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Top Chef: All-Stars – Ep 12 – Ellis Island and Family Trees


I look forward to the end of this season, and dread it at the same time. The mark of a fabulous season.

Quickfire – Padma showed up at the apartment and brought the chefs to the roof to show them Ellis Island. They board a ferry to the landmark and learn that the QF challenge is to make something using only the tiny snack bar on the ferry. The challenge lasts from horn to horn in the journey. Snack bar. Yuck. Sustainable ingredient guru Dan Barber – and Blais’ celebrity sous chef during his disastrous S4 Finale – ironically judges this processed food challenge.

Blais – Hot Dog and Beef Jerky Sandwich with Jalapeno, Pork Rinds, Lettuce and Apple Blais uses his Army MRE bag to cook to the dogs, for some reason bypassing the hot dog grill. Dan wants to go to war with Blais because of his insane level of preparedness.

Tiffany – Nachos with Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Jalapeno, Banana Pepper and Sour Cream and Popcorn with Candied Mangos and Pineapples – Tiffany sort of just mailed this one in. Not a lot of creativity in making nachos and putting fruit on popcorn.

Mike – Bread soup with Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Green Chili and Pork Rinds – Mike was creative, mashing up hot dog buns to thicken up into a soup. However, the end result looked like vomit. Scary.

Carla – Orange and Papaya Salad with Carrot and Rosemary Juice – Despite Blais’ derision for its simplicity, constructing a nice salad out of the crap stored in a snack bar was inspired. She infused the rosemary from a bag of chips into the juice to add some technique. She was the only chef to really do something innovative and different with the challenge.

Antonia – Grilled Cheese with Apples and Raisin Bread – Creative decision to grill the cheese on the hot dog grill, however, as Blais mentioned, she just took bread from one sandwich, cheese from another and made a third sandwich.

Dan tells Tiffany that is was a throwaway dish. True. Blais made a tasty, creative frank. Mike made soup that could sink the ship. Antonia used a nice technique. Carla made a refreshing and innovative dish. Clearly she won.

Elimination Challenge – Using the family history, cook a meal inspired by their family past for the judges and their family present.

Mike – Potato Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shank Ragu and Burrata Cheese Tom said that gnocchi is hard to make well and this was a good one. Antonia’s mom liked it. Carla’s husband called them tender little pillows. Dan felt Mike hit this one out of the park, and the greatest complement, Mike’s mom thought it was better than his grandma’s.

Antonia – Braised Veal, Rapini Leaf, and Fava Bean Risotto – Antonia took on the rice dish that did in Tre and that, according to Bourdain and Tom, is often messed up. She does not mess up. Mrs. Blais thought she did a great job. Mike’s mom loved its zestiness. Tom said that it was about the flavors, and this was packed with flavor. Antonia’s mom was proud of the gorgeous dish.

Tiffany – Braised Short Rib, with Mustard Greens, Stewed Okra and Oxtail Marmalade She dared to make okra despite Tom’s dislike of the veggie. Her mom thought it was delicious, and Tom admits that someone has finally made him like okra. Padma loved the unexpected crispiness. Mrs. Blais really felt the South. Carla’s husband found it to be quite elegant.

Tom teases Mrs. Blais and Mr. Carla about feeling some pressure now.

Blais – Short Ribs, Potatoes, Fried Bone Marrow, Corn Puree and Pickled Glasswort – Blais describes the dish in terms of the English/Irish past, Middle America upbringing and his own flair of innovation. It worked. Mikes mom loved the marrow. Tom called it alright, prompting a look from Mrs. Blais. He clarified…all was right. Carla’s husband loved the crispy nugget of flavor. Mrs. Blais was proud of tastiness.

Carla – Braised Pork Shoulder, Fried Grits, Corn and Sweet Potato Hash and Cheddar Biscuits. She has the table pass the biscuits around, a move that might have just saved her as it was a wonderful touch. Mike’s mom enjoyed her first ever taste of grits. Mrs. Blais raved over the biscuits. Gail felt the caramelized grits made quite the nice texture. Dan was impressed by the shoulder and there being not a dry bite to be had. Mr. Carla said she tries to make food memories and she truly did.


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