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Top Chef: All-Stars – Ep 4 – Tennis, Anyone?


Quickfire – I loved, loved, loved this challenge and how it played out. And that’s not just because it involved stuffing. But the fact that the chefs were unable to use any knives or any other kitchen utensils. It led to some very creative plans. Blais using a lid as a spoon. Fabio grating cheese on the metal racks. Carla banging with a pot “like a cavewoman.” Marcel squeezing stuffing into a bird through plastic wrap. SF Tiff butchering a quail with a pepper grinder. Very creative, and very inventive.

The challenge was judged by Padma and former Top Chef: Masters finalist Tony Mantuano of Spiagga in Chicago. The winner gets immunity and a huge $20,000 prize.

Casey – Mushrooms with Crispy Chicken Liver, Miso Cake, Mushrooms with a word that certainly cannot be English (damn my 4th grader handwriting!)

Jamie – Stuffing Crepinette with Pork, Lemon Oil, Broth (of course) – Tony thinks it is very nice.

Carla – Thai Inspired Vegetable Stuffing with Black Quinoa Salad – It is REALLY al dente, and she jokes that it is not a $20,000 prize, but really a 20 cent dish. She thinks Tony would need some floss.

Spike – Stuffed Quail with Raisins, Herbs, Port and Apricot Glaze – She used lemongrass spears to plate it.

Marcel – Whole Squab, Stuffing with Raisin Brioche, Cherries, Currants and Ras El Hanout Gravy

Blais – Pressure Cooked Onion, Nitro Fried Fennel, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Lots of raisins this week, right?
Tre – Southwestern Stuffing with Bacon, Cheddar, Bell Pepper, Chili Powder – Tony thinks it had a nice kick.

Dale – Spanish Influenced Stuffing with Crab, Oysters, Chili Lemon Aioli, Grapes and Olives

SF Tiff – Soy Maple Stuffing with Quail, Grilled Mushrooms and Quartered Grapes

Fabio – Polenta Bread, Vegetables, Smoked Bacon and Grated Parmesan

That’s only 10 dishes – nothing from DC Tiff, Angelo, Antonia or Mike.

Tony’s Bottom Three
Carla – It was undercooked, but could be good if poured milk in a cereal bowl was the plan.
SF Tiff – It was a little too sweet.
Casey – Not really stuffing, more of an appetizer.

Tony’s Top Two
Tre – It was spicy and well-balanced.
Marcel – It really tasted great.

The winner is Tre who really celebrates. The man really has an infectious laugh, doesn’t he?

Elimination Challenge – The chefs pick tennis balls to divide into two teams. They will compete in a tennis-style match at the U.S. Open in Queens. Two chefs from each team present their dishes head-to-head and the best dish gets a point. The first team to win four points wins the challenge – those four chefs are up for the victory, while the four who lose those points face elimination. Very cool challenge.

In addition to the actual cooking portion of the challenge, comes the strategy. Spike suggests that they send their worst dish out first to face off with what they presume will be the other team’s best dish. Sacrifice one point, but essentially make the other team burn their best player. It means you have your best to try and roll through four of the next six matches, plus, if you lose, it means the worst dish (Jamie) is facing elimination.

The other theory is to just send your best out and let the chips fall as they may. Regardless, the bottom line remains the same, cook good dishes. And one group certainly did a much better job than the other.


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