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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Top Chef All-Stars recap, Episode 15: Then there were two…

Credit: Bravo TV

Credit: Bravo TV

We finally made it guys! It is the finale!

Oh, wait.

From the opening scene with the not-so-final three, Richard and Mike are squaring themselves off against each other, while Antonia just wants some respect from the boys.

QUICKFIRE

A blindingly yellow-clad Padma and Wolfgang Puck greet the chefs in the kitchen, standing by a spread representing seven “classic” Quickfires.

Hey, do you remember when the cheftestants could only cook with canned food? Oh, man! That was CLASSIC!

The first twist of the evening is that the chefs get to decide on the challenges for their opponents. Since Mike is on such a roll, he gets to go first, giving his “cousin” the canned and dry goods challenge. Antonia picks the hot dogs for Richard – perhaps this was the inspiration for Haute Doggery? Richard, in his first of multiple displays of horrible strategy, gives Mike the one-pot challenge and access to all of the ingredients in the kitchen.

In strolls the busty Indian Big Bird with twist #2: Now the chefs must assign a “classic” Top Chef twist to one of their competitors.

I don’t trust a chef that can’t cook an amazing meal with one hand tied behind their back. Cuh-lassic!

The twists are cooking with one hand, no utensils/hand tools, or the double apron three-legged chef twist featuring…HOOOTIE HOOOO….Carla! Richard gets to go first this time, and he assigns the no utensils twist to Mike, the one person that was almost done prepping. Antonia ties herself to Carla and ties one hand behind Richard’s back.

Mike spends the bulk of his time strolling around the kitchen waiting for his pork to braise, and uses that time to turn the annoying up to 11. If I were Antonia, I would have used Carla’s hand to slap him in the face while he loomed over them smirking.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: If you actually fork over $.99 to text in your vote for fan favorite, you deserve every second of Real Housewives commercials that you must endure. Seriously, you are a moron.

Antonia’s curry coconut soup with shrimp, andouille sausage, peanuts, and fish sauce had strong flavors, but Wolfgang thought that it was a little too concentrated.

Before he even tastes Richard’s hot dog on roti bread with curry ketchup, mayo, and mint leaves, Wolfie is already mocking it: “I think I could feed that to my kids at home, huh? They would love that…they love sausage and ketchup.” He found it to be a little too ketchup, but a nice sandwich “if you want to call it that.”

Though Mike’s pork was a little tough, the flavors were balanced and Puck pumps Mike’s smugness up to a 12 by giving him the QF win.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

The chefs arrive at the Cloisters to find Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Bernstein, and Masaharu Morimoto waiting for them. Aside from being one of the most widely known chefs in the world, Wolfgang could teach the other two “icons” a thing or two: Slap your face on every half-hearted airport kiosk and mediocre can of soup that you can find, and laugh all the way to the bank.

The chefs will pair off with one of these culinary legends and prepare their ideal last meal. Having won the Quickfire, Mike gets to decide the pairings. He pairs himself off with Bernstein, puts Blais with Wolfgang, and sticks Antonia with the Iron Chef.

Oh, and do you remember the ominous envelope from the commercials? No? Well, you will, because you are going to hear about it so much that you will want to paper cut your eyeballs with it before this episode is over.

Mike gives us a little insight into his cousin bashing strategy here – he wants to get her out of the way so that he can go mano y mano with the professor: “I want to beat the best to be the best.” I guess blood isn’t thicker than machismo.

Continuing with the theme of the episode, Mike gets the easiest set of circumstances to deal with. Richard has to cook goulash, spaetzle, and strudel – something that he has never done before – for Wolfgang Puck, Antonia must sift through rice to ensure that the grains are uniform and prepare miso soup and sashimi for the Iron Chef Japan, and Mike has to cook fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. Wolfgang and Morimoto want dishes just like their mothers made, and Michelle wants the antithesis of what she grew up eating in her Jewish/Latino household.

Back at the hotel, Mike tries act like he picked Michelle because she would be the biggest challenge, which I’m surprised he got out while keeping a straight face.

This episode is all about buildup. Painful, unnecessary buildup. Tom strolls into the kitchen for his stove-side chats with the chefs, doing little more than killing a few minutes of airtime while the chefs explain the dishes and how much winning this would mean for them. If Blais doesn’t take this thing home, I think we may need to put him on suicide watch.

As if the deck weren’t stacked against her enough, Antonia opens a giant plastic bag of hamachi (yellowtail) to find that the fish for her sashimi is minutes away from rancid. Come on, Bravo. If you aren’t going to let them shop for their own ingredients, have the decency to provide quality product. She has to call an audible and pull out the less flavorful tuna instead.

Oh no! Richard can’t get the top off his pressure cooker! What is he going to…oh wait, he got it open. Slow news day in the kitchen Bravo?

The Food:

Antonia – Bento box with tuna sashimi, pickled daikon, mushrooms and eggplant, miso soup, and rice.

Mike -Fried chicken with pea puree, egg yolk empanada with mustard gravy.

Richard - Beef goulash, spaetzle with sour cream and apple strudel with tarragon cream.

The slivers of Scotch bonnet on Antonia’s sashimi make Gail gag, and Morimoto finds her miso to be too salty. Her rice and vegetables impressed the judges, but Tom found her lack of subtle flavors to be the antithesis of Japanese cuisine.

Mike wanted to be different for different’s sake, and took the idea of putting his spin on the dish a little too far in my opinion. He didn’t put his “touches on it.” He pounded it with his tattooed fists. You want biscuits? I’ll give you an empanada with an egg yolk in the middle (which Michelle surprisingly loved). Instead of properly frying his chicken, he sous vided and flash fried it, which left a moderately crispy crust that never adhered to the meat. Moreover, Morimoto’s chicken was dry, a nearly impossible feat when cooking a protein sous vide.

Richard was the only one that really grasped the concept of remaining true to the original flavors of the dish, while still tweaking it to make it his own. The strudel won universal praise, and Wolfgang says that even his mother would have approved of the dish, despite the fact that the spaetzle was a little tough.

JUDGE’S TABLE

The chefs return to the dining room to a sudden Judge’s Table. Richard, the first chef to be called back from the ledge, earns the first spot in the ACTUAL finale. That leaves Mike and Antonia. But wait…there is 20 minutes left in this episode. That is a lot of frozen pasta commercials…

Yup, the bleepin’ envelope. You dodged a bullet Ms. Scotch bonnet, because you were heading home otherwise.

INTERLUDE: More freakin’ envelope buildup.

You thought we were done with twists? No such luck. But what will it be? An awkward cousin jello wrestle-off? Cooking rack of lamb with nothing but a fountain pen and a scrunchie? The suspense is killing me.

No, it is the one-bite challenge. The chefs have 45 minutes to put together the best bite they can. Though neither chef actually made an amuse-bouche, none of the judges complained.

Antonia – Seared Grouper in Coconut Lobster Broth with a Yam, Apple and Dill Pollen Relish.

Mike – Tempura lobster over beef tartare with caramelized olives and chimichurri sauce.

The vote came down to the wire, but Mike ultimately wins by a vote of 4-3. $100 says that vote # 4 belonged to the producers, who have been setting up the Mike V. Blais finale for far too long to let a – gasp – girl into the finals.

NEXT WEEK: The ACTUAL finale! The whole gang is back! Mike wants to win! Oh no! Richard thinks he might blow it!

Notes and Quotes:

How many different ways could Richard call out “SCOOORE BOOOAARD!!!” in his interviews?

No matter how creatively they tried to edit around it, it was painfully obvious that Antonia was going home after about 20 minutes. The winner doesn’t cry during their interview.

“If I tried, I definitely could throw up.” – Blais

“Richard. Not the sharpest one in the shed.” -Antonia

24 comments Add your comment

Jmn

March 24th, 2011
3:51 am

Great recap Jon. Two things: whether he wins or loses, Mike is the most improved contestant here.. So I’m impress. He went from being 7th in his season ( only Tre was higher at 8th) to a finalist against Richard. Not only that, he got a little revenge by beating Mike V. for ten grand (and Richard got his revenge on Stephanie as well). The other thing is that Top Chef Master season 3 is coming next!!! I can’t wait for that.

KA

March 24th, 2011
6:57 am

Jon, I think you are absolutely correct about the producers casting the tie breaking vote in favor of Mike (GAG). This season is grinding to a painful end. And I do agree with Jmn that Mike has improved his cooking skills. However, Mike is a disgusting rude pig, who sweats constantly, wipes his sweaty face with his hands, and then keeps on cooking (someone please give him a handkerchief!). He acts like a middle school bully as he constantly mocks and intimidates his ‘cousin’ Antonia, instead of acting like a professional and showing respect for her as a fellow chef. Finally, I thought that dark condiment on his plate looked a diarrhea drip, really, and I had to leave the room and GAG. I am happy that Richard got the win but I am not looking forward to the finale. I don’t care about the cooking any more, but I would like to see Richard body slam Mike.

Carla Roqs

March 24th, 2011
8:22 am

okay, here we go: i am totally over top chef allstars. first, some of the best cooks were let go of too early, yes, it is “this dish only” based contest, but mike against blais?? and …y e a h, maybe he has improved his cooking style– but i bet he has been reading cookbooks–and i totally agree with you @ka, on most of what you said. loved seeing carla–of course!!! she roqs, grin. @jon, you outdid yourself on this one– recap much better than the show itself, as usual. they’d better raise the ante with masters. you are totally wrong for calling Padma out in that dress, though. i love men, and men only–(tall and type A, hint hint ATL), but she was wearing that dress, jon, come on. i thought blais was gonna slap himself each time the camera panned him after he realized he did not give mike the hardest challenges! if he doesnt beat that jerk cooking, he’d at least better hit him at the end of the show- kudos ka. ummmm, and as hard as it is to admit– i did try to vote on the text line— BUT i didnt pay attention to the .99 as i have free texts. fortunately bravo sent me a return message that my phone would not allow the text and to go to the website and vote for free. whew! big bird, omgosh, rofl.

Rodney

March 24th, 2011
8:26 am

KA – your choice of descriptives is disgustingly interesting :)

I was a nervous wreck for the Prof last night (I was TOTALLY diggin’ that Arsenologist tshirt though). Even when he was safe and off to the finals, I was somehow still nervous. Probably because I SO didn’t want Mike there. Agreed, he is improved but that ‘tude just works my last nerve.

And since this is a reality show competition show, my favorites are picked at about 90% cooking talent and 10% ‘tude. And Mike’s got just a little too much ‘tude for me. I would have loved an Antonia/Blais final, but I’m sure the producers thought that might not be too exciting.

Rachel

March 24th, 2011
8:38 am

Mike Isabella may have made it to the finale, but are they really going to award him the Top Chef title? http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-chef-all-stars-one-chef-down-two.html
He’s cheated in half the challenges…

Carla Roqs

March 24th, 2011
8:45 am

@rachel, if they do…omgosh- i will have a meltdown along with blais–cause you know he will just die!

You heard it from me first...

March 24th, 2011
8:51 am

Thanks, Jon, for pointing out the FINALE as opposed to the FINALE FINALE. Antonia lost me when she said that she was the *first* to be elliminated at her previous “finale”. WTF? I was like “first”? The finale ONLY HAS 2!

Sure, Isabella has improved, but the guy is so gross and hygenically-challenged, that he should have been gone by now. Padma, with her ‘discriminating’ taste buds should have picked up on the je nais c’est quoi that I’m sure graces every plate he serves up. You would think that Bravo could shave off a couple of Buitoni dollars and get him a sweatband or two.

Kudos to Antonia for serving up this week’s salt lick!

jack

March 24th, 2011
9:28 am

Done, and done. Yes, it was a set-up for the really, really annoying Mike and the furrowed-brow, self-flagellating Blais. One hopes they both lose. The only good thing about last night – aside from the new records set for silent pans of faces in suspense – was that Puck’s irritating, trademark, and weary effusion made Collicchio’s smugness seems less awful than it usually is.
Seriously, though – Blais has SO overplayed his burdened, self-doubting perfectionist crap, esp. as he continually tosses in remarks about how often he’s won. Mike is just plain creepy. And now we go off to a grand finale with a “chef” who can’t bread fried chicken right? Too bad. I used to like this show.

jack

March 24th, 2011
9:34 am

PS I’d watch a new TC IF we got back Casey, both Dales, Howie, Hung, Carla, Fabio, and that poor, kind of hot cracker Clayton or whatever who got booted off first on his season.
PPS Whenever Bourdain is on, you can practically see the white powder still clinging to his upper lip.

Blaistastic

March 24th, 2011
11:24 am

I think Blais is a shoo-in to win it, unless he talks himself out of it. Of all of them, he is the one who could “sell” his dish with some authority at Judge’s Table rather than an “it wasn’t my best effort” rationale.

I agree, Mike has greatly improved, but the sweating is just plain gross. Good thing Chef Ramsey is not around – I have seen him go into profanity-laced tirades, kicking the garbage can, and tossing plates over less than what Mike pours forth into his food.

This may be my last season of Top Chef. The format has become boring and predictable. Some of the quickfires and challenges are just plain ridiculous. I would like to see them give the chefs the same assignment, and see how they compare. Regardless, it’s all subjective…

Christi J

March 24th, 2011
12:26 pm

I don’t care about the cooking any more, but I would like to see Richard body slam Mike.

THIS IS ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID. AMEN, KA. AMEN.

…and if Blais doesn’t win, I’ll have the same meltdown Carla Roqs and Richard will have.

E10 in Atlanta

March 24th, 2011
1:11 pm

Mike being in the finale has to totally be a producer’s choice thing. I have worked with him and he is a cook NOT a chef. He is a crass and rude in real life as he appears on TV and his hygiene and kitchen etiquette leave a lot to be desired.

GaPeachy

March 24th, 2011
1:32 pm

Great recap Jon, I am truly shocked that Mike is still in this. Maybe he really has improved, or maybe this has been the producers plan since the get go, but i still don’t like him and will be rooting for Richie in the finale! Its sooo funny watching him in the kitchen. He is such a spaz but somehow he bangs out a rockin dish, very entertaining! Anyway, can’t wait to see finale next week, but definetely sad the season is over. Jon you have lots of food contacts, whats up on some Food & Wine tickets in Aspen for your favorite bloggers?

Holier Than Chow

March 24th, 2011
3:01 pm

“I guess blood isn’t thicker than machismo.” Best one liner from you yet.

SummerBaybee

March 24th, 2011
3:09 pm

I am sad to see the end of Top Chef All-Stars. I live for these re-caps every week. Jon, you are the bestest….ever!!!! I luv these updates to see if Richie had a nervous breakdown by the end of the quickfire and they doused him in liquid nitro to bring him back to reality or if we will be lucky enough to see Mike again with his shirt off looking like a plump, moist, succulent lump of homemade potato gnocchi. Seriously, If Mike wins, I will be forced to boycott Top Chef!!!(until next season) AND I will do it Bravo better not test me on this. Sidebar: Did anyone check out Marcel’s show on syfy? Interesting…

Jon…please let’s not end it like this…we have come so far together

Dunwoody Don

March 24th, 2011
3:43 pm

I don’t know which I’ll miss more, the show or its recap ["busty Indian Big Bird" - classic!]. Mike should be behind a Waffle House counter; Richard has more angst than Woody Allen. The producers must be very happy with their very odd couple.

KA

March 24th, 2011
5:37 pm

I’ll miss the recap more….

TC is a misnomer

March 24th, 2011
11:50 pm

Which headline will it be?
Richard Wins in a Blaise of Glory
Blasing Saddles: Richard Loses His S**t while Mike Toots the Beans

KMG

March 25th, 2011
12:37 pm

You missed the best line! Mike: “I gave it to Antonio twice.” (insert kissing cousin joke here)

LN

March 25th, 2011
5:37 pm

Too bad the producers didn’t use some vision and coerce a finale between Richard and Fabio. Now that would have been worth watching. There was a little teaser in the previews in which Richard smiles and says he needs to collect himself. This has me worried.

Carla Roqs

March 28th, 2011
8:01 am

question: when is a finale’ not a finale’?? answer, when it is top chef all stars!!

KA

March 28th, 2011
8:22 am

If there is another season of Top Chef, I would like to see the judges state the criteria they use in judging. It seems to me they use an ever shifting subjective list, which includes taste, presentation, innovation, correct/incorrect techniques, adhering to the goal of the challenge, cooked or uncooked, perfectly seasoned or over/under seasoned, and time and budget management. I think they should also judge personal hygiene, kitchen manners, professional behavior, and after watching Mike this season I think they should judge the chefs’ sanitary techniques cooking and cleaning up. And I would also like to see some video of these chefs cooking in their own restaurants before the competition begins.

Edward

March 28th, 2011
3:38 pm

Another suggestion for future Top Chef contests: challenges that are actually about making food that people would eat. I get it, they need promotional dollars, but Sesame Street muppets? The ferry snack bar? Really?? Pit the chefs against each other doing what chefs are supposed to do.

Hannah

March 30th, 2011
6:53 pm

I cut out reality TV this year, but I figured Top Chef was above that. Oh, how wrong I was. I’ll finish this season out, but I’m very disappointed in the show. It was very obvious from all of the judges’ comments that Antonia’s amuse-bouche was better than Mike’s, but Mike got through because that’s what’s going to make for a “better” finale (Blais vs. Richard.) Blais better win this one.