Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reaction to Top Chef All Stars Episode 9

When the cheftestants arrive in the Top Chef Kitchen, they are greeted by a table full of fondue pots and no guest judge. Padma explains that the Quickfire Challenge is to make a unique fondue, and instead of having a guest judge, the chefs will judge each other. The winner does not get immunity, but a three-day trip to Napa Valley and a tour of the Terlato Vineyard.

With 30 minutes to cook, the chefs scramble about. Richard, of course, pulls out the liquid nitrogen for a reimagined take on chocolate and bananas. Angelo, meanwhile, takes on an ambitious combination of goat cheese fondue, endive with walnuts, and a beet juice shooter to wash it down. When time is up, Angelo is upset with his dish and wants to throw it out.

The chefs and Padma taste all the fondue concoctions and the chefs set about listing their favorites and not-so-favorites on score cards. Since they can't vote for themselves, there has to be some strategy involved. The bottom three were Fabio for his billini in fromage blanc and "Bourdain" wine fondue (that's what the description said!); Tiffany for her giant apple ricotta fritter in hazelnut chocolate; and Mike for his overly spicy lamb kabobs in feta cheese fondue. The top three were Antonia for her smoked salmon on toast in fromage blanc and creme fraiche fondue; Dale for his pho with beef, bread, charred ginger, lime, sriracha and broth; and (to his surprise) Angelo for his endive in goat cheese fondue. Richard, for all his inventiveness, was squarely in the middle. Padma tallied the votes and Dale was the winner.

Padma tells the cheftestants nothing about the Elimination Challenge, but rather sends them directly over to Rockefeller Center where they are whisked up to the studio where Jimmy Fallon tapes his talk show. The chefs are brought out for a game Jimmy calls Cellphone Shootout. The idea was that each chef would aim his/her cellphone camera at a wall flashing an array of food pictures. Whatever food the chef managed to get a picture of is the item that chef must make a dish with for Jimmy's birthday party. The food items broke out like this:

Antonia - beef tongue
Fabio - burger and fries
Angelo - pulled pork
Richard - ramen noodles
Carla - chicken pot pie
Dale - Philly cheesesteak
Tiffany - chicken and dumplings
Mike - sausage and peppers

The one proviso was that no one could use any of the following ingredients which Jimmy hates: mushrooms, mayo, and eggplant. With those instructions, the chefs run off to buy provisions. The chefs then have two hours to prep at Colicchio & Sons. Since Fabio has never made a "booger" in his life, he decides to treat it as a meatball and mix different types of meat together into a patty. Antonia doesn't have enough time to cook the beef tongue, so Richard shows her how to use the pressure cooker (I wonder where this is going?). Carla runs around like the live version of the poultry in her pot pie, and Tiffany takes a risk by making a Southwest version of chicken and dumplings.

The guests arrive, including some of Jimmy Fallon's staff and his wife, mom, and dad. The dishes are served and everyone at the table provides their commentary. Jimmy is particularly hesitant to say anything bad about the dishes because he is a fan of all the chefs, but there are clearly some dishes that do not work.

Later, at Judges' Table, Carla, Angelo, and Antonia are called out as the top three in the challenge. Carla's chicken pot pie got high marks for having a crust on the bottom as well as the top. Angelo's eclectic mix of coffee, dill, and cilantro on his pulled pork sandwich got him noticed, and Antonia was lauded for her ability to take an odd ingredient like beef tongue and make a delicious sandwich on pumpernickel rye. As guest judge, Jimmy Fallon had the honor of announcing that Carla was the winner and would appear in a cooking segment on his show. She also won a six-night trip to the Hilton Tokyo with $5,000 for air fare.

Then the bottom three were sent out: Tiffany, Fabio, and Dale. (Richard is once again in the middle of the pack.) Tiffany's chicken and dumplings was judged to be more like a Southwestern soup with flat noodles rather than a rich, creamy dumpling dish. Fabio's "booger" tasted more like meatloaf, and his decision to put grainy, melted cheese on the side was a mistake. Dale's use of a pretzel roll for his cheesesteak, while inspired, backfired on him because the saltiness of the roll was too much along side the salt in the meat and the cheese. In the end, Fabio was told to pack his knives and go.

Another Top Chef favorite bites the dust. Was it Fabio's time to go, or should someone else have gotten the boot? How much longer can Richard stay in neutral? Give us your thoughts below.


Anonymous said...

I seriously thought Dale should have gone home. Bland last week and overly salted this week. I'll miss Fabio...he was a gentleman!


Anonymous said...

This was a week when Richard's reputation got on the way of his dish. Jimmy said he was hoping for a smoke machine and liquid nitrogen. I think by not providing that Jimmy kinda closed him out. Besides Carla has a much bigger personality to do a show like his.

I'm surprised Dale sticks around. He keeps jumping from top to bottom, but I guess his time on top is good enough to keep him around.

MoHub said...

In the extended judging video, it comes out that Fabio's "booger" was pretty much inedible. Dale's initially delivered good flavor, but the salt got in the way within a few bites. And Tiffany's didn't evoke chicken and dumplings, but it did taste good, and the panel said they would eat it again.

Fabio, unfortunately delivered both bad food and a failure of concept.

Cliff O'Neill said...

I was just surprised that someone other than me doesn't like eggplant.

Anonymous said...

richard was and has always been helpful. I can't believe antonia didn't admit her "perfectly" cooked tongue was thanks to richard. Of course she also didn't admit she bombed caseys dish. Goooo richard!