Last night was a really interesting episode of “Top Chef All-Stars,” as the judges for the quick fire would be……Cookie Monster, Elmo and Telly from “Sesame Street.” How awesome and cool and what must have been really weird for the chef-testants. Richard pointed out that he has a 2 year old girl and in his house Elmo is like Elvis. The challenge? What else…to make cookies from scratch in 45 minutes. The winner would take home $5K. The least favorites were Richard (who made ice cream balls that weren’t really cookies) and Angelo, who made chocolate hazelnut cookies with a banana chocolate milkshake. The favorites were Dale (no bake potato chip/pretzel cookies) and Antonia (chocolate cookies) and the overall winner was Dale. Elmo joked that while Antonia’s cookies were delicious, they looked like “cow chips”….classic!

Then for the elimination challenge, which held a grand prize of $25K, the chefs had three hours in the middle of the night to use anything on the shelves in a Target store, and cook a meal for 100 employees as well as the Top Chef judges. This week, judges included Ming Tsai and Target’s Thomas O’Brien as well as Padma, Tom, and Anthony Bourdain. Ironically, almost all of the chefs made some form of soup. It was interesting to see what their strategy was. Remember, Target stores are very large, so in order to gather their station materials and cooking utensils, they had to race around the store. Then, of course, they had to figure out their meals and gather the ingredients from the grocery department of the store.

In the end, the favorite dishes were by Dale (grilled cheese/ribeye sandwiches made using an iron and tomato soup from scratch), Antonia (Parmesan cream eggs with almond, tomato and apple) and Richard (pork two ways–tenderloin and ribs). The winner was Dale, making him $30K richer on the day. Man, this dude is really making a case to be Top Chef, isn’t he?

The least favorites were Carla (curried apple soup with tomato/ginger jam), Tiffany (jambalaya) and Angelo (baked potato soup). The judges said Carla’s just lacked flavor and depth and could have been better with a protein such as chicken; Tiffany’s suffered from having too much of a processed taste, made true by the fact that she used a spice packet!; and Angelo just was way too liberal with the salt shaker, to the point where the judges couldn’t get beyond a couple of spoonfuls. I really thought it would be Tiffany, but in the end it was Angelo who was sent packing. The dude just blew it, and as he readily admitted, he was burnt out and so was his own palate.

So there you have it….we’re down to six chef-testants–Antonia, Carla, Tiffany, Mike, Dale and Richard. I think one thing I’ve learned from watching this show is that you just never know who is going to get the boot–especially this season when we’re dealing with the best of the best. Thanks for reading, and see you all next week….