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Top Chef: All-Stars – Ep 6 – Harry Potter and the Fishy Bloodline


I almost couldn’t write this week – not because I’ve been busy. (I have) Or fell asleep from exhaustion on the couch (I did). No, my dreams continued to be haunted by the loveliness that is defined by Padma in shorts on the beach. Fewer images are more compelling on the small screen. There is no way to make it better.

Except maybe on the big screen! IMAX big screen! In 3-D! Someone write this movie!

Anyway.

The Fishy Bloodline. How fun is that to say? This week’s episode can be summed up with those three words, as that is what doomed one chef and elevated another. And to me, I hear bloodline, and the evil wizards of Harry Potter come to mind. Or maybe it’s because I finally saw Deathly Hallows Part One.

Anyway, this week we had a rarity on Top Chef – no Quickfire challenge. Unless you count some deep-sea fishing as a challenge. I remember getting up at about 3 am and going with my dad, and my cousin, Thomas, to pile onto a charter boat to go deep-sea fishing. We didn’t go to Montauk like the Chefs, but we did catch bluefish. I recall reeling in a couple myself, a task not too easy for my lanky then-14 year old frame. I also remember one trip where the sea got so choppy most of the people were upchucking over the side except for us and the crew.

Upchucking – a good way to start a column about a food competition, right?

Anyway, the chefs are divided into four teams of three and ordered to get on a boat and go catch dinner. How very colonial of them. They are given five hours to catch enough to cook for about 100 or so guests on the beach. The pressure is, of course, if you don’t catch enough fish, you are screwed. For a while it looks as if half the chefs would be making salad for dinner, but they get things back on track. The second challenge comes from what you catch. Bluefish are tricky to prepare – they are oily and if the infamous bloodline is not removed, tend to have a very fishy flavor. Porgies (no Bess to be found) are tricky because of the many tiny bones to be found – preparation is the key, if done well, it could be winner, but if not, it could be a disaster.

Basically, they caught fish. Some cool moments – check the QF Hits section below – but really, it was just shopping at Nature’s Fish Market.

The twist is that for the second time this season, there is a double elimination. It was obvious to me who was going home based on the editing. I have noticed a “tell” recently, and it is not Oreo cookie eating methods, a la “Rounders.” When a woman is eliminated from the show, she is featured quite often during that episode in confessionals where they are wearing lots of makeup and hair nicely groomed. Every time I see one of them looking like they are ready for a night on the town – I suspect they will be one sent packing that week. That was the case last week with the lovely Casey, and that was the case this week.

For a while I thought that the ridiculous decision by Fabio/Blais/Marcel to go all in with one dish would put Blais at risk, and perhaps send one of the boys home, but really, how could they decide. One thing about doing one dish, it really did make it hard to pick which one was most at fault. Blais and Marcel did the planning and most of the actual cooking, while Fabio was basically the “Yes Chef” (thanks Marcel). Who do you penalize?

What saved the boys was that there were two dishes that were worse than their collaboration. Jamie’s clock finally ran out this week – and boy, what an uninspiring performance from a former favorite of mine. Ironically, too much liquid did in the Queen of Liquids. For some reason, she elected to make cucumber water and then drown her fish in this broth. It was like she was daring the judges to finally send her home. Next week, she would have spit in their food if this didn’t work.

SF Tiff made the fateful decision of leaving the skin on her bluefish, which meant the bloodline remained. Meanwhile, Carla carefully removed hers from her bluefish wrap and it resulted in her second win of the season and a trip to Amsterdam. This means that season one is officially finished in All-Stars as Tiffani says goodbye, just a tad earlier than I expected.

Next week is the Top Chef equivalent of the Merge in Survivor. When they hit Restaurant Wars, it marks the point in the season where the chefs really put on their game faces and realize that they are basically halfway there. I’d say based on performance so far that of the ten remaining the frontrunners are – Carla, Dale, Blais, Antonia and Angelo. DC Tiff, Marcel, Mike, Tre and Fabio will need to step up their game to avoid that Final Five from taking control. Restaurant Wars is certainly a place where they can start that transition.

Quickfire – None. But they did go fishing.

Elimination – Cook for a beach party, and not with Frankie and Annette. Teams were divided into four groups – Blais/Marcel/Fabio, Antonia/Jamie/SF Tiff, Angelo/Mike/DC Tiff, and Carla/Dale/Tre.

Judging the competition – Tom, Padma, Gail and Southgate Exec Chef, and Tom fishing buddy, Kerry Hefferman.


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