Thursday, March 31, 2011

ATC Love to Chef Mike Isabella

Although Chef Isabella did not win Top Chef All-Stars, he came very, very close. The dishes he prepared as part of his dream restaurant were all lauded by the judges, particularly his pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce which particularly impressed Gail Simmons.

It was easy to see that Chef Isabella worked very hard to get as far as he did in the competition, particularly in the time between the end of the regular season and the finale, when he honed his skills and learned new techniques. Kudos to him for that - he really wanted this win.

Chef Isabella, we're looking forward to the opening of your new restaurant, Graffiato, and wish you much success in the future.

This post is only for positive things about Chef Isabella and his food. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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Congratulations, Chef Richard Blais - You are TOP CHEF!

A hearty congratulations goes out to our newest Top Chef, Richard Blais!

Richard started to doubt himself late in the season, claiming to hate everything he cooked. But he pulled it together for the very last challenge, and with his team of sous chefs, opened the "restaurant of his dreams." The judges were especially impressed with his first two dishes, and his amuse.

This win was a long time in coming and well deserved. Again, congrats to Chef Blais. We're excited to see what new and exciting things come out of his kitchen, and eagerly await news on any upcoming restaurants.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Blais and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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Reactions to the Top Chef All Stars Finale

In this fourth round of the season 8 finale, Chefs Richard Blais and Mike Isabelle duked it out for the title of Top Chef.

The final challenge - to create the "restaurant of their dreams" with the help of three sous chefs who were their former competition, chosen by blind taste test. Richard lucks out and chooses Antonia, Spike, and Angelo, while Mike gets Jamie, Carla, and Tiffani.

Mike chooses to call his place "Restaurant Iz" and insists that his sous chefs prepare only his dishes, while Blais, in "Tongue in Cheek," allows his sous to play to their own strengths.

There are two lots of judges, including Hubert Keller, Alfred Portale, Lidia Bastianich, Art Smith, Top Chef Masters' new host Curtis Stone, and Bill Terlato who of course contributed the wine for the battle. Half the chefs ate at one restaurant, then switched when they completed the four courses offered there.

The battle was very, very close, with both chefs garnering praise from the judges; however, one chef edged out his competition by a nose.

Congratulations, Richard Blais!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One Last Battle Before Tonights Finale

Richard Blais and Mike Isabella duked it out in battle vegetable lasagna this morning on the Today show:

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Meet the Masters - Traci Des Jardins

Before opening Jardinière in San Francisco just over a decade ago, chef Traci Des Jardins worked in some of the finest kitchens in Los Angeles, France, and New York City. She was raised in a farming family in California’s San Joaquin Valley where she developed a deep love for the earth and its bounty at an early age. Though she never had a job in a restaurant before, through sheer determination she landed a tryout with Joachim Splichal, then at 7th Street Bistro in Los Angeles and within two weeks she was running a station in the kitchen. In Splichal’s kitchen, Des Jardins was inspired to further her craft in France where she apprenticed with legendary chefs including Michel and Pierre Troisgros, Alain Senderens, Alain Ducasse, and Alain Passard. Since Jardinière opened its doors, Des Jardins has made it one of San Francisco’s most popular destinations. She has earned a great number of accolades for her French-California cuisine. In 1995 she won the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year”, Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef,” in 1997 San Francisco Magazine’s “Chef of the Year” and the James Beard Foundation Award in 2007 for “Best Chef: Pacific.” Jardinière won Esquire Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant,” a nomination by the James Beard foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 1997 and the San Francisco Chronicle has listed it as one of the “Top 100 Restaurants” in the Bay Area each year since opening. In December 2009, Des Jardins opened Manzanita in the new Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe California. In 2004, she opened Mijita Cocina Mexicana in the San Francisco Ferry Building and in 2010 the second location at AT&T Park. She also serves as chef/partner for Public House located at AT&T Park, which opened in March 2010. Beyond the kitchen, she sits on the advisory board of Bocuse d’Or USA joining fellow chefs in the quest to elevate culinary excellence in the United States. Des Jardins is a deeply committed activist and philanthropist working with hunger-relief organizations such as Share Our Strength, Citymeals On-Wheels and other non-profits such as La Cocina and amfAR.

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Top Chef All-Stars FINALE Previews

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

And the Winner Will Be....?

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Meet the Masters - George Mendes

A first-generation American born to Portuguese parents, George Mendes has fond memories of the elaborate, festive meals his family would prepare while he was growing up in Danbury, Connecticut. From a young age, he knew he wanted a creative career, and food was his first love. After finishing high school, Mendes enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York and following his 1992 graduation, he sharpened his cooking skills as garde manger, entremetier and poissonier at the original Bouley in Tribeca. To further hone his talent, he participated in two month-long stages at Alain Passard’s Arpege in Paris, France. When Bouley closed in 1996, Mendes became the executive chef of Le Zoo in Greenwich Village, where he began to develop his own cooking style. Two years later, Mendes became the executive sous chef at the three-star Lespinasse in Washington, D.C. During his year and a half there, Mendes traveled to France and staged at Le Moulin de Mougin and at La Bastide de Moustiers. He then returned to New York to help his friend Kurt Gutenbrunner, open his Austrian restaurant, Wallsé. In 2003, Mendes staged with three-star Michelin restaurants Martin Berasategui and El Bulli in San Sebastian, Spain, and upon returning, he joined New York City's Tocqueville as chef de cuisine where he created a menu inspired by the nearby greenmarket and his recent travels in Europe. After more than three years running the kitchen, Mendes left to pursue his own restaurant and in 2009, he opened ALDEA in Manhattan's Union Square neighborhood where he serves rustic yet refined Mediterranean cuisine with influences from Spain, France and Portugal. ALDEA, which received glowing two-star reviews from both New York Magazine and The New York Times, was named one of the country's ten best new restaurants by Alan Richman of GQ magazine and was awarded a Michelin star from the 2011 Guide. In 2010, Mendes made the short-list for a nomination in the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef New York" award category.

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Recap Roundup - Top Chef All-Stars Finale Part 3

Monkeys as Critics on potentially bad choices: "Mike gets first pick. He picks the canned goods competition for Antonia, because it’s the toughest and most disgusting. So much for chivalry. Antonia picks hot dogs for Richard. Richard picks the one pot challenge for Mike. Richard thinks this will be challenging, and Antonia thinks he’s stupid. Mike will get to cook with any ingredient he wants in the kitchen, as long as he only uses one pot. Does Richard not realize Mike can wash out the pot and reuse it?"

Jordan Baker on Tom in the kitchen: "Tom thru! You know, one of the things that’s sadly lacking in recent seasons is the Tom thru on a regular basis. They need to bring that back – I miss hearing what he has to say. In this case, he says that Mike picked the easiest dish for himself. THANK YOU, Tom, for acknowledging in one compact phrase that this is a radically uneven challenge and that Mike is full of shit when claiming he has one of the harder challenges."

Minxeats on Japanese food: "And finally, Morimoto tells Antonia about the deceptively simple lunch of miso soup, pickles, and sashimi that his mom prepared for him when he came home from playing baseball. Mom, apparently suffering from OCD, used to pick through the rice to make sure all the grains were the same size before she cooked them. No pressure, Antonia."

My Monkey Could Do That on bullshit: "Back in the hotel Antonia gives Mike crap for screwing her twice over in both challenges. He tries to accuse her of wanting it easy, but she claims to be happy to have Morimoto. If she pulls it off, it’ll be awesome. That’s true. Then Mike tries to tell her she has the easy one, and he and Richard have the challenges. Antonia calls him on his bullshit and says if that was so, then why didn’t he take Morimoto? He says because he knew Michelle would be the biggest challenge."

Reality TV Calendar on Mike: "Had Mike had any confidence in his own abilities, he would have chosen Morimoto for himself – or, if he really wanted to win at any cost, he could have chosen Morimoto for Blais; thus assuring the “cousins” would move into the finale together. Since Mike has made his disdain for female chefs no secret, he unsurprisingly said he wanted to be sure to go against Blais in the finale."

Max the Girl on pre-Elimination Challenge jitters: "The hotel room now resembles One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Antonia is prone to random jags of laughter. Richard is the poster child for nerve-related acid reflux. And Mike is pacing uncontrollably. They really are like some sort of social experiment gone awry."

A Just Recompense on making good decisions: "Antonia gets hamachi from the cooler, which is always nice for raw preparation. She tastes it and it tastes awful, it’s about to go rancid. She uses tuna instead, though she knows it’s less flavorful. Good move, Antonia, because rancid hamachi is the flavorful you don’t want."

Carol Blymire on the judges: "The judges and dinner guests arrive: Padma, Tom and Gail, the three chefs and Melanie Dunea, author and photographer of 'My Last Supper,' which came out, like, four years ago. What’s next week, guys? Cooking from 'Liberace Cooks'? Way to be timely."

David Dust on season 8 in general: "Come to think of it, this entire season should have been called Top Chef: Meatloaf - a little bit of good meat and a whole bunch of filler."

Don't forget about Creative Loafing's always entertaining Top Chef podcast!

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet the Masters - Mary Sue Milliken

Mary Sue Milliken is co-chef/owner of the popular, critically acclaimed Border Grill, serving modern Mexican food in Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California, Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, and on the Border Grill Truck. A pioneer of world cuisine since the creation of City Café and CITY Restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Milliken is also well known as one half of the dynamic "Too Hot Tamales" with longtime business partner Chef Susan Feniger. Milliken is a preeminent ambassador of authentic Mexican cuisine, setting the standard for gourmet Mexican fare for over two decades and co-authoring five cookbooks, including Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, Mesa Mexicana, and City Cuisine. Always a trailblazer, Milliken was the first female chef to work at Chicago's prestigious Le Peroquet in the late 1970s, going on to train at a Michelin two-star, female chef owned restaurant in Paris, and later joining a handful of progressive women chefs to found Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. An active member of the community, Milliken is on the national board of Share Our Strength, committed to ending childhood hunger in America by 2015 with the No Kid Hungry campaign. In addition, Milliken is passionate about the environment and leads the culinary industry with eco-friendly policies at her Border Grill restaurants and Truck.

TC News and Information 3.28.11

Did you feel punk'd, er Puck'd, by the ultimate decision to boot Antonio Lofaso on last week's show? TV Guide reports: "After chatting with head judge Tom Colicchio during a break in filming, Puck changed his mind, and Antonia was sent packing by a 4-3 judges margin. Colicchio swore he hadn't influenced Puck's decision, but joked, "I smell scandal!" Fellow judge Gail Simmons laughingly declared it "Bahamas-gate." In the end, producers decided to leave the switcheroo out of the episode "because the discussion happened off-camera," exec producer Dan Cutforth explained. "So there was no real way to do that in the format of the show." "People are going to get pissed off about everything," Colicchio says."

I can't say I'm a happier camper after reading Gail Simmons' blog on EW this week, where she says: "The whole Quickfire was absurd. We knew it was absurd. We just kept piling it on to see how they’d react . . . They all delivered edible food . . ." Yeah, "edible" food - just what we look forward to leading up to a finale.

OK, so this Wednesday is (at last) the actual All-Stars finale. Wanna know who's judging? Click here.

Meanwhile, the Voltaggio Brothers took the win for best small plate at this year's Pigs and Pinot fundraiser in Healdsburg, CA.

Tre Wilcox is working hard to ready his new restaurant, Marquee Grill and Bar, for its opening, which you can read more about here.

News from two of the women of Season 6: Preeti Mistry does lunch pop-up style at the Juhu Beach Club. And Robin Leventhal does deli on Mercer Island, reports Seattle Weekly.

Finally, what is with Top Chef and HBO? Bourdain is writing for Treme, and now Colicchio is cooking for Game of Thrones: Here's more, including a video where he describes his inspiration for the dishes - which will be available from food trucks in NY this week and LA next week.

Colicchio also tutored Kate Winslett in HBO's Mildred Pierce miniseries, which premiered last night. And we were tickled to read on Top Chef Just Desserts' Eric Wolitsky's facebook page: "That's Kate Winslet with pies made by me and my staff from Baked!"

And if you're still hungry for Angelo Sosa's food, check out this piece about a special dinner he did at the Turtle Club in Hoboken.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meet the Masters - Naomi Pomeroy

Naomi Pomeroy and her sous chef Mika Paredes first welcomed customers to Beast on September 27, 2007. Since then, the restaurant has received features in Gourmet and Elle magazine. Additionally, Bon Appètit named Pomeroy as one of the top 6 of a new generation of female chefs in September 2008 and Food & Wine magazine recognized her as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America in 2009. Locally, Pomeroy was voted Chef of the Year for 2008 by Portland Monthly. Pomeroy’s restaurant Beast was named Restaurant of the Year by the Oregonian in 2008 and chosen as Best Brunch by the Willamette Weekly. In March of 2010, Pomeroy was selected as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Awards for Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest. Most recently, Marie Claire named Pomeroy one of the 18 most powerful women in business in October 2010. Born and raised in Corvallis, Oregon, Pomeroy spent her childhood hanging around the stove and in backyard gardens with her and with Grandmother Vivian from New Orleans. Before opening Beast, Pomeroy, and Michael Hebb started up Ripe Catering in 1999 and soon after launched an underground supper club in their northeast Portland bungalow called Family Supper. After a couple years of dodging authorities, using salvaged doors rigged as tabletops and defrosting shrimp in the bathtub, they decided to go legit. In rapid succession they opened the Gotham Coffee Shop, ClarkLewis Restaurant, and the Gotham Tavern. In the summer of 2007, after Gotham Coffee Shop and Tavern closed and ClarkLewis was sold, Pomeroy started to cook small family-style suppers again. The intimacy of these suppers is preserved at Beast, a 24-seat restaurant where people chat freely with each other at communal tables. Beast serves a six-course prix-fixed menu at two seatings 4 nights a week and a four-course brunch on Sundays.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet the Masters - Suvir Saran

An accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator, and farmer, Chef Suvir Saran views the kitchen as both a culinary and spiritual haven. Born in New Delhi, India, Saran has nurtured a lifelong passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking. As Executive Chef of Dévi, Saran shares the authentic flavors of Indian home the heart of New York City. Devi has consistently received popular and critical acclaim and has earned a three-star rating from New York Magazine and two stars from The New York Times. It is the only Indian restaurant in the U.S. to have earned a Michelin star. A respected culinary authority, Saran is Chairman of Asian Culinary Studies for The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He has also led classes for culinary centers and schools nationwide including the Institute for Culinary Education, Sur La Table; Williams-Sonoma at Time Warner Center, Central Market, and Apron’s Cooking School at Publix. Saran’s approachable and informed style has helped to demystify Indian cuisine in America, and ultimately formed American Masala, his culinary philosophy that celebrates the best of Indian and American cooking. He is a contributor to Food Arts Magazine and has penned several cookbooks including Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes (Clarkson Potter, 2004) with Stephanie Lyness and American Masala: 125 New Classics From My Home Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2007) with Raquel Pelzel. Saran is the only U.S.-based contributor to the largest Indian cookbook ever published, India Cookbook, featuring 1,000 recipes (Phaidon Press, 2010). Saran and partner Charlie Burd live and care for American Masala Farm, a nineteenth century farm in upstate New York. Dedicated to the recommendations of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) in choosing the farm’s animal population, Saran and Burd exemplify farm-to-table living by providing local restaurants with their heritage breed eggs and goat’s milk.

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Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 3

Check out Top Chef Master Rick Moonen making Richard Blais' winning goulash recipe here.

Find a printable version of the recipe here.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Antonia Lofaso

All-Star Chef Antonia Lofaso talks about her experience on the Bravo show.

A highlight: Antonia is working on a cookbook for single parents.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Antonia!

Bravo Exit Interview - Antonia LoFaso

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Congratulations, Chef Richard Blais

Chef Richard Blais has been psyching himself out for much of the second half of this All-Stars season, but ultimately he has accomplished something no other cheftestant has: to make it so far in the competition, he'll never have to hear Padma tell him to pack his knives and go.

Blais' dish for Wolfgang Puck's last supper was roundly praised by the judges, pulling off a very difficult strudel and impressing Chef Puck with the flavors of his goulash.

Chef Blais, it's great to see you make it to the finale yet again. Can  you win this time? Fingers crossed!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Blais and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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ATC Love to Chef Antonia LoFaso

Chef Antonia LoFaso came thisclose to being in the finale in both her seasons of Top Chef. This time around, it almost looked like she was going to make it, but Cousin Mike beat her by a nose.

Chef LoFaso was a strong competitor all season; even when she was on the bottom in early team challenges, her dishes were praised. She is a great chef and we're very disappointed to see her leave at this point in the game.

Chef Antonia, we at All Top Chef wish you much luck in your future endeavors.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef LoFaso and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 3

When the three remaining cheftestants entered the kitchen for their next Quickfire Challenge, they were greeted by Wolfgang Puck. The challenge was to pick from seven classic Quickfire Challenges which occurred on previous seasons. Each chef would assign a challenge to another chef, and the results were:

Mike gave Antonia the canned food challenge.
Antonia gave Richard the hot dogs challenge.
Richard gave Mike the one pot challenge.

With 45 minutes to cook, the three chefs scrambled to get cooking. Antonia started on a curry coconut soup. Mike chose a pressure cooker for his one pot and made his version of pork and beans. Richard set about concocting a hot dog medley in a ketchup sauce on homemade bread.

Part way through the cooking, Padma entered and announced that there was another twist. Each chef had to assign to another chef one of three challenges: no utensils, one hand, and the three-armed apron trick with Carla as the other chef in the apron. Being a nice guy, Richard gave Mike the no utensils challenge rather than leaving Antonia dead in the water. Antonia gave Richard the one hand  challenge, leaving Antonia with Carla and the factory reject apron. Of course, since Mike is cooking in a pressure cooker, he doesn't need any utensils anyway. In the end, that may have given Mike the edge because he won and received $5,000.

For the Elimination Challenge, the group reconvened at The Cloisters where they met Masaharu Morimoto, Michelle Bernstein, and Wolfgang Puck. The challenge was to cook the "last supper" for each of the celebrity chefs. Since Mike won the Quickfire, he paired everyone up. Mike took Michelle Bernstein, then he gave Morimoto to Antonia and Richard got Wolfgang Puck. The last meals were like this:

Wofgang Puck - goulash, spaetzle, and apple strudel
Michelle Bernstein - fried chicken, biscuits & gravy
Masaharu Morimoto - miso soup, pickles, and sashimi

The chefs spent the night planning their meals, and then returned to the kitchen the next morning to cook for three hours. Antonia had chosen hamachi for the sashimi part of the meal, but the hamachi provided was bad, so she managed to find some less flavorful tuna in the walk-in. Richard, meanwhile, struggled with his pressure cooker. Mike, on a roll, didn't appear to have any trouble putting together his fine dining take on fried chicken and biscuits, opting for sous vide chicken and an egg yolk in an empanada replacing the biscuit.

Along with the three celebrity chefs, Tom, and Padma, the judging panel included Gail Simmons and Melanie Dunea, author of My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals. For Antonia's meal, the judges thought the miso was too salty and the chile on the tuna was too hot. Mike's chicken was deemed too dry, and Richard's spaetzel was served cold. Still, Richard was judged to be the best of the three.

For Antonia and Mike, a new twist was thrown in. Each chef had 45 minutes to make one bite for the judges which would determine who moved on and who went home. Mike went surf-and-turf with lobster tempura over beef tartare, while Antonia served seared grouper in coconut lobster sauce. The judges were split three to three between Mike and Antonia, leaving Wofgang Puck as the tie breaker. He went with Mike's dish, so Antonia was sent packing.

Should Mike have been allowed to move on, or was Antonia robbed? Who is going to win it all? Share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 3 Previews

It's the penultimate episode before the big finale and with only THREE cheftestants left, the heat is on for these All-Stars to deliver perfection-only. But will the seemingly-simplest of Quickfire Challenges end up tripping up the cheftestants when they must make the most delicious one-pot meal? And when the remaining three concept their ideas for their Elimination Challenge, a nervous Richard Blais starts to realize that perhaps Mike Isabella is more of a threat than initially realized. Is Mike the quiet underdog? Find out tonight, 3/23, @ 10/9c!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meet the Masters - Celina Tio

Tio knew by age 8 she wanted to be a chef, thanks to the positive influence of her brother, father and grandfather. She obtained her degree from Drexel University in hotel and restaurant management and by age 23 she was given the opportunity to lead the Grill Room at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton. Yearning for a broader challenge and audience for her cooking, Tio ventured to Orlando Florida, to help open three specialty restaurants for Walt Disney World; Spoodles, which focused on Mediterranean cuisine, Citricos, which served Southern French dishes and Palo, an upscale Italian experience. She then accepted an invitation to move to Kansas City, Kansas to become the well-known head chef of one of the city’s finest restaurants, The American Restaurant. Tio now channels her diverse experience into her own restaurant, JULIAN, where she creates chef-driven twists on American comfort food she calls, "feel-good food." Her accomplishments have earned her local and national accolades, including 2005 "Chef of the Year" by Chef Magazine, the James Beard Foundation's 2007 "Best Chef: Midwest" and most recently named Kansas City Magazine's Chef of the Year.

TC News and Information 3.22.11

As we reported previously (and other sources have reiterated), this season's "finale" runs four weeks. So don't let the name of tomorrow night's episode, "Last Supper," fool you. The final installment of the finale airs March 30. The All-Stars Reunion airs April 6 in the usual 10:00 p.m. Eastern time-slot, followed by the premiere of Top Chef Masters Season 3 at 11:00. Fan Favorite will be revealed on "Watch What Happens" March 31, according to host Andy Cohen on Sunday night's WWH, which featured Carla Hall. OK, I get it that the reunion show was filmed before Fan Fave voting was completed. But I'm still bummed Bravo chose not to figure out a way to announce Fan Fave winner within the context/time-slot of the reunion show. I'm hoping for a Housewives-free "Watch What Happens" March 31 following the actual All-Stars finale, but who knows.

In case you missed Carla Sunday night on WWH, here's a brief clip via Eater without Housewife interruption.

Meanwhile, this year's Top Chef Tour dates and cities have been announced. Details on these tours have been notoriously sketchy in the past, but I'm hoping they may be getting their act together as they take it on the road this year - especially since the schedule includes two cities in my metropolitan area and rumor has it that Richard Blais may be here . . . If you hear of details in your city, please email us and we'll be happy to share!

On to Monday's announcements about the 2011 James Beard Awards, where Top Chef Season 7 is in the running in the "Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location" category - hmmm. Making the short list in the Chef and Restaurant section are TC winner Stephanie Izard for her Girl and The Goat as Best New Restaurant, and upcoming Top Chef Masters Season 3 contestant Sue Zemanick for Rising Star Chef of the Year (her third nomination in that category). Naomi Pomeroy, another Top Chef Masters S3 contestant, prepared "Cattail Creek poached lamb pastry with pickled sour cherry and spring herb salsa verde" for the pre-announcement James Beard event in Portland, OR, according to this.

If you haven't read this juicy interview with Tom Collichio from AV Club, check it out now. It includes some hints about the reunion.

Dale Levitski launched what some have called a "no-kids" brunch at his Chicago restaurant, Sprout, last weekend. (He says he just doesn't offer a kids menu.) Chicago Time-Out's coverage here, and Huffington post has more - including photos - here. Lingonberry French Toast or Foie Gras Deviled Eggs, anyone?

For news about Kevin Gillespie's long-anticipated new bbq restaurant, click here.

For video of the interior of Sam Talbot's long-delayed restaurant, Imperial No. 9 at the Mondrian Hotel in NYC, and a recipe demo from Feast, click here.

And for info about The Voltaggio Brothers Cookbook scheduled for release October 25, click here.

Plus Marcel Vigneron's new show on Syfy premieres tonight!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marcel's Quantum Kitchen

Don't forget to watch the debut of Marcel Vigneron's new SyFy original series, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen, which debuts tomorrow night at 10/9c!

Meet the Masters - Sue Zemanick

Sue Zemanick knew at an early age she wanted to be a chef and has accumulated quite a cache of accolades in her young career. She was a 2008 Food & Wine “Top 10 Best New Chef,” named 2008 “Chef of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine, one of “5 Chefs to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine and a Finalist for James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef” Award in 2009 and 2010 among other honors. Born and raised in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, she attended a summer program at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New Hyde Park, New York. At the age of 15, she was immediately hooked on the culinary profession and in 2001 graduated from the CIA. After stints in upstate New York and at Oceana in New York City, Zemanick moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in 2003. She began working at the city’s famed Commander’s Palace before moving to Gautreau’s in 2004. She was named executive chef in 2005 where she is still bringing culinary wonders to the Uptown area. Gautreau’s was badly damaged during Hurricane Katrina and closed for a year and a half to go under repair and renovation. Once it reopened in February 2007, Zemanick was able to put her mark on the new Gautreau’s. The restaurant offers Modern French and contemporary Louisiana fare using only fresh ingredients.

Recap Roundup - Top Chef All-Stars Finale Part 2

Buddy TV on "finals:" "It's the second week of the finals now. Which means we only have two or three more weeks of the finals to go! You know, when you think about it, it's not so final with so many weeks. But I guess it makes the Top Chef people happy."

Max the Girl on jammies: "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.)"

Reality TV Calendar on Antonia strikes again: "Mike reminds us that Antonia is known as the black hammer. Pair with her and you go home. Well, not every time, Mike but you are right. It does happen."

My Monkey Could Do That on commercials: "Oh look, a commercial for 'Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen.' Shut up, Marcel."

Monkeys as Critics on this season's challenges: "The next morning, the chefs go down to a dock where Padma greets them in a bikini and a carefully placed post-baby wrap. The little crappy boat she stands next to will take them to a deserted island. They will have to make a nice lunch. I repeat, on a deserted island. Sooooo, 'Survivor' meets 'Top Chef.' Really? I’m getting a little sick of the ridiculous challenges, to be honest. I don’t want to go to a restaurant at which a chef has done an admirable job with a live eel, a container of Sterno and fourteen toothpicks, so I’d like the winner of 'Top Chef' to be someone who does impressive work in a kitchen with all the appropriate accessories."

Carol Blymire on cooking on the beach: "They find crates of fresh spiny lobster, snapper, grouper, and learn they have to snorkel for their conch. We then move to a montage of them snorkeling and diving for conch that look like they were probably placed there by Pappy’s Fish ’N’ Tackle just a few minutes before. Blais and Tiff struggle on their dives, while Antonia navigates the water with ease. They have an open-fire grill on which to cook. Blais says, 'No liquid nitrogen, so it’s like survivalist cooking' which just cracks me up. Only you, Richard. Only you."

Cliffieland on conch: "While they chik-chik-chik way at the conch, Mike shows us that he's even one-up on Richard in knowing that dropping the shell in hot water gets the conch to let go and slip out easily. Oddly, no one else seems to catch on to this."

Jordan Baker on yacht clubs: "The judges and yacht club members stroll up, all dressed in white. Also, all ACTUALLY white, which says something unsettling about the makeup of this yacht club as compared to the actual ethnic makeup of the Bahamas as a whole."

David Dust on flirting: "Did you see Padma flirting with the 'Commodore'? Someone should have informed Ms. Lakshmi that he was NOT a member of 'The Commodores' (below) and doesn't have 'Brick House' and 'Three Times A Lady' money in the bank. In the immortal words of Kanye West ... 'I ain't sayin' she a gold-digger...'"

A Just Recompense on Richard: "He interviews that he feels added pressure because he lost his season. He knows the gravity of this. Richard, honey, everyone lost. That’s the point. I think he means he was actually in the finals, and he’s the only one left who made it to the very last episode. Still, it’s a stupid comment. Why is Richard being stupid all of a sudden? Is it the tropical air?"

Don't forget to listen to the ever-entertaining Creative Loafing Top Chef Podcast!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meet the Masters - John Rivera Sedlar

Considered “the father of modern Southwest cuisine” by Gourmet Magazine, John Rivera Sedlar has embraced the Southwest from the very start. Raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sedlar combined the traditional foods of his childhood with the classic French techniques he learned under legendary chef Jean Bertranou. His ingenuity and innovation of Southwestern cuisine made him the youngest chef to ever receive the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts Magazine. Sedlar’s take on Southwestern foods was seen in his first restaurant, Saint Estephe, which Bon Appétit Magazine named "among the very best in California, or even the West." He went on to open two more acclaimed restaurants in the Los Angeles area -- Bikini in 1991 and then Abiquiu in 1994. In 1994 Sedler sold his restaurants to pursue his lifelong dream of building a food company to supply the home cook with dishes and ingredients from the Southwest. In 1999 he established Abiquiu Foods, LLC, which operates Sedlar's Modern Southwest Kitchen, a collection of contemporary tamales, chile rellenos, taco shells and condiments. Sedlar is also a top-notch restaurant consultant for organizations including the James Beard Foundation and California Culinary Academy. In addition to his many accomplishments, Sedlar is the author of Modern Southwest Cuisine (Ten Speed Press, 1994), The Great Chile Relleno Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2000), the Tamale Poster (Ten Speed Press), and co-author of Tamales (Macmillan, 1998). His awards and recognition include a listing on The Cook's Magazine “Top 50 Who's Who of Cooking in America;” a place on Food & Wine magazine's “Honor Roll of American Chefs .” In September 1995, he received the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts Magazine, becoming the youngest chef ever to garner that distinction. Most recently, Sedlar has been nominated for The James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Pacific. He just opened his newest anticipated restaurant Playa in Los Angeles in February of 2011.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 2

Watch Top Chef Master Rick Moonen prepare Mike Isabella's winning grouper dish here.

Find a printable version of the recipe here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Tiffany Derry

All Star Chef Tiffany Derry talks about her experience on the Bravo Show.

A highlight: Tiffany will be at a new restaurant Private Social in Dallas opening in August.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Tiffany!

Congratulations Chef Mike Isabella

Congratulations Chef Mike Isabella for winning this critical elimination challenge. Your Banana Wrapped Grouper with Braised Pineapple and Warm Conch Vinaigrette looked delicious. You are certainly coming on strong in the last weeks of the season.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Isabella and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

ATC Love to Chef Tiffany Derry

Tiffany, you have been a great competitor and a true professional. We were thrilled to see you in the All-Star cast. It's always heartbreaking to see the last elimination before the finale but you handled it with grace.

We wish you the best.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Derry and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 2

In Episode 14: "Island Fever" the chefs crank out 100 plates for a Quickfire, and then do a deep dive for ingredients and cook on a deserted island for the Nassau Yacht Club. (Oh, and Padma's in a bikini.)

Is Mike Isabella growing on anyone?

Were you surprised by anything that happened in this episode?

Anyone want to go to The Bahamas?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 2 Previews

Only FOUR All-Stars are left standing and it’s a fight to the finish to claim the coveted title of "Top Chef," but it won’t be an easy road to the Finale as the cheftestants have to face the high stakes in the Bahamas. First roadblock? What happens when the cheftestants must physically fish for local Bahamian protein? And for the elimination round, the cheftestants must pair up to deliver a winning meal. When the pairs end up as girls vs. guys, it becomes one last battle-of-the-sexes before the Finale. Who will make it to the last three standing? Find out tonight 3/16 @ 10/9c on BRAVO’s Top Chef All-Stars.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Recap Roundup - Top Chef All-Stars Finale Part 1

Grub Street on haters gotta hate: "Hosea was happy to be there because he saw this as an opportunity to prove to "all the haters" that he did deserve to win. Considering it looked like he only beat Carla because her burners kept turning off, we're going to keep on hatin'. Sorry, Hosea!"

Max the Girl on Mike's competition in the Quickfire: "There’s no doubt that Mike has the biggest challenge, because he’s going against Goofus, the greatest chef in the history of Top Chef—just ask him. Goofus is sporting some sort of dorktastic Stephen Baldwin-meets-Justin-Bieber hairdo, but that doesn’t make him any less intimidating. Dude has skillz."

Fork in the Road on police escorts: "Later, a big SUV and police escort show up, and Mike gets a haunted look in his eyes. "Every time I get a police escort I'm on my way to jail," he says. This time, they're on their way to a restaurant where they're greeted by some local people dressed in bright plumage. 'I don't know if I should be happy or scared,' Tiffany says, but then Mike starts dancing so we choose the latter."

Cliffieland on the weekly psych-out: "But as the men with the fire-retardant do their work, back in the dining room there's another Blaise causing a different kind of meltdown. With this unexpected time to kill, Antonia is stressing again that her concept is too highbrow for the audience. And Richard, wishing to get into her head and do some psychological warfare, encourages her to go with her heart."

Carol Blymire on "royalty:" "For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants are told they'll be cooking for Bahamian royalty, and they kind of overreact like this is a really cool thing while I am trying not to yell at the TV that there's really not any royalty, per se, in the Bahamas, and that it's not like Prince Harry is going to come riding up the beach on his polo pony to eat their food."

Minxeats on fire in the hole!: "The chefs are more concerned with their food than their lives, but somehow none of them think to put their meat and produce away in the refrigerators and instead leave everything exposed on the countertops while they evacuate the premises. Meanwhile, the fire department arrives and spews foam on everything in sight, a la Marcel, and contaminates all and sundry."

Monkeys as Critics on the fake-out scene: "Richard likes to compare nuts to music. He says peanuts are rock & roll, walnuts are British rock, almonds are classical, hazelnuts are hippie nuts and pistachios are pop. He and Carla agree that brazil nuts suck."

A Just Recompense on being off: "Something is off here. Tom describes the dishes at the table – why not the chefs? It’s like this was filmed at another time and they faked eating or something. Something’s fishy. Speaking of fishy – in her Bravo blog, Gail claims they didn’t understand the King of Junkanoo wasn’t real royalty either, they never realized it was a regular guy until they sat down with him. And these are people who’ve traveled the world? What’s wrong with them? That’s pretty stupid."

My Monkey Could Do That on psych-outs: "Richard tells the judges he hates everything he does. Sigh. His seasoning was right on, but Tom wishes there was maybe one more flavor. Eric didn’t like the turnip and thought it was too soft. Richard promises to work on his 'vegetable cookery' if he makes it through this round. Today the winner is Mike. Sigh. He of course brags that beating Richard will screw with his head. Everything screws with Richard’s head. That’s not an achievement."

Buddy TV on the elimination dishes: "Carla gets called out for too-sweet apple chips, undercooked pork. Antonia has to explain her change in menu and her lack of pride. The judges don't like the shrimp and the pork, thinking the dish was odd. Tiffany's simplicity is a problem for the judges. The judges praise Mike for his dish, with only a little a little criticism for dry meat. Tom thinks Richard needed only one more ingredient, but otherwise they like it."

David Dust didn't do a recap this week, but he has some interesting "random" thoughts.

Don't forget to check out Creative Loafing's Top Chef Podcast!

Monday, March 14, 2011

TC News and Information 3.14.11

Wanna eat at Restaurant Wars for Season 9? A table is being auctioned off for the episode, to be filmed "sometime in July or August, 2011," reports Eater. Estimated value: $20K, to benefit the Endometriosis Foundation of America.

Season 2 Finalist Sam Talbot’s new restaurant, Imperial No. 9 at the Mondrian Hotel in NYC has finally opened, and the New York Times offers up a lengthy piece in - of all places - its Fashion and Style section. If you’re looking for info about the food he’s cooking, you won’t find much here. What you will find is an assertion by the NYT’s writer that Sam “is among a new breed of celebrity chefs who have coasted into culinary fame, less by grueling dues-paying, and more on their telegenic brand. The group includes the brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, Ludo Lefebvre, Spike Mendelsohn, Sam Mason, Fabio Viviani and Marcel Vigneron.”

Ouch! Both Michael Voltaggio and Top Chef Masters’ Ludo Lefebvre took issue with inclusion on NYT list, and contacted the LA Times with their own rebuttals.

If you are actually interested in Sam's food, Eater has a round-up of early blogger buzz about No. 9, some of it from fans who find the chef a hunk and are perhaps not too discerning in the food department. On the other hand, there seems to be something about those cauliflower fritters . . .

In other news, Richard Blais does baby food, partnering with organic baby food maker Jack’s Harvest. Their first product offering, featuring cauliflower and quinoa, debuted March 1. (What is it with cauliflower?)

We reported previously that Top Chef Master Rick Bayless has opened a spot in Chicago's O'Hare airport. Now comes news that his fellow Masters contestant, pop-up king Ludo Lefebvre may open a "chicken shack" at LAX.

Starting tomorrow, Season 6’s Preeti Mistry launches a weekday lunch pop-up in San Francisco called Juhu Beach Club featuring Indian street food, according to this item.

Floyd Cardoz of the upcoming Top Chef Masters 3 is slated to helm a new Danny Meyer restaurant in NYC to open near the end of the year, according to NYT and Grub Street.

Finally, although I haven't read anything official about this year's traveling Top Chef road show yet, Season 6's Hector Santiago posted on facebook: "TC 2011 tour starts in ST. Louis , on April 15,c you there Y'all ...their will b quick fire challenges this time aroud , fun fun ;)" Let us know if you hear about the Top Chef Tour coming to your city.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 1

Watch Chef Rick Moonen prepare Mike Isabella's winning chicken dish here.

The printable recipe can be found here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Carla Hall

 Top Chef All-Star contestant Carla Hall talks about her experience on the Bravo Show.

A highlight: Carla is focusing on a new line of petite cookies.
Click here for the Alchemy website.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Carla!

Bravo Exit Interview - Carla Hall

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Congratulations, Chef Mike Isabella!

Congratulations to Chef Mike Isabella for finally winning an Elimination Challenge this season! Not only did he win the Elimination in this first round of the finale, but he also won his battle against season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio in the Quickfire.

Way to go, Mike! Now it's time to show us all what you're really made of. Do you have what it takes to win this competition?

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Isabella and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

ATC Love to Chef Carla Hall

And disappointment is felt all around the Top Chef fandom as a clear favorite was eliminated in the first round of the finals. Chef Carla Hall brought lots of love to the show, in both her cooking and her attitude. Unfortunately, the judges weren't feeling the love this week in her pork tenderloin with apple chips and sweet potatoes. Carla once again tried a technique that she would not ordinarily have done - deep frying pork tenderloins - and again it failed her.

Chef Hall was a very strong competitor this year, winning three Elimination Challenges, and the hearts of all. I think it's probably safe to say that we all love Carla and are sad to see her go at this point in the competition.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Hall and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All Stars Finale Part 1

The remaining cheftestants reconvened in the Bahamas for the beginning of the final elimination rounds. Carla, Richard, Antonia, Mike, and Tiffany arrived at an old fort on the island to get caught up on what's happened to them since New York. Then they headed into the fort where they saw the winners of their original seasons on Top Chef waiting for them. Padma explained that the cheftestants would have to go head-to-head in a cook-off with the winners of their respective seasons, and each winner would receive $10,000. To judge the competition, Padma and Tom were joined by Eric Ripert.

Everyone gathered around their makeshift cooking stations set up in the fort and dug into boxes filled with their theme ingredients. The players and proteins broke out like this:

Season Four - Richard and Antonia against Stephanie Izard using veal
Season Five - Carla against Hosea Rosenberg using lamb
Season Six - Mike against Michael Voltaggio using duck
Season Seven - Tiffany against Kevin Sbraga using pork

The chefs scrambled around in the tropical heat for 40 minutes and then tasting and judgment commenced. Tiffany's dish beat out Kevin's, but Hosea squeezed out a win against Carla. Mike beat out the formidable Michael Voltaggio. With a three-way competition, Antonia's dish was compared to Stephanie's first, with Stephanie getting the upper hand. However, when her dish was compared to Richard's, Richard ultimately won the round.

On to the Elimination Round, Padma explained that the chefs would have to cook a meal for Bahamian royalty. They went back to their plush digs at The Cove at the Atlantis to plot and plan. Then they were sent to the kitchen  for 2 1/2 hours of prep. When the cooking and packing was over, they received a police escort to the venue. Instead of arriving at a palace, however, the chefs were dropped off at Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse where they were greeted by a Junkanoo street band and "The King of Junkanoo." He's royalty because he's called the king, get it? Oy!

Anyway, the chefs shoehorn themselves into the limited kitchen at Twin Brothers to put their dishes together. Not long into the one hour cooking time, one of the deep fryers began to smoke and eventually caught fire. Everyone was evacuated while the fire department put out the flames. With the food contaminated by the extinguishing chemicals, the chefs were forced to start all over.

Because of the set back, some of the chefs chose to change their dishes, including Antonia who decided  to drop her lamb dish for shrimp and grits, which was out of her comfort zone. Carla stuck with pork, but decided to deep fry it, which left the middle raw in spots.

With cooking finally over, the Junkaroo band members and the "King" sat down to enjoy the meal while Padma, Tom, Eric Ripert, and Gail Simmons ate and judged. They found fault with most of the dishes, but Mike's sous vide chicken with mushrooms, yams, and lobster hash was deemed the winner, mainly because of his lobster sauce. Richard's roasted lamb loin was also well received, although Eric found his turnip cannelloni too soft. Tiffany's pork tenderloin was called too simple and too dry, and Antonia's move to shrimp and grits was a failure because the stringy pulled pork she mixed in with the grits undermined the creamy texture. Carla's undercooked pork was the big failure of the night, however, with sweet potato and apple accompaniments that made it far too sweet for an entree. Carla was the first to get kicked off the island.

Should Carla have gotten the boot? Was Tiffany or Antonia more deserving of a plane ride home? Who might go all the way? Share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top Chef All-Stars Finale Part 1 Previews

The 5 remaining All-Stars head to the Bahamas to face-off for the ultimate shot at redemption. But what happens when some familiar faces show up to throw a curve ball for the Quickfire challenge? The 5 get a shock when they must compete against the chef’testant that won ‘Top Chef’ from their season! Then, when the chef’testants must cook for Bahamian royalty for the Elimination Challenge, will they be able to put their elevated spin on traditional flavors of the Bahamas? Find out tonight 3/9 @ 10/9c on the *Final Rounds* of BRAVO’s Top Chef All-Stars.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TC News and Information 3.8.11: Timing Is Everything Edition

The All-Stars Reunion Show was taped in NYC Friday, and much interwebular speculation has ensued over what the seating chart might reveal as to who the winner is. I'm inclined to agree with Eater, which offers a photo and compares the seating chart to reunions of seasons past. Photos that appear to have been shot during a break in taping were shared by Tom, Padma, Casey, and Marcel, and probably others, so methinks there's nothing too spoilerific going on here. But feel free to take a gander and make up your own mind.

While they were in town, auf'd All-Star Angelo Sosa had the gang over to his soon-to-open restaurant, Social Eatz, and received some plugs from his co-stars.

Meanwhile, another contingent of Top Cheftestants gathered for the Charleston BB&T Food + Wine Festival. Tiffany Derry had been scheduled to emcee a cook-off among six TC'ers, but she, Carla Hall, and Casey Thompson had to cancel when the All-Stars reunion taping was scheduled for the same day (as we passed along back in Feb). Marissa Churchill, Brian Malarkey, Ryan Scott, Ariane Duarte, and Kevin Gillespie were in attendance, and Season 1's Dave Martin took first place in the Giddy Goat Cheese cook-off. Food pics and commentary from the Charleston City Paper here (guess who wore a hat). And replacement emcee Kenny Gilbert's blogs about the event here.

Stephanie Izard, who will be cooking head-to-head with both Richard Blais and Antonia Lofaso in this week's installment of the All-Stars finale, will also be opening The Little Goat, a mere footsteps away from her Girl & The Goat in the fall. Time Out Chicago reports it will be a "diner/bar/bakery." She tells Eater Chicago it will feature such fare as "an awesome club sandwich with homemade bacon and our own roasted turkey, tasty malt milkshakes ... we'll poach our own tuna for a tuna melt . . . We're not doing a foie gras burger, but we will obviously have a goat burger. It'll be like old school diner favorites without making them all gastro foofy."

In other expansion news, Spike Mendelsohn tells Feast he plans to franchise his Good Stuff Eatery in this video interview from SOBE. And his sister and spokesperson says he plans to launch a deli-style Kosher food truck in April according to this item.

As for this week's All-Stars episode, there's been a lot of speculation that because five contestants were allowed to move forward last week, a double elimination is in store this week. I'm not so sure. As we reported previously, TV Guide mentioned in its Feb. 9 article that a four-part All-Stars finale is in store (yep, the same piece with the photo of Padma in a bikini). We know there's a reunion episode and that the All-Stars Season will be wrapped up before Top Chef Masters premieres April 6 - at 11:00/10:00c per the TCM facebook page. Which means it's likely that either the reunion show or the last installment of the finale is slated for the usual 10:00/9:00c timeslot on April 6. I've read variously that the finale and the reveal of Fan Favorite will be March 30, although these are usually on two separate dates. I, for one, would be happy to have Fan Fave announced during the reunion show rather than on Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens. So, kids, what do you think? Are they messing with our heads on the schedule? Have they just not figured it out yet? Or is there a crazier plan afoot?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recap Roundup - Top Chef All-Stars Episode 12

My Monkey Could Do That on Padma in the Hizzous: "Richard hopes for a challenge with less than 50 plates. He asks Antonia what she thinks will happen today, since she seems to have a good psychic vibe about this stuff. She asks 'Is Padma coming here today?' and the other girls agree they felt that too. Cue Padma coming around the corner of the kitchen. Hee. Richard likes it but says it’s like she’s coming into the zoo. Padma summons them to the roof. Antonia thinks they will base jump off the roof and scramble eggs on the way down."

Minxeats on roofies: "Padma tells the recheftestants to meet her on the roof. Every time I see reality show contestants on a roof, I'm hoping 1) someone will get tossed off; 2) Tim Gunn will be there. Unfortunately, neither happen this time. Instead, after admiring the view, Padma tells them they are headed to Ellis Island, where DoucheyMike is being deported back to New Jersey."

Monkeys as Critics on the Quickfire dishes: "Richard makes little hot dog banh mi sandwiches which don’t look half bad. They don’t look half good, either, but considering what he’s working with, good job. Tiffany makes nachos and popcorn –oh, she dresses up the popcorn with some dried fruit. Wow, that’s what I call trying, Tiffany. Mike makes hot dog bun soup, which he admits he wouldn’t feed to his cat. Carla makes an orange salad with a sprinkling of dried fruit and rosemary essence. Where’d she get rosemary essence? Clever, Carla. Antonia made a cheese sandwich. Although it looks kind of tasty, Antonia isn’t going to win points for originality, either."

Eater on ingeniuity: "No fan of junk food, Carla infuses some juice with rosemary potato chips and makes a sliced orange salad. It is wet, and it is not much to look at. (That is what Carla said.) It is nothing compared to Richard's. Richard makes a crazy bahn mi sandwich. How does he boil the hot dogs you're wondering? Oh just with the MRE pack he keeps in his knife kit at all times. Are you kidding me? This guy is Richard Blais Dean Anderson. A total winner."

David Dust on relatives: "The Cheftestants sit down with their twins to discuss their families, and their dishes. Not much came out of this, besides the HUGE bombshell that ANTONIA AND BIGHEAD MIKE ARE ACTUALLY BROTHER AND SISTER!!! AND DARTH VADER IS THEIR FATHER!!! I know, right?!? Weird!!!"

Cliffieland on loved ones: "Normally at this point, we'd see each loved one either paired up with a different chef who would have to make a dish for him or her, or there would be some kind of challenge where Tiffany's mom would have to race out into the East River to retrieve a bag of puzzle pieces and get them back to Carla's husband before Richard's pregnant wife can start a fire using only flint and liquid nitrogen."

Jordan Baker on online dating: "Matthew talks about how he and Carla met on Awesome. They should do an ad, because they’re the best. And it’s totally a great selling point for match: 'you can meet actual awesome people on, like Top Chef’s Carla Hall, not just a bunch of guys who say they’re 5’11” when they’re actually 5’8”, and don’t realize that everyone has caught onto the fact that a baseball cap is like the universal symbol for bald.'"

Reality TV Calendar on sexy food: "Richard will be presenting braised short ribs, fried bone marrow, corn puree and pickled glass worts. Glass worts are also known as sea beans. Glass wort sounds sexier, says Richard and that’s what they call them in England and Ireland."

Max the Girl on food preferences: "Tiffany wants to make okra, then remembers that Tom C. hates okra and finds it slimy (world-class chefs: They’re just like us!) but decides to make it anyway. She WILL make Tom an okra convert. (My new nickname for Tiffany: Okra Winfrey.)"

Serious Eats on boring: "The chefs served Tom, Padma, Gail, and their families, and every dish looked absolutely delicious. The next 20 minutes were like one big episode of the Brady Bunch; everything was perfect! There wasn't one negative comment during the entire tasting portion of the show. Everyone loved everything, and sadly, I found the utopian-ness of it all to be mind-numbingly boring. Where's Bourdain when you need him?"

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Fan Favorite Time Again!

Who's your favorite All-Star? Let the world know by voting here!

Top Recipe - Top Chef All Stars Episode 12

Click here to watch Rick Moonen prepare Antonia LoFaso's winning dish of risotto and braised veal.

Click here to find a printable version of the recipe.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Congratulations to Chef Antonia LoFaso!

Making risotto on Top Chef has always been a risky proposition, and Chef Antonia LoFaso played with fire in choosing it to represent her Italian heritage. She nailed it, however, making a dish that was perfect in both flavor and texture.

Not only is Antonia on her way to the Top Chef All-Stars finale in the Bahamas, she's also won herself a 2011 Toyota Highlander. Congrats to Chef Lofaso - we're excited to see what she can do in the finale.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef LoFaso and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Reactions to Top Chef All-Stars Episode 12

This week was National Heritage Week for the All Stars, who first took the ferry to Ellis Island and then found out about their genealogical heritage before preparing a dish to reflect it.

On the ferry, the recheftestants had to take whatever junk food that was available to them and with it create a dish good enough to impress guest judge Dan Barber of Blue Hill. Carla won that task with a forward-thinking orange and papaya salad.

On the island, Padma tells the chefs that Bravo took the liberty of hiring a genealogist who dug extensively into their pasts to find out exactly where the chefs come from. And who better to share this kind of family history with than family members? Out come Mike's, Antonia's, and Tiffany's moms, and Blais' and Carla's spouses to look over the info and get weepy. While digging through the past, Mike and Antonia come to find they share a common Sicilian ancestor, which of course immediately makes them cousins, and with that, friends who are rooting for each other to make it to the finale.

The Elimination Challenge is to create a dish that reflects their genealogy, which will be served to the judges and the family members. Even without the lesson, we all knew that there were two Italian Chefs, two chefs from the South, and one Irish/English mutt. So we get gnocchi (Mike), risotto (Antonia), mustard greens and okra (Tiffany), grits and biscuits (Carla), and pickled glasswort (Blais). 

All of the chefs' dishes were outstanding, but Antonia's was the best of the lot. As for the loser...well, there was none. All five chefs are headed to the Bahamas to compete in the finale.

So what did you think about the episode? Did you think someone should have been eliminated? Please leave a comment?