“Top Chef All-Stars” Recap (8.05): Should have left your knives at home, ’cause this is a disastuh


The food the judges receive is hit and miss. They like Angelo’s spring rolls, Tiffany’s pork buns and Dale’s sticky rice. They dislike Carla’s bland summer rolls, Jamie and Antonia’s greasy, Hoisin- heavy long beans and Tre’s watery orange dessert. And no one has seen Casey’s chicken feet. She goes down to check. Apparently, they’re heating them wrong. And Casey complains that Antonia was only paying attention to her dish and lost her feet. (Yes, I know, puns. But this episode is so grim something has to lighten the mood.)

Tom has had enough. He calls the food “slow sum” and goes down to check/raise holy hell. Man, this is the cooking equivalent of dad stopping the car and coming back into the backseat as he promised. Tom scolds them appropriately, possibly not hard enough. Get food out, chefs. This is a restaurant. A beautiful dish that never makes it to the customer is worthless. See Tom’s face? This is no longer Papa Bear. This is Furious Grizzly.

After he leaves there’s a lot of complaining about the service slowness, but not much hustle. Antonia is hustling, she’s busting her ass and everyone else’s. But Dale is, I’m not joking, cleaning his shoes. The final plates go up to the judges. They’re mostly so-so, though Antonia’s shrimp toast gets praised. But Padma notes that as hungry as all the diners are, Casey’s chicken foot is left untouched on almost every plate.

I think Mike summed it up best: “Everyone sucked and everything sucked.” Basically, yes.

In the Stew Room, Padma calls in Casey, Antonia, Carla, Jamie and Tre. The Elimination Challenge was so bad, they judges switched the order and called in the worst competitors first so they get right to the yelling. Jamie knows her dumpling was bad, and guest judge Susur tells her it’s because she picked a wrapper meant to be boiled, not steamed. Antonia is praised for the toast, but dinged for her role in the greasy beans. Tre’s dessert was soup. Carla’s rolls were too boring.

But it’s Casey who gets the harshest zingers. Susur tells Casey even if given a couple of hours he could have only eaten one of her chicken feet. Ouch. Then Tom comes in to kick her while she is down and calls her pancakes underneath leaden. You can almost see her waiving a white flag and pleading, “Enough!”

They chefs go back to the Stew Room, asses sufficiently handed to them. Tiffany, Angelo, Dale and Fabio get called in instead for the good news. You know, I’m glad they’re getting recognized for making tasty dishes and all, but I really think the judges should have called everyone in and given them an earful. This wasn’t just a few people’s failure, this was every single chef’s inability to get food out quickly and work as a team to feed hungry people. I think no one should have won.

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