TOP CHEF ALL-STARS RECAP: Give Me Your Huddled Masses Yearning To Be FOOD


It’s the final episode before the Top Chef All-Stars Finale, “Give Me Your Huddled Masses”, but before we get to the pointless Quickfire and almost as pointless Elimination Challenge, first things first – this photo of Mike Isabella as a kid:

THE BEST!!!! Who knew Mike was so flamboyantly adorable before he grew up to become a fish?

Ah! Snap back to reality (oops there goes fishity). What? No idea either, I’ve given up trying to make sense in these recaps. Not like I’m gonna get eliminated before the Finale, will I? Or anyone?? Let’s find out.

First up, a LOW STAKES QUICKFIRE furnished by Dial Low Soap:

The chefs are hanging out in their chefpartment, wondering if Padma is going to show up, when suddenly there’s a knock on the door and Antonia FLIPS HER CHEFT:

It’s actually just Padma telling the contestants to board the ferry to Ellis Island, and on the way, they’ll have to prepare a dish using only whatever leftover crappy food they can scrounge up from the Ellis Island Ferry snack bar. They’ll start when the boat’s horn sounds, and stop when the horn sounds again, so they have no idea how long they have to prepare their dish — JUST LIKE A REAL CHEF.

Some of the dishes are legitimately creative, like Richard’s Hot Dog and Beef Jerky Sandwich with JalapeƱo, Pork Rinds, Lettuce and Apple, cooked with the help of a military MRE pouch that Richard happened to have in his pocket. Of course Richard has military MRE pouches on his person at all times — I don’t think any single detail in Top Chef history fits more perfectly than this fact.

Other dishes, like Mike’s BREAD SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM, are literally abortions:

That’s it! Pack it up. Food’s over. Not Michael’s stay on the show, I mean, all of food has just come to an end after that. Good thing Mike won’t be going on to the finale, right guys? Why’s no one high-fiving me?

Carla wins the Quickfire for her Orange and Papaya Salad with Carrot and Rosemary Juice, which kind of sounds like a bowl of acid, but I guess she’s good. Carla stays red-hot this season, and as her Quickfire Prize, she wins…

Now that the chefs are at Ellis Island, we’re ready for the Elimination Challenge. WHAT COULD IT BE??? I’ll bet it’s “cook something that has to do with islands.” To help the chefs with the challenge, Top Chef brought in some very special guests…

It’s TOP MOMS!!! And some spouses! Richard’s wife, Carla’s husband, and the moms of Antonia, Mike, and Tiffany all stroll in for an emotionally charged reunion with their cheffer halves. Not to be unnecessarily cynical (Ed Note – exactly to be that), but haven’t the chefs been on this show for like, six days? Adult humans frequently go that long without seeing their mothers, and when they do, it doesn’t instantly turn into an emotional wedding toast.

But ok, moms and spouses are there to help the chefs trace their ancestry, and they’ll have to cook a dish that represents their heritage, with the winning chef taking home a new Toyota Highlander (there can be only one):

Good thing Bravo blurred that license plate – I was totally gonna track down the winning chef and mail them fake parking tickets.

As soon as the Elimination Challenge was explained, literally about 10-15 minutes into the episode, my roommate predicted that all five people would be going to the Finale. Man, did he call that with Bill Maher-like accuracy. But we’ll pretend we don’t know what happens for the purposes of this Recap. WHUT HAPPENZ?? Did you buy that? I’m so good at pretending.

The “tracing their lineage” part of the episode hits the adorable note Bravo was going for, even though it does go on for a solid 20 minutes, but the scene does produce several stunning revelations — Antonia and Mike are distant cousins from Sicily, for one, and there’s this telling fact about Richard:

Also, is there a more intense name than JAZMIN BLAIS? So awesome. If she were a character in a Mortal Kombat game, the computer would be so cheaply impossible when you played against her. Richard then freezes his ancestry book.

The chefs each prepare dishes to honor their ancestors (with Padma taking the obligatory three seconds to point out that Carla and Tiffany’s immigrant experiences were slightly different than some of the other chefs’) – Richard is making an Irish/English tribute, Carla and Tiffany are making southern food, and Mike and Antonia are cooking Italian. Everything seems to be going well, all the testimonials are super upbeat, and everyone is happy. The “all five chefs getting passed along to the Finale” prediction grows more and more accurate.

This week’s guest judge is Blue Hill’s Dan Barber, who looks enough like Joe Buck for me to be bored by him:

Sidenote: The only plus side to the months without football and baseball is that I can go long periods of time without having to hear Joe Buck. It’s like a nice, subtle massage. Or actually, it’s like whatever the opposite of a massage is doesn’t happen to me for a couple months.

The chefs present their dishes to the judges and the spouses and the momses, and everyone absolutely loves everything. In fact, everyone loves everything a little too much. Could it be that no one is getting eliminated and all five get passed along to the Finale and that was probably Bravo’s intent the whole time because who was gonna get chewed out by the Judges in front of their mothers? On the plus side, Carla’s husband is the most calm, reserved dude ever, which really amused me.

At Judge’s Table, all five chefs are called in together, and they link their arms and prepare to meet their fate, like that ridiculously intense part from Toy Story 3:

Antonia wins the Elimination Challenge for her Braised Veal, Rapini Leaf, and Fava Bean Risotto. Then Michael is passed along to the Finale, keeping the COUSINS RIVALRY intact – it’s like the Voltaggio Brothers, but one of them is awful! They’ll both be headed to the Bahamas for the big probably not sponsored by the Bahamas Finale.

Padma then says to Richard “Pack your knives…you’re GO……….ing to the Bahamas!” [“Rrrrrrrrrr you going to the mall today?” “No I’m not going to the mall, Billy, keep spelling.”] Richard has a heart attack and Tom laughs at him. This leaves just Carla and Tiffany, and another commercial break! Oh no, who’s going home? Neither of them, as we predicted six hours ago and kept being re-affirmed by the total lack of criticism of anyone?

Carla and Tiffany are both going to the Finale!

Top Chef has pulled a “no one’s going home!” twist in almost every season, and there hadn’t been one yet this year, plus with the suspiciously positive Judges’ critiques and the way-too-emotional implications of the challenge itself, there was just no way anyone was getting sent home this episode. Plus Bravo usually sends all the chefs to the Finale location anyway, since the finalists usually have eliminated contestants helping them and the show doesn’t want to leak the results by only sending the finalists to the final location, so again, the non-elimination was pretty foreseeable (though my friend calling it at like 10:15 was downright Rain Manny. Rain Man predicted reality shows, right?)

So your finale will be Richard, Carla, Tiffany, Mike, and Antonia. Richard is the obvious favorite, and the last few shocking eliminations may have bought Top Chef enough shock-cred to have a non-shocking Finale Winner, but if I had to bet, my gut’s telling me that Carla is going to win. I wouldn’t be too upset if Anotnia won, cause she’s been legit all season, but Mike and Tiffany really have no business being in the Finale.

Next Week: The finalists have to cook against the chefs who won their seasons (awesome!) and Padma is in a bikini on a boat with Kinda Vince Neil (boners!):

Ellis Island episode thoughts? Who’s winning the Finale? Honor your comment ancestors in the comments.

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