Chef Michelle Bernstein Gives It Up For Whirled Peas—Top Chef All-Stars Episode 15 Recap

We do love our Top Chef All-Stars updates from D administrative goddess, Loren Means. And while she claims to be no foodie, her food-TV insights hit the bullseye every time. Take it away, Loren…

We are down to the final three All- Star Cheftestants. Whether or not all three of them deserve to be there is up for debate, but Richard, Antonia, and Mike are still competing for the title. I, personally, would like to trade a Mike for a Dale. Is there a petition I can sign? I’m pretty sure Mike is one of those “trolls” Charlie Sheen keeps ranting about. The only words he spits out are insults about his fellow contestants. Winning!

jump for the rest of the recap…

For the Quickfire, we have guest judge, Wolfie! The chefs were thrilled to see Wolfgang Puck standing with Padma when they entered the kitchen, but were not thrilled to learn what the Quickfire challenge was going to be. This is a little confusing so pay attention. There were seven options, all previous Quickfires from earlier seasons. Mike, last week’s winner, was given the luxury of choosing the first challenge for the first contestant; he assigned Antonia the canned goods challenge. Antonia then gave the hot dog challenge to Richard who then assigned Mike the One Pot challenge. Basically, Mike wasn’t restricted by much and could use any ingredients he liked while Antonia was working with canned garbage and Richard was trying to make gourmet hot dogs.

In Top Chef fashion, half-way through cooking time, Padma threw in a twist. The chefs had to do one of the following previous challenges while cooking the rest of their dish: cooking with one hand, no use of knives or utensils, or the double apron where you are tied to a partner like a Siamese twin. Richard chose no utensils for Mike, and Antonia chose cooking with one hand for Richard, and took double apron for herself. For the double apron act, our dear Carla was brought back to participate. I was really happy to see her smiley face but couldn’t help but wonder the whole time—where has she been? Did they send her home and fly her back? Eliminate her and then ask her to hang around until they could film the next episode so she could share an apron for 30 minutes? Perhaps she jetted off on one of her three vacations and popped by afterward. I want to know! I also spent a large portion of the Quickfire wondering what would have happened if Antonia was assigned no utensils. Would she have been expected to gnaw through the aluminum cans with her teeth? Automatic loss? I want to know.

After having watched the chefs comically struggle through this challenge, Wolfie was ready to taste their final dishes. Mike did a spin on pork and beans using pork shoulder and black beans. Antonia made a curry soup with canned shrimp and Andouille sausage. (No, thank you.) And the self-deprecating Richard prepared hot dogs with homemade bread and curry ketchup. Please stop beating yourself up, Richard. It makes me uncomfortable and sort of makes me want to bitch slap you. You’re my favorite. Pull it together and stop embarrassing me. While Wolfgang thought all three chefs did a nice job, he gave the win to Big Mike.

Off to the Elimination Challenge. The chefs were greeted by three outstanding chefs. Wolfgang was there along with Iron Chef Morimoto and Michelle Bernstein. I really enjoyed seeing the All-Stars when they are star struck by famous chefs. It helps those of us who know less realize how cool these guys are. Not only is it educational but it also gives me the chance to say, Morimoto! It’s fun. Try it. The challenge was to prepare a last supper for one of the three chefs. As the Quickfire winner, Mike was able to assign the chefs. He chose Michelle for himself, gave Morimoto to Antonia, and gave Wolfgang to Richard. Clearly he chose the easiest one for himself. And I must say it did seem a bit like he was using is power to pick on Antonia all day. What I couldn’t figure out was whether or not it was more of a “good ole boys club” thing and he was trying to get rid of her or if it was more of a fourth-grade boy has a crush and pulls a girl’s hair thing. I know, I know. This isn’t Arkansas. Later in the episode Mike claimed he wanted to compete against Richard in the final two. So much for family, huh, Mikey?

The three cheftestants had 10 minutes to sit down with their chef and discuss what they wanted for their last supper. Both Morimoto and Wolfgang chose dishes their mothers used to make them that were representative of their heritage. Morimoto wanted a bento box with fish, rice, and miso soup. His mother used to sort through the rice to make sure every rice grain was the same size so it would cook evenly and be perfect. Wow. OCD at its finest or world’s greatest mom and cook? Wolfgang wanted goulash with spaetzle and apple strudel. A favorite dish from his childhood he remembers with fond memories. I, too, have memories of my mom making me goulash when I was a child. I remember throwing a bit of a tantrum then eating PBJ for dinner. Fond memories for all involved I’m sure. Michelle’s request was much simpler and called for fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. I’ll be at Michelle’s table.

The guests arrived for The Last Supper accompanied by Padma, Tom, Gail, and author of My Last Supper, Melanie Dunea. Up first for service was Mike who had put his spin on fried chicken with pea purée and egg yolk empanadas. There were mixed reviews on whether he should have gone more traditional but all in all, the table enjoyed it and Michelle was pleased. Next up was Richard who did his best version of the goulash dish Wolfgang requested. His strudel was a hit, which was impressive since he had no idea how to make the dough. Last but not least, Antonia served her bento box. While the miso was a bit salty, all were impressed by the execution of the rice, which was viewed as the most difficult component.

Judges’ Table started immediately at the dinner table and Richard was told he was going on to compete in the top two. Yes! After this news, I was tense from head to toe. Please let it be Antonia. Please let it be Antonia. Then, yet another twist from Padma. Oy. Mike and Antonia had to go back in the kitchen and prepare just one bite that would seal their fate. I needed a Xanax, I can’t even imagine what they were feeling. Back to the kitchen they went only to resurface a short while later with their bites. Antonia prepared a seared grouper in coconut lobster broth with a yam, apple, and dill pollen relish and Mike prepared a tempura lobster over beef tartar with caramelized olives and chimichurri sauce. All bias aside, Antonia’s sounded much more appealing to me but sadly, the judges thought Mike’s tasted better. Although I am very disappointed to see Antonia go and to see Mike stay, I am excited to see some of our old favorites return next week to play sous chef to the top two.


  • foodlova

    Totally agree – wanted Mike out! I just kept thinking he wants Antonia out becuause he actually thinks he is competing against her to compete against Richard. Also – just fyi – I am pretty sure on most reality shows – no one is allowed to go home until the season finishes taping (its weeks for us but just days for them). I think they have a separate apartment for the eliminated guys until the end. You can’t really lose the first week then head back to your restaurant the next day for the whole world to know you were eliminated.

  • JT4242

    If Richard doesn’t win, I am going to be totally disappointed. I may even throw something at my TV! He was my favorite in his season, and I’ve been wanting him to go all the way in this season of Top Chef All Stars. He deserves it!