Top Chef All Stars by quincyil
Quick Fire Challenge
This week five chefs are competing for the opportunity to be in the finale of Top Chef All Stars. Padma visits their house and invites them to the rooftop. Antonia thinks the Quick Fire Challenge will involve jumping from the roof. Padma explains that the challenge will be cooking from the snack bar of a ferry while traveling to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is an historical site where immigrants entered America. The snack bar had hot dogs, cheese, chips, packed foods, oranges, popcorn, and candy. There were no cooking instruments.
Tiffany created a dish of nachos with materials found on the boat. She later made popcorn and added dried fruit. Antonia used raisin bread and make grilled cheese in the hot dog grill which added the flavor of hot dogs to her creation. Richard who is known for making dishes with 14 ingredients used 14 ingredients on top of hot dogs. Mike made a cheese soup with bread pieces and pork rinds in it. He was concerned about the bread getting soggy. Carla made an orange salad with papaya and carrot juice infused.
Padma and a guest judge, Dan Berber (known for using local and sustainable foods,) tasted all of the dishes. Carla was the winner of the Quick Fire Challenge.
At Ellis Island, the contestants listened to Padma speak about family histories and the role of food in family traditions. The contestants are delighted to see family members approaching them. The Top Chef producers had a genealogist research the family histories of each contestant. Family members were to discuss the history and help the chefs create a menu for the Competition based on their own ethnicity and family history.
Richard met with his wife who was 5 months pregnant. His ancestors were from England and Ireland, but he had a strong Midwestern American history as well. His family has chemists and butchers so he felt a connection with the past. He would serve “meat and potatoes.”
Tiffany met with her mother. One of her ancestors has the name,”Tubman.” Her mom told her that their family tradition of cooking okra with tomatoes, pork roast, and turkey legs had merit. Tom, a judge, was known to dislike okra, but Tiffany would make her dish and hope for the best.
Carla’s family was the last slave family to be freed in Lebanon, Tennessee. Her great, great grandfather became a printer and she felt a connection to this businessman as she has a catering business of her own. Carla’s husband was there to discuss her menu items.
Mike is Italian and his mother discussed his history and the memories of his cooking with his beloved grandmother who had passed away. Mike’s grandmother taught him how to cook.
Antonia discovered that she has a family link to Mike through a family name, Antonachhi (sp?). There were distant relatives. Antonia is ¾ Italian and ¼ Jewish. Her family owned a restaurant for 10 years when she was a child.
Later, the group teases Mike about his new family member, Antonia. They show a photo of him in spandex as a child in a dance recital. Antonia said, “Go Mikey.!” They all laughed and had fun. Richard notices that Mike and Antonia look similar and they love to fight and argue.
Preparation for the Challenge
The chefs went to a Whole Food Market to purchase their ingredients. We see them in the aisles with shopping carts and lists.
The next day the group of chefs crowds into a brand new Toyota hybrid where they watch a DVD. This car is the prize for winning tonight’s challenge.
Preparation of Food
We are shown the trial and tribulations of the process of cooking: Carla is unhappy with her oven, Mike steps on a towel that he has set on fire, Richard is miserable that he has English and Irish ancestors rather than Italian as he is stuck with food from England and Ireland, Richard does like the words “glass wort,” and Antonia is worried about her risotto being mushy. All of them are busy and seem nervous.
The dinner is outside on a water way in an area with flowers and a view of a bridge. Family members and the 4 judges are seated. The dinner guests and judges enjoy friendly banter.
Mike serves his plates first. He explains that these dishes come from Naples. There is potato gnocci with braised pork, and pullo (sp?) All of the family members pay compliments and the judges are impressed.
Antonia serves braised veal with a rapini leaf & flava bens. It is a meal to warm the stomach of a 1960’s husband.
Tiffany serves short ribs with mustard greens, fried okra, and tiny bit of bone marrow.
Richard serves beef in the form of a steak, potatoes, corn and fried, pickled bone marrow. Tom said the bone marrow was “a nugget of love.”
Carla met her husband on match.com. He loves food and finished all of the dishes served that evening. She served grits, cheddar biscuits and shoulder pork which was moist.
The family members were happy with all of the dishes and supportive of their loved ones. Antonia’s mom told her that she suggested that five be in the finale. The group of chefs tasted each other’s food and drink wine as the judges make their decisions.
The contestants stand before the judges and receive compliments on their food. Richard is under great stress. Richard’s dish is called, “a story in a dish.” Antonia was complimented on her risotto. Tiffany was complimented on her okra. Mike’s meat was “a rich classic dish loaded with flavor.” Richard thinks he is going home.
The judges give Antonia the Toyota car for winning the competition. She and Mike are told they are going to the Bahamas. Padma calls on Richard who is told to pack his knives as he is…”going to the Bahamas.” He says the work, “Safe,” when he meeting Antonia and Mike in the back for the celebration.
Tiffany and Carla stand together while waiting for one of them to be eliminated. The judges play with them for a while and then send both of them to the Bahamas. They go to meet their fellow contestants where Mike is glad to see them but wishes there were only four going to the finale.
The following blog was written by @lexistential
I’ve watched Top Chef since season 1. Every time I sat down for a Wednesday night episode, I came, saw, criticized- and hoped, most of all, that I would be able to meet the talented chefs behind so many beautiful (and occasionally gnarly-looking) plates.
At Season 7, I got my wish: I met the cast of Top Chef DC.
Now, I am not part of the culinary world at all. Sure, I have ties to the restaurant and bar industry, but the most I’m involved with the culinary world is as a Top Chef superfan. Apart from snacking, my favorite thing to do while watching an episode of Top Chef is to hit Twitter to provide and exchange comments with various writers, bloggers, and even occasionally the chefs.
Last season, I started trading tweets with chef Kenny Gilbert. And when Mr. Gilbert came up to New York to celebrate his birthday (as well as hook up with the other chefs to tape the reunion episode), he let me know. He tweeted me an invitation to join him for dinner at Meatpacking district hotspot Buddakan (where recent All-Stars contestant Dale Talde works).
I was stunned. Additionally, I had worked late the night before and gone drinking, so I was also mildly hungover. It took a good hour for it to sink in that half a season’s worth of Tweeting with Kenny had led to being invited to dinner with him and the rest of the Top Chef DC. I had really been invited, so why not go?
The dinner itself was surprising- Kenny threw out more tweets on his feed, but I was the only one to reply and take the opportunity. Nobody other fans from the Internet had shown up. I had assumed I would be eating with other enthusiastic fans of the show, but I turned out to be the only person at the vast, long dinner table without any ties to a chef, restaurant, or cooking origin to speak of. The realization of noticing that I was the only complete stranger in the midst of all these contestants during their reunion made me feel as though I had stumbled into the wrong party in a hotel. Especially since I was seated between first- round-eliminee John Somerville and… Angelo.
Angelo, Angelo, Angelo. Upon noticing him sit next to me, I started drinking the champagne on the table.
After explaining that I’d been invited by Kenny, the chefs relaxed at my presence. I exchanged small talk with Top Chef DC cast members: John Somerville, Kelly Liken (who’s quite gracious), Tamesha Warren, current All-Star Tiffany Derry, as well as Arnold Myint. But, the most exciting part was sitting next to Angelo, for he was Season 7’s resident villain. At dinner, he was a guy on the go and clearly in charge- arranging a tasting menu, coordinating service, talking to his section of the table, and me. He took the opportunity to chat me up, and ultimately became very easy to talk to. I realized he was much, much nicer than the supposed saboteur Bravo had made him out to be, and was hardly intimidating after that. He was likewise receptive to my feedback as a viewer. When I told him that I felt he (and others) had been given misleading editing and that some aspects of Top Chef were too edited for reality drama instead of showcasing the chefs’ talents, he agreed.
When the meal was over, the chefs dispersed off to a club and to spend the rest of their reunion with each other. And, I walked away thinking, “Holy crap, Twitter really does work.”
I ended up writing about the meal for my online magazine, Intrepid Media. But, some eight months later, I’m still amazed by the opportunity. And every time I watch Top Chef All-Stars, I’m blown away by how I got to meet Angelo and Tiffany. Hopefully, I will have another opportunity to meet more of the talented folks on Top Chef. But, even lightning doesn’t strike twice, I will always remember last summer.