'Top Chef All-Stars': Generations of pressure
Richard misses his friend, Antonia misses her daughter, Tiffany is worried she'll repeat her pre-finale elimination from last season and Carla is being her dear, dear self.
Padma shows up at the "Top Chef" barracks, and everyone knows its serious if she'd come all the way to Brooklyn. She invites them to the roof, where she says they'll be taking the ferry to Ellis Island, where they'll be deported. Just kidding. It's Quickfire time. And now this week's episode title. "Give Us Your Huddled Masses," is starting to make sense.
More like "Give Us Your Nervous Chefses," am I right?
Their challenge is to cook with the nasty things they find in the ferry snack counter. (If you aren't familiar with New York ferry food, the only thing it's good for is $3 bud lights.) The chefs scramble when the horn blows. They have no clock, no oven, no produce... just a bunch of snacks and only a vague idea of how much time they have to create something non-disgusting.
Antoine says "in retrospect" instead of "in respect" and we sort of hope she's going home. We like everyone more or less equally at this point and an understanding of basic English goes a long way.
Padma -- who apparently floated over to Ellis Island on a cloud powered by her own beauty, boards the boat with Blue Hill chef Dan Barber. (The president and first lady go to Blue Hill on dates!)
Tiffany makes nachos and Mike makes fun of her because he's so proud of his skanky-looking soup. Did we say we liked everyone equally? Sorry. We forgot we hate Mike now.
Antonia gets kudos for pressing a grilled cheese in the hot dog roller. Tiffany's nachos get slammed, but so does Mike's soup, so it's cool. Carla's orange salad, however, is innovative and refreshing. It is infused with rosemary, which we assume she got from some new rosemary-flavored Doritos they're testing on ferries.
Carla wins! She's so excited. Please god don't make this be foreboding of the week's elimination. (If this is your first Zap2it "Top Che" recap, forgive our blatant favoritism towards Carla.)
Elimination challenge time: The chefs will create a meal that represents their ethnic heritage, and Carla says something so patriotic we almost cry.
There's a twist! Genealogists have found historical documents of all the chefs' ancestors and they all get to go over them with their families! A slew of moms, one wife and one husband arrive.
Richard's wife is five months pregnant, and looks fantastic. Whatever happens from here on out, he is clearly a winner.
According to the documents found, Antonia and Mike are distant cousins. It sure is a small chef-verse. Everyone's anonymity towards Mike from last week's stolen recipe seems to evaporate after this cute connection is made.
In addition to going to the finale, this week's prize is a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. And even though one of the five gets to drive away with it, they all have to talk about it because Toyota pays the bills around here.
The kitchen, just before the elimination meal, is pseudo-tense. Chefs have problems with temperatures, consistencies and ghosts of Italian grandmothers. Antonia is making a ballsy risotto. Don't she know that risotto is a "Top Chef" kiss of death -- like being front of house or making dessert?
This is the final dinner in New York, and all the moms and spouses are here. This means the judges will be on their best behavior, and we'll be crying.
During the service, Carla's husband (aka the luckiest man on earth) reveals that they met on Match.com. Our faith in love and the Internet is instantly restored.
Antonia and Mike may be related, but everyone here shares some sort of common ancestor, because they all tell their story through braised meats.
Tom Colicchio's assessment of Richard's braising doubles as our new favorite pick-up line: "It's all right. Not alright, but all right." Hey-o! Oh, Tom. You're smooth now, but a little bird ( Gail Simmons' Twitter) tells us you'll cry before the episode is up.
Everyone did an awesome job. No, an awesome job. And while the judges shower all five of them with praise at judges' table, Mike starts crying about making his grandmother's gravy.
This is the hardest elimination in "Top Chef" history. We're calling it. The judges spend deliberation searching the meals meticulously for minor problems. The Garnish got lost in the broth... a tad too much salt... I bug landed on my nose while I ate it... it's nitpicking at its nittiest.
Antonia wins! We sort of did not see that coming, but we're happy for her, bad English and all. The finale is in the Bahamas. Anticlimactic much?
Mike and his tear-soaked gnocchi are safe too.
This means Richard is told to pack his knives and go... to the Bahamas too! It's between Carla and Tiffany. We're already 10 minutes over, and we get commercial break #47! This is cruel.
Wait a second...
You're going to the Bahamas, you're going to the Bahamas and you're going to the Bahamas! Everybody is going to the Bahamas!
This must be a Charlie Sheen-themed episode of "Top Chef," because everyone is winning. Carla and Tiffany join Richard, Antonia and Mike in the Bahamas for a five-way final. And we'll sleep well tonight.