“Top Chef All-Stars” Recap (8.03): Empire state of mind

Hey, remember last week when Jen had an epic meltdown and told the judges to smarten up and that her food was awesome? Yeah, so does everyone else. But there seems to be some Bravo-enabled finger pointing. Mike says Jen is a stronger chef than Jamie (Undercurrent: Jamie should have gone home). Antonia says Jamie didn’t need to go to the hospital for her cut (Undercurrent: Jamie is a wuss). Are we clear now? Good, let’s move on.

In the Top Chef kitchen Padma is waiting with David Chang, “one of New York’s brightest culinary stars.” The Quickfire Challenge is a mise-en-place race and then 15 minutes to create of one dish with the ingredients. The cheftestants are paired off in random teams of the four (note: be careful who you stand next to). There’s a little grumblings about the groupings, like Fabio says Angelo’s pants are “a little too tight” for him. Is that code for something? Or does Fabio just need to contemplate to himself why he is staring at Angelo’s ass.

And they’re off. They’ve got to prep lamb chops, artichokes and garlic as fast as they can. The teams breakdown as such: Green (Mike, Angelo, Tiffany, Fabio), Blue (Blais, Spike, Tre, Stephen), Red (Jamie, Antonia, Casey, Big Gay Dale), White (Tiffani, Little Mad Dale, Carla, Marcel). Big Gay Dale notes that Casey is “killing the lamb,” which is sweet redemption from her season 3 onion chopping fail.

The mise-en-place race is always interesting each year, not necessarily for what it shows culinarily, but what it shows technically. It’s also fun to see who is really slow. This year it’s the White Team who seems to be on an entirely different, slower setting than the others. Also they may be competing in an entirely different race because Tiffani has the madoline out and I really have no idea why. Is she making fries for later as a snack?

The Green Team finishes and starts the 15-minute clock for everyone. The Blue and Red teams follow shortly after with, you guessed it, White Team lagging way behind. The Green and Blue teams opt for grilled chops, the Red and White team go for uncooked carpaccio. Bravo stepped it up a notch with this Quickfire by adding the cooking element to the usual mise-en-place race. It’s exhilarating and even I am sweating at the end.