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Top Chef Recap: Flag on the Blais

TopChefAllStarCast

Credit: Bravo TV

SPOILER ALERT!!!! In case you missed the large, bold, headline directly above this sentence, this is a Top Chef recap. That means I’m going to tell you what happens, while mocking the return of numerous D-bags that I thought I was done watching on television forever. You’ve been warned.

Top Chef All-Stars arrived and came out swinging. Whoever the genius at Bravo was that decided to bring back seven seasons worth of popular Top Chef contestants deserves a raise. Bravo, Bravo.

If you have never watched Top Chef before, then this season is nothing special. You don’t really know who these people are. But for devotees like me this is fan-freakin-tastic. We’re already invested. Sides have already been chosen.

As absurd as it is undeniable, the power of reality TV makes us feel like we know these people already, like old friends. We already know and love – or hate – them. And every elimination is going to upset someone out there. Except for maybe Stephen, because that guy is a joke. Seriously.

We start things off with the obligatory re-intros to the old gang as they arrive in their new house, fully stocked with GE appliances and 55-gallon drums of Swanson broth. Thankfully, the team at Bravo made the doorway large enough to fit the egos that the cast brought with them.

Many of the best villains, morons, and D-bags have returned. Marcel seems to be the exact same unreasonably arrogant boy-man that he was before, but no longer has his age as an excuse. We get more of the shifty Spike, who Bourdain lauds as “the craftiest mother-bleeper who has ever been on this show.” Stephen, who is likely nothing more than chum that the casting directors wanted to see re-devoured in this shark tank of culinary talent, has managed to get more pretentious and less impressive than the last time we saw him.

At first I thought it was just the MTV reality shows, but I’m getting the feeling that maturing as a person is a lot more difficult once you have been on camera.

But there are also some of our favorites, those that beg to be rooted for. Obviously, top of this list for most Atlantans is “Professor” Richard Blais. It is so refreshing to see Blais cooking food of the caliber of which he is capable again. When burgers have been all that we have seen of him for the last two years, it is easy to forget that he is a fantastically talented and inventive chef. But it makes me shed a tear that I can’t actually EAT that food in this town anymore.

The list could go on, but I’d bet you a bag of Buitoni frozen pasta that Jen C., the Dales, Jaime Lauren, Fabio, and Tiffany D. all have fan clubs praying for their vindication as well.

Before this becomes a dissertation, let’s skip to the highlights:

Quickfire Challenge

- The chefs are broken into teams according to their season’s host city, Chicago, New York, DC, Miami, Vegas, LA, and San Fran.

- Richard Blais LOVES liquid nitrogen. I laughed aloud when that was the first thing out of his mouth during menu planning. If it weren’t for the fact that his food rocks and consistently wins, it would be easy to mock how he seemly refuses to cook without a welder’s mask and Kevlar gloves. But his nitrogen mustard ice cream clenches the W – and immunity – for team Chicago (including Spike, Dale T., and Antonia). Fear the faux-hawk. (That’s +2 points each for those playing Fantasy TC at home.)

Elimination Challenge

- I LOVE how the producers are cranking up the mind games. The first elimination challenge forces the chefs to improve upon the dish that sent them home from their first season. Way to twist the knife Bravo! That means that one poor soul in this group is going home for the same dish TWICE. Freakin’ GENIUS.

- Angelo: Seriously, dude, the deep V/Graphic tee in the first half of the show screamed D-bag, but a fully zipped turtle neck for wardrobe #2? Come on.

- More drama inducing brilliance: The chefs watch as their dishes are ripped apart by their housemates on live TV in the kitchen. And we get to watch their hearts break in real time. I hope this becomes an every-challenge thing.

-Elia refuses to hear the comments on her dish. Hmmmm…

- COME ON RICHARD! You gotta watch the time. Blais is still plating after the buzzer has sounded. Neither his hands nor his knives were down. Rook move. This does not sit well with the fellow chefs.

- I’m pretty sure that I saw Jen C. Tiffany F. stretching in the waiting room kitchen so that she doesn’t tear a rotator cuff throwing Blais under the bus at judges table for going over his time.

- Bourdain on Dale T.’s butterscotch scallops: he “un-bleeped this dish pretty well”.

- Bourdain hates Fabio’s pasta dish with a passion. Fabio now hates Bourdain with a passion. At judges table it seems that he is two steps from dragging Bourdain out back to settle things like men.

- Blais makes it into the Top 4, only to be immediately dismissed for his time violation. Our boy, who probably would have won otherwise, takes the news graciously. Jen C. Tiffany F. begins icing down her throwing arm.

- Ugh. Angelo wins. As annoyed as I get with him, the dude can cook. Score one for the bad guys…and my fiancée, as she wasted her first round pick on him. Ok, maybe she didn’t “waste” it….

- Elia’s undercooked, under seasoned, and un-tasted red snapper sends her and her knives packing once again. Frowny face emoticon.

WHEW!

I promise they won’t all be this long, but I honestly have another 500 words in me. Even so, I’m sure that I missed some highlights…what were YOUR favorite parts?

P.S. In case you were wondering, here is Team Watson for Fantasy Top Chef: Blais, Jen C., Marcel, Casey, Mike I., Dale L., Elia, Spike, and Tre. I’m currently down 11-3.

Jon-Watson-Tagline- Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast

31 comments Add your comment

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Daniel

December 2nd, 2010
6:28 am

I knew the writing was on the wall for Elia, but I would have loved to see Stepen get canned. He’s such an arse, as is Marcel.

Lisa

December 2nd, 2010
6:31 am

Last night’s show was like my Super Bowl. I was excited about it all day. There are some obvious absences from the cast—-like Sam, Stephan, Brian Voltaggio, and our Kevin. I love how bitter the early season people are about all the prize money the recent casts are scoring.

I will be savoring every minute of every episode. I’m picking Jamie and Richard for finalists.

Betsy

December 2nd, 2010
7:18 am

Team Chicago was Richard, Dale T., Spike, and Antonia (not Jamie), for those keeping score.
Currently tied 6-6 with the hubby.

Jon Watson

December 2nd, 2010
7:29 am

@Betsy – you are totally right. Chalk that up to it being 2 AM when I was writing it…I’ll have to edit that later today.

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Cheeto

December 2nd, 2010
7:50 am

FANTASTIC, TC did not disappoint! I love how much class Blais has in addition to his mad cooking skills. Stephen is DB and Jen better step it up. . .

I am up on my husband 9-3 and don’t want to gloat as I know the contestants a bit better than he does. However I think the dodgeball-style picking evened the playing field as I didn’t get all my top picks:

Tre Wilcox, Stephen Asprinio, Spike Mendelsohn, Richard Blais, Michael Isabella, Jennifer Carroll, Casey Thompson, Carla Hall, and Antonia Lofaso on team Cheeto!

wannabe

December 2nd, 2010
8:29 am

Why isn’t Kevin back?

sansho1

December 2nd, 2010
8:51 am

I want to root for Blais, I really do, but I just…can’t. He’s Tracy Flick. He’s Lisa Simpson. A gold-star addict. I loved Colicchio’s shot across his bow — don’t start thinking you’re above the rules, buddy. We’re nipping that in the bud. And no, you can’t come have a drink with us later — you have to stay with the other contestants.

Blais is the local boy, though, so I understand you gotta pump him up. Personal faves are Jen, Carla, and yes, Angelo. Fabio doesn’t want to be there, and I agree that Stephen is completely out of his depth.

Rodney

December 2nd, 2010
9:14 am

SO true about picking sides. I already have my dream team of the final five (Jen, Blais, Jamie, Casey, and Angelo = although he’s a whiny one, the man can cook).

What *I* thought was interesting to see was how much some of the chef-testants seemed to be eating in the time since their original season. Vegas-season dbag Mike seems to have just given up on the gym and WHAT is up with steroid Dale? Is it steroids or did he eat something he’s allergic to?

I feel bad for Fabio – he’s really talented but he totally got shafted last night. Maybe it was his own fault and maybe it wasn’t. But when you’re being judged by Bourdain you can’t really expect flowers and peppermint candy, can you?

Top Chef Watcher

December 2nd, 2010
9:27 am

Well, Marcel and Stephen will be there for a while as they are the resident “bad boys” and good for the drama that this show must have to keep people talking. Some of the guys seem to have gone to h*ll in a handbasket – must be alot of food eating. Dang Mike, who knew a vegan could get so chunky!

Love Dale, Spike and Jamie!!!

Betsy

December 2nd, 2010
9:32 am

No worries, Jon – I figured as much when I saw the time stamp!

I’ve got Richard, Jenn, Angelo, Jamie, Fabio, Antonia, Marcel, Elia (no more), and Mike. I figure my hubby and I will be neck and neck for the first few weeks, but I should do well once some of the riff raff is eliminated. Thanks for the great idea about the game!

RK

December 2nd, 2010
9:44 am

Kevin is busy. I’d like more detail, though, on how Spike’s frozen and Dale’s butterscotch scallops were better…

HA

December 2nd, 2010
10:15 am

While watching the scenes from this season’s Top Chef at the end, I couldn’t help noticing (and had to freeze it to make sure) that Richard was not in a kitchen lineup that included about 8 or so chefs. Either that was an intentional tease by Bravo, knowing someone would notice or Richard actually chokes early on.

sansho1

December 2nd, 2010
10:37 am

Or else he was huddling (uninvited) with the producers just outside the frame….

Kimbo

December 2nd, 2010
10:45 am

I was shocked that Spike made it into the final 4. Probably just a fluke, though – I think he’s there more for entertainment value than anything else. Maybe it’s just me, but I found Stephen to be less irritating than he was in season 1, at least so far. He doesn’t seem nearly as full of himself as he once did… probably because he knows he’s in it way above his head.

John Kessler

December 2nd, 2010
10:53 am

I think we need to call on chef Blais to stage a pop-up restaurant for the remainder of his tenure on this show. Love his food, not in the mood for a burger….

Top Chef Fanatic

December 2nd, 2010
11:26 am

Excellent recap! I think Richard would’ve won the elimination challenge ($10,000!) had he plated his food prior to the buzzer.

Christi J

December 2nd, 2010
12:36 pm

This may be the most hilarious and awesome thing I’ve ever read in/on the AJC. :)

Well done!

foundy

December 2nd, 2010
1:10 pm

FWIW, word is that Antonia AND Tiffani F. both tattled on Richard. And here he is with Jennifer and Mike being very funny about it –
http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/season-8/videos/after-hours-richards-mistake

Also, having watched Season 6 pretty closely, and having followed this blog at the time, I’m surprised you would think Jen’s the type to throw someone under the bus. It just doesn’t make sense. Make sure those barbs are pointed the right way before you throw them, Mr. Watson!

So, Stephen has got to be next to go. But I’d much rather giggle at his pomposity than sit through more of Marcel. I can’t believe Marcel is 30 years old and seen himself on t.v. and STILL acts like a complete tool. I cannot wait till the episode when Mike slaps him with a few home truths.

Jeanette

December 2nd, 2010
3:22 pm

I love this show! I have watched TC since the beginning and have looked at every season since so to have this with all of the “un” winners competing with each other is wonderful!

white jeans

December 2nd, 2010
4:23 pm

what is with the love affair with Blais he can only cook on top chef

David

December 2nd, 2010
8:42 pm

How would Jen C have any idea if Richard went over time? While he was plating, she was sitting with the judges and eventually tasting his food (which she singled out as the best dish)… I guess they could of played an elaborate game of telephone, but I doubt she would of raised questions without having seen it first hand.

Jon Watson

December 2nd, 2010
9:34 pm

@David & @ foundy -Ok, I have figured out my mix up on the Jen C. Bus-throwing comment.

First, …Jen WAS talking to Angelo about how Richard went over time on his plating while they were sitting in the waiting room before judges table, so no game of telephone would have been required. But I did unfairly attribute Tiffany F’s bitchiness to Jen, as it was Tiffany that was getting worked up in the kitchen, and not Jen. Strike throughs have been applied.

Mea culpa.

Megan

December 3rd, 2010
11:45 am

Ok, so I’ve got a TC Fantasy scoring question: for the elimination challenge, do you award additional positive/negative points to the winner/loser for being in the top 3/bottom 3? In other words, for Wednesday’s elimination challenge, would you have awarded Angelo +5 or +7 (Elia: -5 or -7?)…? Hopefully that made sense!

Jon Watson

December 3rd, 2010
12:29 pm

@Megan – Yes, the winner/loser still gets the points from being in the top/bottom. So, Angelo picked up 7 points, and Elia cost (me) 7 points.

Unfortunately, the point system isn’t perfect, and there are often curve balls thrown in that don’t fit with the point system exactly (for example, they don’t always do a top/bottom 3, or whole teams will win elimination challenges, etc). Its always best just to agree on those things within your group.

In my game, we gave Blais points for being in the Top 4 for the elimination challenge, but I know other people didn’t do that.

Kim

December 4th, 2010
4:35 pm

What’s with all the love for Jamie? I find her as annoying as Mike…about 4th in line behind Marcel and Stephen in douchitude. She was always whining. (But maybe that’s just me. A personality clash, if you will.) And I don’t remember her cooking becing the end-all, be-all. Jen also seemed so unpleasant on the show during her season–the woman never smiled once, but if you see her in anything while they’re not cooking (i.e., drinking, as that’s all they seem to do–not that there’s anything wrong with that) she seems to have a personality. I’m all for being professional and in the zone when you’re there to win–but geez, would it crack your face to smile and get out of that sour little pout? Of course, I love Carla but I can see how some people would want to punch her…

I read in TV Guide today, in the cover article, where Tom was quoted that he was surprised several of the really good ones got knocked out early…but that it just takes one bad meal. Also that Bryan Voltaggio and Stefan turned down a spot in the show; and that the talent in season 7 was inferior to season 6–that “6 was playing to win, and 7 was playing not to lose”. I think Angelo gets too much credit because he was in a subpar season…I may be proven wrong, we’ll see.

I might shed a tear at Richard’s demise, if that time comes….

Phil Kloer

December 6th, 2010
11:08 am

You’re a very fun recapper, Jon, and I have read many of the best, going back to the old Television Without Pity days. Keep up the good work.

Betsy Gluten Freedom Atlanta

December 7th, 2010
12:13 pm

I love this post. Is it just me, or is Bordain a little much at the judge’s table? He had so many aggressive one-liners, that they stopped having any meaning. I thought Blais looked really good in the kitchen, just needs to get his timing down better, like you said. Bravo=Genius.

World Spinner

December 9th, 2010
5:35 am

Top Chef Recap: Flag on the Blais | Food and More with John Kessler…

Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……