Top Chef All-Stars Ep. 6: Fish or cut bait
This week's episode opens with the cheftestants re-hashing last week's challenge, and Marcel getting really angry that Dale won. He gets all wide-eyed and crazy about it, poppin' and lockin' and throwin' shade like he's Kanye West. Yo Marcel, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Dale had one of the best dishes of all time! One of the best dishes of all time!
We cut to the next morning, and the alarm clocks are going off while it's still dark outside. The bleary-eyed cheftestants make their way to the Top Chef kitchen where they learn they'll be heading out to Montauk to go fishing. When they arrive, Tom and Padma are waiting for them at The Point and we learn there's no Quickfire this week. Instead, the Elimination Challenge is to catch as many fish as you can in five hours, then cook on the beach for 200 people. The chefs are split into four teams, with three chefs on each team. And the kicker? It's a double elimination. So, Stitch has to go home, right?
They head out on their assigned fishing vessels -- six chefs to a boat -- and Tre forgets to take off his shirt. The fishing and cooking teams are:
- Antonia, Stitch, Tiffani
- Dale, Carla, Tre
- Tiffany, Mike, Angelo
- Richard, Fabio, Marcel
As they board the boats, Angelo talks openly about his fear of sharks. I wish he had a fear of bad fashion choices because those sunglasses of his look ridiculous. Dale waxes rhapsodic about his dad's love of fishing and how he hopes to make him proud. And, Fabio tells us his father was on Italy's national fishing team. Uh, okay. Who knew Italy had a national fishing team? Where do they compete? The Fishalympics? Thanks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.
Each boat's fishing guides teach the chefs a few techniques to keep the lure dancing in the water to attract the fish, and Carla channels her inner 12-year-old by cracking a joke about "holding a rod." Within minutes of leaving the shore, Dale reels in the first fish of the day. Antonia gets one soon after, and from that point forward most of the chefs are pulling them in. Richard, Fabio, and Marcel don't seem to be having any luck, however, and as soon as Richard claims they can't find any fish -- blammo! -- there's a giant fish right in front of us. Oh wait. My bad. That was Camille Grammer's face on the Real Housewives promo. Back on the water, Blais and his team finally start catching some nice-size fish. But I did notice that throughout this segment, the guys seem to reel in their own fish, while the women handed over their rods to the guides to pull them in. That doesn't seem right. But within minutes of making this sage observation, Tiffany pulls in her very own fish. Way to go, T.
With their time on the water coming to an end, they begin planning their menu ideas. Back on land, they head to the farmers market for the rest of their ingredients. As befits my love-hate thing for Angelo, I adore that he says when you go to a farmers market, if you pay attention, the market dictates the dish. So, so true. After their time at the market, the chefs head back to the apartment. What in the what? I thought they were gonna cook on the beach. What gives, Bravo?
The next day, the chefs finally hit the beach. I'm sorry, the "beach" -- because it's actually a sand-covered pier where you catch a water taxi to Manhattan. Not exactly the fresh salty air and sounds of crashing waves. More like, I wonder who's wearing cement shoes at the bottom of this stank river beside me? But as much as I'm bitching and moaning about this beach bait-and-switch, Stitch does me one better and gets a bad case of the whiny-bitchy verbal diarrhea, complaining about every single little thing from the sun to her cucumbers being too watery. The show's editors finally answered my fervent prayers and featured interview segments with the other cheftestants wondering why Jamie was even there to begin with, and complaining about how miserable she is to be around. Good times.
As the chefs prep and cook, and as Richard runs around in his adorable clamdigger jeans, Tom strolls out for a visit. He stops by each team's workstation to ask them about their menu. He questions Blais, Marcel and Fabio on why they're only doing one dish when their team has three people. He wonders whether Dale made his own tortillas for the fish tacos. (He didn't). Tom leaves, the sun sets, and I am curious as to why it is taking them all freakin' day to cook for this challenge. I mean, couldn't they have pulled this off out in Montauk right after the farmers market trip? Did we really need to give them another eight hours to cook? Crikey.
The extras, uh, I mean party guests, arrive fresh from a hipster photo shoot for the fake "beach" party. Then, the judges arrive with tonight's guest judge, chef Kerry Heffernan, in tow. Turns out, he's Tom's fishing buddy. Tom claims Heffernan knows more about fish than any other chef he knows. Really, Tom? More than Eric Ripert? Or Rick Moonen? Or David Pasternak? Sure, okay. We believe you.
The chefs plate and serve their dishes:
Fabio, Marcel and Richard: sea bass with succotash, corn puree, tomato confit, concord grape gastrique and jamon froth
Dale: fish taco with bass, corn and avocado relish, creme fraiche, radishes and cabbage
Carla: smoked bluefish lettuce wrap, pickled watermelon rind, radishes, cucumber and pumpernickel bagel croutons (CLEVER and looks great)
Tre: striped sea bass with gazpacho salad, tomato and avocado
Jamie: striped bass, watermelon salad with fresh dill, shaved radishes and cucumber water
Tiffani: smoked bluefish with tomato, roasted corn, and zucchini ribbon salad (I love the idea of this dish)
Antonia: open-faced porgy po-boy with Old Bay mayo and cabbage slaw (WANT) Padma ate it with a fork and knife. Minus ten cool points.
Tiffany, Angelo and Mike: two dishes -- pickled bluefish with spicy watermelon, shallots, red chilies, potato confit, and dill; and, striped bass with corn puree, tomato, Aleppo pepper spice rub (YUM) and watermelon (WANT, WANT, WANT)
The judges taste the food, the hipsters act ironic, and Angelo is busted hitting on a pretty girl, so I guess we can surmise last year's mail-order bride thing never quite worked out.
We cut to commercial, but come back for the weekly 60-second interstitial. This week's theme is all about what fish each contestant would be, and Carla says something about Tre being one of those creatures that buries himself under the sand, because Tre is the guy you don't notice. Um, Carla? Honey? You know I adore you, but can I take you to get your vision checked? Because Tre? Is tres, tres noticeable.
Back on the show, the chefs are sitting in the Stew Room talking about their day. Padma calls Dale, Carla, Tre, Tiffany, Mike and Angelo to Judges' Table, and the vibe in the Stew indicates that no one's sure if it's because those folks are the winners or the losers. Turns out, they're the chefs who created the favorite dishes of the night, and I am quite pleased with that decision. Guest judge NotBourdain raves about Dale's taco and says "this is exactly the kind of food we wanna eat in this environment." Fresh ocean fish on a store-bought tortilla, eaten while standing next to a watery graveyard waiting for a shuttle boat? Uh, okay. Sure. We'll go with that.
While the judges praise all the dishes from these two teams, Dale and Carla seem to get the most props, and tonight's winner is: Carla! Not only does she win the challenge, she also wins a trip to Amsterdam! She's proud of her second win of the season and goes back to the Stew Room beaming and doing a little jig. She's greeted by the Sad Trombone Really Sore Loser teams who don't even congratulate her or offer the meekest of "good job"s because they're so self-involved and all "woe is me, I guess those teams were better so I'm gonna be all bitter and sullen about it." Bad form, guys. Bad form.
The sore losers -- Fabio, Richard, Marcel, Tiffani, Jamie and Antonia -- shuffle out to Judges' Table. And I must say: I'm feeling a little itchy. Like there's a Stitch that needs to be removed.
Tom hits up Richard, Fabio and Marcel first, and the guys actually come together and defend their decision to do just one dish and work together as a team. Tom thought the dish was too heavy, and too restaurant-like. NotBourdain tells them it wasn't beachy enough. To which, again, I say: THEY WEREN'T COOKING ON A REAL BEACH. Why do they keep bringing up this theme of the beach when the chefs were cooking alongside one of the most strikingly beautiful urban skylines in the world?
Then, there's a bit of a twist: Tom tells Antonia she would've been the winner had she not been on the team with the two weakest dishes -- Jamie's and Tiffani's. And it's at this point I know those two are headed home and I can barely watch the rest of the episode because I'm leaping around in joyful celebration that Stitch is heading home. Tiffani gets slammed for leaving the bloodline in her fish, which made it overly fishy and strong. Gail tells Jamie her dish was washed out.
As the judges deliberate, it's clear that Richard, Marcel and Fabio are safe because their only crime was doing a restaurant-quality dish on a fake beach. We know Antonia's dish was well-loved, and the judges continue to rip apart the flavor and lack of technique on Jamie's and Tiffani's dishes. Back in the Stew Room, Jamie tries to gossip with Carla about Richard, Marcel and Fabio's dish not being beach food. And, I'm sorry, but the minute you make these chefs leave the ocean and the beaches of gorgeous Montauk to come back to the city, you can't criticize someone for wanting and trying to do a higher-end, restaurant-quality dish. I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but come on.
The sore losers are called back to Judges' Table, and the eliminations are announced. First out? Tiffani. Which is kind of a bummer, right? I think I was ready for Marcel to head home. The second elimination: Ding dong, the Stitch is dead.
As they do their exit interview segments and say goodbye to their fellow competitors, I'm sad to see Tiffani go because I feel like we were really getting to know the real Tiffani this season, as opposed to the caricature of herself that she was in her original season. And then she goes and says the very same thing in her exit interview. Awwww. As Tiff and Stitch head out for good, the cheftestants surround Tiffani with hugs and kisses while Jamie goes out of camera range to collect her bags. It feels good to have Stitch removed. Now we can all heal form the trauma of that Top NonCooker interloper and move forward with some real chefs who actually cook, and cook well.
Next week: Holy Moses, they're doing a challenge at The Foundry in Long Island City, where a very dear friend of mine got married. Glad the cheftestants weren't catering her wedding, though, because if the previews are accurate, that would've been one nasty reception.
Can we talk about predictions for final four? I'm thinking it's Richard, Angelo, Antonia and Carla? Or, Dale? Can't decide who my fourth is. What about you?
| January 13, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: Television | Tags: Carol Blymire, Top Chef
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