Category: Top Chef

'Top Chef: Texas': Swift punishment -- but also a second chance

Top Chef: Texas Tom Colicchio been studying Gov. Rick Perry?

The new season of “Top Chef: Texas” premieres Wednesday on Bravo, and based on the opening episode in the Emmy-winning cooking competition, Colicchio and his fellow judges seem to have a fondness for Perry and his state’s tough stance on final justice. While the “Top Chef” adjudicators aren’t sending any cooks off to death row, they are dispatching several lacking contestants remarkably and unapologetically swiftly, including Colicchio’s axing of one chef in the first episode before he even turned on his stove.

If the judging in the premiere hour seems unduly speedy, it’s a consequence of this season’s opening conceit, where 29 chefs initially fight for the final 16 spots in the season’s real contest (that first wave of weeding continues next week). In another new twist for the show, now in its ninth season, one of the chefs eliminated from the shortlisted bunch of 16 will have a chance to cook himself or herself back into the competition well after being booted. Commuting the sentence, in other words.

“It addresses the person whom the viewer thinks got a raw deal, or maybe they were more talented and they were kicked off too soon,” Colicchio said in a conference call about the on- time chance at redemption, where Colicchio will be the sole judge in an episode shown only on the Internet. The move was partially inspired by the elimination of Tre Wilcox last year, after he made several blunders in “Top Chef’s” restaurant wars episode.

“Everybody thought that we should have given him a break because he had competed and done well earlier. And so what it does though, it gives that person the opportunity to get back in," Colicchio said.

Host Padma Lakshmi and Colicchio said the idea of expanding the show’s initial contestant pool was meant to let people cook their way onto the show, rather than making the cut based on their resume and audition. “I never thought of it as a mass killing,” Lakshmi said of the first, drastic cut. Added Colicchio: “There were some people who we were led to believe would have been great contestants, really strong cooks, and they weren’t good at all.”

As for the season’s more intriguing storylines, audiences could have a strong rooting interest in North Carolina’s Keith Rhodes, who taught himself how to cook while in prison on a narcotics charge, and Richie Farina and Chris Jones, who work alongside each other in Chicago’s Moto restaurant.

For people who have grown weary of the contestants’ ever-expanding body art, two women — Los Angeles’ Dakota Weiss (NineThirty restaurant) and Georgia’s Whitney Otawka — definitively prove that tattoos are not the sole domain of male chefs. There's more ink on the two women than in a barrel of squid.

“We’re coming off an Emmy win; we’re coming off of people knowing and loving the show and being very familiar with the format,” Lakshmi said of keeping "Top Chef" interesting. “We have to top ourselves. I think it’s a challenge we face every day in doing the show, just to make it better.”


'Top Chef' shows it has the recipe for success

'Top Chef' takes on a Texas-sized group of contestants

'Top Chef Masters' ups the spice for L.A.'s Mary Sue Milliken and John Rivera Sedlar

-- John Horn

Photo:  Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio in "Top Chef: Texas." Credit: Scott McDermott/Bravo

'Top Chef' takes on a Texas-sized group of contestants

'Top Chef' Texas

Too many cooks in the kitchen? It sure looks as if that could be the case in Bravo’s new season of “Top Chef,” where a record 29 contestants will try to sauté, braise and grill their way to the top of the food preparation chain.

Premiering Nov. 2, the ninth season in the highly rated cooking competition will be set in Texas. Only 16 of the chefs, several of whom currently work in Southern California restaurants, will advance to the cook-offs in the Lone Star State.

Last season, 18 contestants competed in “Top Chef All-Stars,” with Richard Blais taking the top toque. Hugh Acheson, the colorful cook from the last “Top Chef Masters,” will join Emeril Lagasse as a regular “Top Chef” judge. The guest judges will include Charlize Theron, Pee-wee Herman and Patti LaBelle.

The local chefs are Nyesha Arrington, 28, of Santa Monica’s Wilshire Restaurant; Jonathan Baltazar, 36, from Long Beach’s Heights Cuisine; Chris Crary, 29, of Santa Monica’s Whist Restaurant; Laurent Quenioux, 51, of Pasadena’s Vertical Wine Bistro; and Dakota Weiss, 35, from Westwood’s NineThirty.

“Just like Texas, this will be our biggest season ever,” head judge Tom Colicchio said in a statement.


We Test the 'Top Chef" Winning Dishes

Ludo Lefebvre bringing Ludo Bites to Sundance Channel

Mary Sue Milliken and John Rivera Sedlar Cook Up a Storm on "Top Chef Masters"

-- John Horn

Photo: Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi  and Tom Colicchio from “Top Chef: Texas.” Credit: Scott McDermott / Bravo

Chef Ludo Lefebvre on bringing LudoBites to Sundance Channel

Chef Ludo Lefebvre on bringing LudoBites to Sundance Channel

Chef Ludo Lefebvre killed, skinned and gutted a 1,200-pound bison in Denver and took a bite of its still-hot heart.

His wife, Krissy Lefebvre, caught the stomach-churning moment on her cellphone camera. So did a television crew for Sundance Channel that has been following the pair for a new reality show called “Ludo Bites America,” which premieres tonight.

“I felt I needed to do it to respect her, because I killed her,” said Lefebvre of the act, which could be considered the literal version of biting America. Later that night he used almost all of the bison in a variety of dishes, including bison tartar with parsley roots and Asian pears.

The series follows the couple as they attempt to do across the country what they have done so well in their Los Angeles home base: open temporary pop-up restaurants in unfamiliar locations to serve high-end food.

The Lefebvres recently finished taking reservations for the seventh LudoBites in L.A., which will be held in August at Gram & Papa’s restaurant in downtown L.A. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, they were filming final interviews for the TV show there, a camera crew buzzing around the small, rectangular dining room.

Besides launching a new LudoBites L.A. and wrapping the six-episode TV show — which took them to six American cities, including Santa Fe, N.M.; Mobile, Ala.; Omaha and Redondo Beach — they have 3-month-old twins at home.

“I feel beat up, exhausted — I want to retire,” said Ludo Lefebvre, his French accent so thick that Sundance used subtitles for him in the show, even though he is speaking English.

But retirement isn't likely to happen anytime soon for the chef, whose ambition and rugged charisma have made him a food world star.

Continue reading »

Is 'Top Chef Masters' a foodie Olympics? Mary Sue Milliken and John Rivera Sedlar discuss

Topchefmasters "It's about racing. It's not about cooking."

So says L.A. restaurateur John Rivera Sedlar (Playa and Rivera) about "Top Chef Masters," which premiered last week. Sedlar is one of two prominent local chefs on Season 2 -- the other is Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill, Truck) -- and he says he went into the Bravo series totally underestimating the difficulty of the show.

Sedlar says other competitors (well-respected chefs from around the country) seemed to have prepared for "Top Chef Masters" as if it were an Olympic sport. "I think that they train. I think that they have a coach. They lift weights. They hone their knife skills," he says. "They have people investigate who the competition is."

Milliken has more understanding of the competition, since her cooking partner Susan Feniger had appeared in the previous season -- and yet Milliken was almost eliminated last week.

"I want to put my heart and soul in everything I cook, and sometimes you can't do that in 12 minutes," she says. "There were times when the time was so constraining it was ridiculous."

Read more about "Top Chef Masters" in this feature from Wednesday's Calendar section.

Photo: Mary Sue Milliken and John Rivera Sedlar. Credit: Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times

Was the 'Top Chef' finale really that close? We taste-test the dishes and see.

Dish1 Dish2 During the finale of "Top Chef" on Thursday, the judges insisted that the showdown between Michael Isabella and Richard Blais was nail-bitingly close. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a toss-up," said Tom Colicchio during the judge's table discussion. Later, Padma suggested that both chefs were worthy of the title, and Gail appeared so pained in her decision-making process, it was like "Sophie's Choice." You could almost hear her thinking: Do I go with my heart, or do I go with... pepperoni sauce?

To hear the judges tell it, this was the strongest, tastiest, bloodiest, steamed-fishiest standoff in "Top Chef" history. But was it really? Well, we tasted some of Isabella's and Blais' dishes on Thursday night, when Bravo invited press and fans to an event space in New York for a viewing of the "Top Chef" finale and a preview of its upcoming shows. (There was also a karaoke booth where "The Real Housewives of New York" fans could sing "Tardy for the Party," though that's another story.) And let us tell you, the competition between the two "chef-testants" wasn't even close.

One of the most unfair things about "Top Chef" is that viewers can't taste the dishes (hasn't Taste-o-vision been invented yet?), so we were only too happy to sample four of the final courses. From Blais, there was the raw hamachi with sweetbreads, and the black cod with pork belly, beets and mustard caviar. From Isabella, there was the halibut with cauliflower, pancetta and kumquats, and the pork shoulder with pepperoni, cabbage and turnips.

Blais' raw hamachi was so astoundingly delicious and clean-tasting, it was like a magical fish that's spent its whole life swimming upstream into a Brita water filter. And those rich sweetbreads, like tiny, perfect, meat-flavored french toasts, inspired one very delighted woman at our table to tell her friend, "You have to try this — just don't think about what they're made of." (Those poor, fuzzy, wide-eyed, unfairly tasty little calves and lambs!) By the time everyone got to the black cod and pork belly, the sounds of utensils scraping and re-scraping every last molecule of mustard off the plate were audible. When a waiter tried to clear the plates from the table next to us, we saw a woman grab her own already-spotless dish back from him, just in case she'd missed something.

On the other hand, remember Isabella's halibut, the one Colicchio called the best fish he'd had on the show to date? It was the worst dish by far, flavorless and cold, with a slightly sweaty texture, and the overly sweet kumquats lent it an aftertaste of jelly doughnut — which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been paired with fish. And while Gail was right that the pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce was innovative — it was as if someone had nursed a tender baby pig from a bottle of liquid pizza —the turnips and cabbage were soggy on the plate. We saw many barely nibbled portions of both dishes carted away from the table.

Of course, it's possible that the folly was one of execution, not conception: The dishes were prepared by a team of chefs that didn't include the all-stars. But we've already seen some backtracking from the judges: On his blog, Colicchio wrote, "I commented about Michael's that it was the best fish I'd had on the show to date… though that was before I tasted Richard's." Plus, you don't have to take our word for it. Before he was crowned "Top Chef," (spoiler alert!) Blais told Isabella that he'd give him some of the money to start a restaurant. If he holds true to his promise, you might get to taste-test a bit yourself sometime soon. Anyone for white fish with jelly-doughnut sauce?


"Top Chef" finale recap

Full Show Tracker coverage of "Top Chef"

— Melissa Maerz

Top photo: Blais' hamachi, left, and Isabella's halibut. Bottom photo: Blais' black cod and pork belly, left, and Isabella's pork shoulder. Photo credit: Melissa Maerz / Los Angeles Times.

'Top Chef' finale recap: Is it Richard Blais or Mike Isabella for the win?

Topchef Is $200,000 really enough to help a chef to pursue his -- in this case, it'll be a his -- culinary dreams? By the time the finale of "Top Chef: All Stars" gets underway, it doesn't matter. It's just about the competition: will it be Michael Isabella or Richard Blais?

Due respect to Mike, but I don't know anybody who's not on team Richard. Including me (Team Blais!).

Mike was kind of a long-shot whose dishes have been wowing judges late in the season, and whose ego has grown proportionally -- or maybe, disproportionately.

Meanwhile, Richard was the early star whose talents are obvious, but he's been faltering, anxious, skinny. It's as if while Mike swells, Richard shrinks.

There will be, Tom Colicchio says, "no twists or turns." The two chefs have to come up with a four-course tasting meal for their dream restaurant. "What we'd like to see," Colicchio explains, "is a glimpse into your future as a great chef."


Was the "Top Chef" finale really that close? We taste-test the dishes.

As we've seen before, the chefs get kitchen help from earlier in the season. This time, it's determined not by choice but by  flavor. So: Richard wants Dale, Angelo and Jen. He gets: Spike (who wants to leave for jet ski reservations -- which Dale takes), Angelo and Antonia.

Michael gets Tiffany, Jamie (who he said he didn't want) and Carla. Hooray! We get to watch muppet-kooky Carla! Not enough, though. There was definitely a Carla deficit in this episode.

They will do a four-course tasting. They have five hours.

The menus -- and the winner -- after the jump.

Continue reading »

Bravo picks up 11 new series -- and welcomes back some familiar faces

Brad Bravo announced Wednesday that it is picking up 11 new series for 2011-12, as well as ordering new seasons of five current shows.

Many of the new series are effectively spin-offs of existing shows, featuring "Bravolebrities":

“It’s a Brad Brad World” follows former Rachel Zoe minion-turned-solo-stylist Brad Goreski;  “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” is a home design show from the star of Bravo's "Flipping Out";  and “Mad Fashion” is a reality show following former-“Project Runway” designer Chris March.

In the new version of "Tabatha Takes Over," hair stylist Tabatha Coffey stretches her show's territory: instead of just telling off (and helping out) salon owners, she will now lend her acumen to all kinds of small-business owners. And the L.A.-based real-estate reality series “Million Dollar Listing” will expand its sassy franchise with a N.Y. edition.

Other new reality pickups announced include The Therapists” (the lives of L.A. therapists); "Most Eligible: Dallas” (Texas socialites); "Miss Advised" (three single relationship experts); "Ready to Wear" (New York fashionistas working in a second-hand clothing store); "Roble and Co." (Brooklyn caterers); and "Project Soulmate" (a New York matchmaker).

In advance of its upfront tonight, Bravo also announced that it is renewing several series, with new seasons for “Top Chef Just Desserts,” “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” “Bethenny Ever After” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

"Rocco's Dinner Party" -- with celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito -- was previously announced and will join Bravo's schedule this summer.

-- Joy Press


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Photo: Brad Goreski. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

'Top Chef' recap: And then there were two

Chef So, is the unpleasant Mike really going to take this thing?

Among the final trio of Richard Blais, Antonia Lafaso and Mike Isabella, Richard is the neurotic talent, Antonia is the amiable professional and Mike is, increasingly, arrogant and nasty. Which can serve one well in reality TV.

The quickfire challenge is to be judged by Wolfgang Puck. They have to revisit a previous quickfire, each competitor assigning one challenge to another.

Mike assigns Antonia canned foods.
Antonia assigns Richard hot dogs.
Richard assigns Mike a one-pot dish.

Richard explains that Mike had once said he needs lots of skillets to work. Antonia, however, says the one-pot challenge will allow Mike to use any ingredient in the entire kitchen. Antonia: “Richard, not the sharpest one in the drawer.” Cut to: Richard, furrowed brow.

And then there’s a twist. Each competitor will have an additional previous challenge loaded on top of what they’re already doing.

Richard makes Mike use no knives or utensils.
Antonia makes Richard use just one hand.
Antonia is left with a “double-apron” she’s sewed together with Carla, who is here and gone in a jiffy.

Antonia thinks Mike is trying to rattle her. Mike wanders around the kitchen with a high-pitched giggle. Richard says he’s not entirely confident with his dish, echoing the confidence deficit he's been exhibiting over the last few episodes. Richard! Hang in there! And eat a sandwich, will you? You look peckish.

Continue reading »

'Top Chef All-Stars': Are the judges listening to their own rules?

It’s hard to argue that the “Top Chef All-Star” judges properly picked Tiffany for expulsion Wednesday night, leaving the clearly three best chefs over the last several weeks—Mike, Richard and Antonia—to fight it out in the Bahamas finale.

But shouldn’t the competition be judged on some sort of evenhanded curve?

From the opening Quickfire Challenge, it felt like the rules and the judging criteria were two different beasts. The four chefs were given just an hour to prepare a dish for 100, with the tasting plates selected at random.

The team of Richard and Mike in their scant 60 minutes turned out not only a pork Bolognese sauce, but also homemade pasta.

Tiffany and Antonia were far less ambitious with the limited time, serving a filet of beef salad. But when guest judge Lorena Garcia picked the winner, she completely ignored the draconian time limit, instead singling out Antonia and Tiffany’s simple salad—“slice and serve,” as Richard derisively but accurately called the women’s safe strategy—for its “consistency and flavor.”

One hundred bowls of chicken noodle soup can be consistent and flavorful, but that wasn’t the point of the challenge. Even if Tiffany and Antonia’s salad was good on an absolute scale, the whole point of “Top Chef” is a dish’s relative, not absolute, merits.  In other words, given the crummy cards everyone was dealt, who played the best hand?

If Garcia truly had considered what Richard and Mike were able to accomplish in about the time it takes most people to make a grilled cheese sandwich (and even some amateur chefs to create a beef salad), it seems reasonable to think she would have judged differently. It was understandable when Mike complained, “Are you serious? A beef salad wins?”

Tiffany may have made a grave error in combining a cold ceviche with a warm soup in the Elimination Challenge, but it seems that her real mistake was plating the dish two minutes early—in a kitchen with no heat or gas stove or warming lamps. When the soup arrived cold, Tiffany’s fate was sealed—but expecting a piping hot serving of anything on a remote island seems not just optimistic but unrealistic.

If anyone truly failed to embrace the challenge—the instructions were clear: create an elegant meal featuring conch—it was Antonia. Her grouper dish, with a finely minced conch tartare that looked more like a garnish than a dish component, looked like something you might get at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.

The judges rightly noted that it was the most conventional offering among the four finalists, but didn’t penalize her minimizing the conch. Mike won for a dish that apparently used the sea snails even less, in a vinaigrette. Sure, it tasted good, but did he follow the rules of the challenge?

Richard didn’t win for his sweet potato linguine, but at least it had conch in it, and Tiffany served conch two ways. Unfortunately for her, the wind was blowing and the soup cooled off. But the judging might have been unnecessarily icy, too.

--John Horn

Photo of Richard, Tiffany, Antonia and Mike in "Top Chef All-Stars": Virginia Sherwood/Bravo 




'Top Chef All-Stars': The pressure is cooking the chefs

Cooks are using to cracking things—eggs, pepper corns, chicken bones, the occasional mixing bowl. But as the first installment in the “Top Chef All-Stars” finale proved, they are prone to cracking up themselves.

There’s no doubt the remaining five chefs must feel like a veal chop hammered into scaloppini.  Even though it takes Bravo months to show all of the episodes, the series is actually filmed in a matter of weeks, and by the time the season winds down so, too, have the chefs’ stamina—not to mention their mental health.
Chef300 As past finales have dramatized, the winning chefs don’t always triumph just by cooking the best dishes.

They prevail because their rivals panic, outthink themselves, and start pulling out kitchen tools they’ve never used before, the case in Season 5 when Casey disastrously persuaded Carla to cook sous vide for the first time in her life.

The victors, like marathoners focused only on maintaining a steady pace all the way to the finish line, don’t alter their course, confident in their culinary skills.

All of which makes us very worried about Richard.
Mike, especially after topping superstar Michael Voltaggio in Wednesday’s Quickfire challenge, might believe otherwise, but Richard has been and still is the best cook in this season’s “Top Chef.” But he’s starting to become unhinged, a troubling development. 

“Honestly, I hate everything I do,” Richard said after serving a lamb dish the judges mostly loved. He looks like a guy convinced his airplane is going to crash, his wife is going to leave him for George Clooney, his child is going to join a permanent Santa Cruz drum circle. He’s not quite ready for a culinary intervention, but if he doesn’t relax—recall that he lost in the fourth season when he “choked,” as he put it, in the finals—Richard won’t be around much longer.

Meanwhile, the season’s totemic tower of positive thinking, Carla, was sent home for serving up pork so rare it looked like an invitation to an upcoming trichinosis convention—stay cool in the sun!—in the Bahamas.

Anyone who has been near those cooking schools that seem to be popping up on every corner has seen the student chefs milling about—with their checked pants, their clogs, and their stupid pocket thermometers.

Pork is done but still pink around 150 degrees, and can be served a few degrees cooler. Carla’s meat looked like the same temperature of melted ice cream, and even if Tiffany or Antonia could have been sent home for their uninspired food, some of Carla’s pork was inedible—not a great attribute when everything is on the line.

Carla’s inexorable grace and liveliness will be missed as much by viewers as it might be by Richard. Without a steadying, supportive influence in the kitchen—and that certainly won’t be Mike—Richard could very well fall apart as fast as an overcooked pot roast. We hope he pulls it together, fast.

--John Horn

Photo of Richard Blais in “Top Chef”: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo


'Top Chef All-Stars' reaches fork in road, takes it


I would have punted, too.

Faced with five remarkable dishes and one impossible decision, the judges for “Top Chef All-Stars” reached the unexpected but wholly defensible decision of eliminating no one Wednesday night, setting up a finale with an extra contestant. But they delivered the news as dramatically (or cynically) as possible, scaring countless viewers just a little less than Richard.

Rarely has a “Top Chef” episode forced viewers to struggle so hard to spot the shortcomings in any of the chef’s dishes. When at the dinner inspired by the cooks’ family histories Antonia’s mother suggested to Padma, Gail, Tom and guest judge Dan Barber that they take all five chefs to the Bahamas, it sounded like nothing more than a protective parent looking after a child. 

After all five plates came out, you started thinking that maybe she was on to something.
“We couldn’t decide,” Padma told the two chefs left in the lurch the longest, Tiffany and Carla, moments after Padma nearly sent Richard into ventricular fibrillation by telling him to pack his knives—for the finale.  “It was just too tough,” Tom said of finding a chef to cast out. “We just couldn’t say goodbye to either of you.”

Given professionally researched genealogies to help guide their culinary choices, the chefs remained remarkably true to the rules of conduct, with some (Carla and Antonia, in particular) daring to prepare food they knew could go off the rails in an instant.

Tre was sent home in the eighth episode for his grilled vegetable risotto, but Antonia didn’t back away from the dish, winning the Elimination Challenge for her braised veal risotto.

Tiffany knows that Tom is repelled by okra’s inherent sliminess, yet nevertheless served him braised short ribs, mustard greens and, yes, okra.

Carla, a stranger to molecular gastronomy, pulled out a bottled of liquid nitrogen to help set her grits before frying. If any chef played it safe, it was Mike, who made gnocchi, but anyone who has eaten good and bad gnocchi knows the difference between the two is as distinct as “The King’s Speech” and “Piranha 3D.”

Mike and Tiffany have yet to win a single challenge this season, and their dishes in the cooking-from-the-snack-bar Quickfire challenge—Mike made a soup that looked like wet cardboard, and Tiffany served nachos, which showed no ambition or creativity—suggest they enter the last two episodes as underdogs.

But there was no denying that all of their dinners looked good enough to jump on a plane, fly to New York and gulp down.  “I want their job to be hard,” Carla said. And she wasn’t kidding.
“This was an incredible dinner filled with impressive dishes,” guest judge Barber said. Added Tom: “I don’t know even where to begin….I hate to see any of you go home for this.”

As it turned out, he didn’t. Call it chicken (free range, please). Call it a Solomonic decision. Whatever the name, it was the right thing to do.
--John Horn

Photo of Richard, Mike, Tiffany, Antonia and Carla in "Top Chef All-Stars": Bravo TV.


'Top Chef': Mike thinks cook and crook are the same thing


Catfish? More like catfight.
The personality clashes in this season’s “Top Chef  All-Stars” have been as fleeting as a cloud of steam—they vanish immediately.  But when Richard accused Mike of stealing a winning recipe Wednesday night—a charge that Mike didn’t exactly deny—it looked as if the show had its first real feud.

The dispute began in the episode’s Quickfire challenge, when guest judge Paula Deen (whose own cooking is so pedestrian she was a controversial pick as this year’s Rose Parade grand marshal), asked the remaining six chefs to deep fry something yummy.

Richard, as is his habit, went all molecular gastronomic and froze some mayonnaise, which he  then submerged in boiling duck fat. Mike made a chicken “oyster” dish that, at the very least, was inspired by a drawing Richard had showed Mike earlier, and at worst was pilfered.

“That’s my dish,” Richard said coldly. Mike said he “had seen it done before,” which given the dish’s distinctive presentation (Richard’s sketch included serving the chicken in an empty oyster shell) strained credulity. 

Like a good thief, Mike then shifted the blame—to Richard. If it was such a good idea, Mike said, Richard “should have done it himself,” which is a bit like a bank robber saying the tellers would have emptied the registers if he hadn’t.

When Richard and Mike were shortlisted for the win (Antonia, with the best dish of fried avocados, was bizarrely disqualified because she didn’t make a separate tasting plate for Padma),  Richard realized the cruel irony of Mike’s theft. “He stole my dish,” Richard said. “I’m competing against myself.”

Adding insult to injury, Mike won the challenge, pocketing the $5,000 prize. Hardly contrite, Mike turned the slow roast on his bad behavior to high broil.  “It’s not your dish,” Mike explained. “It’s my dish, because I won the 5 Gs.” Said Richard: “This sucks.”

The remaining women—Antonia, Tiffany and Carla—convened their own culinary court hearing. “This is bad chef etiquette,” Antonia said. “There is man law,” Carla said, “and there is chef law. You don’t take another chef’s idea. That’s a no-no.”

Because there is some justice not only in the world but also in reality television, Richard’s fried fish and pulled pork won the elimination challenge, which was judged by John Besh (whose New Orleans restaurant August is among the best places I’ve eaten) and Deen (whose crab martini recipe calls for 1 cup of mayonnaise).  “Sorry, Mikey,” Richard said. “This one is mine.”

But because there is injustice not only in the world but also in reality television, it was Dale—not Mike—who was dispatched from the competition. Unlike his angry demeanor in Season 4, Dale has matured greatly as a person and a chef, and his tearful farewell was actually moving.

Too bad the same can’t be said of Mike. Perhaps if Mike gets jammed up next week, he can steal someone's pea puree, as Alex did from Ed last season. After all, as Mike appears to know too well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

--John Horn

Photo of Richard Blais in “Top Chef All-Stars”: David Giesbrecht/Bravo



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