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October 10, 2015

'Top Chef All-Stars' Season 8, Episode 14 Recap

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 17th 2011 4:00AM
top_chef_all-stars_padma_lakshmi_bikini_bravo['Top Chef All-Stars' - 'Island Fever']

Two female chefs, two male chefs. They made up the final four as the penultimate episode of 'Top Chef All-Stars' commenced. This would not be the time to serve up a bad dish or to make a technical mistake, like last week when Carla inexplicably deep fried a pork loin.

The four seemed to know that they had to be on their toes. The Quick Fire Challenge was a test of consistency and precision. The chefs split into two teams, and naturally the boys stuck together. Can they be more predictable?

The fellas just have this superiority complex that clearly is a food industry thing. Male chefs think they're the best, and Mike and Richard uphold that stereotype.

The task was for each team to make 100 identical plates in an hour. It didn't sound like the toughest challenge, especially since they all have restaurant experience. Isn't that what restaurant food is all about, whether it's McDonald's or Le Bernadin?

Was Lorena Garcia appearing as a guest judge just a coincidence? No, it was a cross-promotion. She's on the new NBC show 'America's Next Great Restaurant.' See, it was all about restaurant cooking, which is what her show is about, right?

The guys could not have been cockier. We've come to expect it from Mike, but as the finale looms, Richard is turning into an arrogant jerk, too. When their pork bolognese with fresh pasta came in second to Tiffany and Antonia's seared beef tenderloin salad, they were pissed.

Richard's only redeeming virtue is his self-loathing. No matter what he does, Richard finds fault with his finished product. What an odd mix of self-confidence and self-doubt. And yet, more than any other chef, it Richard loses, he might need to be put on suicide watch. Blais needs to win 'Top Chef All-Stars' for his self-worth.

As the Quick Fire winners, Antonia and Tiffany collected $5,000, which was pretty nice.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to make a lunch for a high society anniversary of the Nassau Yacht Club. They had to incorporate conch and cook on a deserted island. Imagine 'Gilligan's Island' with not much more in the way of high tech cooking equipment.

But the real show was watching these four rather 'shapely' chefs strip down to their swimsuits to snorkel for the conch. Fortunately for the viewers -- not to mention the chefs -- the 'Top Chef' cameras didn't linger on their diving and swimming too long. These guys were not picked for 'Top Chef' because of their looks.

Mike and Richard were bragging about how they had practiced with conch in anticipation of going to the Bahamas, but they didn't have much of an advantage really. All four struggled to get the damn meat out of the shell. It was almost comical. It was worse than shucking oysters. It was a miracle that nobody hammered their fingers or cut themselves on the shells.

The physical requirements of this challenge were really tough for the chefs. They had to swim, dive, and then hammer open the conch shells ... before cooking the dish of their lives (if they were going to move on in the competition).

I was exhausted just watching them. The conditions were also crappy, with just pots and pans and open wood fires to cook on. For a lot of viewers, the rustic stuff is fun to watch. But if these chefs are competing to be the best, why not give them a proper kitchen, especially this close to the end?

As if the kitchen conditions and the physical toll weren't challenging enough, how do you keep the sand out of the food? That was a subtext to the challenge. Even if the conch dish was superb, a grit of sand would sink the chef. In the end, Tom noted that they all succeeded in keeping the sand off the plates.

Despite all the obstacles, the four came up with some inventive dishes. Conch two ways from Tiffany, with coconut all over the place. Unfortunately, her chowder was cold. Damn those conditions, it was supposed to be piping hot. Tom said it was too sweet.

Mike did a steamed banana leaf wrapped grouper with conch vinaigrette on top. Tom thought it was too rich because of the butter, but Gail loved it and loved that he took a risk.

Antonia served a seared snapper with conch tartare, very spicy. Tom got all weird about the size of the conch, and Padma called the dish predictable. It was refreshing, though, to hear Antonia stand up for herself and emphasize that the dish showed off her style.

Richard came up with sweet potato noodles with conch; Tom didn't realize the pasta wasn't really pasta. When the others pointed out that it was just sweet potatoes, Richard was hailed as a genius. Gail pointed out the elements were not tropical, and that should have knocked him down more than Tiffany's cold soup. But it didn't.

Tom announced the winner and despite the butter overload, Michael won. If you think he had a swelled head before, he was worse after winning! He'll probably be impossible next week. I'm kind of amazed he's come this far. Could Mike really be the 'Top Chef All-Star' champion?

As for the loser, there was one dish that was less successful than the other two, and it was Tiffany's. She was gracious in defeat -- unlike Jen way back in week 2 who nearly went after the judges with her knives.

Tiffany was in tears to get so far and yet be out-cooked in the end, but she knew she'd exceeded her previous 'Top Chef' experience. Tiffany was swimming in deep waters against more accomplished and technically trained chefs. She did well getting this far.

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

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i think it's time for Padma to leave. And yes, the swimsuit...wtf. Are we supposed to think what a hottie? this season won't end

March 17 2011 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with the writer. Mike is as annoying a person as i have ever seen. He has those men are superior compexes that just gets under my skin and he's not gracious at all. i was going for carla, and tiffany but since they are gone im routing for antonia. Richard is just a damn cry baby.

March 17 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce Nicodemus

I would also hate to see Mike win this season. He's a total blowhard and after stealing Richard's recipe, I can't stand him. Hoping that Richard or Antonia will win.

March 17 2011 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

whoever said give them a decent kitchen was right on! I think last week was a total debacle too...can't the producers even make sure the facilities are safe? and give them enough room to move..jeesh..when they're all over each other you can't tell who's doing what..Carla should have won..but I'd be satisfied with Richard, but what is his deal? he critiques his own stuff harsher than anyone's and then is pissed when he doesn't win..is anyone else still bugged by Mike winning that quickfire using Richard's dish? I just can't believe Mike is the Top Chef..

March 17 2011 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Since Angelo got tossed, I've been in Camp Richard. He's innovative, smart and a damn good chef.

I wished Angelo wouldve gone all the way. He was awesome...

March 17 2011 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Didn't need to see Padma in her swimsuit on this review of the show. Padma posing has nothing to do with Top Chef and is insulting to the women contestants (considering your remarks about shapes-both male and female). That being said, what a stupid situation to put these chefs in. What a stupid decision to give Mike (jerk) the nod when Richard did his amazing "sweet potato" noodles. Talk about taking a chance. But at least two good chefs are in the finale. Please don't let that jerk Mike win the season. How insulting to all the chefs that have fallen this season to have him take it all. And Padma, keep your clothes on and be classy and producers stop this nonsense and let the chefs cook in equipped kitchens. Go Antonia or Richard for the win!!

March 17 2011 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
The Foodie Gossip

So sad to see Tiffany Derry depart, though it was a bit expacted. Kick me for saying it, but I think Mike Isabella is going to take home the title. His game is totally on: http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/03/top-chef-all-stars-says-farewell-to.html

March 17 2011 at 6:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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