Previously on Top Chef: The All-Stars finally got to compete in the much-anticipated Restaurant Wars challenge. Dale made the smart move of putting Marcel in charge of the opposing team. And then we all got to sit back and watch DJ Marcel boil over and go on to get wickity-wickity whacked.
As has become the custom, we start the show with the chefs doing their own post-mortem on the previous elimination. Basically, no one seems at all sorry to see Marcel go. But while DoucheyMike seems especially glad to be rid of Lil Marce', it seems he isn't the most popular kid on the playground himself, with Antonia being particularly ready to see him sent packing.
The chefs arrive in the Kitchen Of Marketing Opportunities to find Padma and ... Isaac Mizrahi, co-host of the barely bearable The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection.
It seems that this week's challenge will be for the chefs to create a dish which will be judged solely on aesthetics and will not be eaten. ... OK, I call "shenanigans." What the fudge does Isaac Mizrahi have to do with any of this? Aside from having a self-professed love for things that are (raise right hand, palm facing you, spread fingers, and shake for emphasis) "FRESH!" he has as much right to judge these folks as I would. ... Which is not right. He may have an eye for color and style, but he's not a chef. He's not a graphic artist, a food stylist or a food photographer of great renown in the business. He's an extra from Fame who may be a decent designer but needs to pimp a show which has already completed its season.
And he also doesn't like people who wear brown.
At least we know they have achieved a new level of bullshit in Quickfire Challenges on this show. So, there's that.
Anyway, the chefs, appropriately chagrined at the assignment, set out to create ... well, food art.
When the stupid task is complete, we have some really random plates of food.
Antonia makes a somewhat interesting food bonsai project and is flummoxed by Isaac's critique about the scale of the seeds on the plate. To their credit, Antonia and Dale both report that they don't give a flying faux fur for Isaac's opinion of their work.
According to Iman's Sidekick, the bottoms are the presentations from Tre, who showcased an abstract series of dots of food; Dale, who offered a graffiti-inspired collection of colorful ingredients; and Angelo, who did something truly bizarre, presenting what appeared to be a vacuum-sealed bag of something-or-other atop the table onto which he scrawled the word "CROCODILE."
OK, that last one really sucked. Still, one's left to wonder if it was that Isaac didn't like it or if he was more offended that Angelo said that Roberto Cavalli is his favorite designer.
Still ... Sorry Angelo, your Work of Art did not work for us.
As for the winners, the dubious designer singles out Carla for her pretty offering of soup in a cucumber atop a cucumber latticework, Fabio for his really odd tuna-as-a-beauuuutiful-wooooman-in-the-rain and "Deep Thoughts With Jack Handy" inspirational saying combo, and Richard for an actually pretty impressive plate of grey chocolate something.
Clearly, Richard wins.
Incidentally, Carla was a fashion model? Very cool. But who saw that coming?
And, with that, we move to the ...
The chefs pull knives and are a mite surprised by what's written on them. Names like "Vinny Carwash," "Baby Shacks" and "The Fang." ... Or something like that.
Well, it turns out they aren't mobsters. They're noted luminaries of a particular culinary institution, the exceptionally-hard-to-get-into restaurant,
It should come as no surprise that Italian-Of-All-Italians Fabio recognized the names as soon as they came out of the knife block.
The chefs are to compete individually, but they will be divided into three groups, each assigned to serve either the antipasti (starters), the primi (pasta), or the secondi (meat) course.
Here is where we learn (or are reminded for the umpteenth time) that three of our remaining nine All-Stars are Italian or of Italian extraction: Fabio, Antonia and DoucheyMike.
So, with that, here are our chefs' assignments and their dishes:
- Antonia ("Mama Chow"), Tiffany ("The Fishmonger") and Carla ("Hootie"*) are to serve the antipasto dishes.
- Mike ("The Paunch"), Dale ("Locker Punch") and Tre ("Tre") are to serve the pasta course.
- Leaving Fabio ("The Knuckle Nibbler"), Richard ("Richie Nitro") and Angelo ("Sabotage Sal") to finish up with the meat course.
* In the FBI bust of some 100 alleged mobsters last week, there actually was one whose nickname was "Hootie." Which begs the question, In addition to fashion modeling, does our lanky lass have any other hidden skills?
The chefs get to grill their Rao's reps for tips on how to best honor the Italian dining tradition. On the women's team, Antonia again reminds us that she's an Italian-American. On the pasta team, DoucheyMike does a fist-pump, dons a velour track suit and chains and proudly proclaims his New Jersey-Italian cred. And Fabio hogs all the time with the Rao's icon, reminiscing about the old country.
After a day of shopping and prep, the chefs head to Rao's for the pastafarian experience of a lifetime. Antonia declared the place "awesome."
The ladies cook first and get along famously. And after a near-miss where Tiffany's polenta actually catches fire, the three serve and get near unanimous accolades from the judges which include Tom "Have I Mentioned Yet That I'm Italian-American?" Colicchio, Anthony "Sorry, Not Italian" Bourdain, the Rao's gang, a man in a spangly vest, and the cast and crew of The Sopranos. (OK, only Dr. Melfi. No reason to call out a hit. Please.)
Next to serve are the pasta boys. Things don't go well there at all. DoucheyMike, who says he's not comfortable being "the favorite" (or something like that), decided to make his own rigatoni after being told that he could easily use dried pasta. But it simply isn't cooked completely when it comes time to serve, and the diners are not pleased.
As for Dale, the resident hothead tells us (again) that he has a girlfriend for whom he cooks. And, seeing as Italian food isn't his thing, he foists it on her instead of on the people who would ostensibly be paying for it. ("Here, sweetie. I suck at this. Have some. I made it just for you.")
And according to the judges his Italian food is so good that he's likely to never get tail again.
Then there's Tre. He even says that people call him the "Black Italian." (Well, some people must, right?)
Tre made a risotto, thinking it's something he does quite well. (Cue footage of Tom and Tony raving about his risotto in his season and winning a challenge for it.) But earlier we saw that Antonia had her doubts about it. And when they taste it, the judges have little good to say about it.
Finally it's time for the Meat Heads. Fabio's pulled a Chicken Cacciatori out of his hat and everyone is impressed, with Bourdain thrilling that the dish's polenta wiped away the stain of the previous course. Richard and Angelo's dishes get general praise, but they weren't expected to win this one.
Come time for ...
Padma calls up the women and Fabio first. This confuses the remaining chefs who can't see how Antonia, who served a simple family-style bowl of mussels and garlic bread, could not be in the bottom group.
But, yes, they are actually the top group. This makes Tiffany cry, coming as it does after last week's bloodbath at the Table where she narrowly avoided elimination. The chefs praise all four dishes, but the winner who most "honored the ingredients" (or something like that) is ... Antonia.
Cue Fabio looking hella pissed.
He tells us that Antonia's mussels dish isn't Italian at all, but is actually French.
And it goes really well with il grappolo pungenti.
The tops head back to the Stewed Room and Antonia announces her win to the dumbfounded others. In one of the most passive-agressive moments on this show, the non-tops wait a beat before even reacting and then only offer the most sarcastic golf claps ever.
"(Gee) Thanks," says an embarrassed Antonia as she sends the Boys Of Pasta off to meet their doom.
Once before the judges, Mike fesses up to having served undercooked pasta and seems to be ready to be axed. Dale mentally replays what he did wrong. And Tre gets a lesson in how not to prepare risotto. (Apparently, something should spread. I'm not sure. I kind of mentally wandered off there, though, thinking about Tre spreading.)
Later, the three are back before the culinary firing squad and Mike braces for the hit, shutting his eyes tight. But after the loser's name is called, Mike opens his eyes and has a shocked look of relief on his face, having just dodged elimination.
Then he looks to his left. And he sees that ...
Tre got the Italian boot.
Next time on Top Chef: Live! From New York! It's ... Jimmy Fallon. And something that should be a ringtone?