Lest you think we forgot among all of the Super Bowl hub-bub, Loren Means is in the house with last week’s Top Chef All-Stars wrap-up. Take it away, Loren:
And we’re back! After a week off, the remaining nine All-Stars were back last Thursday night for Episode 8. Still in the running to become Top Chef are two of our locals, Tre and Tiffany, along with Antonia, Mike, Dale, Angelo, Carla, Richard, and last but not least, Fabio.
For the Quickfire, the Cheftestants had to make dishes that would be solely judged on aesthetics. The food would not even be sampled, only eyed, by guest host Isaac Mizrahi. Really, Isaac? First Target, now the kitchen? Put a scarf on your head and get back to the runway. The Chefs had to pull from inspiration for their plates. Concepts were all over the place from Antonia’s “giving tree” to Dale’s “graffiti.” My favorite was Fabio, who said his inspiration was “a beautiful woman walking in the rain trying to don’t get messed up by the water.” It seemed pretty insane to me but Isaac went for it, along with Richard’s black sundae and Carla’s cucumber lattice. Isaac found Richard’s black sundae to be the most appealing and the Quickfire was over. Now, I realize I may not have the aesthetic credentials of Isaac Mizrahi, but I personally thought the nitrogen on the black sundae looked like moldy broccoli. Maybe you had to be there, but I would have preferred to eat Fabio’s tuna people dodging the rain.
jump for the rest of the wrap-up…
The Elimation Challenge took place at Rao’s Restaurant. I’ve seen their sauces on the shelf at Whole Foods (their arrabiata is my favorite) and I assume there is a correlation, but I have never had the joy of going to the restaurant. And from what I learned last night, you practically have to be born into it—like royalty. Not just any Joe can walk in and get a table, so we should all be thrilled we had a glimpse inside. (For those of you who are familiar, doesn’t the décor look exactly like the original Campisi’s?) Upon arrival at Rao’s the Cheftestants met Dino the Chef, Frankie No, and Frankie Jr. The Frankies—father and son—own the joint. This is legit Italian cuisine and a family run business where the same guy has been tending bar for 36 years.
The Chefs split into three groups – Antipasti (Antonia, Carla, Tiffany), Secondi (Fabio, Angelo, Richard), and Premi (Dale, Tre, Mike). While the chefs were cooking, the judges, Padma, Tom, Anthony Bourdain, and guest judge Lorraine Bracco joined the Frankies and some of their staff at the dinner table. Wine was flowing, conversation was a buzz, and laughter filled the room. Ah, Italians. I love them. The three dishes for the Antipasti course were a hit and Lorraine ate every morsel of Tiffany’s polenta terrine. The Secondi course didn’t fare as well and everyone at the table was disappointed in all three dishes. Anthony was horrified that three talented chefs could “*&%@ up” pasta saying that it was like something you would serve at your worst enemy’s wedding. Luckily dinner ended on a positive note and the Primi dishes were a success.
Fabio, Carla, Tiffany, and Antonia emerged as the top four. Mike was the only Italian who wasn’t on top. Sorry big guy, maybe it’s your piss-poor attitude. The judges loved Fabio’s chicken cacciatore, Carla’s minestrone soup, Tiffany’s polenta terrine, and Antonia’s mussels. Antonia took the win and scored a point for the Italians. Falling in the bottom three were all the chefs involved in the Secondi course. Tre’s risotto wasn’t creamy enough, Dale’s pappardelle didn’t have enough sauce, and Mike’s pasta was completely undercooked. Sadly, Tre was sent packing and we were forced to say goodbye to the self-proclaimed Black Italian and another one of our local chefs.
Food for thought: I learned something new this episode. Carla was a runway model in Paris? Uh, OK. I was also reminded of something this episode. I would like to come back as an Italian in my next life and eat lots of pasta and drink lots of wine. Wait a minute. And lastly, I would like to send a message. Dale, we get it, you have a girlfriend.