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It is a hard thing asked of these contestants. Penned up for weeks at a time in a bunker, largely incommunicado, with only each other, boxed wine, and gallon jugs of Wolfschmitz for company, TV cameras always hovering, waiting to pounce at any moment of conflict or stress and fix them in their timeless glare. Sleep is a sometimes thing -- and likely to be interrupted at any time by Padma in a shocking print, rallying them to prepare a three-course meal using the contents of a vending machine. These contestants are tired. Isolated, sleepless, subjected to "stress positions" for long periods at a time, running on a schedule that changes capriciously and without discernible patterns, this kind of fiendish punishment can create in a subject, a weakened and vulnerable state of mind. Dick Cheney would blanche at some of the awful things we do these chefs. It's enough to crack anyone.
In the last few weeks of Top Chef, we have observed as extraordinarily gifted, experienced professionals have:
Won an Elimination Challenge with a bowl of steamed mussels.
Completely f---ed up an entire pasta course that any Italian nona could have won with a handful of boxed pasta, some good olive oil, a clove of garlic, and a few chili flakes.
Been sent home for botching a CHEESEBURGER.
Won an Elimination Challenge with a grilled cheese sandwich.
Been given the chop for screwing up what was basically a liquified version of a baked potato you'd find made better at TGI McFunster's.
What's going ON here?
One need only look at Angelo's face in the stew room. He seemed a shrunken version of himself. Yet to face the judges, he appeared a condemned man, waiting, ready and resigned to his fate.
These chefs are exhausted. The stress of the last few weeks has visibly ground some of them down them down to virtual nubbins. I felt sadness and enormous sympathy during the EC action, watching Carla wander through that enormous Target's empty aisles, 3 a.m., a a headless chicken blinking under the cruel, fluorescent lights. Tiffany, falling back on some hideous prepared seasoning from childhood as if drowning -- grabbing for it like a life preserver. Angelo and Mike seeking solace and security in each other's company, clinging to their fellow inmate for solace.
Top Average. The show has become Top Average plate of food. The elimination challenge is all gimic now. Angelo lost to Tiffany because of his salt. Angelo's salt was worse than Dale's salt, even though both dishes were inedible. NExt week: Top Pepper.
Enjoyed this blog. I can actually hear your voice as I'm reading it... I have to say this is my favorite Top Chef so far and it is actually physically painful to see these talented chefs we have come to know and love have to leave one by one. I hope Bravo does it again with the same contestants! I want to see more of Fabio! Angelo! Jen, Jami and all the rest...I cannot even think of losing sweet Carla and Tiffany! I love those girls! BRAVO Bravo! Truly enjoying this 'season.'
Yes, COOKIES! I loved it and hope to get Dale's recipe (and a couple of others). All I can say is cow chips....didn't think I'd ever hear snark on the down low from a Muppet. The elimination challenge was interesting because Target, Walmart, and others like them are interjecting themselves in the grocery market and the masses are running there to stretch a dollar. More I think about it, this was a good challenge because I can relate to the problem of cooking like that most of the time and save Fresh Market/Whole Foods for that special occasion. BYE ANGELO! See you (not). I didn't expect Dale to win, but I did think he would be in the top group. I thought Antonia would get top honors. Guess he's an "Iron Chef" after all. Keep the blog coming, I missed it last time.
Ok...point taken...prepared seasoning mixes taste artificial...so how do I prepare one that doesn't...I live on a small island and dont have an herb and spice store...how would I make a seasoning blend that wasnt artifical tasting...I don't know how to grow paprika bushes....
It's very difficult to judge who is top chef when the challanges themselves do not warrant top chef skills. For this Top Chef All Stars series, the winning title should be renamed the Top Happy Friendly Home Cook. I was so excited about this show, the chance to see amazing dishes created by great chefs like Angelo, Jen, etc; instead week to week, winnings dishes like grill cheese & chicken pot pie, have left me insatiated.
Tony, You're a mastermind of words while your witty sence of humer grabs you by the balls then slaps you. You are truely captivating and brilliant, and I speak for anyone who knows who you are; I thank you
Can I just say that this quote made my day? "He had seen the Beast. And it was brightly-colored and fuzzy."
I smiled so hard during the QF and I think the only way it could have been better was to have the Two-Headed Monster there as well.
As the judges say, one bad dish can send you home. I am so disappointed that Angelo had to pack his knives. I really hoped he would make the finale. Oh darn that potato soup. Of course, each episode has been great with Bourdain et al. This season has been GREAT!
Wow! This was fun to watch. Did Angelo really wonder the judges would "understand the flavors" of oh-so-pedestrian baked potato soup? That thing looked like I could have got it curbside pickup from Outback Steakhouse. "Deconstructed potato," huh? Ooooookaaaaay.
Congrats to Dale for the win... especially for winning with stoner food. But really, Antonia should have recieved triple points for cooking 100 EGGS (!) over-easy & doing it well. Difficulty of execution should count for something dadgummit!
Well it's 3am and I just watched tonight's episode - losing Angelo absolutely blows. Mike Isabella is the only one left with any personality and he won't be making the final. I'll still watch but it I just don't care who wins now. :(
Is it just me or does everyone read this blog and can hear Tony's voice narrating à la "No Reservation's" scene introduction?
You've definitely hit on one of the most frustrating aspects of Top Chef--the fact that no matter who is actually the stronger chef, the only thing that matters is how their dish for the day fares against the rest. So despite the fact that Angelo had a better batting average than Tiffany--or that even Fabio had a better batting average than Tiffany, her dish today got her just that much closer to home base than Angelo's.
Since Carla and Angelo are among my favorite cheftestants, this episode was hard to watch. I don't remember Carla being such a serious contender for elimination all season so I almost expected that Tiffany would sacrifice herself so that Carla, the obviously stronger chefette, could be spared the threat of elimination and be given a chance to go on to the finals and win one for the sistahs! (After all, Mia so selflessly and nobly did it for Elia in season 2.) Luckily for both of them, Angelo was eliminated, but when Padma asked if any of them had any last words, the threat to Carla was so palpable and I totally thought Tiffany was going to go for it--even the video editing, panning back and forth between her and Carla, and then the footage focusing in on her and the other reactions in the stew room afterwards suggested that it woulda/coulda/shoulda(?) happened.
I really liked her in season 7 and was sad to see her eliminated then, but this season, Tiffany's performance has been so lackluster and disconnected from the competition so much at times that I marvel at how she manages to stay in the game. Considering the reactions of the other cheftestants upon hearing the news of Angelo's elimination, I imagine they're thinking the same thing.
This episode exemplified Top Chef at its' absolute worst IMO. As Bourdain noted above the cheftestants are already ridiculously fatigued at this point- why add to it? I want to see these people cooking at the their best and handicapping them with everything from time constraints, lack of proper equipment and no sleep simply does not let them shine. I don't doubt that the judging itself was fair- Angelo obviously made the biggest error - but I certainly don't think the challenge itself was in any way, shape or form fair to the chefs. The EC was essentially a 40 minute Target commercial. The poor challenge design ensured that we wouldn't see any results that truly embody what a true TOP chef is and does. I found it personally very excruciating to watch and I loathe that ANY of the remaining challengers had to fall victim- even dbag Mike I- to such a gimmicky, BS challenge. That it was Angelo- who at this point had filmed two seasons back to back - got knifed was pretty painful. Mad props to Angelo! Don't ever change you endearing little oddball! TC- Please scrap ridiculous challenges such as this in favor of the stuff we saw on Season 6 and the last 1/3rd or so of season 7 (or the lovely catch and cook or NY fine dining episodes earlier in Allstars). Both the chefs and viewers deserve better than this steaming pile of crap.
Target?!- really? REALLY?! Way to ensure that I'll never step foot in that place ever, ever again.
AMEN! What a terrible, terrible episode- and ensured to be so right from the inception of the downright putrid elimination challenge.
Ok, one bad dish can send you home, yet Dale's salty mess survived last week, right? The show should be Top Double Standard. Tiffany is still there and Angelo is gone?? You have to be kidding me. I wasn't even an Angelo fan but he is SO much more talented than Tiffany, Carla, Isabella. Dale makes a salty mess of a philly cheesesteak and goes on to win 25 G's the next week. There is no justice in that. Even he seemed sheepish about the fact that grilled cheese and soup won the challenge for him. I don't care who wins anymore. I'm surprised you signed on to do this show with all the gimmicky crap this season. Isn't that why you think the Food Network is the devil?? I am a HUGE fan of yours, I think your knowledge of food as well as your writing skills are truly special. But like I said, the show should be named Top Double Standard. How sad.
I am imagining what goes on in Mr. Bourdain's head during parent teacher conference after an all nighter food fest at Target. Blog please.
OH NO!! I LOVED Angelo! He was my number 1 favorite! Potato soup is always hard to season, because it always seems to "need something", but I knew when he added more bacon AND more salt... well...that can't be good. Bye Angelo (sob..sob) I miss you already!
I don't honestly feel the judges do just decide ALL the time on who has the worst dish, and actually I don't think that should be the case anyway. I think it should be a accumulation of the entire season, and who is in the top and bottom each week play a factor. Tiffany hasn't proven anything yet. Antonio has proven he's a great cook by how many times he was standing as one of the top three. I'm saddened to see him go.
Can we rename this episode as "when we jumped the shark". I understand the need for sponcers-- you been giving cars and vacations away like candy. Last nights show however had nothing to do about being a food professional or chef. The whole show was drivin, to show case a sponcer. Even the contestants have givin up on good food and are striving for the most unsucky food. They all made soup. The winning dish was completed with a clothes iron, is that really the message 'Top Chef' is after.
My Russian Spy is gone??? Oh, Angelo you choked! Why did you listen to Mike (your friend?) and add salt???? I really thought Angelo would at least make it to the finals. Made me really sad.
It would be great if what you say was true, but you can watch Tom framing his response as he tastes the food. You see he knows he is on camera, you hear him say appropriate positive or negative critiques to protect or ditch certain people. Bottom line - the show has to make money to stay on the air and Tom knows how to do it. Very rarely do I feel he has allowed things to play out as they are. Please just let them cook.
I was sad to see Angelo go, he wasn't my favorite but he's one hell of a Chef. Once again Tiffany squeeks by, she seems to be having the second worst dish alot lately. I'm hoping she leaves next.
Sitting here just giggling to myself...! I can totally "hear" him as I read his blogs. My second favorite thing about top chef is coming here and reading his blog!
I'm so sad to see Angelo go. He was creative, and a little crazy-the perfect reality tv chef. Tiffany may have a great personality, but honestly, how many times can you finish in the bottom and still stay on the show? At least Angelo had been finishing in the top on a fairly regular basis. I think I'm done watching for the season. The show will be flavorless without Angelo!
Love love love the blog. Missed it last week. Anthony's blog is my second favorite thing about watching top chef! His insight and crafty wording is priceless. Like several other posters...I can actually HEAR him read it to me as I read it. I am not sad to see Angelo go. Didn't like him on his season...still don't really care for him. But it is kind of hard to sit on the couch and watch sometimes when someone makes it too salty..goes home...next week someone makes it too salty...stays...then too salty..go home...? Dale is actually growing on me this season and I was soo not a fan in the past...but I guess it's all the "references" to certian "substances" that makes me wonder if it wouldn't be a hoot to hang with him. And who doesn't like a good tomato soup and grilled cheese?? But I really feel like Antonia took the most chances and it was hard to see her miss the win and the big prize AGAIN. Poor girl everytime she wins there is no prize meanwhile Carla's got three trips and Dale just won a small fortune. Such is the life of a Top Chef contestant. Oh, and Richard...you are dear...and I agree watching you with Elmo was just precious...but dude can we get away from the Nitro for an eppy or two? It's getting to be a repeat of Marcel and his Foam...Why foam, Why now?
Up next, a challenge were they have to make a dish using reduced Purell hand sanitizer and cook it on the carburetor of a Toyata Sienna!
I agree with your comments about when Angelo lost it. He had two Top Chef seasons under his belt back to back and no doubt seeing the muppets reminded him of all he is missing with his child. while he has never been a particular favorite, I do respect his talent. As to the "salt" problem a previous person commented that they don't see how Dales was not a problem and Angelo's was. Simply put, Angelo's was inedible (according to the judges) Dale's was just over salted. There is a difference. Anyone with a salt heavy handed friend over a bag of popcorn can tell you that.
The last 3 weeks have really confused me. The litmus test has always been that the chef with the inedible food goes home. That did not seem to be the case in the previous two weeks nor for yesterday's contest. Tom writes in his blog that Dale's Philly cheese steak for the previous week was definitely too salty but otherwise tasted great. I watched the show again last evening and all I heard was "salt lick", couldn't eat it after a few bites and Tom's own comment that the over salting "destroyed" the dish. If Angelo's soup was really the worst, the editing of the show should have made that clear. I understand the need to keep the viewers guessing, but the misleading editing is really ruining the integrity of the show.
I think the challenges of this season have shown that the chefs need one other ingredient beyond their culinary skills, and that's a sense of humor.
Ironically, both Dale and Antonio were trying for something similar - serving comfort food to 100 loopy people at 3 AM. I think the difference is that Dale has actually cooked stoner food, so he was able to reach back to his past when he didn't have professional tools. In other words, Dale respected the grill cheese and iron.
I think a well-constructed, but basic baked potato dish could have won (just like the mussels did), but have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to work with the tools you have.
As you have pointed out many times, the great dishes of the world were born out of "scrap" ingredients cooked in less than ideal kitchens when they were very, very tired. Those chefs who can honor that tradition have been coming out on top.
I have to say that I am becoming a Dale fan as well as an Antonia, Richard and Carla fan. It's been nice to see Dale putting his evil spirits to good use in the kitchen.
Love, love, love, Tony's blog. And yes I do hear his voice as if he is narrating No Reservations. His take on the food and the contestants are hysterically funny, but also very insightful. I love his writing style, it makes me laugh outloud. I think he is a great addition to Top Chef. Sorry to see Angelo go, but not as much as Mike is, tee hee, methinks man crush??? All girls finale!!!!! fingers crossed. PS oh and sooo over the liquid nitrogen, i am lookig at you Richard, just make a stinkin cookie for the love of Pete!!!! Denise
Tony, welcome back!
I could not have been more excited to see previews for this week's challenge: Top Chef now including Muppets and Target! Two of my Julie Andrews' worthiest things.
The Muppet QC was the highlight of any season and I don't think I could have smiled bigger seeing chefs balk at the challenge of making cookies. I would love to see Dale's final recipe of his unbaked cookie.
The elimination challenge was fierce. I have been to that Target and it is very daunting. I am glad to see Angelo go, but in a bittersweet way. His ego drove me crazy, to Marcel proportions, on his season, but given the lack of time between the two competitions, it makes sense that he would burn out earlier than expected this season. One thing that still baffles me is Tiffany's presence. How is she still amongst the clear strides of the All-Stars, Richard, Carla, Dale, Antonia?
This is the one show that I won't spoil by reading synopses prior to watching myself, and I love reading your commentaries. I hope to see more air time for you, and more of this show!
Hope you are well, T
Agreeing with other commenters that the elimination challenges are too gimmicky and silly. The last 3 elim. challenges have not been about fine dining at all... Rao's was a fair challenge -- the goal was to cook good food, family-style, but to limit the ingredients so the food could really shine and in a way, that's a good Top Chef challenge. However, the Rao's challenge was also about cooking homey Italian-American-inspired food -- the kind my own family cooks on holidays -- not something I would pay top dollar for at a fancy restaurant. But okay, that one was fair. Then last week, cooking Jimmy Fallon's and his family's favorite foods? Which, with the exception of beef tongue, were things like burger and fries, chicken and dumplings? Again, food I cook for myself at home. Not fine dining. Then, this week, cook at Target using only the ingredients and supplies available at Target? A few challenges like that are fine, but it just seems like no one is getting to do interesting food because of the constraints of the challenges. And three homey meals in a row just seems lame. And Paula Deen next week, huh? Nothing against Paula Deen, but ...
I loved the whole episode! Seeing what the chefs, out of their comfort zone, coming more into what us "average" cooks deal with... and those crazy, lovable monsters from Sesame Street?! What fun! But, was I the only one amazed that not one of the chefs thought to make their cookies in the shape of triangles for Tele?
I wasn't a fan of Angelo's during last season's TC, so seeing him eliminated was a bit of karmic justice last night.
At 3am, I'm definitely not looking to cook anything, the Target EC was brutal. The setting was obviously overwhelming to Carla and inspired some resourcefulness in Dale's grilled cheese sandwiches.
Going backwards here, but I LOVED seeing Elmo, Cookie Monster and Telly last night. Comparing Antonia's cookies to cow chips, was a priceless Elmo moment.
The TC "Powers that Be" definitely caught the eyes of a younger viewing audience last night. My son saw the previews last week and made sure he was available for E, C and T. I feel a weekend cooking lesson coming up....
So, Angelo over salts and goes home, Dale over salts and stays. What's the criteria here??
Challenges are getting ridiculous and boring, btw. A shame to see from this long time TC viewer.
So glad to see Angelo and his tight jeans go! He's a very talented chef, but I don't think he's a Top Chef.
After watching last night's epidisode and as I read this blog today, one thing comes to mind. End Top Chef before the producers embarrass everyone involved in the program. It is suppose to be a cooking contest. Let the chefs cook. Not one of the judges could prepare what they would be proud to serve under the conditions the contestants are being placed. Last night 4 soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, and soft boiled eggs were what the majority of the contestants prepared! At no time was the audience shown what was available at that store for the chefs to use as ingredients. What did Mr. O'Brien do? I don't recall seeing his creations. If he was to do the decorations, why did Carla run around for most of the show worrying about how pretty her table would look. Placing the contestants in increasingly hostile envirnoments, has only degraded the perception of their cooking talents. Too tight risotto lost to an Italian chef and an Asian Chef not being able to boil noodles. I can only assume that the finale will be creating a 4 course gourmet meal on the steel skeleton of the new World Trade Center going up at the 9/11 site.
Has no one seen Benny and Joon? The last scene of that movie is them, standing by an ironing board, making grilled cheese. Dale didn't invent anything. I'm sure it tasted good but it drove me crazy to hear everyone talk about how creative he was, as if no one else had ever thought of doing this. I make a mean ironed grilled cheese and ham.
Has anyone noticed that Angry Dale is getting snarkier and snarkier as the weeks go by? It must be his coping mechanism. He's surpassing Mike Isabella in the nasty competitor comment category. I wish he'd just keep his mouth shut and cook!
The outcome of this challenge is a mystery to me. Dale pulled off a protein cooked two ways with plug-in kitchen equipment. Antonia made beautifully poached eggs on the fly for 100 people, not an easy thing to do. Dale ironed a sandwich and won. I have to admit I was charmed...I used to iron grilled-cheese sandwiches in college (hint: the wool setting works best)...but it doesn't really seem like Top Chef kitchen skills were involved here. Of course, I couldn't taste the dish.
I also really want to know how he made shortbread out of potato chips. Recipe?
This season is the bomb; I'm really enjoying it.
Yes, I too hear Athony's distinct voice when I read his blogs. While we're on the topic of voices, am I the only one who thinks Tiffany's voice and laugh are like nails on a chalk board? I've started to keep the remote in my hand so I can hit mute every time she speaks. I should start taking a shot too. Just shut up and cook!
What's with Antonia? Every single time she does an open faced sandwich.... shrimp toast, Poboy sandwich, Beef tongue sandwich, even in fondue challenge she did rye bread and salmon, again in target she does easy egg on toast......Did anyone notice that? It was sad to see Angelo leave....Hoping to see Richard, Dale and Carla in the finale.
You have obviously never eaten a really good chicken pot pie..... it is in fact a) not easy to pull off and b) nothing short of heaven when done really well.