‘Top Chef’ serves up an Italian feast
February 3rd, 2011
12:23 PM ET

‘Top Chef’ serves up an Italian feast

After unexpectedly giving us an extra week to recover from Restaurant Wars, “Top Chef: All-Stars” is back, and we seem to be shifting from team to individual challenges.

But first, a Quickfire that truly gives life to the “eat with your eyes” mantra.

Guest judge and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi stops by the "Top Chef" kitchen for a challenge in which the contestants must make a dish that will be judged entirely on aesthetics and presentation.

(Angelo, I hereby grant you a one-challenge-only pass to describe your food as “beautiful.”)

It’s an interesting obstacle because, as Richard points out, the chefs have to get their heads wrapped around the idea that the food won’t be eaten at all. I know every “Top Chef” contestant worries about presentation, but they always have that safety net in the back of their minds that if it doesn’t look good, at least it’ll taste good.

Also, Mizrahi seriously got the short end of the guest judging stick. Take part in a cooking competition but not get to eat any of the food? I'd take a pass.

I can’t say for certain that he channels that frustration into his critiques, but some of his comments did get a bit harsh. For example, to Dale: “It seems like the food already got sent out, and this is what was left over.” Needless to say, Dale doesn’t win this Quickfire.

Neither does Angelo, whose crocodile skin-inspired concoction is only surpassed in “what was he thinking” levels by the fact that he wrote crocodile in huge letters across his presentation table. And he misspelled it as “CROCADILE.” (Insert disappointed head shaking here.)

The winner is Richard, whose black chocolate ice cream intrigues Mizrahi to the point of wanting to eat it. (Go ahead, Mizrahi, no one’s watching.) So I guess black is the new black, then?

On to the Elimination challenge, which required the cheftestants to cook up a feast at and inspired by famous Italian restaurant Rao’s. After we meet the requisite number of mobster jokes (I stopped counting after 5), we find out who will be cooking which course.

Antipasti (appetizer): Carla, Antonia, Tiffany

Primi (pasta): Mike, Dale, Tre

Secondi (meat): Angelo, Fabio, Richard

You’ll notice that each of those groupings has one chef who is of Italian heritage. And if you didn’t notice, Antonia, Mike and Fabio will be happy to mention it over and over again, especially Mike.

This launches a predictable round of “let’s not so half-jokingly talk about how an Italian chef must win the Italian food challenge.” I’m all for embracing one’s culture, but this is ridiculous. Tiffany has it right when she points out that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. To paraphrase the immortal Randy Jackson, if you can cook, you can cook. (I promise never to invoke Randy Jackson again.)

Of course, my argument takes a bit of a hit when two of the top four dishes come from Fabio and Antonia, and Antonia is named the winner. I still stand by my righteous indignation, but congratulations are certainly in order.

Interestingly, the bottom dishes all came from the group that cooked the pasta course. Dale has won a few challenges, so I felt comfortable that he wasn’t going. And with Mike being one of the few chefs left who provides some personality-driven drama, Tre is left on the chopping block. His risotto didn’t stand up to the test… because it stood up. Apparently, risotto is supposed to spread out the minute it touches the plate. Colicchio can (and will) explain it at length.

I wish I could say that Tre’s elimination will have an impact on the show, but honestly, I forget he’s there half of the time. He’s been middle of the road at best this season, and despite some funny interview segments, has faded into the background during most challenges. He seemed to take his ouster well, though, taking pride in the fact that he learned new skills and made new friends. Ultimately, that’s how this will end for every contestant except for one, and it was nice to hear someone acknowledge it.


soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Toon

    Richard is a huge d-bag. I can't stand the sight of him.

    February 4, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. giancarlo schiffo

    Richard and Carla are my favorites but I am afraid they will choke (again) if and when they get to the final 3. I love this show!

    February 4, 2011 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. QuietStormX

    I was sad Tre was elimated! Because he wasn't tought how the pasta was to be. He was trained another way and he was elimitated... Wow! So often the Black Male gets the short end on these shows. It seems Bravo is for women and gay men only. I like the challenges and creativatiy and the fashion.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. Diana

    Go, CARLA!!! Hooty HOO!! :)

    February 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jessica

    I was sad to see Tre go simply because he was extremely attractive. He will be missed!

    February 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ms

    Could Bravo– or more specifically the producers of this show who control the rights management–perhaps make these episodes available on their website? They used to, and all of a sudden after the Emmy it stops. How gracious of them.

    February 3, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nadene

      I agree. I guess they don't because it is repeated so much on Bravo. Still, I would like to see it when I am able to, not just when the network feels I should.

      February 4, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. nameynamey

    How Carla did not win quickfire astounds me. Mizrahi chose a dish that looked like burned charcoal. Absurd.
    On top of that, Dale's dish got the most HARSH criticism in the elimination and he got to stay. That was really not fair. whatever you think about Tre he was not the worst offender last night at all. Everybody always says if you do poorly one night, it is enough to go home. That was not the case. I was really disappointed.

    February 3, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. monnie

    yay fabio, but love carla too; could have done without the isaac mizrahi segment, or maybe he needed to lighten up? anyway, yay fabio

    February 3, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. anaana

    The Coolest Superheros Vehicles is here moviesfan.eu/news/item/322-the-coolest-superheros-vehicles

    February 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Seriously?

    Seeing the food on a plate is all we the audience ever experiences! Funny that the judges had to do the same!

    February 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Iwantsome

    It would be great if they start incorporating 1 regular taste tester/judge each episode. I would definitely love to volunteer for that position!!! I think it would be interesting to hear a "regular joe's" point of view or what his/her taste buds got to say :)

    February 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jillmarie

    I love how Fabio pointed out that Antonia's dish was a French dish. Europeans know the different nuances. As an Italian-American, I loved this episode!
    Fabio is my favorit, he's so cute and funny, and I'm also rooting for Carla.

    February 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark in nyc

      agreed. like fabio more this time than his original airing. plus....carla is FAB!!! and richard, too.

      February 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Katie Lynn

    Pasta was the challenge this episode? Little kids even know how to cook pasta. Poor Tre, his dish didn't look as bad as Dales. The real surprise was Antonia winning though, when are muscles challenging or even Italian? http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/02/top-chef-all-stars-episode-8-recap.html

    February 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kermie

      Katie Lynn - if you don't even know how to spell "mussels," you probably shouldn't be commenting on how difficult they are or aren't to cook.

      February 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • RKG

      @Katie Lynn, I agree with you. If anyone has ever attempted to cook Chicken Cacciatore they know how much work goes into that dish. Also it is an authentic Italian dish. I guess it came down to strictly taste.

      February 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christina T

      Mussels and the challenge: 3 groups consisting of Antipasta (Appetizer), Pasta, and Meat. Did you watch the show?

      February 4, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • iwo

      You mean little kids know how to cook dried pasta. This is not what the contestants did, although they were told that it was OK. They made and cooked fresh pasta. It is something that one must do every so often if one wants to do it consistently. Mike and Dale clearly do not do this regularly.

      February 5, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. m

    a very small part of me was kind of happy that mikey boy landed in the bottom. enough was enough with all of his comments like no one but the italian dude from jersey could know how to cook pasta. give me a break! also enjoyed how he insisted tiffany's dish was not a true antipasti, and she was in the top. people need to learn to not talk sometimes.

    February 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. julie

    Go Richard!!

    February 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Tookie

    Great episode! Love this show! Fabio rocks!

    February 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • diana

      it's funny to think that i didn't really care for Fabio when he first appeared with Top Chef, but i'm a fan now! he's hilarious and so full of life. i always look forward to what he's gonna say next. "I LOVE IT!"

      February 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Excellent episode – except Dale who has to keep mentioning his girlfriend – is he trying to convince someone of something

      February 4, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • diana

      agreed, mark.
      "stfu about your chick already, dale!!!"

      February 4, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |

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