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Top Chef: All-Stars – Ep 14 – Padma’s Bikini and Perhaps Something Was Cooked


A little bit of a bump in the road for our All-Stars as the Final Four episode was a tad slow, decent challenges and a fairly uniform good performance by the chefs, but the overall product was a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it was the fact that I have had conch in the Bahamas before and found it to not be very good, perhaps it was the freaky UFO cult (check out #5 on the link) white outfits worn by the judges and diners in the Elimination Challenge, maybe it was the shameless NBC cross promotion, or all of it combined that made this one a bit sleepy. Wake me in the morning.

What, Padma in the bikini? Good Morning, indeed.

Bikini and high heels? It’s official, Bravo is trying to kill me.
This would be a nice murder weapon; a cruel one would have been that cold coconut conch soup that Tiffany served up. Conch and coconut soup sounds like something Survivor contestants whip up when they’re bored of just eating rice. Slightly less torturous, but only slightly, was the image of Mike, shirtless, wearing snorkeling gear. Unfortunate. That thought just ruined the bikini thoughts. I must rediscover them.

Ah, there it is, now back to the show.

I must admit that this Blais fan over here is starting to get a bit nervous about Mike. The DC/New York guy in me should be a Mike fan, but as previously stated, he tends to irritate me. However, this is not a nicest guy contest, and Mike is bringing his A game to the finale, and Blais may have been caught off guard a bit. Interestingly enough, that sort of happened to him in Season 4. Lisa inexplicably made the finals that season and cooked her heart out in the finale, besting both Antonia and Blais, and almost stealing the win from Steph. It may be happening again this season with Mike playing the role of the lesbian chef. Probably the first time that has ever been uttered…

The funny thing is that unlike the last time, Blais hasn’t cooked poorly. Yet. I will fully admit that I really expected him to win this week. The fact that he took a risk by making a non-Caribbean dish with the featured conch protein was impressive. The fact that he turned raw sweet potato into a faux-pasta, and did it well enough to fool Tom Colicchio, was super impressive. But more importantly, they were looking for a dish that showcased the conch as a priority in the judging. In the post-episode analysis I read on Bravo’s website, the judges have claimed that Mike’s did the better job. Now, grain of salt here, I am questioning food experts for a moment…how can the conch be showcased in a dish when it was used only as a vinaigrette?

Because that’s what Mike did. I am looking at the plate on the website right now…no pieces of conch to be found. Even though it was a well-executed dish, so was Blais’ and Richard’s seemed more creative and full of conch. I just don’t understand.

What I did understand was that Tiffany earned the loss. What people have to remember with Tiffany, and what makes her run to the Final Four all the more impressive is what she said at the end of the show this week. She is not a classically-trained chef. She did not apprentice with Daniel Boulud, Ripert or any world-class chef. Tiffany is a self-taught, restaurant chef. She just shot Top Chef: DC and made it all the way to the Final Five. She came back for a second consecutive season and made the Final Four, this time against basically the best-of-the-best in show history. She outlasted her season-mate Angelo. And she went out with a dish that was sub-par, but only compared to its competition. She may have flirted with disaster all year, but she has a lot to be proud of with her performance. If I ever go back to Dallas – a) it will not be in August this time, and b) I will be eating in Tiffany’s restaurant.

So, it appears we have two episodes left, plus the reunion. Which means that a Final Two will be cooking for the title this season and a very hard elimination is coming next week. I am holding out hope for a Blais-Antonia finale, but Mike is sure making it hard to see that happen. He is cooking with extreme confidence and Blais is second-guessing himself. I wonder if that will get in Blais’ head. Antonia needs to really deliver a great dish to survive. Or hope that Mike gets overconfident, or Blais gets to be too “under”-confident. Either way, these last couple of episodes will be rather exciting to see unfold.

Quickfire – The concept here is that a great chef should be able to duplicate one of their great dishes. So the four pair up – guys vs. girls – and must create 100 identical dishes in one hour. Padma and America’s Next Great Restaurant host Lorena Garcia will judge. I can’t say her name without thinking about Heidi Klum saying “Nina Garcia.”

The trick with this challenge is something that escaped the guys – it wasn’t about showing off technique or degree of difficulty for the dish. It was about making a delicious dish with a great degree of presentation difficulty. They needed flavors and appearance to match – flavor matching is fairly easy. Plate matching is not. Especially if you have four elements like the ladies had. All throughout the challenge, as Mike and Blais crowed about how good their dish was – and it looked and sounded delicious. I mean, Mike made fresh pasta in one hour for 100 people. I knew the ladies would win when Antonia explained how complicated the plating was going to be.

And win they did, leaving us some really hysterical body language and facial expressions from the boys. Slice and serve, indeed. Padma and Lorena chose random plates and gave the win and the cash to the girls.

Mike and Blais – Pork Bolognese with Fresh Macaroni and Pecorino Cheese

Antonia and Tiffany – Beef Tenderloin Salad with Cilantro, Mint Basil and Chimichurri Sauce


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