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Top Chef: All-Stars – Ep 7 – Perfect Storm of Awfulness

Marcel showed a complete lack of all management skills from start to finish. He didn’t listen to his team. He was rude and obnoxious. He made wacky decisions. He basically commanded no respect, and was thusly shown none. That restaurant was a total trainwreck, and it came across in the food, in the service and in the whole experience. As it started, I wondered if this was typical Top Chef bait and switch – that the disaster team was going to pull together and just bang out amazing food to save their skins. Not so much this time.

Marcel didn’t listen. He yelled at Mike. He yelled at Tiffany. He yelled at Angelo. Everything that could go wrong did. And while I thought for a while that Tiffany was in trouble due to her bad egg dish and her truly awful Front of the House performance, Marcel as team leader was dead man walking for an hour and fifteen minutes of this episode.

And to add insult to injury, Blais earned the win! He did it in a fairly awesome way – he did not have the best dish (Tre or Dale did), nor the most important job performance (Fabio’s front of the house), and heck, even Fabio and Carla’s desserts rocked more. But Blais was the brains behind the whole concept and execution. Dale was the executive chef, but Blais was the technical advisor. Carla described it well – Blais made them all better.

So with Marcel gone, we have our final nine chefs left and I think it is now going to be difficult to predict. I see the frontrunners so far being Dale, Blais, Angelo and Antonia. Tiffany, Fabio and Mike are near the bottom, with Tre and Carla somewhere in the middle. However, the margin from Tiffany (probably #9 in my ranking) to Blais (#1) is very thin. I will stand by my assumption that my top 4 will be the Final 4 – with Blais as the man to beat. But, hey, who knows!

Quickfire – The chefs file into Ripert’s legendary La Bernadin and are given a lesson in fish butchering by Justo Thomas. A man who before you and I are eating lunch has already butchered up to 1000 pounds of fish each day. He slices away and brings Fabio to tears with his knife poetry. The chefs are asked by Tony Bourdain to portion out one cod and one fluke in 10 minutes. Justo did it in eight. Marcel has an allergic reaction but plugs along. Fabio slices his thumbnail, takes a shot at Jamie in the process, and plugs along.

Dale, Blais, Mike and Marcel do the best job at cutting up the fish. Fabio and the ladies all fail to impress – Antonia apologizes for destroying the fish, and Tiffany is embarrassed because she does this for a living. Tre and Angelo fall in the middle.

The top four are then required to cook a dish from the discards – the heads, tails, spines, etc. Nice challenge. Seriously, Top Chef has brought their A Game this year with challenges. Marcel denies Mike use of some pots, with Mike explaining, “That’s just Marcel being Marcel, he’s a dick sometimes.” Dale is at home because he and his family used to eat pig heads. Blais tosses lemongrass across the kitchen, before regaling us with his first fish story – he made Filet o Fish for Mickey D’s and left off the top bun. Avant garde from the start.

Blais – Schnitzel of Cod Belly, Ragout of Braised Collar and Fried Skin
Mike – Pan Roasted Belly, Confit Cheeks, Charred Collar and Tomato Sauce
Dale – Fluke Back Fin Sashimi with Cucumber and Fluke Liver Sauce and Bacon Dashi with Salt Roasted Cod Collar. Tony gives props to the liver.
Marcel – Cod Mousseline, Yuzu Chili Oil Fluke Broth. Marcel says his broth was amazing, but Tony didn’t get it in his spoonful.

Perhaps you should stop mocking Angelo’s spoon plating now, Marcel.
Tony liked Blais’ texture and flavors, Mike’s was beautiful and light, Marcel was creative, but monochromatic, and Dale really delivered. That earned Dale immunity, and as Probst lies to say, a one in nine shot at winning.

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