Top Chef All-Stars: Dim Sum? Or Slow Sum?

published Jan 6, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Speed was the name of the game in this week’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars. From battling it out with Tom Colicchio in the under-ten-minute Quickfire Challenge to churning out plates of dim sum in Chinatown, the chefs who couldn’t keep up the pace were left far behind.

Eight minutes, thirty-seven seconds: For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs watch judge Tom Colicchio cook a plate of black bass with clam juice, tomato and zucchini in an impressive eight minutes and thirty-seven seconds. Their challenge? Cook an equally sophisticated dish in the same amount of time. Dale’s sad egg noodle (yes, noodle singular) in pad thai sauce is perhaps the least appetizing plate we’ve seen this season, while Mike Isabella’s branzino with black olive and caper stew is tasty enough to take home the win — immunity and a brand-new Prius.

Top Scallop returns: For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs take over the lunch rush at a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. Problems emerge as the chefs sit around planning their dishes. Jamie plans to make yet another scallop dish, she and Antonio decide to take on a second dish together despite doubts from the other chefs, and Casey reluctantly offers to work the front of the house, leaving the preparation of her dish in Antonia’s hands. “This challenge has disaster written all over it,” says Richard Blais.

Chicken feet and Chinatown diners: After a challenging Chinatown shopping trip, the chefs enter the kitchen and seem to immediately be in the weeds. The ovens don’t go high enough to cook Fabio’s ribs, Carla realizes her spring rolls are “fiddly,” Tre’s orange custard melts in the hot kitchen, and everyone seems to be plating too slowly and precisely to get food out fast enough for the hungry diners, who start standing up and snatching plates from the passing carts.

Daddy Tom puts his foot down: Tom, fed up with the slow service, walks back to the kitchen and tells the chefs they need to pull it together. Despite the warning, the plates continue to trickle out too slowly for the diners, who seem befuddled by this “Caucasian dim sum.” Casey worries about her chicken feet, which Antonia doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to, and the judges point out that the feet are virtually untouched on the tables around them.

The best of a bad day: Not surprisingly, the two chefs who have experience with dim sum, Dale and Angelo, cooked some of the best dishes of the day, but it is Dale’s banana-leaf-wrapped sticky rice that takes home the win. (As a side note, has anyone else noticed how obviously the editing has given away the winner in the last two episodes? They always seem to include a little blurb with one person describing what they would do with the prize and — lo and behold — that person wins.)

Tough feet or greasy beans?: With her strangely flat scallop dumplings and greasy long beans, we thought Jamie would be packing her knives, but Casey’s inedible chicken feet is deemed the worst and she is sent home. We like Casey and don’t know if it is quite fair that she was sent home for a dish she didn’t actually cook herself, but maybe she just took too big a risk in this episode.

What do you think of this episode? Should Jamie have gone home?

(Image: Bravo)