I'm sure the moment this challenge was announced the five remaining chefs immediately started thinking about what kind of dishes they could serve that would please royalty. Which is why I could never be on this show because I immediately started thinking about who actually rules the Bahamas (the Queen of England) and what are trade relations like with the United States. I worried that Mike might cause some sort of international incident but I needn't have worried, the only two things that the US and the Bahamas trade seem to be tourists and a place to stash cash in offshore banking. As for the royalty, Tom and Eric Ripert play up the honor and prestige aspects of upcoming meal. Perhaps in a bid to attain their SAG cards. The chefs are then shuttled off to their living quarters (hotel pimpage) for the rest of the season. It is here that we learn that if Richard wins Top Chef All Stars it "...would allow me to open up the restaurant of my dreams." This is an interesting statement considering that Richard has a few restaurant openings under his belt. Blais, his first restaurant lasted roughly six months and lost a lot of money for his investors. The cash prize for winning All Stars is $200,000 which after at least Federal Tax, is probably more like $150,000. I don't know many "restaurant of my dreams" that spring forth from that amount of money. I'm not sure if it even covers decent restaurant appliances. Of the seven Top Chef winners, the first four spent at least two years preparing for their first restaurants, Michael Voltaggio and Hosea Rosenberg are still at the restaurants they worked at before they each won their respective seasons, and Kevin, last season's winner, is in that sort of nether world of cooking demos, speaking engagements and trying to find just the right space for his own restaurant in Philly. And if Richard doesn't win? Hopefully he's won some prize money for some much needed therapy.
The next day finds our chefs with two and half hours of prep time at a fairly decent looking kitchen. They all chatter about how their dish will be refined enough for kings and queens. Except for Mike. Guess who makes a return appearance just in time for the Finale?
This guy. The guy who just can't keep his piehole shut about the women he competes against. Apparently he thinks that Antonia, Carla and Tiffany played it safe to get the final episodes. To which I have to ask....who didn't cook for the Tennis episode? Mike. Who was the disastrous expediter for the Dim Sum Challenge? Mike. Who couldn't cook pasta correctly for the Italian restaurant challenge? Mike. Who stole Richard's dish for a Quickfire? Mike. Who was pretty much a disaster at Restaurant Wars? Mike yet again. I'd be careful little piggie, you never know when Karma might be creeping up on you.
Prep time ends and the chefs are ferried away to their next location with a motorcycle police escort. Because royalty always spends the extra ducats making sure their cooks are also treated like royalty. The chefs ponder what luxurious kitchens might await them at the palace of the royalty.
Good luck getting five chefs sharing this lone flat top. However the chefs, all being the prize money seeking, attention whores that they are make the best of it and start cooking away. Some more away than others. As Antonia tries deep fat frying her plantains the fryer next to hers starts smoking like a two pack a day person getting off a NY to LA redeye.
This is not like cutting your finger and taping it up and just continuing to cook....this is an Issue. Antonia tries to point out the danger and just as she says it's going to catch fire...
...WHOOSH - it does. Richard puts a half sheet pan over the top but the fire is still going full force underneath. There's a mad dash to save food and the production crew to put out the fire but in the end they evacuate the kitchen and call in the fire department. Now at this point I'm sure the chefs are wondering how to recover from a burned out kitchen and again, I have to point out how poorly I would be prepared because all I could think about was whose insurance would cover the fire damage if the place burned down. What would Bravo do, dip into Andy Cohen's Liquid Refreshment budget from Watch What Happens?
The fire is contained but the food is totally ruined from exposure to the chemicals from the Ansul system.
Tom, in his Royalty Casual red flannel shirt, drops the bad news bomb on the chefs. They will go back to the original prep kitchen, re-prep their dishes, after which the fire kitchen will have been cleaned and prepped for the chefs to cook and plate for the King and Queen. However if they want to change their dishes, they are allowed to totally trash their original dish and go with something else. How they do this on the back end with product I have no idea but it had to have been an extremely long night for everyone. Blais and Antonia decide to junk their dishes and head in another direction. With Prep, Version 2.0 complete, it's back to Twin Brothers restaurant where the deep fat fryers have been replaced with these.
This is not good. You went from 35 gallon capacity, thermostat controlled deep fat fryers to...what? A gallon, at the most? At this point I'm feeling bad for the chefs. It's not that they had to deal with a fire because restaurant kitchen fires happen a lot more than many of us realize. They don't always burn down the kitchen (unlike those timely, all consuming, owner deep in debt restaurant fires) but they do happen. Ask Top Chef alums, Stephanie Izard and Dale Levitski. Watching the chefs and the crew deal with it was surprising for the fact that it took eight seasons for it to finally happen. But still, it's the Finale, twists like sad kitchen equipment has been done to death. Plus it bites my remaining favorite chef in the ass. Carla, perhaps thinking that a more adequate deep fat fryer would available, did not change up her dish back during Prep, Version 2.0. She's still going to deep fat fry her bacon wrapped pork loin. The results? Rare pork. She tries to save the medallions by quickly searing them on the flat top.
This does not save the pork from being undercooked and worse, served to a reluctant Gail.
Who, I might add, was looking especially lovely, tanned and relaxed for her time in the Bahamas.
Back to the food, Antonia's Shrimp and Grits makes everyone sad that she switched out the lamb she was originally preparing. Mike's Sous Vide Chicken with Lobster Hash finally give the judges a reason to smile.
They also enjoy Richard's Lamb Loin with Mustard Sauce and Turnip Cannelloni.
However Richard apparently does not enjoy his own food. "My food is shit, disgusting." OK so the stress is getting to him back in the kitchen. Maybe he'll chill out later. Tiffany serves last and doesn't seem to get pinged for any major mistakes but is called out for the simplicity of her dish.
The service portion of the long day and night are over but now the chefs have to sweat out Judge's Table. Blais decides to vent his frustration over his own food...again. "I just hate everything I fucking do, that's the point."
Now I don't know if Richard really feels this way about his food or if he was just playing for sympathy or attempting to get the other chefs to reassure him that yes, Richard, we think your food was AWESOME. Whatever the process, here's the result. I wasn't much of a fan of Richard from his season and when given the chance to eat at his restaurant in Atlanta or Kevin Gillespie's restaurant, I went with Kevin. Had a great meal. I have no idea how Richard thinks anyone would find his food appealing after watching and hearing how the chef feels about his own creations. My culinary godmother keeps reminding me that the show isn't a popularity contest when it comes to the food. Valid point but it is a popularity contest back out in the real world. There are any number of star power chefs who may be assholes in real life, may treat their co-workers badly, would like to hang bloggers by their heels but I don't think I've ever heard any of them say they hate everything they do like Richard did to the judges. Judging by Gail's reaction...
...neither had she. Richard's blathering does not give him the win, that went to Mike but he's also not in the bottom three. That honor belongs to Antonia and Carla. They lump Tiffany in there with them but simplicity of a dish won't go home against overcooked fried shrimp and undercooked pork. In the end, Carla just couldn't overcome her poorly cooked loin despite all the love she put into her food. While she leaves Top Chef All Stars without winning the title, she still wins as fan favorite, and truly someone with an amazing attitude and outlook on life. Too bad some of that didn't rub off on the two remaining male chefs.