Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars - June 6|
Let me start this out by saying that
I ALMOST like the Top Chef series.
Almost you say? Well, I like the fact that the show is solid and
the contestants are very very good. What I don't like about it
is that the judges, in determining who will win the competition,
judge it on 2 facets:
1. Safe is better than taking a risk.
2. The person who is liked the most must win, regardless of if
the other chef is cooking circles around him.
Yes, I thought that Tiffani and Marcel should have been the
winners of Top Chef 1 and 2, respectively. They both took
chances and both knew how to make a good meal despite stepping
on toes. Marcel even survived a hair-cutting attack and was
composed enough to get to the finals. But the judges didn't
award them. instead, they awarded the prizes the boring chefs
who didn't make any enemies, but who also didn't make any
exciting meals. Harold and Ilan are just like their meals -
That being said, I will be recapping Top Chef 3, and we start
the season by having a Top Chef 1 Vs. Top Chef 2 competition.
The teams will be cooking for charity, and the winning team will
be awarded $20,000.
And here are your teams:
TOP CHEF 1
Dave Martin - The fan favorite, Dave made the top half of the
first season competition.
Tiffani Faizon - She came in second place, and she was my
favorite of the season.
Stephen Asprinio - Not as much of a fan favorite, Stephen also
made the top half of the season.
Harold Deterle - The winner of Top Chef 1. Boooorrrrrring.
TOP CHEF 2
Ilan Hall - He won Top Chef 2. Probably should have come in
Sam Talbot - He should have been in the finals, but a disastrous
semi-finals dish paved the way for Ilan to win it.
Elia Bourrand - She also made it to the final four, but her
hairstyles were much more popular than her dishes.
Marcel Vignuron - I thought he should have won the whole thing.
He did overemphasize the foams a wee bit too much.
Host Padma Lakshmi welcomes everyone back to the restaurant,
where Harold announces his new restaurant, set to open in Spring
2007. Lee Anne Wong, who placed in 4th in season 1, is now the
coordinating producer for the show and she will be giving the
chefs orders. Heh.
On to season 2's Where are they Now. Ilan has been taking his
time on getting his act together on getting his new restaurant
open. Marcel, strangely, keeps his mouth shut - especially when
Stephen openly declares that season 1 is better than season 2.
To determine the team captains, we're doing a...Quickfire
Challenge! That pisses everyone off, especially Marcel and Dave.
The challenge - cook two eggs - with one hand behind your back.
The hand must also be in an oversized cooking mitt, and anyone
caught using the hand will be disqualified. The best team within
10 minutes will get a meaningful advantage into the final round.
The teams are forced to help each other open various containers.
Ilan is forced to use a blender with his mouth (!) while Dave
uses a blender and Stephen grabs a spatula. Marcel claiming for
Smackdown purposes, decides to actually use SAFFRON in a
Let's see the dishes -
EGGS OF FIRE - Asian Spiced Scrambled Eggs
He admits that the eggs are over cooked, but hopes that it will
add to the motif. I doubt it, Dave.
Herb and Cream Poached Eggs with Parmesan Cheese
She loved the flavor, but was concerned that the eggs were
cooked too loose.
'The Perfect Omelet'
We actually don't know what goes in the perfect omelet, but
we'll take Stephen's word on it that he's been making this dish
Parmesan Shirred Eggs with Soy Butter
It sounds great. it looks...uh...nasty. 'I was thinking to
myself...I definitely could not put myself through this again.'
Scrambled Eggs with Saffron Foam
Marcel - 'Saffron foam, baby'. Tom - 'Why am I not surprised?'
Egg White Omelette with Bearnaise Sauce (Don't look at me. This
is how they spelled it)
Ilan admits that he seasoned it blindly. That's not a good thing
to admit, Ilan.
Panko-Fried Eggs with Taragon and Paprika
It's definitely the most exotic dish so far, but I wouldn't want
to touch it.
Fried Eggs over Pickled Cranberries and Cherries with a Pine Nut
Tom calls it 'Interesting', which makes Sam cringe.
Tom praises Stephen's Omelet choice, while calling Harold for
losing a yolk. He gives the best meal to Top Chef 1
to...Stephen. He also picks the charity - the Susan G. Komen
Breast Cancer Foundation.
As for Season 2 - Tom would have given it to Ilan - but it was
too salty and he gives it to Marcel instead. I'll let Marcel sum
this one up - 'I defeated the biggest competition from my
season, Ilan, today, by doing none other than a saffron foam.
Seriously, come on - was that not the biggest Smackdown of all
time?' Point, Marcel.
Marcel's charity will be Share Our Strength, whose purpose is to
deal with hunger in the states. However, the team with the
advantage will be Season 1, as Stephen's Dish takes the top
Now for the Elimination Challenge - Each team will prepare a 4
Course 1 - Scallops
Course 2 - Lobster
Course 3 - Duck
Course 4 - Kobe Beef
20 Plates will be created for each dish. Season 1 will get $300
worth of shopping money, while Season 2, being the losing team,
gets $200. Stephen decides to take the extra $100 and spend it
on wine for decor. The teams have 2 hours of cooking time.
After the teams quickly discuss, here's who will be cooking what
Course 1 - Scallops
Dave Vs. Elia
Course 2 - Lobster
Stephen Vs. Marcel
Course 3 - Duck
Harold Vs. Ilan
Course 4 - Kobe Beef
Tiffani Vs. Sam
Marcel quickly organizes the team, and everyone is happy with
what they get - except for Ilan, who admits that 2 hours of
cooking time will not be enough for him to get a good duck
going. On Season 1's side, David wants to overrule the team's
Mediterranean theme, but he and the rest of the team are
interrupted by Ilan, who in an attempt to eavesdrop starts
rummaging through the fridge behind them. Stephen takes the team
and moves them elsewhere. 'As for as Season 2 being immature and
unprofessional, I think Ilan takes the boat there.' Toot, toot.
During dinner, both teams try to get information from the other,
with not much success happening on either side. Marcel tries
another approach - baiting. He goes after Dave for not using
natural ingredients, and promptly gets a 'bitch' name tag thrown
at him. Everyone else from both Season 1 and 2 try to shut him
up as Marcel apologizes and leaves the room. Usually I don't
agree with Harold, but Top Chef 1 is definitely the classier
Dave is looking at his dish to be 'fun', while Stephen, who's
making a butter poached lobster tail (with SAFFRON), feels that
he should easily defeat Marcel. Harold is going old school
sicilian on his duck, while Ilan thinks that it's exciting,
Harold is more nervous, 'I have too many people watching. I can
not go down to this guy'.
It's time for Tom to check out the meals with an hour left to go
into the preparation. Tom worries about enough time for Ilan's
dish, while Marcel promises a Smackdown. Tom asks Stephen about
the wine, and remarks what would happen if the wine Stephen
selected actually goes better with the other team's meal. Oops.
Stephen can only stare at him and prepare the lobster.
Marcel says that he's 'Weeded'. he's going to be thinking
something else as a loud crash appears from behind him. The
crash comes from Ilan, who drops Elia's and Marcel's mango all
over the floor. Marcel tries to be nice about it, but he knows
that he's pressed for time now. Maybe Marcel would prefer Ilan
to be on weed - in the other room, away from the rest of the
Dave is being told what to do, and he's not happy about it. 'I
don't want to prove myself to these guys anymore. I don't need
that'. Uh...Earth to Dave - this is a cooking competition in
teams. You will be told what to do. Deal with it. With 10
minutes to go, Dave needs someone to prepare chives and Harold
complies. He then starts to order everyone around and season 1
is chuckling. Not so much on Season 3, where Marcel has to
quickly plate to make up time from having to remake the diced
Dave and Elia come out to the judges - Padma, Queer Eyes' Ted
Allen, Gail Simmons from Food and Wine Magazine, Head Judge Tom
Colicchio, and...the 15 contestants from Season 3 of Top Chef.
Elia calls it 'Bizarre', while Dave tells them that he'd love to
taste their food in 4 weeks.
Time for the competition -
Cold Smoked Scallops and Triple Olive Tepenade with Meyer Lemon
Dave talks about how the meal goes nicely with the rest of the
dishes to be served.
Duo of Scallops Carpaccio and Seared with Citrus Marmalade and
She calls it light-hearted fare as well.
The tasters liked the Scallops with the marmalade - but hated
the Carpaccio. It's going to be interesting how they judge it.
Dave and Elia come back to their teams and announce who the
judging panel is. Both teams take the news the same (which is
the attitude of 'wait until they get into the competition - heh
heh heh'). However, the scenes are starkly different as they are
about to serve the lobster; Stephen is just going over some
quick touches, while Marcel is scrambling and taking over the
mango preparation from a flustered Ilan, who is still trying to
figure out how to make his duck work.
Lobster Duo - Melon and Tomato, Cilantro and Mango with Vanilla
Gelee and Lobster FOAM
Marcel? Foam? Can't be. Where's the Saffron? Marcel comes from
table to table, serving the foam.
Lobster poached in Buerre Blanc with California Creme Anglaise...and
oh yes, SAFFRON
Marcel notices his good friend Hung, and notes that if Hung is
in the competition that they have some serious contestants this
season. I'm also guessing that Hung will bring the serious
attitude as well. Not coincidentally, Hung LOVES Marcel's dish,
while not liking Stephen's at all. Stephen served the wine,
which says that it will help. The look on Hung's face after
tasting the wins clearly shows that it doesn't.
Something else not working is Ilan's Duck. He is forced to scrap
it and pan sear it, while putting yolks on the rice, while
Harold, like Stephen, only needs to make some last second
Spicy Duck Meatballs with Minted Gnocchi in a braised Duck Sauce
hung says that Harold's dish is simple, yet tasty. The
contestants see how Season 1's meals are working together.
Almond Stuffed Duck Breast with Wild Rice, White Asparagus and
Raw Egg Yolk. It's not bad for a last second dish. I'm expecting
it to get flattened by Harold.
None of the chefs liked Ilan's dish, and even the contestants,
noting that Season 1 has a distinct theme and Season 2's meals
are disjointed, are guessing that Season 2 does not like each
other at all. I can't disagree with that.
Seared Kobe Beef with Mushroom Confit and Onion Relish
Kobe Beef two ways - Roasted and Carpaccio with Polenta
Everyone likes both meals, so this meal could be a toss-up. Most
of the contestants think that they could be better than either
Season 1 or Season 2, while Tom hears and notes this with a
twinkle in his eye. Wait until they get to compete...heh, heh,
Dave was talking about making his food for the region. Tom
didn't like the texture, while Gail didn't like the tasting. Tom
didn't like how Elia made 2 types of scallops and wishes that
she didn't listen to Marcel. Speaking of which, he comes under
fire for rough cutting the lobster. Marcel says that he had to,
because he was too busy recutting the mango, something that Ilan
admits to dropping, but not on purpose. Suuuuurrrre...
On to the duck. Tom called Harold's meal incomplete, while
Ilan's duck was overcooked and the fat was not taken off
completely. Ted wants Tiffani's recipe, while Sam's flavors were
considered strong. Stephen and Marcel do what was expected - as
they both declare each team the winner. Marcel says that he
learned a lot, on both cooking food and working with
personality. he did say that he didn't change his style just
because he was painted as the bad guy, but Tiffani said that she
learned to loosen up more and to let that be more visible.
The judges thought that the best meals were Stephen's Lobster
and Tiffani's Kobe Beef. The worst meals, by far...both ducks,
from both winners of Top Chef. So how exactly did they win Top
The results -
Dave Vs. Elia. Winner...Elia.
Season 2 up, 1-0
Marcel Vs. Stephen. WInner...Stephen
Harold Vs. Ilan. Winner...Harold
Season 1 leads, 2-1
Tiffani Vs. Sam. Winner....Tiffani
Season 1 Wins, 3-1
Stephen called it and got it right. Susan G. Komen gets $20,000.
'We won $20,000 for a fantastic cause.'
So any final thoughts from the chefs?
Marcel - Use lots of Saffron and don't create Duos. Thanks,
Marcel. Elia - Be yourself. Sam - Don't read the blogs. Tiffani
- Don't forget who you are as a cook. Ilan - Come in with an
The chefs all pack their knives and go. That ends the prelude to
Top Chef 3. Tune in 7 days later to see what happens when the
critics become the critiqued.