After a week off, Top Chef All-Stars returned with spicy and speedy (or not) goodness! Since there are only 13 of the cheftestants left, this could mean either good luck or bad luck in the episode entitled "Dim Sum Lose Sum" (or "Dim Sum Lose Some," since Bravo seems to have it both ways). Which will it be?
First of all, we got a look back at the previous week. The cheftestants seem rather irritated with both Angelo and Jamie. Angelo's under fire for his possible sabotage of other chefs, and Jamie still hasn't cooked much. Not that any of this matters much, because we immediately move on to the current week.
As the cheftestants file into the kitchen for the Quickfire Challenge, Padma looks weirdly smug. We soon find out why when it turns out that Tom will be the challenge this week. Specifically, he'll be cooking a meal. Very fast. Super fast. His impending speed and skill seems to terrify and thrill the cheftestants.
That terror and thrill proves to be justified when Tom whips up Black Sea Bass with Clams, Tomato and Zucchini in 8 minutes, 37 seconds. His preparation and focus actually are pretty impressive. Also he throws a fish at Padma (Not on purpose. Probably.).
The cheftestants now have to repeat the feat, vying for both immunity and a Toyota Prius. Whether out of endorsement requirements or actual happiness, everyone seems very excited about the car.
When time starts, everybody rushes for the fridge. Except for Marcel, who rushes for Tom's leftover fish. This move is met with universal approval from the kitchen. Meanwhile, back at the fridge, Carla practically falls over during a false start, Richard gets excited by the presence of foie gras and just about everyone feverishly cooks. The results are mixed:
- Antonia has seared ahi tuna, tarragon and fresh tomato salad
- Richard has foie gras roasted with aromatics, corn, fresh coriander and port
- Tiffani has New England clam chowder with celery and cream
- Fabio has clams, fish, zucchini, tomato broth, thyme and garlic (yes,
apparently just listing ingredients counts as a dish in this challenge)
- Angelo has yuzu branzino crudo with jalapeno and cilantro (thus violating the "No raw dishes" instructions)
- Tiffany has pan-seared bass with tomato relish, olives and capers
- Tre has a grilled beef tenderloin and seared foie gras with a mushroom and brandy sauce
- Carla has shrimp with mango, cilantro and mint
- Dale has pad thai with egg noodles
- Casey has a spice-rubbed filet and fresh tomato relish
- Marcel has (Tom's) black sea bass with dashi broth, bok choy and chili oil
- Mike has pan-roasted branzino with black olive and caper stew
- Jamie has a clam amuse-bouche with bacon, tomato and cream (only one, because the others didn't cook in time)
At the bottom of the judges' rankings are Dale (who described his own dish as "doo-doo"), Jamie (who only cooked one clam) and Angelo (because the dish was raw).
At the top are Mike, Richard and Marcel, all of whom are praised for getting good flavors in a short amount of time. And then... Mike wins the challenge. He seems extremely happy about it and soon gets to drive that brand-new car (which was apparently left right outside the kitchen).
Alas, all rejoicing must be kept short, because it's time to get on to the Elimination Challenge.
This week, the cheftestants must try their hands at dim sum. And not just any dim sum. They need to please a crowd of Chinatown locals during the lunch rush. This will all be happening at the Golden Harmony dim sum restaurant, one of those totally authentic, all-Chinese places where the customers will definitely not take kindly to the craziness of the cheftestants.
So, basically, this should be entertaining.
The cheftestants glumly plan their strategy back at the luxury loft. No one seems to want to be out on the floor (which is fair), but Carla and Casey throw themselves on the cooking grenades to take care of it. Mike, meanwhile, will exploit his immunity to be in charge of the kitchen.
Shopping time arrives the next day, and the cheftestants take over a Chinese grocery store. New heights of amusement are reached as the chefs slowly realize that a) nothing is in English, b) the clerks are only amused and c) most of them don't know what they're doing. Fabio also entertains with his sudden interest in turtle protection rights.
Nothing much improves in the kitchen, where the cheftestants are thrown by the woks, steamers and weird ovens. In any case, they all need to prep 180 portions of dim sum in two hours.
Immediately, things don't go quickly or well. Jamie doesn't like her dumplings' flavor and texture. Casey has to trim the nails off her chicken feet (she actually seems to enjoy this and discusses her love of butchery art (!!!)). Carla questions her choice of dishes. Tre is concerned about his cold dessert in the hot kitchen. Angelo reminisces about the happy days of his childhood, when he spent hours cleaning rice under the threat of punishment.
Chefs are weird.
All too soon, many large Chinese families begin to appear for their dim sum. The anticipation of their disappointment is almost painful. Mike comes out to check on the restaurant. Everyone stares at him. Which makes sense since they don't want to wait. You don't go for dim sum with the intention of waiting.
The judges, who are far more important than the hordes of starving families anyway, arrive. The guest judge this week is the chef Susur Lee (who must truly be famous because I actually know who he is).While the Chinese starve around them, the judges get to try the various dishes:
- Tiffani has a cabbage, cilantro and sesame salad with crispy curry chicken
- Fabio has soy honey glazed spicy pork rib (which, in what Fabio terms a miracle, actually turned out well)
- Carla has a vegetable summer roll with lemongrass dipping sauce
- Angelo has a shrimp and pork spring roll
- Marcel has boneless chicken wings with scallion mayonnaise
Not that we get to see it, but Richard also has a dish in there. I'm sure it's lovely.
The judges get to eat, but the general public still looks hungry. But even the judges start wondering about the service after awhile. Downstairs, the kitchen is descending into chaos. That doesn't help much.Round two of the judges' food begins, while the Chinese diners get maybe a few bites of stolen food:
- Jamie and Antonia have long beans with Chinese sausage
- Dale has cheung fun with xo shrimp and a second dish of sweet sticky rice with Chinese bacon wrapped in a banana leaf
- Tiffany has spicy pork with vegetables on a steamed bun
- Tre has an orange ginger dessert with fresh water chestnuts, toasted pine nuts and Thai basil
In the kitchen, a frantic Antonia has stopped doing anything to get Casey's dish out. Nobody else is helping much either. And the customers start to leave...But there's more food for the judges!
- Casey has Chinese chicken feet and scallion pancake
- Antonia has shrimp toast with pickled scallions and mushrooms
- Mike has pork and prawn steamed dumplings with spicy soy sauce
- Jamie has scallop dumplings with water chestnuts and Chinese chives
In the kitchen, the cheftestants finally figure out service, which is sort of ironic since everyone's already left.
No one's very happy.
But now it's time for the Storage Closet of Doom! Where Antonia is annoyed by her impression that no one else did anything. Whether that was true or not, Antonia is one of the first to be called out, along with Casey, Carla, Jamie and Tre.
The judges question the whole plan of the kitchen and service. It turns out that these five didn't get enough food out (like everybody?) and the judges didn't like what they got.
Jamie gets hit on both her independent dish and the cooking of her joint dish (since Antonia only did the prep for it). Casey says she wanted to do something different, but the judges point out that no one could eat it (even the starving Chinese families). Antonia gets very upset about this. Tre blames the hot kitchen again for his runny dessert. Carla thinks she over-soaked her noodles. The judges mostly think there was too much noodle and not enough anything else.
The losing cheftestants are sent back to the Storage Room to ponder their failure, while the winners -- Tiffany, Angelo, Dale and Fabio -- go out to the table.
Fabio admits that he thought he might get kicked off on principle, but the judges loved his concept and dish. Tiffany's pork bun gets some love. Dale and Angelo (both of whom had actually cooked dim sum in the past) both made great dishes.But the winner is... Dale
. Of course, they don't say which dish actually won. Maybe both.
Time for the elimination bit now. After what was probably way more discussion than we saw, the judges come to a decision. Despite literally everyone expecting the elimination of Jamie, it ends up being Casey who is sent packing
. She seems pretty OK with this.
And that's this week's Top Chef
? What did you think about the show? The cooking? The elimination of nice-but-dull Casey instead of failing-but-controversial Jamie? I think the producers had a hand in it. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments section!(Images courtesy of Bravo)