Author Topic: Top Chef All-Stars  (Read 20563 times)

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Offline apskip

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Re: Top Chef All-Stars
« Reply #50 on: March 24, 2011, 10:15:24 AM »
TOP CHEF 8, Ep. 15

The Quickfire opened with the introduction of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck as its Judge. Each chef would assign a dish to one of their competitors and Mike got first choice as a result of winning the prior Elimination Challenge. He gave Canned and Dry Goods (nothing fresh) to Antonia. Antonia gave a hot dog to Richard. Richard had 5 choices left and gave “One Pot” to Mike, which Antonia said was not smart. Mike was cooking pork in a pressure cooker and had a lot of time to needle Antonia. It was due to finish at about 45 minutes of 60 allowed minutes cooking time. However, before 45 minutes was reached Padma came with the expected twist. The chefs were to get a handicap, with them selected in reverse order. Those were:

Antonia for Richard – cooking with one hand
Richard for Mike – finishing cooking with no knives or utensils
Mike for Antonia – the double apron with Carla on the right side and Antonia on the left

The finished dishes were:
Antonia – curry coconut soup w/ shrimp, andouille sausage, peanuts, fish sauce
Richard – curry wurst of hot dog w/homemade roti bread, curry ketchup, mayo, mint 
Mike – pork shoulder w/ black beans, chili paste, ginger, cabbage salad

Wolfgang Puck’s comments were:
Richard’s curry wurst had too much ketchup flavor
Antonia’s soup was delicious but over-salted
Mike’s pork was undercooked but its balance was good
He gave the win worth $5000 cash from Chilada Wines to Mike. Richard appeared psyched out. Padma made a statement about competing for the $200,000 grand prize and Wolfgang tongue-in-cheek volunteered that he would be interested in being part of that.

Padma showed the 3 chefs a sealed envelope and said there would be more on it the next day and where they were to show up.

On arrival, the chefs found Michelle Bernstein, Wolfgang Puck and Iron Chef Morimoto waiting for them. Will they act as sous chefs? No, instead they have simple dishes that they wish to have as their last meals based on their memories of favorite meals their mothers cooked for them. The chefs need to make their versions of those meals. It was unstated that those meals need to be excellent to impress this set of judges. The assignments are:
Mike – picked Michelle Bernstein, who gave him fried chicken, biscuits and gravy
Richard - picked Wolfgang Puck,  who gave him gulasch, spaetzle and apple strudel
Antonia – was left with Morimoto (but she was pleased), who gave her miso soup, fish, rice which would need to be done perfectly

The cooking and serving was done at the Cloister and Ocean Club. The 3 special Guest Judges were augmented by food photographer Melanie Dunea (photographer for a book of “Last Meals of 50 Chefs” and by Tom, Padma and Gail. Note the odd number of total judges, which may be why Melanie was added, something I would not usually think would be needed. The chefs had 3 hours to cook. As this began, Richard stated “I have won more challenges than anyone in the history of Top Chef, but I blew the big one (finale of TC4).” Antonia said she had completed 31 challenges (I think one less than Richard)Antonia). She found her original hamachi fish rancid, so she was forced to switch to tuna.

The dishes from the chefs were:
Antonia – tuna sashimi, pickled daikon, mushrooms, eggplant, miso soup, perfect rice
Mike – fried chicken w/ egg puree, biscuits from a novel approach of egg yolk inside empanada
, mustard gravy
Richard – beef gulasch, spaetzle, frozen sour cream, tarragon cream, apple strudel   

Judges’ summary comments for each meal were:
Mike – creative but maybe too much so (losing “the way mothers cooked”); elegant “biscuit” fabulous; batter on white meat dry
Antonia – miso has too much salt, tuna has too much pepper, rice excellent
Richard – simple, ingredients, great balance, great gulasch, strudel outstanding, not hot enough,onions undercooked

Additional  comments by the guest judges who provided the challenges were:
Michelle – fried chicken over-juicy and too crispy, breading falling apart, egg yolk in empanada novel and it was superb
Wolfgang – flavors right on, spaetzle a little tough
Morimoto – miso soup too salty (a continuing problem of Antonia’s)

It was obvious that Richard had won this episode and that either Antonia or Mike should be going home. I felt it would be Mike staying to face off against Richard in the finale.  However, Padma had another twist for Antonia and Mike. She pulled out that little envelope and read its contents. It was a special 45 minute challenge to create 7 identical one-bites that would wow each of the 7 judges. Back to the kitchen for Antonia and Mike!

Antonia’s dish was spicy coconut curry broth w/ a piece of grouper. 
Mike’s dish was beef and lobster tail w/ black olive, caramel sauce,

Here is where the odd number of judges came in handy, as a poll was taken of each judge. The votes for Antonia were Morimoto, Padma and Gail.  The votes for Richard were Michelle, Melanie and Tom. I expect that Tom, who voted 6th may have voted strategically like they do it on Hell’s Kitchen to set up a thrilling tie-breaking vote and that honor appropriately went to Wolfgang Puck. After the suspense of a commercial break, Padma brought the 2 chefs back in to announce that the vote was 3 to 4 and Mike had won. Antonia had to pack her knives. 

Offline kiki

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Re: Top Chef All-Stars
« Reply #51 on: March 24, 2011, 12:56:57 PM »
I can't believe that Mike is going to the final. At the beginning of this season he was average and one of the first to be kicked out, as I believed. He has obviously been very well prepared for the finals, but I still do not like him and I will be dissapointed if he ends up winning.

Offline apskip

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Re: Top Chef All-Stars
« Reply #52 on: March 25, 2011, 03:04:38 PM »

As stated earlier in this thread, Mike made the best use of the 4 months off between NYC episodes and Bahamas episodes. He is the best prepared chef, but that does not mean he will outcook Richard. The chances are that he will not do that.

Offline apskip

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Re: Top Chef All-Stars
« Reply #53 on: March 31, 2011, 10:53:43 AM »
TOP CHEF 8, Ep. 16, Finale

It’s down to Richard versus Mike and I believe this is an even-steven contest. Richard did well early in TC8 and Mike used his 4 months before the final 4 episodes in the Bahamas to perfect his techniques. Both really want it. Richard is into his usual self-doubt mode, while Mike is unrelentingly positive. Both would use $200,000 to open new restaurants.

All of the other TC8 contestants are available for the determination of who the sous chefs for each chef will be. Mike wanted Jennifer Carroll and not Jaime. Richard wanted Angelo and Dale Talde. Neither of them wanted Marcel in their kitchen creating havoc.  15 of 16 of them (Dale Levitsky was missing) were asked to create an amuse bouche, which was to be blind tasted by Richard and Mike, who used those results to “pick” their sous chefs. Richard got to pick first because of his elimination challenge win in the final episode and his plate picks resulted in Spike, Angelo and Antonia as his sous chefs. He had a strong team. Mike picked the plates of Tiffani, Jaime and Carla. I considered this to be a less strong team due to Jaime.  

Tom revealed that the challenge was to cook the best 4 course meal their lives (he actually said restaurant of their dreams, which is a bit absurd since they happen to accept the décor and wait staff). The chefs had to assign staff, develop a menu and cook outstanding food. Both were ready and motivated. They had one hour to plan with their sous chefs. Richard listened to ideas from his sous chefs and went mostly with his own ideas, but allowed his sous chefs the latitude to improve on them. Mike refused to consider any ideas from his sous chefs, as he knew precisely what he wanted to do and did not want to be distracted (as Carla was in the AR5 finale) by alternatives. The next day the teams would cook for 5 hours for 70 guests plus the judges. Richard assigned Spike to do Dessert and act as Front of House manager, Angelo to do the first course and Antonia to do vegetables.  Mike had Jaime as cold prep, Carla on desserts and FOH and Tiffani on Fish. The ability of the head chef to manage his team of sous chefs was a key test of this challenge.

Mike chose the Seafire Steakhouse at the Atlantis for its casual style and named it Restaurant Iz. Richard chose the Martinique Café at the Atlantis for its elegance and probable superior staff and named his restaurant Tongue n’ Cheek for whimsy.

Richard original wanted to do Captain Crunch ice cream, but later refocused on foie gras ice cream.

The actual menu was:

Amuse Bouche
Richard - Raw Oyster w/ Creme Fraiche w/ lemon horseradish ice cream pearls, Salsa Verde
Mike –there wasn’t one and it was not required

Course 1
Richard - Raw Hamachi w/ Fried Veal Sweetbreads, Asian Pear, Pickled Radish, and Garlic Mayonnaise
Mike - Spiced Beets w/ Mozzarella, Truffle,  Chocolate Vinaigrette

Course 2
Richard -Pork Belly, Black Cod Cutlet, Bone Marrow, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Kumquat
Mike – Halibut w/ Kumquat Marmalade, Cauliflower Puree, Pancetta Crumbs

Course 3 (main)
Richard -Beef Short Rib w/ Mushrooms, Red Cabbage Marmalade, and Celery Root Horseradish Puree
Mike - Braised Pork Shoulder w/ Pepperoni Sauce, Roasted Cabbage, Turnips

Course 4 (dessert)
Richard – Cornbread with Foie Gras Ice Cream and Whipped Mango
Mike – Rosemary Caramel Custard w/ Pine Nuts Citrus, Cherry, Apple

The judges were split into two groups, who would eat the first seating at one restaurant and then switch with the other group for the second seating. One group of judges was Tom, Gail, Art Smith and Curtis Stone (to allow a plug for top Chef masters 3 starting telecasts in one week in the same time slot after an initial one hour later one time only April 6). The second group was Padma, Hubert Keller, Lydia Bastianich, Alfred Portale and Bill Terlato. This was a heavyweight judging group, but the thoughts of Curtis, Lydia, Alfred and Bill were to be conveyed at Judges’ Table through Hubert.

As the judges were eating Richard’s meal, Spike was hovering a bit to obtain feedback by listening in on the conversations from that table. Richard found that spying to be highly valuable intelligence to help him decide on any adjustments for the second seating and to provide information on how he was doing. In addition, the used plates from the judges were observed for any indications of things they did not like. Richard discovered that Hubert and Lydia did not like his foie gras ice cream, so he immediately went to work with Angelo to make adjustments to it. No other dishes were affected by this feedback. Mike made no changes for the second seating.

Comments from the judges were:
Steamed fish cooked perfectly
Pepperoni sauce incredible
Chocolate vinaigrette risky but it worked
Short Rib perfectly cooked and well glazed
Bubbles around the edges of Mike’s dessert
Hamachi superb
Black Cod superb

At Judges’ Table, Tom stated that he had just eaten the best food of any finale in the history of Top Chef and thanked Richard and Mike for their outstanding performance. Gail praised Mike for the subtlety and finesse of his food. Tom commented that steaming fish is difficult and risky, but Mike had pulled it off. I think it was Gail who mentioned that the pepperoni sauce was perfection.

Tom addressed the difference in the foie gras ice cream for the group of 5 judges (including Padma and Hubert) versus the group of 4 judges (including Tom and Gail). He stated that the group of 5 picked Mike for the Dessert course win, but his group of 4 picked Richard.  Richard and Mike were then sent off to the Atlantis equivalent of the “stew room” while the judges made the final decision. Mike asked Richard to give him some money if Richard won and Richard agreed to do so. In a few minutes, they were joined my Mike’s wife and other relatives and Richard’s uncle (since his wife was late in her pregnancy).

This was the way it came down:
Amuse bouche course - not relevant because not required
Course 1 – won by Richard’s hamachi
Course 2 – won by Richard’s Black Cod
Course 3 – won by Mike’s Pork
Course 4 – seemed to be split, although it was treated as if Mike had won it

So even ignoring the split vote on the Dessert course, that is Richard 2 to Mike 1. I expected Richard to win.

Richard and Mike were called back with their relatives and all the other Top Chef 8 All-Stars contestants present. Tom stated that both were winners and had very successful culinary careers ahead of them no matter who won. Padma announced that Richard was Top Chef. Richard was ebullient and Mike was clearly disappointed, as he had cooked his heart out. Mike said that his team had worked hard for him, especially Jaime who turned around his viewpoint on her.

Both Richard and Mike significantly enhanced their careers by the way they cooked on Top Chef All-Stars.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2011, 02:11:19 PM by apskip »

Offline apskip

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Re: Top Chef All-Stars
« Reply #54 on: April 07, 2011, 05:39:00 PM »
Top Chef 8 Reunion
This was another of the Andy Cohen-led Q&A with the TC8 judges and contestants. I am in the camp which considers Andy reasonably good at this task. Andy congratulated Richard and a discussion of “what happened after finale” occurred. Richard’s wife gave birth and his new daughter was one month old (meaning birth in February or March) when this reunion was filmed. Mike was disappointed Richard was eligible for TC8.

Mike caught some flack from Andy about his feelings about finishing second and whether he indeed received the money Richard promised (he hasn’t yet, but Mike said that he does not need any more investment in his restaurant).

Antonia’s ongoing feud with Mike was highlighted and it did not let up after they discovered they might be cousins. Antonia considered many of Mike’s actions gross. Mike responded that Antonia talked way too much.

Angelo was exposed wearing tight pants to stimulate interest from the ladies in the TC8 audience, but he did not make it to the final fan favorite decision between Carla and Fabio (Carla won, reversing what happened in TC5).

Jaime was highlighted wimping out at a number of tasks (most notably the National Tennis Center when she could not be found to be placed into her team’s lineup with her probably inferior chick pea dish). She also disappeared from the earlier action when Casey needed her assistance and her 2 stitches were viewed at trivial by her teammates and Casey was sent home as a result.

Tre nominated Marcel for the “most obnoxious chef in TC8” award, which I guess is the antithesis of the Fan Favorite award. I have always been a Marcel supporter in TC2, but his behavior in TC8 was obnoxious and it also shows up on Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen. 

Richard highlighted Jen Carroll at the beginning of the competition as the chef he feared most. However, she went down with her ship with a dish the judges found inferior despite Jen’s protestations that it was OK.   

Tiffani was allowed to admit that she had attitude problems in TC1 and that it would have been bad for her career if she had won that. Antonia stated that there should be no children’s menus, but Tiffani took major exception to that. From a cost standpoint, I think there ought to be Kid’s Menus with low pricing.

Bromances were speculated between Fabio and Richard and between Mike and Angelo.

The “Black Hammer” was Antonia, who repeatedly in both TC4 and TC8 saw individuals on her team be eliminated as well as most of her roommates.

Padma trying to calm the kids at the museum was told that she could consider it “on-the-job training for the next 10 years.”

Richard vs. Mike in the TC8 finale was a final difficult decisions for the judges. Mike was exasperated by his loss despite his belief that he had slightly outcooked Richard.

Tom stated that these were his 3 favorite dishes of TC8:
Carla’s Chicken Potpie
Richard’s Hamachi Sweetbreads
Mike’s Fish in banana leaf on the beach

The show ended with a lengthy debate between Elia (one eliminated and still seething at that) and Tom. This revolved around using grass-fed vs. corn-fed beef. Elia maintains that grass-fed is superior and why it's very clear that any corn-fed beef should be used in his Las Vegas steakhouse. Elia asked him point-blank if he should have used grass-fed and he responded with an emphatic “NO.” She also accused for selling out by doing commercials for DIET COKE, to which Tom responded that he drinks it daily, so it’s appropriate.