Top Chef All-Stars 1/5 Recap: Dim Sum Daddy Day Care
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For its 100th episode, Top Chef should do something special, right? Well, look out kids -- here comes Tom Collichio…in a chef’s coat! After a quick rumination on Spike’s defeat in straight sets last week (in which the producers see fit to vindicate Angelo for some reason), Padma briskly introduces this week’s Quickfire Challenge: “One of the nation’s best chefs” will be timed as he makes a dish as fast as he can, and then the All-Stars will have the same amount of time to complete their own dishes. Suddenly, in walks the Top Chef Daddy himself.
Daddy Don’t You Cook So Fast
Tim Gunn has never actually designed clothing, and Simon Cowell can’t sing to save his life. Bow down, bitches, and behold Chef Tom as he blows through the kitchen like a tornado, creating a Black Sea Bass dish with clams, tomato and zucchini in a record-breaking 8 minutes and 37 seconds. (Memo to Magical Elves: For the DVD of this season, you should include the full 8:37 sequence of Tom’s execution; I’ll bet it’s twice as impressive as the rushed edit we saw tonight.) And just to put any skeptics in their place, the chefs all taste the dish, and are impressed with its quality as well as Tom’s skill. At one point during his prep, he did knock over a container of used ingredients that splashed into Padma; we’ll just call that a bonus.
A wiped-down Padma lets the chefs know that the winner will receive immunity from elimination. Oh, also the winner gets a new Toyota Prius! Usually such a prize is saved for the semi-finals, but then this is All-Stars and the 100th episode. Go big or walk home. Tom lets them know that they will be judging the degree of difficulty as well as the taste; he doesn’t want to see a bunch of raw dishes that merely involved slicing and no cooking.
The clock is set, Padma yells go, and all the chefs cram into the (product-placement) coolers to grab proteins. Wily coyote Marcel has a different idea, and instead runs to Tom’s table and grabs all his unused fish, avoiding the initial riot and saving a decent chunk of time. That wascal.
Richard and Dale talk about the degree of difficulty of the ingredients they are using, while Angelo tells us he’s going to do a raw dish anyway. But since he’s, y’know, Angelo, he figures it will be so impressive that he’ll win anyway. Mmm-hmm. Jamie babbles something about being perceived as “fast” (ha-ha), and then in typical fashion, panics about not having her clams cooking with only 3 minutes to go.
Time’s up! Dale lets us know that his Thai noodle dish died on the table: “I have nothing, and it tastes like doo-doo.” Mike I (or just Mike now, since he’s the only one) feels confident in his dish as the judges approach:
Antonia: Seared ahi tuna with a tarragon & fresh tomato salad (it looks finished and good)
Richard: Foie gras roasted with aromatics, with corn, fresh coriander & port (finished/good)
Tiffani: Classic clam chowder with celery & cream (sort of finished)
Fabio: Kind of copied Tom’s dish, except he highlighted the clams instead of the fish (finished)
Angelo: Yuzu branzino crudo with jalapeno & cilantro (finished, but Tom gives him the fish-eye)
Tiffany: Pan-seared bass with tomato relish, olives & capers (finished)
Tre: Grilled beef tenderloin, seared foie gras with mushrooms & brandy sauce (finished)
Carla: Shrimp with mango, cilantro & mint (finished, I think)
Dale: Pad Thai with egg noodles (not even close)
Casey: Spice-rubbed filet & fresh tomato relish (finished but it looks really rare)
Marcel: (Tom’s) Black sea bass with dashi broth, bok choy & chili oil (finished/good)
Mike: Pan-roasted branzino with black olive & caper stew (finished/good)
Jamie: Clam amuse-bouche with bacon, tomato & cream (not finished)
Of course, Dale and Jamie are on the bottom with their unfinished dishes, and Tom calls out Angelo for ignoring his advice and going raw. Mike, Richard and Marcel are informed that they are in the running for the Toyota Prius, but ultimately, Tom tosses the keys to Mike.
(I must say, I’m liking Mike more this season than in Las Vegas, and the fact that he beat Marcel just makes me giggly and tingly all over. I still can’t stand MC Foam-Boy)
On we go to the Elimination challenge: Padma says the chefs will have to travel to Chinatown and work as a team to crank out a ton of dim sum for the hundreds of impatient locals at the no-nonsense dim sum house Grand Harmony. In a normal season, this is the kind of challenge that weeds out the caterers and “chefs to the stars” who don’t normally work on a real restaurant line. This season, we’ll get to see who’s just plain rusty. As usual, gnocchi-junkie Fabio is petrified because there are still people in the world who don’t like Italian food. Buy a book, man!
With the Quickfire completed, we are treated to a new innovation in Top Chef product placement: the Prius is actually waiting for Mike outside the Top Chef studios. He gets in and (allegedly) takes his favorite chefs back to Brooklyn. Back at the suites, the chefs meet to go over their dishes, and Jamie causes everyone’s eyes to roll by volunteering to do (ta-da!) a scallop dish. Immune Mike offers to expedite in the kitchen, and Carla and Casey volunteer to work the front of the house after most everyone else backs away from the job, since it involves constantly pushing carts full of dim sum around at a furious pace.
I Saw Daddy Wearing Mommy’s Bra
Meeting adjourned, the bar is open! The girls get giggly at the kitchen table while the guys congregate around the cooking island. Dale goes off by himself and does this week’s soliloquy about how great it would be to win for his girl and his family. Back in the kitchen, the girls start talking about bras and break into fits of laughter. (Fun fact: Tiffani is a 36DD!) The manly men run from the kitchen, frightened of all the scary talk about woman-parts.
The next morning, the chefs hit Chinatown and begin a confusing 45-minute shopping spree at a supermarket where nobody speaks English. For Fabio, this is like waking up from one bad dream into another. On top of this, he enters a third nightmare as he watches the workers chop up a turtle to sell for turtle soup. This hits him hard, as he once owned a pet turtle that he used to walk on a leash. We even see home video of it! Think of this next time you’re eating a BLT and watching Charlotte’s Web.
Mad scientist Marcel pockets a shaker of monosodium glutamate, and my heart begins to enlarge at the very thought of him using it. Meanwhile, Jamie and Antonia decide to work as a team, as Antonia tells us she thinks Jamie’s ideas sound good, even if her reputation has been ruined beyond repair in only four short episodes. Casey decides to go hardcore and prepare chicken feet. Um, eww.
The chefs then run over to Grand Harmony to use its kitchen for 3 ½ hours of prep. The equipment is different than some of them (Fabio) are used to using, which causes more stress. Dale reminds us that this is the kind of food he cooks daily, therefore this is his challenge to lose. Foreshadowing? We also get a quick clip where some chefs talk about committing to do two dishes, and how it might hurt them in the end. Then we see Jamie and Antonio working together…foreshadowing?
We now arrive at the part of the episode that I still can’t bring myself to watch: Casey butchers the chicken feet, including a close-up of her chopping the nails off the tips of each claw. Um, eww!
Carla is making summer rolls, which she tells us in hindsight may have been a bad decision since they are so time-consuming to put together. Or as she puts it, “fiddly.” Meanwhile, Tre is working on a custard dessert, and wonders how he’ll be able to keep it cold in the hot, steaming kitchen. Angelo flashes back to his childhood, when he would cook with his dad every Saturday. Angelo is the “make daddy proud” chef this week.
Casey makes some last minute prep to her station just prior to opening the house, and gives Antonia instructions for firing her chicken feet since she won’t be around to do it. Fabio’s lucky streak continues, as he is relieved to find that his short ribs have cooked perfectly in spite of him not knowing the ovens. Everyone rushes around the kitchen as the judges and a multitude of patrons are seated. Anthony Bourdain has the week off, but Top Chef Master Suser Lee happily sits in, as the Hong Kong native is looking forward to a taste of home.
Daddy Can I Turn This?
Here’s how it works: Everyone cooks like crazy downstairs, and Tiffany loads the finished dim sum dishes onto a dumbwaiter, which goes up to Expeditor Mike who loads the carts that runners Casey and Carla will push around to each table.
Well, that’s how it should have worked, anyway. Everybody is behind in their plating, which gives Mike no food to load and Carla and Casey to serve. Patrons are grabbing food for themselves, or getting up and leaving. At one point it gets so frustrating out front that Tom walks into the kitchen to see what the problem is. That’s a baaaaad sign.
Mike is helpless as an expeditor when he has to communicate by phone, and the dishes that the cooks manage to complete are failing right and left. Marcel’s boneless chicken wings are only popular with the kids who don’t know better. Richard’s spring rolls taste of alcohol. Tiffani’s house salad is overwhelmed by sesame. Carla’s summer rolls are attractive, but have no taste. We see a translation of one patron’s comment that summarizes the entire meal: “Caucasian dim sum.”
Jamie’s dishes are a total failure, and Antonia can’t seem to do anything to improve them. This is probably because she is also cooking her own shrimp toast dish, as well as Casey’s chicken feet--and doing it the wrong way. Casey discovers that her dish is pretty much ruined, and walks downstairs to try and fix things. Tre’s dessert didn’t set properly.
On the bright side, Angelo’s shrimp & pork spring roll is a hit, as are Fabio’s short ribs. And somehow, Antonia also had time to make some shrimp toast that may redeem her at judge’s table. Dale and Angelo teamed up to present a tasty cheung fun with XO shrimp, and Dale’s own sweet sticky rice dish is a winner.
My Bones Are Tired, Daddy
The chefs start getting despondent, which slows things down even further. Bad Titanic jokes are made. Dale bitches about the fact that nobody else is bitching about it enough. Marcel bitches about Dale cleaning dirt off his shoe while everyone else is drowning. Everyone’s looking for a scapegoat at this point. After a long, bad day, the chefs head out while the real cooks at Grand Harmony sweep in to try and pick up the pieces.
Back in the stew room, Padma has a surprise for the chefs: she asks Jamie, Antonia, Carla, and Tre to take a walk with her. The chefs quickly realize that the losers are going first this time; does this mean there is no winner? At judges’ table, Tom addresses the lousy service first, which nobody has a good explanation for, but then informs them that service aside, they are also there because they made the worst dishes. Jamie’s explanation for her awful scallop dumplings: “I’ve never made them before.” In addition to learning that Antonia cooked Casey’s largely untouched chicken feet, we learn that Casey’s other dish, a pancake with egg and rice flour, was also a heavy mess. Antonio learns that her shrimp toast was well received. Commenting on the bland summer rolls, Susur breaks Carla’s heart by telling her that she was cooking with her eyes instead of her stomach.
Padma calls a cease-fire by asking the chefs to send back “some of their colleagues” but we don’t find out who right away. Back in the stew room, Jamie calls out Tiffany, Dale, Angelo and Fabio to go next. Perhaps there will be a winner after all…
Compliments are heaped upon the four beaming chefs, and Susur announces that Dale is the winner. Secretly, Dale doesn’t feel as if the day was worthy of a winner…but he’ll take it!
Jamie, Antonia, Casey and Carla return for the verdict. All of them made bad dishes, but only one was deemed as “inedible” which is the kiss of death for any chef. In this case, the kiss goes to Casey for her chicken feet. Jamie and, well, everyone are shocked, since it was assumed that Jamie was going…even Jamie thought so. Once again, Jamie shrugs her way through another week as better chefs get the boot because of crazy circumstances. Oh well. Sigh.
Next week, the chefs go fishing! Also, Marcel and Dale get up in each other’s grills. Hopefully Dale will reduce Marcel to a gurgling puddle of foam. Check here next week for PhoneGrrrl’s triumphant return to the recap chair!
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