Last night “Top Chef All-Stars” on Bravo merged its own brand with Food Network, as Paula Deen was introduced by host Padma Lakshmi as the guest judge for the quick fire challenge. But first they showed the remaining six chefs hanging around with Richard showing Mike his “secret black book” of ideas. Hmmm. So what do you think the challenge was? Yep, making a dish using a deep fryer.

Paula said that her true favorite was Antonia’s fried shrimp and avocado, but she was disqualified for only plating one dish in time and not two. The least favorites were Dale (oyster and beef) and Carla (catfish). The two favorites not named Antonia were Richard (fried mayo balls!) and Mike (fried chicken in oyster shells–an idea he stole from Richard’s book!). Mike won and he took home $5K as well as angry glares from Richard. Wow. Carla, Tiffany and Antonia talked about this being a violation of “chef law.”

So on to the elimination challenge, and Paula would be a guest judge along with John Besh, and the chefs would be cooking for a fundraiser to save Gulf seafood following the oil spills. Of course, they would be using Gulf seafood, and they also would need a sous chef. So six sous chefs, aka former contestants, each brought in a form of seafood. Mike won the quick fire and got to choose first, and his choice was Tiffani; Richard chose Fabio; Tiffany chose Marcel but said she was choosing the protein, shrimp, not the sous chef!; Carla chose Tre; Antonia Spike and Dale Angelo.

It was interesting to see the dynamic here–Tiffany trying not to listen to Marcel; the man-love between Fabio and Richard and also Dale and Angelo; and Carla finding out Tre was a “city boy” growing up. But in the end, some chefs shone through while others really tanked.

The favorites were Richard (crispy snapper with pulled pork and citrus grits); Antonia (crab cakes with corn and crab broth); and Mike (grit-crusted shrimp). The winner, thankfully, was Richard. Whew. It sure would have sucked if Mike beat him again.

The least faves were Tiffany (honey glazed shrimp); Dale (amberjack stew); and Carla (fried grouper with collard greens and chow-chow pico). Just based on past performance alone, you had to think Tiffany would be first to go home, maybe Carla. But I don’t know if anyone was prepared to hear Padma say, “Dale, please pack your knives and go.” But that’s what happened. Wow. Dale had shown to be a serious contender but he and Angelo got whacked in back to back weeks. Still, Tom had mentioned at the judge’s table that “one bad dish will get you sent home.” And that’s what happened to Dale.

So now we’re down to five–Mike, Richard, Carla, Antonia and Tiffany. This is a rather interesting final five that will be a final four after next week’s episode. Back when this show began, did anyone peg this group to be vying for the Top Chef All-Star title? Maybe Richard, maybe Antonia, but definitely not Mike and Tiffany. Then again, they both went deep in their seasons for a reason.

So that’s it…we’re getting down to it here and it’s getting mighty interesting! Who do you like?