TOP CHEF ALL-STARS RECAP: I Got An Island Fever And The Only Prescription Is More Conch


It’s the Top Chef All-Stars Finale, “Island Fever”! Not the FINALE finale, but, you know, the second part of four straight episodes in the Bahamas to slowly determine that Richard is the best chef on the show. By the time two more chefs are eliminated from this show, 60 teams will have been eliminated from the March Madness tournament. And BOTH of the people sitting next to you will have passed along an STD. GET THE FACTS.

This week’s esteemed Bahamas guest judge:

Nah kidding, the guest judge is not actually a shark named Shark Wahlberg, it is this lady:

It’s Lorena Garcia, co-host of the NBC show America’s Next Great Restaurant. NBC is owned by Universal, which also owns Bravo, which was in Broken Arrow with Christian Slater, who was in Murder in the First with Kevin Bacon. BOOM! Connected. Give me a harder one. This roller coaster line is moving really slowly.

While Universal is doing its promo synergy Web 2.0 Foodstones Meet The Jetsons crossover episode, the chefs resume bitching at one another in the Quickfire Challenge:

Padma explains that consistency is important for any chef, so the chefs will have to prepare 100 identical plates of a dish, and the judges will randomly pick numbered plates and judge them for consistency. Were this a short story, I might point out that having the chefs produce 100 identical dishes is a microcosm of Top Chef tediously producing four straight Bahamas finale episodes, but I also wouldn’t have read the story so I’d have to BS my way through Top Chef class.

The chefs divide into pairs; Antonia & Tiffany construct a Beef Tenderloin with Creamy Lentils, Celery, and Almond, while Mike impressively makes macaroni from scratch for his and Richard’s Pork Bolognese. The chefs churn out plates like Top Plate Churner Outer All-Stars:

Antonia isn’t impressed by Mike & Richard’s dish, saying that her team’s plating was way more complicated while Mike just dumped pasta on a plate. Mike counterbitches that he could’ve made Antonia’s dish himself while Richard went out to buy a six pack to celebrate the win (then frozen that six pack to present a complex duo of “High Life Two Ways”).

Padma and Lorena then choose random numbers of dishes to test:

Lorena announces, “As a chef and a restaurateur, I will have to base my decision on the consistency and the flavor.” Man, is she hosting America’s Next Great Shoehorn Credentials Into Mundane Sentence? Everyone ever judges food based on the flavor. Hummingbirds drinking nectar do that, and they are neither chefs nor restaurateurs. Well, some of them probably are. They have little teeny hummingbird chef hats. We can Wikipedia this for hours later but let’s first finish the recap.

Antonia and Tiffany win the Quickfire and take the $5,000 prize, though it’s not clear whether they each win $5,000 or if they have to split it. Either way, Mike’s like “Chubbyshrug”:

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will travel to an actual deserted island to prepare a classic deserted island dish, which is, I guess, anything to survive? We finally get to see the Padma Bikini Scene that’s been in the teasers the last seven weeks, and it turns out, she literally just describes the challenge in a bikini then leaves. The chefs are left in the watchful custody of this guy:

The most abundant ingredient on the desert island is conch, and the chefs will have to put on snorkeling equipment and catch the conchs themselves, just like real stranded desert islanders. Also there’s a load of fresh produce and seafood on the island and cooking tools and woodfire grills, just unlike real stranded desert islanders. And even the conchs appear to be perfectly prearranged, like coins in a Mario 64 underwater level:

The chefs pretend to have trouble grabbing the conchs, which are like 5 feet underwater, then proceed to have more trouble hammering the conchs open and cooking them evenly on the outdoor grill. Richard compares storming the beach to grab ingredients to “storming the beaches at Normandy,” which you’re probably expecting me to make fun of but I won’t because it is 100% accurate to my understanding of history. And my grandpa f***ing PREPPED on those beaches.

As the chefs finish up, the judges begin to arrive, starting with The World’s Wealthiest-Sounding Title-Haver:

…his friend:

…and some experts on desert island cuisine:

The chefs take turns presenting their finished dishes to the judges, who are all creepily dressed in white and sitting at a big long table. The scene looks, in the words of a college freshman who’s just Limewired some Cure songs, “Just Like Heaven”:

Tropical island that represents Heaven, huh? Can’t think of a joke for this one.

The chefs’ dishes go over extremely well — Richard’s Sweet Potato Linguine with Conch and Spiny Lobster fools Tom into thinking it’s actually pasta when it’s really just strands of sweet potato (he should’ve put “Linguine” in quotes like whimsical chefs do when they’re bein’ all whimsical), Mike’s Banana Wrapped Gouper with Braised Pineapple and Warm Conch Vinaigrette impresses the table with its complexity and confusing flavor combinations, and Antonia’s Red Snapper with Tartar of Conch and Lobster Nage is about to be criticized by Gail for being too spicy but all the Bahamas people love it and say how authentically Bahama-ey it is, and Gail lightens up. Tiffany’s Conch and Coconut Chowder with Sweet Potatoes and Conch Ceviche was a little cold and a little too sweet, and seems to be the only legitimately criticized dish in the bunch (and even then, barely).

Is Tiffany’s coasting-time finally up? We head to the set of Elton John’s AIDA to find out:

At Judge’s Table, the judges continue to compliment the dishes but pull out some nit-picky elements, calling Antonia’s dish a little too simple and mentioning that some of Richard’s lobster was undercooked. The Elimination Challenge win, for the second straight week, goes to Mike Isabella. He celebrates appropriately by cheersing no one:

Richard takes his compliments in stride, and sticks out his tongue to create his own iconic Richard Blais dormroom poster:

Tom enters super-nitpicky mode to pretend like all three of the non-winning chefs might get voted off. It’s extra funny because they’re dressed like Greek Gods, as though this is like, Season 6 of a sitcom like Married With Children and it’s a dream sequence episode where all the characters play the parts in some story:

In the end, Richard’s sweet potatoes were too impressive and Antonia’s simplicity was defensible, and Tiffany is sent home:

Tiffany was excellent in her D.C. season, and I predicted her to win that season from about Week 3 until her surprising elimination, but she just never brought it in All-Stars, and as one dude once said, “your A-Game is a thing you need or something”; she’s very likable and was never really bad this season, she just never did anything impressive to merit staying on the show longer than Dale or Angelo (or really, Jennifer).

So, still got two more episodes left, and we’re down to Richard, Antonia and a suddenly-not-awful-at-cooking Mike. Next week’s challenge: The chefs cook a “Last Supper” for four esteemed chefs. Not sure what that means – they’re literally executing four famous chefs after next week’s episode? This season took a slightly dark twist.

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