Top Chef All-Stars Recap: Episode 11

Ed. Note: My apologies to Loren Means. She turned in her’ Top Chef All-Stars recaps on time and I failed to post it. Here, a day late, is her insightful, emotional story. She also apologizes.

First and foremost, I would like to apologize to you, the readers, and to Angelo for my little snafu with the names in my previous recap.  Angelo deserved better and I feel like a schmuck.  I could rattle off an array of excuses for the mishap but that would only succeed in making me a bigger schmuck.  So please accept my apology and let’s move on to Wednesday night’s episode.

Episode 11 kicks off in the kitchen with six All-Stars still standing and Quickfire judge, Paula Dean y’all! The southern girls, Carla and Tiffany, were ecstatic!  We all know that Paula is known for her down home cooking but she further explains how much she loves fried food. “If you can eat it, you can fry it.”  I immediately thought to myself, I bet Miss Paula has been to the State Fair of Texas with that attitude!  Chicken fried bacon, anyone?

In the challenge to prepare a delicious fried food for Paula, the Cheftestants presented quite a variety of foods.  Richard served fried nitrogen.  Ok, it was fried bacon with fried mayonnaise on top but there was nitrogen involved.  Tiffany fried up some chicken and pickles.  Dale went a more upscale route with oysters wrapped in steak and then fried while Carla prepared fried catfish and hushpuppies.  Antonia delighted Paula’s palette with her fried avocado and shrimps. Unfortunately, Antonia forgot to plate two servings and was disqualified so the victory went to the second best dish -Richard’s fried chicken oysters.  Mike, being the great delight that he is, hijacked the dish from Richard’s concept book that morning yet gleefully accepted the win for cooking it.  Congratulations Mike, you can follow a recipe.

For the Elimination Challenge the Chefs were able to be a part of a fundraiser for the Greater New Orleans Foundation which helps fisherman and their families who suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  Around 300 guests would be arriving to dine on Gulf Seafood- Southern Style prepared by the

Cheftestants. Luckily for the Chefs, some helpers were brought in to accommodate the large crowd.  Welcome back previously eliminated All-Stars, Tiffani, Marcel, Spike, Angelo, Tre and Fabio! Yes, I saved the best for last.  When Tre and Fabio walked through the door, I think my heart smiled.  I know they did.

Each eliminated All-Star held a protein in their hands.  The remaining contestants were able to select their partner.  Most chose based on the person holding the protein and others (Tiffany) chose the protein despite who was holding it (Marcel).  After selecting Tre, Carla was a disappointed to learn that his roots didn’t provide him with more knowledge of southern cooking meanwhile Angelo was convincing Dale that he pretty much had it in the bag.   All in all, the chefs worked really well together and things seemed to run smoothly.  This is nice I thought…. and then Eureka!  Jamie and Stephen must be away on a cruise together.

After the fundraiser, judges Padma, Tom, Paula Dean and Chef/Owner of August, John Besh called Richard, Antonia and Mike in for Judges Table.  Paula went wild over Mike’s shrimp coated in grits!  But if we are giving credit where credit is due, it was Tiffani’s idea but again, Mike took the pat on the back for something that wasn’t his. The judges really enjoyed Antonia’s blue crab cake with crab sauce that Spike helped her execute but the judges were blown away by Richard’s combination of Snapper and pulled pork and he took the win he so deserved!  He is also now in the running to be my new bff since he also won a 6 night trip to Barbados.  Although, I have some tough competition since he already mentioned he was going to take his family and Fabio.

With only six contestants left, there is no middle safety zone and the three remaining chefs were brought in for elimination.  The judges felt that Carla’s mustard sauce was way too intense for the light fish while Tiffany’ sauce was way too sweet for her slightly overcooked shrimp.  Like Carla, Dale’s use of mustard also overpowered his fish and his potatoes were undercooked.   While the judges deliberated, I flipped through The Economist or US Weekly… whatever, waiting for them to ask Tiffany to pack her knives and go.  You don’t have to go to Beaumont, but ya can’t stay here!  But then to my horror, the judges brought back in the bottom three and Dale’s shot at the title of Top Chef was over.  I’m left feeling frustrated and deflated.  I just can’t be for sure if it’s because it’s total bologna that Dale was eliminated or because now I have 6 days to pick my new favorite contestant.