Top Chef All-Stars: epic battle to conclude season

We all knew this was going to be a heavyweight fight between Richard Blais and Mike Isabella on “Top Chef All-Stars.” But I think these two guys exceeded their own expectations as well as those of the viewers and judges and also their fellow chef-testants. The episode began with Richard and Mike chilling in their hotel suite–and with host Padma Lakshmi telling the eliminated chef-testants that they would be making a small bite (they call it an amuse-bouche) which would determine who the two finalists would be having as sous chefs on their respective teams. Mike wound up with Jamie (ha!), Carla and Tiffani; while Richard had Spike, Angelo and Antonia. Nicely done for Richard.

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Top Chef All-Stars: here we go

Okay, now in a finale that seems to be lasting a month, because it is lasting a month, we are finally down to the final two chef-testants who will battle it out for the title of Top Chef next week. But first host Padma Lakshmi started out with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck for the quickfire challenge, which would be to do a choice of a past quickfire challenge. However, the chefs would be assigned these by a competing chef. Yikes. Mike chose first and had Antonia do the “only canned food” challenge; Antonia gave richard the hot dog challenge, which wasn’t a huge stretch; and Richard gave Mike the one-pot-only challenge. Then Padma entered the kitchen halfway through, and added one more twist–they would have to use a crutch from a previous quickfire–Richard assigned Mike the “no utensils” challenge; Antonia gave Richard the one-hand-only challenge; and Antonia had the one remaining, which was to finish the task while having recently-eliminated Carla tied to her.

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Top Chef All-Stars: almost an all-star

Last night we got from Final Four down to Final Three, maybe sort of in the spirit of the NCAA basketball tournament. The “finale” series continued in the Bahamas with host Padma Lakshmi introducing this week’s guest judge, Lorena Garcia, and the quick fire challenge to the finalists–Tiffany, Mike, Richard and Antonia. They would have to break into two teams and create a dish that they had to serve on 100 plates, and make them as uniform as possible. That’s something you don’t think of so much, but as Richard said, it’s SO important for a chef in a restaurant–consistency. So Mike and Richard made a pork bolognese with homemade macaroni that looked amazing. Tiffany and Antonia made a beef tenderloin salad with lentils and chimichurri sauce. The girls won, in large part because of the uniformity of a dish that had a higher level of difficulty. Mike, of course, was bitter.

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Top Chef All-Stars: now it’s a final four

Okay, so last week we were fired up that “Top Chef All-Stars” would have a final five instead of a final four, but that would change last night. When they got to the Bahamas for the finale, I wondered if this was it, if this was the episode they would name the Top Chef. But it didn’t feel like a finale. So what it wound up being is a competition that would bring them down to four.

It started last night at Fort Charlotte, where the chef-testants would compete against the chefs that won their season–Stephanie, Hosea, Michael, and Kevin. The quick fire challenge would be to compete against the chef that won their respective season, using a secret ingredient chosen for them ahead of time. Mike was up against Michael Voltaggio, maybe the best chef in the history of the show, and they had duck; Antonia and Richard would square off against Stephanie using veal; Carla was up against Hosea using lamb; and Tiffany squared off vs. Kevin using pork. The winners would each take home $10K.

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Top Chef All-Stars: now that’s what I’m talking about

I love “Top Chef.” And I love “Top Chef” more now that they did something so right last night. But more on that in a bit. The show began as the chef-testants were being filmed in their dorm, which, as it turns out, is in Brooklyn with a great view of Manhattan. Then host Padma Lakshmi showed up and asked them to meet her on the building’s roof, which really showed off the amazing view. You could also see Ellis Island, which is where immigrants had to pass through on their way to the “new world” a century or so ago.

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