Top Chef All-Stars: When You’re Here, You’re Family

published Feb 3, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Last night’s episode of Top Chef All-Stars featured fashion, family-style Italian food and a feisty Lorraine Bracco, as well as one of the most unappetizing dishes we’ve ever seen on the show. Read on for our thoughts on the episode as well as a reveal of the winner and loser.

Beautiful woman walking in rain: Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi is the guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge, which is all about appearances. Each chef’s dish will be judged solely on aesthetics, not on taste, a challenge the chefs embrace for the most part. Angelo, a fashion lover, enthusiastically scrawls a misspelled “CROCADILE” over his table before laying out his bags of pineapple skin, curry salted egg and dill, which look more like bags of compost scraps than food. Mizrahi is not a fan. He praises Fabio’s trio of tuna inspired by rain-soaked women (don’t ask), Carla’s lovely green-and-pink dish of borscht and cucumber, and Richard’s eerie black chocolate ice cream with menthol crystals. The fashionably black ice cream wins, giving Richard immunity in the elimination.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Antipasti, primi, secondi: For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs are introduced to the family behind Rao’s, a legendary 10-table Italian restaurant in New York. Each chef is assigned one of three courses and must come up with a dish inspired by the restaurant. The Italians and Italian-Americans in the bunch — Fabio, Mike and Antonia — are understandably excited about the challenge, as is Carla, who says the comforting nature of Italian food is in line with her own cooking.

Memories in a plate of mussels: The antipasti group knocks it out of the park. Served family style, Carla’s minestrone, Tiffany’s polenta and sausage terrine and Antonia’s mussels in white wine sauce have the diners waxing poetic about the simple pleasures of Italian food. Tom mentions the mussels remind him of childhood summers, when his family would prepare the shellfish they collected in just the same way.

“He’s not getting laid tonight!”: The primi course is a mess: Mike’s handmade rigatoni is undercooked and tough, Dale’s pasta has no sauce and Tre’s risotto is overgarnished and too stiff. The diners don’t hold back in their criticism. Lorraine Bracco declares Dale’s pasta would never woo her, while a typically candid Anthony Bourdain says of Tre’s dish, “Risotto is a thing to be featured, not covered up like you’re hiding a body.”

Simplicity wins: Although the diners rave about the secondi course, only Fabio makes it to the top with his chicken cacciatore and polenta, alongside Antonia, Carla and Tiffany. Antonia’s simple dish of mussels, fennel and white wine takes home the win, much to the surprise of the chefs left in the stew room, who stare at her in shock before tentatively clapping. Fabio, unhappy, tells the camera she won the Italian challenge with a French dish.

“It’s not risotto”: Mike, Dale and Tre are taken to task for their disappointing starches. Mike owns up to his mistake, but Tre claims he saw nothing wrong with his risotto, which the judges slam for standing up on the plate rather than loosely spreading. Padma wonders if he’s ever eaten properly made risotto before. It’s not a surprise when Tre is asked to pack his knives and leave — which he does with good humor and grace.

What did you think of last night’s episode? Were you surprised by Antonia’s win?

(Images: Bravo)