TOP CHEF RECAP: A Night At The MuseYUM!

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This is a Recap of Top Chef All-Stars (Season 8), Episode 2, entitled “Night at the Museum”, originally airing December 8th, 2010. It contains spoilers – the Egyptian guy’s magic thing is what’s making exhibits come alive! See?

It’s Week 2 of Top Chef All-Stars, and after Elia was deemed “Least Starry” in Week 1, the chefs take turns reacting to the elimination in a new BEFORE THE CREDITS cold-open segment. “We’s gotta get them’s content before the intro, so’s the kids can Twitter it on the iPhones!” – New Maverick Top Chef Producer.

After the new cold open, it’s back to intro as usual — Sidenote: won’t a billion more people see the chefs on Top Chef than in Food and Wine Magazine, the prize? — and then it’s off to the Quickfire, with special guest smiler Joe Jonas:

Wait, I thought the Jonas Brothers were murdered by the record labels and re-Frankensteined together to make Justin Bieber? Why did someone tell me that?

Either way, he’s there to judge the first Kidz Challengz of the year:

For the Quickfire, the chefs have to make a midnight snack for kids sleeping overnight at the American Museum Of Natural History’s annual “Night At The Museum” event, popularized of course by this movie. The catch: The kids have no utensils, and also they’re insane because they’re kids:

The chefs get to cooking while still taking turns being wowed by the multiplatinum recording artist (FYI: record companies changed that term to refer to any band that’s sold over 50 physical cds), even though Dale’s like “I thought he was a pastry chef.” Yeah, of SWOON CAKE.

Tiffani is making a dessert that’s like if “A Snowball, a Moon Pie, and a Rice Krispie Treat had a threesome.” Make sure you explain it to the kids that way, Tiffani. And be prepared to answer their follow-up question, “Does the Moon Pie have to masturbate while the Rice Krispie Treat is going down on the Snowball?”

Michael Isabella is making “F*cking f*ck chocolate polenta bars f*ck,” but his struggles don’t stop him from saying that Casey’s chocolate lasagna makes him want to throw up. You are serving kids cornmeal, dude — have you ever seen/been a child? Just order Domino’s and coast to immunity (f*ck).

As for the two favorites, Richard is making, I don’t know, nitrogen chicken fingers or something, and Angelo is making “Cheese Crisps 2010: The New Evolution.” If this was a competition for Top Dork, Padma would tell those guys “Please acquire additional knives and stay!”

The winner of the Quickfire is announced: It’s a tie between Tiffani and Spike!

Maybe Spike’s finally turned his brim around and become a great chef? Oops! His restaurant is still called that:

Wasn’t that the name of like eight challenges in the DC season? (Kidding – I know for sure that it was).

The chefs pair off into teams (they just pick teams, still no crazy themes – looks like they’ve ditched the arbitrary themes forever and ever…(FORESHADOWING)) to mass-produce the snacks for the kids, and the kids will vote for their favorite one the only way kids can, by screaming. Fabio is picked last, despite his quoting ability:

The food is presented to the kids, some of whom devour everything instantly, while some future Colicchios prove more discerning:

Joe Jonas arrives (to a surprising lack of child-total-sh*t-losing) to decide the winner, and asks the kids if they like first thing (boo) or THE SECOND THINGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!! (YAYYYY!!!!) Kids always cheer louder for the second thing, dummies. After Tiffani is crowned Queen Quickfire, my friend Matt immediately commented “Did they have a contingency plan if the cheering had been close?” I reply “I was thinking the exact same thing!” Matt and I are useful people on this earth.

Onto the Elimination Challenge, and hoo-boy, after Top Chef shockingly avoided the super-stretched themes for the first Elimination and two Quickfires, they more than made up for it with the Top Cheffiest theme that ever Top Cheffed:

LOLOLOLOL! Dinosaurs! Museum! Didn’t they already do this challenge back in Season 2 when the dinosaurs from Dinotopia guest-judged? I dreamt that? Gotcha.

The captains have to cook breakfast for the kids, their parents, and the museum staff for the following morning, but one team will be Team “T-Rex” and can only use meat, and the other will be Team “Dilophosaurus” and can only spit poison at Wayne Knight. I realize this stopped being a Recap like eight paragraphs ago, but let’s keep typing and see what happens.

Tiffani has first pick and selects “T-Rex,” sticking Spike’s team with “Brontosaurus,” but when they go to the museum pantry, it’s stocked to the brim with vegetables that are definitely always in the museum pantry, while the meat side has only meats and meat biproducts (eggs and whining). T-Rexes only eat meat, Tiffani, so you only get meat! You just got DINOSAURD’D!

The chefs sleep overnight in the North American Mammals wing, because no kids have any interest in ever going there. Some of the chefs take a nap and others explore the museum, while the Bravo camera people get questioned by police for this B-Roll:

The Teams get to cooking, and Bravo sets up literally every potential person-throwing-person-under-the-bus combination imaginable. Everyone gets mad at someone else for some reason; Tiffani is mad at Tom for not making the challenge clear, Marcel is mad at Angelo for telling Carla to cut his plums in half (Marcel’s kind of a D, obviously, but I was with him on this one — I’d be furious if someone cut some of my jokes from this Recap without telling me, no matter how obviously terrible), and everyone on Team Rex turns on Jamie when she cuts her finger and leaves to get stitches. They all agree that in a real kitchen, if you cut yourself, you stay there and bleed into the food and maybe suffer worse long-term damage to your cooking hand, just like Chef Jon Voight from Varsity Blues always said.

Oh look, the ads for Top Che Funiversity are back:

Jenn adds some foreshadowing, saying “My father always told me that second place is still losing.” Jenn doesn’t mention that her father is an And1 T-shirt.

The teams present their dishes to the judges, kids, and staff members, and I will again stress that it is TEAM T-REX versus TEAM BRONTOSAURUS:

Tom actually says, “You know, it’s tough, there were some good things on Team T-Rex, but there were some good things on Brontosaurus too.” This show is amazing. I really don’t say that enough. I’m down a couple drinks right now, but I mean it.

Team Brontosaurus seems to be doing generally better, though, with some classic kids breakfast favorites like Spike’s V9 Gazpacho and Fabio’s Potato Gnocchi with Leeks, Spinach & Mushrooms (I used to get potato gnocchi Kid Cuisines all the time when I was little, because huh?)

The biggest hit is Richard, Angelo and Marcel’s Banana Parfait with Seasonal Fruit & Tandoori Maple, which is dang near Joe Jonas pretty:

Gail takes the kid-patronizing initiative and says “Ooh, isn’t that pretty kids? It’s like a painting!” She adds, “Do you know what a painting is? It’s like if Harry Potter waved his magic wand and had color appear on Batman!” Yaaay!!!

The Top 3: Team Brontosaurus wins, which means that the judges obviously had the final say because no kid in their right mind would ever vote for a brontosaurus over a t-rex. Richard, Angelo and Marcel win for the banana parfait, keeping my prediction of the eventual Richard / Angelo showdown intact. Your prize: You’re all going to Napa together! UHOH, only one bed! (Record Scratch) Etc.

The Bottom: Team T-Rex suffers its biggest defeat since that scientist popularized the theory that the T-Rex was just a scavenger to introduce kids to scientific debate while crushing their dreams of the awesome monster on their backpacks. Tiffany gets criticized for another surprisingly weak showing, Tre gets ripped for over-reducing his really salty sauce, Tiffani forces the judges to rip her when she complains about not fully understanding what she was choosing, and Jamie gets off surprisingly easily for literally not producing a dish, cut nonwithstanding.

The real fireworks, though, come when Tom criticizes Jennifer’s eggs for being bland. Jenn — who nervously cried several times during her previous Top Chef stint — goes ballistic:

Jenn disagrees with everything Tom says, re-iterates that she’s positive her eggs weren’t bland, and when Tom brings up that serving everything on one plate was too cluttered, Jenn snaps back “You’re the judges, you should be smart enough to say ‘hey can I get a different plate.’” Uhhhmmmm, you’re probably going home, Jenn.

But wait! Tom says “If someone’s going home, it’s gonna be for their dish, not because they got angry at us, I have no problem with that.” So maybe Jenn isn’t going home?

Then Padma’s like, “Nahhhh, Jenn’s very going home.” The other contescheftants are shocked:

Jennifer was clearly at least in the top half of chefs this season talent-wise, and was probably Finale-worthy, but if we take the judges’ word that they judge every challenge independently based solely on the dishes of a particular week, and that Jennifer’s dish was in fact that bad, then they had to eliminate her. That said, whether or not the effect was deliberate, Jenn’s elimination certainly does send a “we’re not playing around” message to the rest of the chefs, and adds some intrigue to the season’s early weeks, a fact which the producers clearly couldn’t have been unaware of in deciding to let her go.

Although, Tre made one sauce and botched it, and Jamie literally did nothing. But, diff’rent judgestrokes, you know?

Bye Jenn! Sorry you got kicked to the curb and have to get up from that curb and resume being an enormously successful chef at Michelin star-winning establishments. But no couple page-spread in magazine that I only remember exists during the intro of this show for you! Burn.

Top Chef All-Stars episode 2 reactions? Jennifer elimination thoughts? Anything we missed? Leave ‘em in the comments.

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