Previously on Top Chef: The chefs went a-fishin'. Someone grabbed someone's pole. And Carla won for making a bagel-inspired fish dish. Jamie was her usual whiny self and was finally eliminated. And since it was "let's eliminate lesbians" week, Tiffani was sent packing with her.
We're back, boys and girls. And it was the episode featuring the challenge that "everyone" most eagerly anticipates: Restaurant Wars. And by "everyone," I mean the chefs, since generally this challenge doesn't always deliver and about half of the time, the person eliminated isn't the one people think should go ... or is sent home for non-food-related reasons.
In any case, here's what happened, just to refresh your memory:
After the now-standard post-mortems about the previous week's eliminated chefs, the chefs arrive, not at the Kitchen O' Promotional Consideration, but at Eric Ripert's Le Bernadin. (I can only assume this was arranged once they knew that Ripert protégé Jennifer was eliminated.) There, Judge Sassypants (aka Anthony Bourdain) introduces them to super fish-butcher Justo "I'll Be Needing Subtitles" Thomas. When it comes to butchering fish, Thomas, it seems can do the work of 100 men in about 2.3 seconds.
Thus, the chefs will have an ample 2.6 seconds to butcher the entire contents of Lake Michigan. Go!
Some chefs immediately stand out, making reasonably quick work of the herring and zebra mussels. But others get hung up on the used condoms and the bloated corpse of Jimmy Hoffa. But seriously, DickyDale, Richard, DoucheyMike and MC SkatKat Marcel do a fine job and end up on the top. Totally chagrined are Carla, Antonia, Fabio and Tiffany. This is particularly sad for Tiff' as she works in a fish restaurant. Poor Tiff'.
Then, in a neat twist, the four tops have to prepare a dish using the remainders of their butchered fish, that is the heads, the cheeks, the fins and tails. Now that's a challenge. (Side note: Went to one of those "you go for the view" restaurants in Pittsburgh last week. I get the feeling the chef had to create a dish using only the bones. But I could be wrong.)
When they're done, Dale, Richard and DoucheyMike have made pretty snazzy dishes. DJ Marcie Vee is less successful. But, true to form, he insists that the judges have had their taste buds burnt out or some rot. (Marcie, as you know, is completely wiggety wack.)
So, Dale wins the challenge and immunity. That's when we learn that the ...
... is the expected Restaurant Wars. But seeing as this is All-Stars, there are a couple of interesting wrinkles. Less-interesting wrinkle: The premise will be that the two teams will be opening "pop-up" restaurants, which is some kind of dining trend involving people eating food off of three-dimensional paper cut-outs. More-interesting wrinkle: For the first time ever, it will be the diners, not the judges, who determine the winning team.
With that, Dale is told that he is going to be one team leader and he gets to select who will be the opposing team leader. Being in possession of one working brain stem, Dale chooses Marcel to lead the other team, mostly because he doesn't want to be on a team with The King Of The Mics and Turntables.
The teams end up being ...
Team Bodega: Dale, Richard, Fabio, Carla and Actually-On-This-Show Tre.
Team Etch-A-Sketch: Marcel, Angelo, DoucheyMike, Tiffany and Antonia.
In the lead-up to the dining, we get another Goofus & Gallant contrast which carries through the entire challenge. Dale's team works like a well-oiled machine and Richard (seemingly) leads the team though a very Richard-like concept of making fancy food resemble the humble food found in a bodega.
Meanwhile, Marcel's team is a general mess, with Biz Marcel wanting to call the place Medi (as in, "the food will make you want to run to the medicine cabinet"). The rest of the team ignores him. He does not take this well and starts a diss war which will rival the Tupac/Biggie throwdowns of yore.
Team Gallant has also made the wise move of picking Fabio, whose charm and people skills will charm the knickers off each and every diner when he is in charge of the front-of-house duties.
For the front-of-house job, Team Goofus is at a loss. Poor Tiffany is saddled with these duties, mostly since she's the only person who didn't have the sense to avoid the job. Early on, Poor Tiffany sees where this is going, since on more than one occasion, the person given this task is the one eliminated.
Come time for the diners to arrive and start eating, we have a bit of a problem when DickyDale gets extra-dicky in snapping at Fabio's perfectly massaged wait staff. Fabs, though, manages to do the impossible by not only rescuing the situation, but calming down the hothead chef enough that the rest of the evening goes swimmingly.
Team Goofus, though, isn't nearly as lucky. Tiffany does a poor job of managing the wait staff and spends most of her time out front schmoozing with the diners. And, back in the outdoor kitchen, Marcie Marce & the Funky Bunch are totally at each other's throats. Plates are going out cold. Food is being sent back. It's an epic mess.
When it's all over, there's no doubt that Team Etch-A-Sketch will be shaken clean. Still, paranoia runs deep and Richard is convinced that his team will be on the losing end, despite repeated encouragement from the Fabio, the Big Ragu.
So, Marcel & His Top Chef Shufflin' Crew are put before the judges and, in about two seconds flat, they all start pulling their knives on each other. Mike yells that Marce' Dogg is impossible to work with. Lil' Wolverine shoots back that the rest of the team wouldn't listen to him. And before you know it, Tiffany and Antonia are brought into the brawl, too.
Meanwhile, Angelo is found curled up under Judges' Table, having figured early on that if he can let everyone else duke it out he'll likely be the one to make it though another week.
The losers get to go back and stew while the winners get called before the panel. Finally, Richard can believe Fabio that his team did well. And while Dale gets props for having led his team to victory, it's Richard who (rightfully) wins for having inspired the concept and delivering great food.
With that out of the way, the losers are called back in and it seems that Tiffany will likely be sent packing, not only for her laissez-faire management of the front-of-house, but also for her bland dish. But in the end, the general disaster (and yet another foam-covered gimmick of a dish) spells doom for EmCee SmugFoam.