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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/17/2011

Top Chef All-Stars Ep. 10: Iron chef Dale

By Carol Blymire

Tonight's episode starts out, once again, in that abandoned comedy club with the red brick wall. Seriously, guys. Is it 1994 on the set of "Stand Up, Stand Up"? What gives? The cheftestants have fake conversations with force-fed lines from the producers. about Fabio being eliminated. Richard and Dale make a pact to be allies until the end, to try and push each other to be in the finals. And then Dale says something that makes me LOVE HIM: "I'm not like these new-school parents who are like 'we're all winners' -- %*!&#^$ that. It's bull-$#*! Who ever said losing is okay? In what country is that cool?" [knowing look into camera]

And now? I'm TEAM DALE!! (Er, and also Team Blais and Team Carla and Team Antonia. But totes magotes Team Dale for tonight.)

The Quickfire Challenge features Sesame Street's Elmo, Cookie Monster and Telly, and the chefs have to make the world's best cookie in 45 minutes. The winner gets $5,000. Now, I will confess to thinking that this was going to be really, really stupid, but it turns out it's kind of sweet and fun. If only Grover had been invited to the table. I miss that fuzzy little blue guy.

Mike says he's never made a cookie from scratch, and Dale fat-shames him. Chefs: They're just like us! Angelo says he hasn't made a cookie in 25 years. How old is he? Fifty-eight? Is he the Kenneth Ellen Parcell of Top Chef? Carla owns a freakin' cookie company here in Washington, so you'd think she has an advantage, but one can never tell, I suppose.

Here's what they made, and what Padma and the Muppets ate:

  • Antonia: dark chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips and sprinkles and caramel glaze [it looks like someone stepped on them]
  • Carla: chocolate chip cookie with cinnamon [classic, yet maybe not bold enough]
  • Dale: pretzel and potato chip shortbread cookie with salted caramel chocolate ganache [ME WANT NOW]
  • Richard: ice cream cookie with chocolate chips, zucchini, and mint [Oh, Richard. Really?]
  • Mike: almond and dried cherry cookie with rose petal powdered sugar [Looks like a nursing home craft project]
  • Tiffany: shortbread cookie with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and coconut milk [I wanna make sweet, sweet love to these cookies]
  • Angelo: chocolate chip and Belgian hazelnut cookie, with a chocolate-banana milkshake [Not a hazelnut fan, so meh]

The Muppets didn't like Richard's or Angelo's cookies, which isn't a big surprise to anyone watching the show. They loved Dale's and Antonia's, although Elmo told Antonia her cookies looked like cow chips. He's right. And, the winner is Dale, who takes home $5,000.

We go right into the Elimination Challenge and find out the winner will receive the biggest cash prize in Top Chef history: $25,000. That's not too shabby. But hearing that dollar figure reminds me of last week's promo, which featured the chefs running around a Target store, so it's pretty darn clear this half of the show is gonna be heavy on product placement. Sigh....

The cheftestants are given three hours in the middle of the night (midnight-3 a.m.) to raid a Target store so that they can each make a dish to serve to 100 Target employees. At first, this challenge doesn't seem all that difficult until you realize they're not just getting food -- they have to buy pots, pans, knives, appliances, service pieces. Everything. Oh, and the three hours isn't just for shopping; that includes their prepping and cooking time, too. It's killing me that I kind of like the idea of this challenge. At least it's something a little different, and forces the cheftestants' ingenuity and creativity. I do wonder, though, how good any of the dishes can really be since they'll all be made from the processed and factory-farmed food you can find in Target. Bleargh. No thanks.

As the chefs race through the store, it's kind of fun to see them huffing and puffing as they traverse the long aisles to find what they need. They load up cart after cart with gear, appliances, tables and food, and all of a sudden, Glee's Rachel Berry makes a cameo appearance! Oh no, wait. Never mind. It's just Angelo wearing stretchy black knee-highs with his shorts.

Carla stresses me out because she taking way too long looking for service pieces and table linens and not choosing her food. She's the last one to start cooking, and I have a feeling this isn't going to end well.

The Target employees arrive in their khaki pants and red shirts, and start eating. The judges saunter in, looking as if they've just rolled out of bed and pulled on their grandfather's sweater, Tony. Joining Tom, Padma and Bourdain are Ming Tsai (whom I really like, and who seems to be reverse-aging) and Thomas O'Brien, Target's chief home designer.

The chefs present their dishes one-by-one to the judges:

  • Richard: Pork tenderloin with green chilies, apple, braised pork ribs and corn pancakes
  • Dale: Rib-eye grilled cheese sandwich (pressed with an iron) with spicy tomato soup
  • Carla: Curry apple soup with tomato-ginger jam and cucumber-apple slaw
  • Antonia: Parmesan egg on garlic crostini with almond, tomato, apple salad
  • Mike: Spicy coconut soup with mushrooms, scallions and lime
  • Tiffany: Jambalaya with chicken sausage and shrimp, and a summer salad
  • Angelo: Baked potato soup with bacon, sour cream, potato skins, broccoli, scallions and cheddar cheese

The judges discussed each dish as they ate it, and based on their comments it seems like Dale and Antonia are the favorites, and Angelo and Carla might be on the bottom. Ruh-roh. They all leave, and it looks to me like Tiffany shoplifts the hat she picked up and wore while food shopping. I mean, the little plastic hanger and price tag are dangling from the back of it as it's pulled down on her head. SECURITY!

Back in the Stew Room, the chefs are exhausted. Most of them don't work in restaurant kitchens every night anymore, so I would imagine this challenge was probably more physically draining than any of the others.

Padma calls Dale, Antonia, and Richard to Judges' Table first. They have the best dishes of the night/morning. Ming Tsai complimented Richard on cooking a protein two ways: the seared loin, and the braised ribs. Bourdain liked Antonia's runny eggs. Tom thought Dale's dish was full of flavor, and Bourdain loved that he used an iron to give it a nice crispy, crunchy sear on the outside. Because they talked about partying and drugs and urine tests when they were tasting and critiquing Dale's food, it's clear he's the front-runner. And, in fact, the winner is: Dale. He adds the $25,000 from this challenge to the $5,000 from the Quickfire, thus paying his rent for a year, he says. Nice going, Dale.

Back in the Stew Room, the chefs are congratulatory and glad for his win. And then it hits me: the last few times a woman has won, the Stew-ers were not pleasant, supportive, or congratulatory. But, when a guy wins, there are hugs and hurrahs. I'm no women's libber, but this stinks, guys. Fix it. Now.

Standing before Judges' Table next are Carla, Tiffany, and Angelo. Whoa. A part of me is certain Tiff is getting the axe until I remember the promo that ran on Bravo all week that teased a Top Chef "shocking" elimination. So now, I'm pretty sure it's Angelo who is getting das boot, and I'm surprised at how much it bums me out. But still, I watch... hopeful that he might get a reprieve.

Carla 'fessed up to knowing she didn't allow enough time for the flavors to meld in her soup, and that it needed a protein. The judges thought it was too thin and one-dimensional, and would have been better a sauce for chicken. The judges told Angelo his soup was way too rich and way too salty and way too scallion-y. Tom said he could only eat one spoonful of it because it was so salty it was inedible. That's not good. Bourdain hated the dried creole spice mix Tiffany used, and Tom thinks she should've used cayenne instead. When Padma asks whether they have anything else they want to add, Tiffany bursts into tears as if she thinks she's going home, and says it's been an honor working with everyone. Padma says they'll call them back in a bit.

They come back after a little time in the Stew Room, and we learn that Angelo is packing his knives and going home. Oh, buddy. That sucks. I was really hard on him in his original season here in Washington, but even though I think he flies his freak flag a little too high, the dude can cook. He gives a classy goodbye to the team, and there are hugs all around the room. So now, I guess my final four has been figured out for me: Blais, Dale, Antonia and Carla.

On next week's episode: I might be going on strike during the Quickfire. That's right, kids. It looks as if Smithfield Meats spokesdevil Paula Deen is the guest judge, and if the chefs are asked to cook with Smithfield products, I won't write about it. It is a reprehensible company whose CEO deserves to be in jail for the way they treat their animals. And you all know me well enough by now to know I'm not some tree-hugging, hackysack-kicking vegan. I love meat. I eat lots of it. But, I won't eat meat from factory farms or CAFOs, and Smithfield is the worst of the bunch. Paula Deen should know better than to be their spokesperson; no amount of money is worth it. [/end rant].

Also on next week's show? Eliminated cheftestants Spike, Tiffani, Angelo, Marcel, Tre (!!!!) and Fabio come back bearing fish and shellfish, and have to act as sous-chefs for the Elimination Challenge. New Orleans chef John Besh is judging. We see that Marcel is paired with Tiffany and there's lots of strong language and eye rolling, so I guess we'll say goodbye to her at the end of next week's episode, yeah?

By Carol Blymire  | February 17, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Television  | Tags:  Carol Blymire, Top Chef All-Stars  
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I'd love to get the recipe for Dale's cookie. It sounds really good!

Posted by: tlc2614 | February 17, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Go to Dale's blog (google "Dale Talde blog," & it will be one of the first results that comes up). He posted a brief version of the recipe there.

Posted by: clamturkey | February 17, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn’t mind if Antonia or Tiffany left next. They're are not worthy of the title of Top Chef and frankly they’re getting annoying. I’d say Angelo had more skill, but wasn’t much better in the personality category. I’m sad to see his Bromance with Mike broken up though.

Posted by: BlenderBabe | February 17, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I want Jen back!!! Would like to see some kind of a challenge that lets Jen and Angelo fight their way back in.

Posted by: kwhugo | February 17, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

totes magotes?!?! Kenneth Ellen Parcell??

I love you!

Dude... That guy just crop-dusted all over your open house!

Posted by: ydmalka | February 20, 2011 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Bravo posted the cookie recipe here:

Posted by: nochefhere | February 21, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

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