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October 13, 2015

'Top Chef All Stars' Season 8, Episode 2 Recap

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 9th 2010 2:15AM
top_chef_all_stars_group_bravo['Top Chef All Stars' - 'Night at the Museum']

Wow! If 'Top Chef All Stars' is out to create controversy this season, these first two episodes have succeeded. The chef who was sent home at the end of this 'Night in the Museum' challenge was one of the strongest cooks from previous seasons.

And despite the food criticism presented by the judges, there seemed to be more going on beneath the surface to explain this chef's ouster.

Both challenges involved cooking for kids. The setting was the American Natural History Museum, the Night at the Museum sleepover. It's always a challenge for top-notch chefs to have to dial it down to make food for children.

It's tripped up chefs in previous seasons, so this was a great obstacle for the All Stars. They'd all experienced kid food challenges before.

It was amazing to hear how so many of the chefs generally hate kids. At least the clips made it look that way. Before the chefs even got to the museum, they were calling the children little monsters and brats. Nasty.

Granted, it's difficult for chefs of their caliber to create dishes for unrefined palettes, but hey, that's the challenge. It was Tiffany F. who learned how to appeal to kids, reflecting on her lunchroom debacle in Season 1. This time around, she made a variation on a Rice Krispies treat and wound up at the top of the pack.

Spike's carrot and potato chips were also a solid entry, but the difference between the two treats was clear. One was sweet, the other salty. When guest judge Joe Jonas was unable to pick a winner, it was up the kids to vote. There was no question, really. The kids loved Tiffany's sugar bombs, moonpies, whatever they were calling Tiffany's chocolate Rice Krispies balls.

The midnight snack was the end of the Quickfire, but just the beginning of the Elimination challenge. The chefs were divided into two teams to cook a breakfast for the kids and their parents ... seven hours later. Since the ante has been upped for the All Stars, each team had a handicap.

Team Brontosaurus was all fruits, grains and veggies. Team T-Rex was meat, dairy and eggs. The tricky part, which Tom claimed to make clear, was that T-Rex had no access to acids or herbs. In future episodes, will Tom have to spell out the challenge or provide written instructions? There was a bit of deception going on, even if Colicchio believed that he'd been perfectly clear.

The cooking was not without incident. Marcel -- who's looking like James Franco these days -- sized up Angelo as a potential saboteur when he messed around with Marcel's mise en place. And Jamie nearly cut off her thumb.

The latter was a real bone of contention among the chefs. Should Jamie have sucked it up and stayed in the kitchen to cook rather than get medical attention? Her status as an All Star took a major hit because most of the chefs clearly thought her decision to get stitches showed weakness.

First season judge Katie Lee was back as a guest judge, filling in for Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain's nasty edge was missed, but there were still fireworks at the judges' table.

Tiffany's team, the T-Rex meat patrol, lost. Tiffany, who had immunity thanks to the chocolate balls, complained a bit about Tom's instructions. But it was Jen who was really itching for a fight. Jen was totally pissed off and she didn't quell her anger. Jen defended her dish -- and the entire team -- to the point of being insubordinate.

I admired the way she acted, especially in light of how wishy-washy she'd been in Season 6, running out of energy as the competition wore on. This feisty Jen was someone new and refreshing.

However, it turned out that standing up for yourself and challenging Tom is a recipe to be sent home. Despite the fact that Jamie wasn't even there for the cooking, she was kept and Jen was axed.

The judges could say what they want, but it sure looked like Jen was dumped because of her attitude, not because of her food. Other dishes weren't successful, but the other chefs didn't talk back to Tom and Gail.

'Top Chef All Stars' airs Wednesdays at 10PM ET on Bravo.

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I finally had a chance to see the episode and I'm surprised at Jen's unprofessionalism. I thought maybe it was due to lack of sleep, but she clearly snapped and I thought crossed the line. It was as if she thought, I can do no wrong, you're lucky to have me here, and I'm going to be blantantly honest, rude, and disrepectful. The comment to the judges about the plating was especially wrong. The way she was acting after being told she was going home was hard to watch, not because it was her going home, but because of her actions, her attitude, and the remarks after she left the room. It was like-- get ahold of yourself!

Anyway, I'm enjoying this season, I'm suprised at the people going home. But it is a competition. And you make a mistep, you have a good change of leaving.

December 11 2010 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought Jen came in with an attitude and a chip on her shoulder. The judges don't attack a person, they criticze the dish placed in front of them. In this season, we see a lot of egos involved and the inability to realize they are not "perfect". Grow-up and learn from the critiques. Jen went home because she was unable to comprehend that her dish WAS NOT GOOD. Jamie was a baby and is viewed as weaker. I think the Voltaggio brothers lifted Jen to a higher level of competition and this show
did not. She will never grow as a chef if she can't admit to mistakes.

December 10 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm in Jen's corner. The judges have been snarky and downright nasty at times for years. I found Jen's full throated defense of her dish and her team refreshing and to large degree appropriate. Granted, Jen took it right up to the line of all out warfare (Okay, maybe the 'Hey, you're judges...' line was just a soupçon over the line...), but enough of the meek cheftestant cowtowing.

Heck, I love me some Bourdain 24/7, but I was fully behind Fabio last week too. Unlike some people have been saying, he at no time said he was above criticism, exactly the opposite in fact. He said, yeah, I may or may not be the best one here, go ahead and criticize my food, but keep it constructive, keep it at least something like civil; but be a jerk and I will call you out.

Vive la revolution!

December 10 2010 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe that Jen was sent home because she refused to acknowledge the technical flaws in her dish, not because she was abrasive to the judges. I've seen the judges take a lot of attitude on previous seasons when it comes to more subjective aspects of a dish. However, when every judge points out the same technical errors and the chef still refuses to admit the dish was flawed, the judges tend to see that as a blind spot on the part of the chef. That's usually a fatal error. It's much better to simply nod your head and disagree silently than to defend a poorly-executed dish. I'm pretty sure Tre would have been sent packing if Jen had just kept her mouth shut and taken her medicine.

December 10 2010 at 9:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am disappointed in the show and the judges. If you feel Jen's dish wasn't good enough what did you feel about Jamie's dish? If it came down to those two, the one that left should be going home. She has nothing to present. I feel Jen told the judges their opinion didn't matter and they answered back, "Yes it does", booooo to them all.

December 09 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jen really had a lot to say in defense of her food and team. "if it was crowded on one plate, ask for another plate" was a good one. Her body language was confrontational and she really surprised me by speaking so confidently and defensively. In the past she was timid and silent. I was surprised she got the boot. My question is, was it her food or her big mouth that got her sent home??

December 09 2010 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was surprised that Jen was sent home. Undercooked eggs (ala the frittatas of Antonia and Tiffany) are a health risk and showed poor technique, judgement, plus supposedly they weren't very good. Despite Jen's arguments with the panel, I thought perhaps Antonia or Tiffany would be going home for a seemingly trifecta of mistakes.

And Jamie getting two stitches? Seriously? That makes me doubt her desire to actually win this competition. If she were really invested, she would have stayed and cooked. As an athlete, I've competed (heck, just gone and practiced) when I've been sick, bleeding, had sprained wrists and ankles, and worse.

That being said, this season thus far is much better than last season.

December 09 2010 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To expand a little on my previous comment: A lot of people are acting like the eliminations should be based on which contestant they like the least or which contestant's food has been criticized the most in the past. That is not how this show works, as Chef Colicchio has said many times. Each week, they eliminate the chef whose elimination round dish tasted the worst.

Regardless of anyone's opinion about whether Jamie should have listened to the advice of the professional paramedic who examined her thumb and told her to get stitches immediately, her contribution to the losing dish was minimal and Jen took full responsibility for it in front of the judges. The judges who, unlike all the commenters here, tasted all the dishes concluded that Jen's was the worst and eliminated her. I'm sorry if you all really liked her (and Elia), but you didn't taste their food and have no standing to criticize the decisions. Express your disappointment at your favorite people going home all you like, but don't say it was the wrong decision or condemn the judges when you don't know what the dishes tasted like.

December 09 2010 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its really strange how two of the top female contestants that have ever been on the show are the first to go. And with situations that usually have people go home (Blaise and Jamie) its especially odd. This series is really putting me off the whole Top Chef brand. And why the hell is Steven still there?

December 09 2010 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tom did say that he likes the contestants to fight back and that he doesn't let it affect his judging because the rule they go by is that the worst dish is the loser each week regardless of other factors. Tre's sauce may have been bad, but the salmon it was on was described as cooked perfectly. Every time Jen's dish was mentioned, there were nothing but criticisms of every aspect of it.

Also, various interviews Tom has given make it clear that the judges have no participation in or control over the editing. That is entirely in Bravo's hands and they are more likely to edit to make a decision look arbitrary than to make it look legitimate in order to create controversy.

December 09 2010 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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