as an additional judge. There seem to be few really horrible dishes in the lot, but Fabio, Dale L, Stephen, and Tiffani manage to end up as the worst from each team. On top are Dale T, Angelo, Tre, and Antonia. While each of the four restaurants would be proud to feature these cheftestants' dishes on their menu, Dale Talde takes the top honors with his egg and pork belly dish for WD-50; he also gets a 6-day trip to New Zealand. Pretty cool.

Since this episode was billed as having a shocking elimination, I feared that Fabio would be one to go, but that was not the case. Instead, Dale L and Stephen both were sent packing for their dishes.

So were you shocked? What did you think about this episode? Please tell us in the comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Double Elimination Shocker!

So the promos would have us believe that tonight's eliminations are a shocker, but I think in an All-Star season, EVERY elimination is a shocker (like what will top last week?) Who's it gonna be?

Top Chef All Stars Episode Three Previews

The All-Stars must brush off their cooking, speed, and accuracy skills when they face the infamous Top Chef Quickfire Challenge: the Mise-en-Place Relay Race! Will some of their past hurdles with this fast-paced competition come back to haunt them? And for the Elimination Challenge, the chef'testants have the privilege of cooking in four of New York's finest restaurants, but will they be able to deliver a dish on-par with the reputation of these establishments? Find out this Wednesday 12/15 @ 10/9c on TOP CHEF ALL-STARS

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TC News and Information 12.14.10 - Insiders' and Spin Edition

The All-Stars Episode 2 elimination was a stunner, wasn’t it? Not only because Jen Carroll was someone a lot of us expected to last further into the All-Stars season, but especially because of the way she went out. I'll get to some thoughts and links about that in a minute. Meanwhile, check out these items for more about that night at the museum from the contestants who were actually there.

Casey Thompson talks about cleaning up after the kids, and says most of the cast had figured out in advance that they would spending the night there (although 75% had no clue who Joe Jonas was) on her blog here.

In this video, Tiffani Faison talks about their teeny-tiny cots and the kids' reactions to Spike's midnight snack, saying she thinks judges table could have gone any number of different ways.

In this audio clip from WGN radio, you can hear Fabio describe in his own inimitable way how foreign this challenge was for him, why he decided to wander around the museum in lieu of sleeping, and how much better Tiff F's Quickfire dish was than Spike's. Fabio also hints that Episode 3 is "very memorable." (Can we take three in a row?)

And in case you're interested in what Episode 2's guest judge Joe Jonas thought of the experience, you can find that via Bravo here.

So . . . I admit to smiling whenever a “serious” news organization features Top Chef, and I read this “morning-after” item from NPR with interest. While I think NPR may prematurely have gotten it wrong in its specific comparison between Jennifer Carroll and Tiffani Faison as to how these two are presenting themselves this time around (other All-Stars who've gotten less face time this season are also mentioned), the piece addresses an interesting point. Some cheftestants seem to be making a concerted effort to soften their edges, while others, notsomuch. Oh, yeah, there’s also that “editing thing,” so a large degree of how we perceive the competitors is shaped by what the Magical Elves choose to air vs. leave on the cutting room floor (where Jen might well have preferred to leave her expletive-filled comments once she’d been booted).

The contestants have no control over how they’re edited for the Bravo episodes. But they do have a choice as to how they present themselves in their post-elimination interviews. Elia Aboumrad might have garnered some sympathy for being the first All-Star cut – until she gave explosive interviews afterward. Jennifer Carroll, in contrast, was shown to blow up on camera, but then gave a lot of interviews two days after the episode aired where she came across in a kindler, gentler, funnier light (you can find some here, here, and here, in addition to our own interview with Jen here). In the judges’ blogs and “extended judging” video on Bravo, there also seems to be a concerted effort on Bravo’s part to dissuade viewers from thinking Jen’s ouster had anything to do with her talking back to judges rather than her dish simply being the least successful on “any given Sunday night at the museum.” Read and decide for yourself.

How are some other All-Stars controlling their own spin and capitalizing on their "second-time-around" exposure?

Tre Wilcox continues his Wednesday night viewing parties at Loft 610, inviting All-Stars friends to cook. Tre did the premiere party, Tiffany Derry sold out the one last week (at $100/person), and Casey Thompson is up at bat this Wednesday.

And Carla Hall is doing a live chat Wednesday night 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. PST / 8:00 p.m.to 9:00 p.m. EST on the Tom’s of Maine Facebook page -www.facebook.com/TomsofMaine – via the Live Chat tab, where she says she'll be talking about cooking with seasonal ingredients and holiday entertaining.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Recap Roundup: Top Chef All Stars Episode 2

Jordan Baker on Dale Talde's unfamiliarity with Joe Jonas: "Dale T. has no idea who he is and thinks he might be a pastry chef. Having survived Just Desserts, we all know that 'looks like a pastry chef' is code for someone appearing to be either a little light in the loafers or completely batshit 'the redhots are for my mommy' style insane."

Monkeys as Critics on celebrity fans: "I also love that Joe Jonas is a fan of the show, because I’m trying to picture the Jonas brothers curled up in their touring van, watching “Top Chef” and wondering out if they can make that sous-vide chicken with wasabi aioli from ingredients from the nearest 7-11. I’m sure after a while on the road, any musician can fall prey to the appeal of food porn."

My Monkey Could Do That on Dale L's Quickfire offering: "SweetTart nuggets and caveman boulders with chocolate sauce. He says his goal is to get the kids as jacked up on sugar as he can. Like a 10 year old rave."

Limecrete on the Quickfire bottom 3: "First in the bottom three is Tiffany, whose snack was messy. Mike's chocolate flavor wasn't strong enough. Stephen's cookie was fine, but the flavors in the middle (especially the mint) wasn't strong enough. Hmm... Tiffany, Mike, and Stephen. Why, it's all the people who used coconut!"

Fork in the Road on teams: "Dale L. gets the best line of the night, observing that the hilariously gender-segregated teams are like 'the Spice girls and their body guard versus the cool guys and their babysitter, Carla.' Then he says something about Ritz Cracker hand-jobs. Oh, Dale L., how we have missed you."

Buddy TV on kids: "Everything gets made and stuffed into pretty blue and red bags. Then the children descend like a plague of locusts, intent on eating everything in sight. Although, as it turns out, they don't like the weird chips and just get way wired on Tiffani's sugar delights."

Max the Girl on kids who get to stay up late: "The kids come charging in, already kind of spazzed out with the excitement and newness of spending a night away from home in a totally cool museum with ginormous dinosaur skeletons and stuff. THEN, they add sugar to the mix. THEN, they add Joe Jonas to the mix. Suffice it to say, you could mainline 5-Hour Energy for a month and you wouldn’t be this hopped up."

Reality TV Calendar on Tiffani's Elimination Challenge selection: "Tiffani frets that she thought the carnivores were really omnivores and that it was just the herbivores that were restricted. My preschool granddaughter knows the correct drill on that one. Sorry Tiffani."

David Dust gives us a quick lesson in paleontology: "Back in the day, the Tyrannosaurus Rex ate meat (thankfully there was no Paleolithic PETA), and Brontosaurususeses’ (Brontosauri??) - the Hippies of the Jurassic age – ate only vegetables."

Cliffieland offers an aside about dinosaurs: "In case you didn't know because you haven't been accosted by a know-it-all 10 year-olds over the past decade or two, the Dino the Dinosaur creature who provided the Flintstones with all those yummy Bronto Burgers is now called the Apatosaurus. ... Yet this still fails to explain how Dino felt watching Fred and Wilma down his butchered brethren. Or how the modern Stone-Age family felt eating the the same animal they kept as a pet."

Carol Blymire on the Hall of North American Mammals: "They're led to the Hall of North American Mammals to sleep among the taxidermied moose and bison, and Tre laments that he can't sleep in the nude like he usually does, and I'm all YES YOU CAN."

Ryan Scott for YumSugar on Tre's shirtlessness: "I'm actually out of bed doing sit-ups now so that I feel better about myself after seeing that dude's abs. After all, I have to turn the lights on at some point."

EW on the Merry Tribe of Museum Wanderers: "Team Brontosaurus roamed the halls on a flashlight tour, figuring they had only 45 minutes to sleep so why sleep at all? The herbivores stumbled upon a lonely Neanderthal and someone proudly made the connection: 'That's Casey in the morning.' Mean!"

After Ellen on cooking Brontosaurus-style: "Marcel, Angelo and Blais are making a parfait, and Angelo decides the plums need to be smaller. This annoys Marcel who thinks it damages 'the integrity of the plums.' Well, only if you tell them to lie about it, afterward. Angelo tries to explain his reasoning, but Marcel says afterward 'you don’t f--k with somebody else’s mise en place.' Wow, in terms of badass throwdowns that falls somewhere between 'Why, you're nothing but a great big coward' and'He can call me flower if he wants to.' Worst butch T-shirt slogan ever."

Creative Loafing on the guest judge: "Oh, I almost forgot to mention: They brought back Katie Lee to play guest judge for the Elimination. Remember her? The chick who hosted TC season one that they kicked off and replaced with Padma? Well, she was Katie Lee Joel back in those days because she was a smart lady and married rock royalty (and was hopefully smart enough to get a nice divorce settlement too)."

Best Week Ever on the win: "Team Brontosaurus wins, which means that the judges obviously had the final say because no kid in their right mind would ever vote for a brontosaurus over a t-rex."

Minxeats on the elimination: "Back in the stew, Jen declares that All-Star Jen is not the same as Season 6 Jen. Which proves to be true...Season 6 Jen ended up in the Final Four, but All-Star Jen is sent packing in episode two."

Gail Simmons for PopWatch shares her judge's POV on Jen's losing dish: "Jen’s dish wasn’t good and why do we know it? Because we were there and we tasted it. We always survey our diners to see what they think, but at the end of the day, for an Elimination challenge, we decide and often don’t agree with what they think. In this case, we all did. No one at the museum liked Jen’s dish. It was pretty unanimous. The pork belly was unappealing, overpowering, fell apart and had no textural counterpoints. The hard-boiled egg was totally forgettable. It wasn’t a good plate of food or something we would’ve ordered in the first place. And that’s what it comes down to: What dish do you want to eat again and what dish do you never want to see again?"

Vivek offers some constructive criticism to the recheftestants: "I was really upset with Jennifer Carroll. Her attitude, and Fabio’s attitude last week are both completely uncalled for. I understand the pressure all these chefs face, but you are a professional and should act like one. I believe in standing up for yourself, but there is also a time to be humble and accept criticism."

Procrastiblog shares a stray thought: "I’m considering a new rule: don’t ever put anything in an oven. Ovens can’t be trusted."

The Houston Chronicle managed to capture the adorbs photo of a very young Richard Blais looking a little sleepy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Episode 2

Click here to watch Rick Moonen prepare Richard Blais, Angelo Sosa, and Marcel Vigneron's banana parfait.

The printable recipe can be found here (Adobe Acrobat PDF format).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guess Who's Going to the All-Stars Finale!

For you "spoiler-sensitive" folks, it is your choice whether to click this link. There are no revelations about which All-Stars contestants will make it to the finale. But I'm happy to hear who else will be back (no, it's not Martha Stewart or Emeril). And it sounds like the All-Stars finale has not yet taken place. Rumors tend to abound about this kind of thing, but since this comes from the horse's, or goat's, mouth, I'm thinking it has credibility.

Happy clicking, and listening (the "dish" is in the first audio clip, but I'm inspired to try making a kale salad per the second).

Happy weekend,

All Top Chef Interview with Jennifer Carroll

Top Chef All Star contestant, Jen Carroll talks about her experience on the Bravo show.

Click here for the podcast.

Thanks Chef Jen!

Bravo Exit Interview - Jennifer Carroll

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ATC Love to Jennifer Carroll

Chef Jen, you were another person we were so glad to see return for a second chance at the title of Top Chef, and sorry that you had to leave so soon. It was clear that this new competition meant a great deal to you, and you wanted to stick around to prove to the judges that your first elimination was a mistake.

Unfortunately, Jamie's injury forced you to complete a team dish on your own, which is never a good place to be. At the very least, you were able to stay true to what you wanted the dish to be, regardless of what the judges thought. We are certain you have moved on from this experience and will continue your already successful career.

This post is only for postitive comments about Jennifer Carroll. If you have anything negative to say about her or her competition, please do so here.

Congratulations, Richard Blais, Angelo Sosa, and Marcel Vigneron

Given that Richard, Angelo, and Marcel all made it to the final three in their respective seasons, it should be no surprise that they would put together a winning dish. The fact that three powerhouse chefs could end up working on one dish shows the embarrassment of riches this season has in terms of culinary talent.

Their Banana Parfait was chosen over the wide selection of dishes produced by Team Brontosaurus on the American Museum of Natural History Challenge. Although many would have thought that Team T-Rex had the advantage of working with meat, eggs, and dairy, their team pulled out its collective creativity and brought home the win. We look forward to seeing what all three of them can do in future episodes, both in team challenges and individually.

This post is only for postitive comments about Angelo, Marcel, and Richard. If you have anything negative to say about them or their competition, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Episode 2

The episode begins with the tearful exit of Elia. For all the chefs, the true reality of their circumstance is setting in. They are once again in the ring of fire, facing stress, exhaustion, humiliation, and possible elimination for the second time.

The next day, the cheftestants enter the Top Chef kitchen to find Padma standing with Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. Since none of the chefs are 12 years old, his presence is not all that exciting. Apparently, Joe Jonas is participating in a Night at the Museum sleep over at the American Museum of Natural History. 150 elementary school children will be sleeping over in the museum, and the chefs are asked to make these rug rats a midnight snack. The Quickfire Challenge is to create the winning snack in 45 minutes, making sure that the snack can be eaten from a brown paper bag.

After the usual scrambling around and fretting over their dishes, Joe and Padma make the rounds to sample all the sugary snacks. The least favorite snacks were made by Tiffany D., which was deemed messy; Mike, whose snack was not chocolatey enough; and Steven, whose complex mixture of ingredients did not go well with his cookie. For the winner, there is a tie between Spike and Tiffani F. Conveniently, the tie will be broken by the children who will get to sample both snacks and declare the winner. To make 150 samples of each hyperactivity delivery system, the rest of the chefs are divided into teams chosen by Spike and Tiffani F. Spike's group is Team Red and Tiffani F.'s is Team Blue.

The snacks are hastily assembled and transported to the museum where the kids get jacked up on the sugar and vote on the winner by a show of manic screaming. Team Blue wins by a wide margin, giving Tiffani F. immunity.

Just when everyone wants to go home and have a beer, Tom arrives and announces that the Elimination Challenge starts right now. The two teams will have to prepare breakfast for the children and their parents. In keeping with the museum's theme, the teams will be broken out into a Tyrannosaurus Rex group and a Brontosaurus group. That is, one group can only serve carnivore food (meat, eggs, and dairy) while the other group must serve vegetarian fare (fruits and grains). Since Tiffani F. won the Quickfire, she gets to choose first and picks the carnivore menu. Tom explains that the chefs will use the museum's kitchen where their ingredients will be provided.

The two teams huddle to plan their menus, leaving only a short time for them to sleep before they must rise at 3:45 to start breakfast prep. Some of the chefs (all guys) decide to forgo sleep and wander around the museum with flashlights. Whether they slept or toured the museum, all the chefs are tired and cranky by the time they hit the kitchen.

When they look at their carts of ingredients, Tiffani F. realizes that she made a tactical error. Apparently, she did not understand the difference between a carnivore and an omnivore because she thought that she would be able to use fruits and grains in addition to meat. Nope, just meat, eggs, and dairy are on her carts. So her group seems to struggle while Team Brontosaurus floats along with a wide variety of dishes.

Team T-Rex is dealt another blow when Jamie cuts her finger and, rather than toughing it out, decides to leave for an emergency stitch-up. This leaves Jen alone to complete their dish.

After cooking, the teams are given one hour to set up an outdoor buffet. Marcel gets pissed that Angelo is trying to alter their Banana Parfait dish without his approval. Marcel is suspicious of Angelo's motives. Soon the one hour is up, and everyone digs in for tasting and judgment. Most people gravitate toward Team T-Rex since they have eggs and bacon, but the soft pork belly is not what kids want for breakfast, and the other proteins like salmon seem a little strange as well.

Meanwhile, despite the lack of crowd pleasing meat and eggs, Team Brontosaurus is winning over tasters with their greater mix of dishes. Fabio, in particular, is charming the crowd with his glad-handing pitch for his freshly made gnocchi. After much eating and talking, the judges retire to their Judges' Table to figure out the winners and losers.

Team Brontosaurus is given the win and the Banana Parfait, made by Richard, Angelo, and Marcel is deemed the winning dish of the day. Team T-Rex, a.k.a. The Losers, is then sent in for their tongue lashing. Among the criticisms, the frittatas were uneven (some were over cooked, some undercooked), the steak and eggs were good but pretty simple, and the sauce for the salmon dish was over-reduced and salty. Jen and Jamie's dish was singled out as the worst and, since Jamie wimped out and did nothing to prepare it, the poor results were laid squarely at Jen's feet. This enrages Jen and she disagrees vehemently with the judges. Although Tom admires her feistiness, it still doesn't justify the poor quality of the dish and she is sent packing. Jen's angry retorts echo down the hall as she leaves.

So, what did you think? Was it Jen's time to go, or was someone else more deserving? Who do you think will go next?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

TC News and Information 12.08.10 - Just for Fun Edition

A warm welcome back to What'ere Jane Eyre, whose recap we somehow missed for the Ep. 1 Round-Up. And for a ribald recap of the audio variety, check out Creative Loafing's podcast.

(Photo: Travel Channel)

Speaking of ribaldry, if you missed TC All-Stars judge Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" Holiday Special Monday night on the Travel Channel, with Michael Ruhlman, David Chang, Pat LaFrieda, that cake guy who's leaving the Food Network, and special musical guests, you can find a video with Marky Ramone here, an outtake about Santa, terrorists, and Alvin and the Chipmunks here, and the crew's take on assembling all that generic, non-denominational holiday stuff (plus guns for Ted Nugent) for the out-of-season shoot here. As always, Eater offers up its take on the best lines of the show, here.

Enough irreverance, you say? Then check out this hilarious item from Atlanta Magazine (and accompanying photos), which will warm the cockles of your red-beard lovin' heart.
Kevin Gillespie made an appearance at an Atlanta puppetry performance of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and is going a step further in the holiday spirit. "Doppelgangers unite!" he says on his facebook page. "In honor of Rudolph's woodsy pal, you can now enjoy the Yukon Cornelius cocktail at Woodfire Grill, made with High West Silver whiskey, maple bitters, allspice dram, zirbenz liqueur, an egg and half and half."

Cheers to all, and happy viewing tonight for Top Chef All-Stars Episode 2!

Top Chef All Stars Episode Two Previews!

Singing sensation & pop star Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers (you might have heard of them) joins in on the fun to guest judge the Quickfire challenge where the chef’testants must create a snack for a children’s slumber party at the American Museum of Natural History. Then, for the Elimination challenge, the chef’testants must whip up an inventive breakfast inspired by a dinosaur's diet for the children and their parents where season 1 host, Katie Lee, returns to judge the Elimination round. They may be small, but will this group of kids trip up the All-Stars? Find out today 12/8 @ 10/9c on TOP CHEF ALL-STARS.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Recap Roundup: Top Chef All Stars Episode 1

Wow - All Stars has brought tons of recappers out of the woodwork. If you know of others, please drop us a line at alltopchef@gmail.com and let us know so we can include them next time!

Cliffieland explains the premise of season 8: "We're in our eighth season and that can only mean one thing: It's time to forget about casting new talent when there are a bunch known quantities with their own fan base who can pump life into any aging reality competition series."

MinxEats on this season's contestants: "Tiffani "Dave Ain't Her Bitch, Bitch" Faison and Stephen "Top Sommelier" Asprinio from season 1; Elia "Bald is Beautiful" Aboumrad and Marcel "Wolverine" Vigneron from season 2; Tre "Shoulda Won" Wilcox, Dale "Briefly Dated PR's Jack Mackenroth" Levitski, and Casey "Carla Screwed Herself" Thompson from season 3; Dale "Crotch Grabber" Talde, Richard "Fauxhawk" Blais, Spike "Asshat" Mendelsohn, and Antonia "Poo Talker" Lofaso from season 4; Fabio "Eets Not Top Escallop!" Viviani, Carla "Casey Screwed Me, But You Won't Hear Me Blame Her" Hall, and Jamie "No, Stefan, No!" Lauren from season 5; Jennifer "The Fish Whisperer" Carroll and Michael "Douchebag" Isabella from season 6; and Tiffany "I'm Getting Married" Derry and Angelo "Inigo Montoya" Sosa from season 7."

David Dust on why he loves Dale Talde: "I love Dale because he’s a smack talking shorty who called out Chef Michael Chiarello on his douchery during Top Chef Masters."

Max the Girl on the season 2 re-cheftestants: "...I don’t know from Tiffani, who seems like someone not to be trifled with. As for the fussy, stuffy, dandyish Stephen, he seems like some sort of fake villain in a madcap farce (as played by French Stewart). Is this guy for real?"

Box Office Prophets on Marcel: "Marcel then shows up and talks about how great he is. If self-delusion were an art form, Marcel would be Picasso, The Beatles and Shakespeare all rolled into one. To our amusement, Tre shows up next and Marcel immediately tries to foster a relationship with him by using all of the dialogue that he learned from listening to that one Kanye West CD to relate to Tre on his terms. Friendly to a point of fault, Tre resists the temptation to pull a Cliff Crooks and shave off the entirety of Marcel’s body hair. We commend him for his discretion."

EW.com is excited about the judges this season: "ANTHONY BOURDAIN AS A FULL-TIME JUDGE. YES. YES. F--- YES."

MamaPop on the winning Quickfire dish: "Imma gonna have to take the judges’ word on the Chicago offering being delicious, because this photo looks exactly like something my dog left behind after getting into a combination of the trash and a box of crayons."

My Monkey Could Do That on the Elimination judging: "At the Russian Tea Room, everyone has 2 hours to prep. Tom comes in and tells them they’re going to serve in two groups. One group will cook while one will eat. Nice. Tom says they can comment or not, as if they’ll refrain from commenting. Winner of this challenge gets $10,000."

Eater on the dining situation: "Oh cool, lubricated by wine and television cameras, my competition is going to offer up self-serving criticism of something I've created. Neat this seems great let me listen!"

Jordan Baker on Spike's reinvention over the infamous "Scallopgate" dish: "Bourdain says he could’ve 'lived without the scallops' in Spike’s Pickled Mushrooms, Scallops, Lime Dressing with Hearts of Palm Salad because the flavor of them is so completely disguised, and thinks he’s 'the craftiest mothefucker who’s ever been on this show.'"

After Ellen on Fabio's issues with Bourdain: "Revenge is a dish best served while sitting next to Tony Bourdain. Well, unless you are Fabio, who seems to want to get into an alpha male pissing contest with him instead. Bad idea, Fabio, bad idea. I have watched that man eat decade-old Twinkie juice from a corroded pipe. He has no fear and will happily eat your heart for breakfast."

Culture Mob on common sense: "Gail and Tom harangue Elia into admitting that she didn’t test any of her dishes out before she sent them to the table...you get the impression that this is something that a neanderthal would have had the sense to do."

Buddy TV on the judges' final decisions: "They're not happy that Elia didn't "improve" on the dish. Fabio's dish was confusing and had no "nuance." Stephen's dish is compared to a colonoscopy."

Best Week Ever is makin' predictions: "One episode down, 700 left to go, and already we’re shaping up for a Richard / Angelo showdown, as both clearly could’ve won their respective seasons to begin with and are already re-proving themselves. I expect Tiffany, Jamie, Tre, Marcel, and Jennifer to stick around for a while — like Tiffani, I was 'waiting to be completely blown by Jen' — but if I’m a bettin’ man, I’m gelling my money up into Richard’s faux."

Procrastiblog offers some stray thoughts, including: "The rules of the Elimination challenge were somewhat unclear. Elia seemed to fall into the trap of sticking closely to her original preparation, whereas other contestants reproduced little more than the key ingredients. For example, Angelo jettisoned one of the key components of his original dish. And didn’t Tre get to rework the least problematic of his multiple losing dishes?"

YumSugar's guest poster, former cheftestant Ryan Scott on the winner: "Kudos to the dude that won. What's his name? Gosh, I only turned it off five minutes ago and I can't remember. Crap, neither can my girlfriend. Blame it on Fabio's pasta I just rolled up and smoked per Colicchio's suggestion."

The Washington Post offers a Top Chef All-Stars Vlog (warning - video plays automatically when site opens.

And finally...

...not really a recap, but season 7 cheftestant Ed Cotton chats through the episode on Opentable.com.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

TC News and Information 12.05.10

Ratings may have been down for the All-Stars premiere, but there's still a whole lotta media hype going on. The New York Daily News review of the premiere likens it to "high school reunion turned upside down" and the LA Times opines that the caliber of chefs assembled for the All-Stars season is "either the show's greatest strength -- or its Achilles' heel." Yes, we're going to be saying good-bye to a two-time loser every week.

Some of the contestants are blogging All-Stars themselves, including Casey Thompson. Dale Talde blogged the premiere in three words. Yumsugar rounded up Season 4's Ryan Scott to live-blog the premiere (doesn't sound like he was asked to return this season). And if you'd like to join in the live-blogging chat thing yourself, there's a party going on all season at Gawker. To see what went down for Episode 1, click here.

For social media interaction of other sorts, you can find out more about how that Bravo-sponsored Top Chef Facebook game thingie works here.

In case you missed the twitterversy over Michael Voltaggio's comments surrounding the premiere, you can find a round-up here, although I'm inclined to take him at his word that he wasn't trying to diss anybody. I'm much more interested in the news that older brother Bryan is looking to open a second, more casual restaurant in Frederick, Maryland, despite an earlier blog report that may not have been entirely accurate. And if I lived near Frederick, I'd sure be interested in trying out Volt's 3-course "express lunch" for $14.

I mentioned on ATC's Facebook page before the premiere that Fabio Viviani would be live-tweeting the show. You can find a wrap-up of his tweet banter aimed at judge Anthony Bourdain in this item, which also Fabio will host "Wednesday-night viewing-and-posting parties at his restaurants as long as he remains on the show."

If you really care about the brouhaha that erupted over the question of whether TV Guide lightened Padma's skin tone, you can read about it here. Or, for rather more entertainment value, in my book, you can make up your own mind and watch video of the photo shoot with Tom Colicchio here. Best quote of the clip: "I think it's a great time to do [All-Stars.] I just wonder what we're going to do next."

The remaining All-Stars are getting plenty of press themselves.

Richard Blais's focus this time around: "My game plan is just to cook really great food and not get too wrapped up in any specific strategy or get wrapped up in the drama. I worry more about competing against myself," according to this piece, in which Colicchio points out: "He’s been doing the burger thing the past couple of years. He’s been out of the fine dining scene. That could be a bit of a handicap." Read on for more about Blais's Flip Burger and possible ATL gourmet hot-dog boutique spot.

Carla Hall identifies which contestant is the den mother and who sleeps on the couch here, and says Padma is much nicer since she had her baby here.

Angelos Sosa's pick for All-Stars class clown is Carla, and he describes Marcel as a "Wikipedia topic," according to this piece, where he also reveals that it was only 4 days after the S7 finale before the producers called him about All-Stars and a week and a half before he started filming. As to whether that was good or bad, he says, ""Honestly, it was a double-edged sword. . . . "I wish I had time to rest. Then, again, I had the momentum, too. So, I teeter-tot back and forth."

Dale Levitski tells 312DiningDiva (here's an easier link from HuffPo) that the All-Stars anticipated their previous losing dishes would come back to haunt them at some point during the game, and that he was "absolutely prepared" to re-make his butter-poached lobster with Chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and corn with chive dumplings and curry lobster reduction, a signature dish at his current restaurant, Sprout. Dale also says each Wednesday he'll feature a dish on Sprout's menu inspired by the previous week's challenge and is teaming up with next-door neighbor SmallBar Fullerton for weekly viewing parties.

Speaking of viewing parties, Tre Wilcox's Plano restaurant, Loft 601, which hosted a viewing party for the premiere, welcomes fellow Texan Tiffany Derry (whose restaurant, Go Fish, shuttered abruptly recently), who will cook $100 a plate dinners of "poached Maine lobster, roasted baby beets, braised Berkshire pork belly, and more" for the Episode 2 festivities.

Tiffani Faison's Boston restaurant, Rocco, continues to host viewing parties. Does Tiff F. really love Bud Lite Lime that much, or is there some kind of, er, product placement thing goin' on?

Season 7 winner Kevin Sbraga joined Jen Carroll at the 10 Arts premiere viewing party - photos and dish here, where Kevin talks about his plans for a new restaurant, while Jen, it appears, kept to the kitchen.

Our condolences go out to Chef Carroll on the loss of her grandmother this week. She wrote on Facebook: "Yesterday my Grammy passed away and if it wasn't for the the coleslaw and beef stew that she made i probably would be a professional gin rummy player or at least the scrabble queen but her food inspired me to be the chef that i am today."

And proving that you just never know what will show up in the ATC mailbox, I ran across this assessment of NFL teams' prospects during the rest of this season, which had this to say about my hometown Bengals: "Marvin Lewis, pack your knives and go. Yes, I have a gut feeling he will be on Top Chef. Maybe even Desserts. Regardless, his team is a mushy corn soufflé with a maple dressing that tastes like baby food which makes Tom Colicchio vomit on Carson Palmer’s head and Padma punch Terrell Owens in the face as he makes advances. If given the option between that and going through this season again, I think Bengals fans would choose the Top Chef scenario." While I'm not much of a sports buff, I was hoping the Bengals might pull it out against the Saints today - particularly for the free crawfish boil promised by one of my favorite Cincy food trucks, New Orleans To Go, in the event their beloved Saints were upset by the Bengals. Dang, I still want some of NOTG's crawfish, even if I have to pay for it myself :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

TC News and Information 12.04.10 - Saturday Night Special

Yowza! The All-Stars season's first eliminated chef, Elia Aboumrad, is speaking up for herself - and speaking out against a lot.

In this interview with TV Guide, Elia takes issue with whether the rules of the episode were enforced, claims she was given palm tree leaf in lieu of ti leaves, says she argued for her dish for 40 minutes at Judges Table, rues what was left on the editing room floor, and defends Fabio for serving his pasta on paper.

She has more to say about what she perceived to be an uneven playing field and those leaves with which she wrapped her red snapper in this item from The Feast, where she says: "My season was crazy but we were never rude like this to each other in the kitchen. Here there was no respect for the kitchen, for the ingredients, for the utensils. It was just a war, and I was very surprised to see that. People would elbow you, take things from underneath you, break things in order to open them. Behavior that you don’t see in kitchens. You shouldn't have that if you want to be a top chef, but maybe that's what they're looking for." (Hmm, no rudeness on the head-shaving season? Oh, she did specify that rudeness didn't take place in the kitchen.)

You can find more about what Elia has to say about those pesky rules – and the real mother lode of controversy over her comments – in this piece from the Chicago Tribune, where Elia has particularly incendiary words for head judge Tom Collichio – and Tom talks back in harsh tones as well.

Moving on. Colicchio's Bravo blog takes up the question of another rules infraction that did make it on air: "As for Richard, we wanted to acknowledge that he’d made a top dish, but we simply could not consider him for the win because he had not stopped plating when the time ran out. It’s a hard-and-fast rule. I don’t think he was trying to cheat –- I think he was simply absorbed in what he was doing and didn’t pay attention. One of the other contestants rightly alerted the producers to what had happened, and Richard was out of the running. One doesn’t lose for working past the time-limit; one simply cannot win that challenge. Once Richard saw the tape, I believe he was fine with the decision. Any other outcome would be unfair –- there would be no point to the time-limit." Oh, yeah, it probably didn't hurt Blais that he already had immunity by virtue of being part of Team Chicago in the Quickfire Challenge.

Judge Gail Simmons' Bravo blog addresses expectations for the Elimination Challenge: "We did not want to see each dish completely reinvented, but rather reconfigured as a better version of its former self. Most of our cheftestants did just that, and we were pleased with many of the results." Gail is also blogging All-Stars for Entertainment Weekly, where her take on the first episode includes this: "Richard’s pork belly and Casey’s pork belly—both were redeemed for sure. Both had been a problem of execution, not conception like other dishes, and they both knew exactly how to fix them. Unfortunately, Richard did go over the time. We went back to the tapes many times before we decided that we couldn’t allow him to win, but it certainly wasn’t something he’d be eliminated for. Other contestants saw that he went over and we needed to be fair to all of them. His was just an honest mistake."

The inimitable Anthony Bourdain is back to blogging for Bravo for the first time since 2007. (You might recall that he discontinued after a snit over product placement according to one of his blog posts for the Travel Channel which has since been taken down; salient quoteage has, however, survived here). In Tony's Bravo blog about All-Stars Episode 1, he talks about his on-air criticism of Fabio's dish: "No one likes their work to be mocked. Fabio in particular. And yet mock I did. I couldn't help it. I mean, look at that thing. Its supreme ugliness only reinforced and highlighted by its presentation on paper, bringing to mind immediately and inevitably, the command oft directed at a bad puppy: "Go on the paper! The paper!!" And then Tony back-pedals - a bit: "I feel bad about beating up on Fabio. Maybe I'm losing my edge. Maybe I should leave the bloodletting to my sinister French colleague, Eric Ripert. Or that English guy ... what was his name? Maybe I should confine myself to constructive criticism. To a kinder, gentler, more mentor-like approach. Wear a big fluffy f---ing sweater to Judges' Table, speak in quiet, melifluous Garrison Keilloresque tones. Maybe lay off the gin. . . . Or not."

Frequent TC judge and Bourdain BFF Eric Ripert is also blogging the All-Stars for Bravo, despite the fact that he is not a guest judge this season, owing to the appearance of his protege, Jennifer Carroll. You can listen to the Ripper's melifluous tones via video or read the transcript here, in which he says: "Fabio was very sensitive about the criticism of Anthony of his dish. And he was very animated and very critical and attacked Anthony. He basically blamed him for making fun of him and criticizing his dish without being constructive. Anthony, you cannot do that! You have to be a nice gentleman. In Washington, Anthony was making fun of me because supposedly I was the evil man and he decided to be very nice, so, Anthony, I'm giving it back to you. Be careful!"

Season 6's Eli Kirshtein continues to blog on Bravo, with insights I often find interesting for their pragmatism from his perspective as both an experienced chef and a TC competitor. About this episode he writes: "Redesigning dishes is an everyday job for the modern chef. We take a concept, hopefully one that we feel strongly about, and believe in at the onset, and tweak and modify it till it meets the standards and vision we have for it, optimally before you ever serve it to a diner. One of the challenges of the show is the lack of opportunity to go through this diligence. You realistically have just one shot at a dish. All the nuances of seasoning, garnishing, even plating, is left to one opportunity. This specific challenge gives them another go, one more chance at it. All of them have re-concepted this dish over and over again; this is the one the got away. They have hoped for this chance to redeem themselves and prove it was a one off mistake. If they do strongly here, they will feel verified and qualified at the onset. An albatross removed." And Eli concludes: "This season has so many more layers to it than ever before."

If you really care, Bravo is bringing us another blog this season from "Senior Editor of Bravotv.com" Monica A. Reyhan. I'm not sure what it takes to be a "senior editor" for Bravo's website, but hello? She didn't know until that recent media conference call (which ATC's Minx blogged about here) that Bourdain was going to be a judge this season? And she claims of Bourdain's earlier Bravo blogs, "As a young and naive editor at Bravotv.com it was my privilege to receive his blogs each week for posting. Unless I'm re-writing history I think his blog may have been my idea." Sorry, but this "senior editor" is no substitute for insider Season 1's Lee Ann Wong, who posted some of the best blogs about TC ever on Bravo's site, sharing her insider perspective when she went on to become a culinary producer of TC.

For another quasi-insider's take, you can read Open Table's live blog of TCAS Episode 1 with Season 7's Ed Cotton here (apparently Ed was not asked to come back for All-Stars).

And in case you're bored or snowed in this weekend, you can read extended versions of that All-Stars media conference call here and here.

Stay warm, all, and happy reading!