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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top Chef: All-Stars, Week 4: Stuffed and Served

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

click to enlarge Marilyn Monroe's idea of a good stuffing. - FROM "FRAGMENTS: POEMS, INTIMATE NOTES, LETTERS BY MARILYN MONROE"/VIA NEW YORK TIMES
  • From "Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters by Marilyn Monroe"/Via New York Times
  • Marilyn Monroe's idea of a good stuffing.

Last night's Top Chef: All-Stars served deep ― like, cavity-filling deep.

The Quickfire Challenge: Create a stuffing. Now, stuffing is super personal. We are still in awe of the Marilyn Monroe stuffing recipe that has some major S.F. roots, a recipe as telling as any video of the Blonde Bombshell being stuffed. According to Tiffani, "Stuffing, actually, might be more regionally specific than any other food. Stuffing is house-specific ... stuffing is MOTHER-specific!" The twist here was a knife, a grater, a peeler to the heart: The cheftestants weren't allowed any utensils. They were banging onions like cave women, butchering quail with an upside-down pepper grinder, and grating cheese on a kitchen shelf. In the end, Tre took top prize with a Southwestern stuffing equipped with bacon, cheddar, bell pepper, and chile powder, which showcased his Texas roots.

We hinted last time that this week would be amazeballs, and the Elimination Challenge did start out with a ball-picking to determine teams. The challenge: Create a healthy dish to be served head-to-head at the home of the U.S. Open. For being just four weeks in, we are already seeing a lot of repeat moves. Fabio made his second gnocchi dish. We had another knife injury (Carla lost half her nail). She was a trooper, though, and a heroic contestant, unlike Jamie, who last week went to the hospital for baby stitches in lieu of cooking.

This head-to-head challenge had some real sizing up of teams. Spike came up with the idea to put his team's weakest dish first against the other team's best, a strategic move to waste their opponent's best dish. Jamie sat in on the team meeting and later remarked that the strategy wasn't her idea but that she'd gone along with it to avoid fighting.

Apparently she also wanted to avoid cooking and having her food judged. For last night's challenge her team urged her to go first, since it was clear that her dish was the least ready. She refused, responding, "There's no way, I need time to get my chickpeas soft." Jamie held out for so long that she never competed, the game was over, and she'd racked up a second episode of no real cooking and no competing.

Here's how the game went down:

Fabio v. Casey: 15-0

Dale T. v. Tiffani: 15-15

Marcel v. Angelo : 15-30

Antonia v. Tiffany: 30-30

Richard v. Spike: 40-30

Carla v. Tre: Win-30

Carla the Hero was the winner, scoring a trip to Italy for her African groundnut soup with baked sweet potatoes, adzuki beans, and peanuts. Way to make Michael and Dale T. eat their "Carla's flavors need to develop a little more" and "Carla wants to do a vegetarian dish and that's not the kind of food these people want to eat" words.

Sadly, Spike was sent home for his flavorless shrimp, which he tried to blame on his teammates for, after getting their hands and yuzu all over it. When he left he had some warning words: "Listen, Jamie, this is a competition and at some point you have to compete." We match that point.

Read more from Carina Ost at CarinaOst.com. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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Carina Ost

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