As we head to the final few episodes of Top Chef All Stars, I can't help but think how incredibly jaded I've become to the whole cooking competition faux reality show genre. When Top Chef first aired with it's twelve unknown chefs back in 2006, it was about people who wanted to win a big chunk of change to further their dreams. The producers were lucky to actually get advertisers and sponsors for the products and prize money. Thank the highly successful Project Runway for making that happen. Season Eight finds us with eighteen former competitors, fighting for more money and prizes than any other season before it and some coveted title that they think will bestow some honor or respectability to their efforts. All I could think about during the Elimination Challenge was it could have been very touching if it didn't have that creepy sort of feeling that any moment, bottom of the screen crawlers would pop up pimping NBC's second season of Who Do You Think You Are or as it's known in my house, Has Been Celebrity Genealogy. The fact that they used the chefs and their close relatives and spouses and a whole lot of family history to sell any number of things seen during this challenge really bugs me. However, I realize that my hide has been deeply impregnated with so much jade rust that it makes it impossible for me to enjoy the challenge for what it was. What I did enjoy was the competence of the food we were presented with. Finally.
Look at those dishes. There is not one dish I don't want to eat. If all five of these meals were offered on a menu I would never eat because I would spend forever trying to decide. Pillowy gnocchi with burrata cheese? This dish alone has snatched Mike back from the brink of Cheese Vomit Soup. Short ribs with fried bone marrow? My mouth is watering and if I'm correct, liquid nitrogen had nothing to do with Richard's meal. And where the hell did Tiffany pull oxtail marmalade from and why hasn't she been pulling from that bag of tricks all along? Thank goodness the third time was a charm for Carla frying something even if she had to switch from fish to grits and threw in a little liquid nitrogen for good measure. But you know Tom just had to give the win to Antonia after his previous meltdown about risotto. When the risotto works on all levels and your meat is tender and juicy, it's hard not to give her a car. Or maybe it's a consolation prize for finding out that Mike's your cousin AND your mother wants to invite him over for dinner. The food was just gorgeous and as Gail pointed out in her blog, all five chefs chose to focus on braised meats. I don't know if they were all pulling from family history or if it was just a challenge with a time frame that allowed for this cooking method to work but frankly who cares when you get to see food like that.
Especially with a backdrop like this. What a beautiful setting and a beautiful night.
Now it didn't go entirely smoothly for all of our chefs. Some of them just don't realize that the chefs are as playthings for the judges.
This is Blaise after Antonia is announced as winner. I'd guess his stress vomit is about halfway up his throat.
This is Blaise after Mike is deemed safe. The stress vomit has probably reached the back of his throat and his bowels most likely have started gurgling.
Look at this pale sweaty man....I hope they had a defibrillator on site for this particular segment because I thought his heart was going to explode at the thought of getting auffed before even getting to the finale. And don't think these judges aren't devious. Just look at the glee on their faces.
You know they enjoyed every second of torturing Richard. That, my little TC Crack Monkeys, is the one thing that has remained constant throughout all those seasons, that the chefs are only here for the judges and our enjoyment. They will use you, they will abuse you, they will edit you from Mother Teresa-like saintliness to Charlie Sheen freakishness in the blink of an eye. Don't you ever forget it.
Now bring on the Finale.